How to Add Metadata to Your Images in Photoshop

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What could be more exciting than metadata? Okay, so pretty much everything else. If you need to find an image later however, to win that big photo contest or finish that assignment, metadata could be invaluable.

What is metadata?

Simply put it is; data that describes other data. Meta is a prefix that in most information technology usages means “an underlying definition or description”. Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier.

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Data such as keywords like; blue sky, airplane, interior, flight deck, etc. It could also be a title, description, tags, photographer information, copyright information, and you can even list your website in the metadata of each image file. That way the important information that you want to stay with that image is embedded in the file itself. It is searchable, so it makes it much easier to find your image of, for example, “Godzilla in front of snow covered mountains” (see image above). Without this searchable information it might take quite awhile for you to find your prized photo, if you find it at all before the deadline.

By taking a few minutes to add some metadata after you’ve downloaded the image, could make your life a whole lot easier later.

How do you add metadata?

There are different ways to add metadata depending on your image editing software. In this example we will be using Adobe Bridge.

  1. Capture the RAW image files (or they could be jpegs). Then download and open them in Bridge.
  2. To add metadata to your photos, do a Select All images. By adding this metadata now to all of the original files, it will remain with all subsequent files that are created after you’ve color corrected, cropped, downsized, etc. So now is the best time to do it. Metadata can always be added later at any time, but it becomes more labor intensive to add to all files after the fact.
  3. Click Tools> Append Metadata and use a template for your overall information. You can create a template at this time with the basic information that you would like to add to all of your photography. Note that you want to Append (and not Replace) to your existing metadata so that the original information stays intact. A template has already been created in this example.

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  4. For Individual images you can add more specific keywords in the metadata panel by clicking the pencil icon and adding your text to just those specific images.

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  5. Click Apply (or the checkmark icon) to save the metadata to your image files.

Metadata for Godzilla

The keywords that have been added to this image are: Godzilla, Utah, snow, and mountains. Many other keywords could have been added also. It is up to you as to how descriptive you would like to be. Type a comma or separator between each word to ensure search success. This example also shows the headline: ‘Godzilla!’ and a description that explains that this ‘Jumbo Godzilla inflatable appears to be coming down from the snow covered mountains.’ Including a website like we have done in this example might encourage a potential customer to look at more of your work.

It’s really that easy and doesn’t take much time, but it is a discipline that takes a little getting used to.

What else?

Now that you’ve added your additional information to the images, you can save your edited versions, and all of that metadata will still be in there.

But beware of the dreaded Save for Web option in Photoshop. In its efforts to make your files as small as possible, it sees all metadata as “useless stuff” and it removes every bit (pun intended) of it from your downsized image files. So it’s not fool proof. If you are taking photos for an agency such as AP, Getty Images, Wireimage, etc., they might have specifics on what metadata they would like for you to provide with your photos, so check with them before adding metadata. If you are submitting images for a photo contest, it’s a great idea to have additional metadata information embedded in your image files as well. It takes a little extra time initially, but metadata can be your friend. Never spend hours searching for a specific photograph again.

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Jim Wise is currently a Senior Multimedia Developer at Gulfstream Aerospace. He has photographed motor sports professionally at Daytona Int Speedway from 1987-2006. At the end of 1997 he began working at Kennedy Space Center as a photographer, documenting the build-up and post-flight disassembly of the solid rocket boosters. This work also took him to other NASA locations, on through the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. He's taken photos for numerous publications.

  • Sonia
  • Aankhen

    I know it’s not something a lot of people will do, but I recommend Daminion for managing a library. Photoshop is okay for doing it occasionally. Bridge is very cumbersome and primitive. Lightroom is better than either of those but still lacks support for basic things like multi-value ‘Person Shown’. Daminion is the best solution I’ve found so far, because it’s never just ‘add metadata to one photo’.

  • Debbie Bernier

    Thank you for the timely post. I was just researching metadata yesterday. But I haven’t found the solution I’m looking for.

    First, I don’t pay for the Adobe suite. Hence I don’t have Bridge. I currently use Picasa and Photoshop Elements 11.

    Ultimately what I really want is to store tags and captions (subject or title or description) within my photos such that in the future I’ll be able to look back and remember the story behind the photo.

    I would also like to put a subset of my photos in online albums to share with my friends and it would be nice if the subject/title/description was visible in the album. Currently I use Google+ photos.

    And I would like if Microsoft Windows had the capability of viewing this information natively (such as with windows Explorer -> Properties -> Details) so that I can bring my flash drive of photos to my mom (who doesn’t have any specialized software) and still be able to see the title/subject/caption/tags.

    So, is there a solution that allows the capture and display of metadata on Windows and in online albums that doesn’t require the purchase of very expensive software?

  • Shouldn’t this have been called “How to add metadata in Adobe BRIDGE”? Photoshop isn’t even really mentioned. Which, by the way, if you want to add Metadata in PShop, you select FILE -> File Info.

  • Jim Wise

    You are correct, thanks for the comment. Bridge will allow you to add metadata to multiple files.

  • Jim Wise

    I don’t know if there are any Windows users out there that might be able to answer that? In Photoshop Elements choose File>File Info or you can also right click on a thumbnail in the Photo Bin and choose file info. PhaseOne Media Pro is another program that I use which can also add metadata and allow you to catalog images.

  • Debbie Bernier

    I figured out part of the problem. I now have an explanation as to why Picasa doesn’t always write the caption to a field that Windows Explorer can display. That answer is here:
    https://productforums.google.com/d/msg/picasa/GGnwSlb2ULM/LpSaKPT3lNIJ

    And I found a tool which runs under windows which is a powerful Exif editor: ExifTool by Phil Harvey. Between both of those I think it’s possible to get Picasa and Windows to display the Captions correctly.

  • Jim Wise

    Great! Thank you for the info

  • Consing
  • Michelle7812
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