To carry on our story-saving, memory-preserving caption-writing efforts of yesterday, we’re going to learn about keywords, also known as tags, which are helpful facts that will give your photos an added level of organization by making them easily searchable.
JUST GOOGLE IT
Think about how you simply go to Google and type in whatever words are in your brain to describe the topic you seek. Those word choices are “search terms” that are essentially metadata. Imagine if you could Google “Paul’s 4th birthday” and it would magically find all those photos in an instant and show them to you. That would be pretty awesome, right? Well, guess what? We’re going to do that process for your pictures so you can type in some basic terms/keywords/tags and let Picasa be your Google to pull the pics with those matching words. Woohoo!
Now just to clarify for you security-scaredy-cat folks, your photo metadata CANNOT really be read by Google or any other search engines. I’m merely pointing out that it works in a similar fashion to a search engine, but this searching is all done on your own computer to find your own photo files!
Maybe I should’ve used the example of a stock photo website instead. It allows you to search for specific terms to find the perfect image from its vast gallery. Without those search terms (keywords) tagged to the images, they won’t be easily found.
If you’ve looked at a stock photo site, click on an image and check out the keyword list. I’m sure you’ll find a few that don’t seem like words you’d use to describe that photo, but that’s why the success of keywording partially depends on thinking like the person who will be searching. Great news if it’s going to be you most of the time! You know you best!
What in the world is metadata and why must I learn another tech term? Metadata is hidden information attached to every image file that provides additional details for your reference. Why on earth do I care, you ask?
In addition to the image data of your JPG, each image also contains technical information from the camera that captured it. Facts about the camera model, date/time, lens, aperture, ISO, flash, and location (if geo-tag enabled) are recorded to an EXIF file that always stays with the image. You can usually view this info by clicking the “get info” or “properties” menu for any photo, although it’s not often editable.
Commonly called “keywords” or “tags,” metadata is “hidden” data that is tied to your JPG, adding helpful information that can be used to find a specific photo when searching. Obviously, the camera does its job and auto-generates the “capture” specifications and the “when” with the date/time (if your camera is set properly!). But you’ll need to fill in the other blanks about who, what, where and why.
The computer allows us to add these fields of keywords to any image. In addition to the camera’s EXIF, two other types you can add with a computer are called IPTC from the 1970s and the newer style XMP developed by Adobe in 2001. These include geographic location, copyright notice, creator, contact info, and of course, captions, among other details.
People tend to prefer the word “tags” because it makes you think of price tags or gift tags that are attached to items and give you helpful information such as “This is THAT much?” or “That’s for me?”
In today’s social media-savvy world, we could also think of them a bit like #hashtags, which are primarily found on Instagram and Twitter. If you don’t understand those, don’t stress as this isn’t about that but it may help some of you get a grip on what tags are and why we do it.
Web designers use keywords when creating sites to improve SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Maybe we should call what we’re doing Photo Recall Optimization (PRO)? I know I’d like to be a PRO at it! And with Picasa’s tags and captions, I can be!
TAG, YOU’RE IT
Picasa makes it super easy to add tags to any photo. Just click on the small yellow “tag” icon in the lower right corner of a photo in the editor mode. The right panel now becomes a tag editor window. Type in your words and hit “enter” to have them saved. If you need to delete a tag, click on it to highlight it, then click the small x at the far right.
You can also set up to 10 “quick tags” that you use the most by clicking the tiny orange “gear” logo in that section. These stay at the bottom so you can simply click once to include them without typing anything again. To save you time, the top two spots are reserved for your most-recent tags, unless you opt otherwise.
To be honest, this is one area of Picasa that I think is lacking. The irony of that fact is that Picasa is from Google, THE search engine king! I’d love to see better use of Picasa’s Tags panel by showing more of my tags so I can just click them to apply, or maybe have an alphabetical auto-fill so as I start to type, my choices are filled in fast. And I’d also prefer to have a way to sort them into a hierarchy with categories or grouped by sub-topics such as People, Places, and so on.
Adobe Lightroom offers more advanced tagging features like this. Because I can’t get this level of sorting from my tags in Picasa, I have to be smart about which ones I choose and make sure my captions are complete so they can serve as useful search terms too.
But what, you ask, am I supposed to put down for tags? Good question. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, per se. It’s more of a matter of thinking about how you think. Or more importantly, how you’ll think in the future. Or how you think your loved ones might think.
Before you start typing in text willy-nilly, think for a few minutes about the words you would use to jog your memory when you want to find a photo. Scroll through your photo collection in Picasa for visual cues to start making a list in your head. If you want, you can jot a few notes down on paper but the idea is to get your brain in the right frame of mind.
Remember how we used the 4Ws of Who, What, Where and When when writing captions? These still apply for tags too! Except you don’t have to write full sentences or use punctuation. (If you didn’t, don’t freak out as there is no technical rule regarding this.)
Looking at the WHO category, or PEOPLE for tagging…there are a few key groups such as family, friends, and don’t forget your pets! Family should be specified by first name, although I also suggest using their “title” as well, especially if you have more than one person sharing that name, i.e. grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, son, daughter.
One fun feature of Picasa (& some other photo managers) is its facial recognition capability that learns and automatically labels faces for who they are! This can reduce the need to have name tags. We will cover this in our next post!
This may be one of the biggest, broadest categories of all because it includes the EVENTS like holidays, birthdays, vacations, weddings, and reunions, as well as ACTIVITIES such as camping, swimming, cooking, horseback-riding, bike-riding, etc. As you can see, if you participate in two similar-sounding but vastly different activities, you’ll want to separate them into specific tags. Instead of just using “riding” by itself, you should clarify the type of riding — “horseback-riding” or “bike-riding” or “motorcycle-riding.” Of course, you could still just use “riding” by itself if you also added the other word by itself too — horseback, bike and motorcycle could be search terms. It should work to combine searches such as “bike + riding,” which should give you any pics that match both bike AND riding. Imagine all the verbs you can “do.”
SMILING OR CRYING
For most candid camera shots, the people in the photo are likely smiling as we’ve all learned to “say cheese” and “smile for the camera” since childhood. I know there are digital cameras on the market that can detect when everyone in a group is smiling so it snaps the pic real quick. As much as we adore beautiful smiles, chances are that 90% of your photos are of smiling people. Maybe more!
What we don’t usually photograph though is our kids having meltdown moments, tantrums, bawlfests and crybaby sessions. Yet that may be the one shot we’d like to find someday. If you put “smiling” in as a tag, you have a zillion more to tag, and it’s hard to find that special shot someday later. But if you put “crying” or “frowning” as the tag on those few photos, you’d be all set for quickly finding them for the ultimate embarrassment when the perfect time comes.
That said, a pro photographer told a story that he DOES tag his senior portraits as “smiling” because most Moms want a pic of their child smiling and this photog didn’t want to look through the photo shoot to find the few with good smiles. So maybe it’s not such a crazy idea, but for my own use, I’m going to stick to the NON-smiling tags.
DAWN OF A NEW AGE
That’s right. This is the dawn of a new age — the age of organized digital photos! Don’t stacks of older print feel rather prehistoric right now after all this tech talk for a week? Age is an important factor for many of us as Moms trying to sort out our kids’ childhoods.
One helpful idea is to have digital photos tagged as baby, toddler, preschool, elementary, middle-school, high-school, and college. Suppose you wanted to add another level of detail like first-grade, hs-sophomore, college-senior, etc. Just make sure you don’t overlap “senior” to mean the one in high school, college or the old folks! Be more detailed for early childhood with 0-3months, 3-6months, 6-9months, 9-12months, and 1year.
Other than the age of the person in the photo, you could also “age” your time period to a certain decade: 40s, 60s, 80s. But the photo folder date will already be able to give you that information so I don’t think this would be a very helpful tag choice.
TIME WILL TELL
You may wish to add a tag to describe the relative time of day the photo was taken too. Although I think this could become overkill in a hurry if you listed day/night or am/pm or morning/evening/noon. I can see the point for sunrise and sunset though as sometimes you want to find a specific shot for that. But these aren’t as critical as the other tags so only do this if you can justify that it matters to you and your future searching ability. I won’t ask for proof but you’ll know best.
The 4th W of Where would be the PLACE tag. Of course, you can label the locations of your photos in Picasa’s tag editor. There are so many places you may want to include in your list though — home, school, work, church, park, backyard and restaurant usually apply to all of us. Then there’s the zoo, park, daycare, farm, starbucks, ocean, beach, cruise, disney, vegas, etc. You will have to determine how many of these you intend to include and it really only matters if you would ever possibly want to search for the photo by that term or sort these matching photos into a new group.
For example, say you go to a certain spot several times on different occasions. Yet you’d like to maybe see ALL your photos from that place in one group. If that’s the case, you’d better make it a tag.
GEOTAG = METADATA MAP
On that same topic, there’s another field of metadata for location information that can be as specific as latitude and longitude coordinates, or just search for it on a Google map to have it tied to your photos that were taken there.
If you travel, it can be fascinating to see your photos on a map. If you don’t leave the state much, you can probably skip this step! But seriously folks, get outta Dodge once! There’s a whole wide world out there waiting to be explored — and photographed!
Adding a geotag is also easy in Picasa. With one or more photos selected, click on the small red thumbtack “place” icon to load the Places Panel. From there you can search for an address or simply click on the map to place the dot. It will ask you if you’d like to place the photo(s) there. You can click yes to confirm, no to cancel or move the pinpoint as needed. The fastest way is to select multiples, of course.
GENERIC SEARCH TERMS
Depending on what types of photos exist in your collection and what you intend to do with them, you may find it helpful to include other generic search terms such as: landscape, scenery, nature, landscape (just make sure it refers to photos of the terrain; not all horizontal photos!), and portrait (close-up photo of a person not all vertical photos!). If you tend to take a lot of food & drink photos for Instagram, maybe you should have separate “food” and “drink” tags, although I’m guessing you could group these together as “food & drink” too.
SPECIFIC SEARCH TERMS
Now you’ll need to think about your life and photos specifically. What words are common in your family that might be useful for searching/sorting later? If your child likes to make Lego creations like mine did, you may have quite a few photos of various structures and playtime. In that case, adding the tag “Lego” might prove wise if you’d like to just search to pull up all Lego photos someday.
What about weather? Depending on where you live, you may want to add a term or two. For example, living in Vegas, where it rarely rains or snows, I would be able to tag select photos with “rain” or “snow.” But it would be ridiculous to tag all the rest “sunny” since there are so many of those! Although maybe folks in Seattle would say the opposite — they’ll tag “sunny” because it’s more rare and leave “rainy” as a regular term.
If you take quite a few pics of fireworks, the moon, clouds or whatever you “obsession” seems to be, definitely make a tag for it and use it consistently in the future too.
In Picasa, the far right column can become a panel of information for PEOPLE/FACES (mug shot icon), PLACES/MAPS (red thumbtack icon), TAGS/KEYWORDS (yellow tag icon), and PROPERTIES/INFO (i in blue circle). Just click through these to see various dates and details that are part of your photos metadata. The last panel for Properties will give you a long list of info you probably didn’t know even existed on every image, even ones shot by your smartphone camera!
DAY 7 — 15 MINUTES. METATAG MARVEL.
Set your phone’s timer or stopwatch for 15 minutes and open Picasa. Navigate to your most-recent photo month/event folder. While viewing the thumbnails in the Library view, select multiple photos* that will have the same batch of basic keywords. Usually you can apply most of the tags to the whole group of pics, and then specify further details from there. This makes it quite easy to add the keywords to all those photos without doing it individually for each one!
*How to select multiple files at once: MAC: Click & hold down the SHIFT key, then click on the first item in the list so it’s highlighted. Now go to the last item of the group (all in a row), you’d like to pick & click that one. Every image in between the two you clicked on is now highlighted.
A good example would be a grouping of vacation pictures. They can all be tagged “vacation” and maybe “travel” and possibly “springbreak” or “summer,” depending when you went. Add in a location tag of whatever state you visited at least; city too if it’s major enough you might sort by that term someday. You’ll then want to mark them with whatever other terms you might want to find later: mountain, tree, sunset, red (colors), purple dress (fashion), sailing (activity), etc.
- Use only singular words whenever possible.
(mountain, tree, flower, birthday — not mountains, trees, flowers, birthdays)
- Remember (or write down) a list of the words you choose for consistency
- Only use lowercase unless it’s a proper city/state or name
- Save specific locations for geotag (Places)
- Use facial recognition for People & turn on Name Tags feature for your photos with faces
In summary, your DAY 7 DUTIES:
- OPEN PICASA & VIEW YOUR MOST-RECENT PHOTO FOLDER (2015-03) IN THE LIBRARY.
- SELECT THE LARGEST BATCH OF MULTIPLE PHOTOS THAT YOU CAN APPLY MANY OF THE SAME TAGS.
- CLICK THE SMALL YELLOW TAG ICON TO OPEN THE TAG PANEL.
- WRITE YOUR TAGS & SAVE THEM TO YOUR PHOTOS.
- SAVE SOME “QUICK TAGS” TO SPEED UP YOUR TAGGIN.
- GO BACK THROUGH ALL PHOTOS (START WITH STARS). TRY TO KEEP TAGGING ALL 2015 PHOTOS AS YOU IMPORT OR DURING THE EDITING PHASE WHEN YOU CAPTION.
- TAG PAST YEAR’S PICS (STARS FIRST, THEN THE REST) AS YOU HAVE TIME.
Places (Geotags) & People (Faces) can be handled separately in Picasa if you prefer. Decide whether you’ll use the distinct metadata features for this information or whether you want it all to be in the same tags/keywords field. Personally, I’d use the options that the software allows wherever possible. These are far more visually appealing and offer additional search capability than the standard text-only tags.
TALKING TIME LIMITS
Not gonna lie. This can take a while. If you get carried away tagging, this may suck you in. Don’t let it. Remember, this step is NOT the most important. If you’ve sorted your photos into the well-named folders and captioned your photos with searchable words, you are already miles ahead when it comes to finding the photos you want faster in the future. Do a few tags for what you think might be helpful and let it go. You can always come back to tagging at a later date if you feel the urge. If you do, just remember to sync or update your backups so those images have the tags you added.
© Brenda Kruse and PhotoOrganizingPro.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenda Kruse and PhotoOrganizingPro.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.