Digital Photography Meta Data Overview


Winston Churchill’s immortal description of 1939 Russia as “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” is equally true of the current state of digital photography meta data.

Most casual digital photographers never come face to face with meta data. They take their photos, they upload them to a web photo sharing or social networking web site, they may even print a photo occasionally, and at no time are they even aware that digital photography meta data exists. In many respects, they are the lucky ones.

Serious amateur and professional photographers wrestle with meta data as part and parcel of their daily workflow. Meta data problems, flaws, corruptions and disasters are a regular part of photography forums and discussion groups. Challenges can be as simple as one tool displaying a photo’s caption/description while another will not. Or, they can be as catastrophic as the loss of thousands of photos’ meta data, often painstakingly entered over weeks, months or years.

Meta data, defined as “data about data,” can be a very technical, daunting subject. In practice and application in digital photography, it has often been an unmitigated disaster.

Even at its young age, digital photography has experienced multiple meta data standards. Each of these standards has been ignored, corrupted or “enhanced” by digital photography software vendors. There has been no backwards compatibility or standardized mapping established to bridge from one standard to the next. The lack of standards regarding the labeling of meta data information has led to a plethora of conflicting terms used to label the very same piece of meta data, spawning mass frustration and confusion among users.

Unfortunately, there is no immediate relief in sight for serious amateur and professional photographers. If anything, the meta data anarchy and chaos created by the software vendors promises to increase.

The only hope for those tasked with unwrapping the meta data riddle lies in better understanding digital photography meta data. Only by understanding meta data can we accurately diagnose the challenges and build workarounds.


Full document is here:…taoverview.pdf

One thought on “Digital Photography Meta Data Overview

  1. Pingback: Autopsis » Blog Archive » Two Adobe Lightroom related photo metadata utilities