What is the value of an image? You might say that the value of a picture is determined by its subject. That is, what is in the picture. That's right, when we talk about personal memories, for example. But especially in the commercial and editorial use of pictures and other media only half the truth.
For companies and editorial offices, pictures and other digital media content can only become assets - i.e. contribute to value creation - when they are used. In order for them to be used, they must be found and put into context.
Images whose motifs evoke memories, cause emotions and stimulate associations have a greater effect than images with very factual content. In the article of my colleague Tim Holz you can learn more about the emotional effect of pictures. At this point, however, I would like to look at neither the quality of content nor the emotional value of a picture, but rather its function as an asset. It is irrelevant whether it is product photos, landscape pictures, photos of animals, people or architecture. The decisive factor is to find a suitable image for the respective purpose from the sometimes enormous pool of images.
Images can be managed in many different ways. Probably the most efficient way is the use of a special digital asset management software. Good DAM systems have sophisticated internal search functions. This allows you to search your image pool quickly and easily for suitable files. But only under one condition. The information you are looking for is also stored and sensibly maintained.
Digital asset management systems can process both the amount of data and the information about the images. Some of this meta-information, i.e. data describing files, is often even captured automatically. The camera data such as the focal length or the ISO value are written by digital cameras into the file when the picture is taken. Geodata are also often supported.
Other information must be maintained by the user. There are three standards for this
The Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) is a standard for embedding metadata in digital media. It was published by Adobe in 2001 and is now the de facto standard.
The IPTC-IIM standard (IPTC) is used to store metadata in image files. It was developed in 1991 by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) together with the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) as an Information Interchange Model (IIM). The IPTC is part of the XMP, but is only defined for JPEG and TIFF files, whereas PSD and EPS files store the same header.
The Exchangeable Image File Format (Exif) is a standard format of the Japan Electronic and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) for storing metadata in digital images. It is mainly used for storing camera data.
The IPTC core is the standard used in most image processing programs. The information you enter here is automatically read out by professional image databases and DAM systems and stored as metadata.
Efficient input methods such as single, mass or serial keywording support the user in maintaining the information just as much as keywording trees and thesauri.
Three fields that are important for the description and identification of the image should be emphasized here:
Image title or title - the title of the image. It is best to keep it short and meaningful.
Description - A field in which you can enter a complete description of the image motif as continuous text.
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords or Tags - all those terms that reflect the contents of the image and that supplement the description in a meaningful way.
Certainly there are for practical use cases where there are other fields that are important, but these three form the basis. If they are maintained in a meaningful way, it makes it much easier to find an image and understand its contents. For explanation I will show you an example.
"Man Photographs Pianist" would be a possible title for this picture. Briefly and concisely he describes what is to be seen in the picture. Possibly but much less suitable would be: "Tourist takes snapshot of a soloist." For one thing, it's quite long for a title. On the other hand it is not concise enough. A search for the term "photograph" would probably be more appropriate than one for the term "snapshot". The same applies to the "pianist" in comparison to the "soloist".
The description should be more and more specific about the picture content. For example, information about the setting can be added here. "A man takes a picture of a pianist who plays music as a street musician in an urban environment on a square in front of a fountain." The environment is thus described in a very concrete way. Now several keywords should be added. Think about what term someone might be looking for that is used in this picture.
It is not important how much text you write in the fields. It is important that you find the right words. Especially in the keywords, there are some basic rules to be observed. As the term already says, the keywords are words and not sentences. Use almost exclusively nouns in the singular and plural here.
In our example with the street musician, you would enter the following terms here, for example:
But you should also offer alternatives. Not every user of your system may be specifically looking for fountains. Therefore "fountains" should also be included. Add words like "piano, pianist, street musician, urban". Also think about alternative spellings. "Photographer" can also be written as "Photographer" and some words can be spelt incorrectly, but these are often used. Take them with you consciously. Examples that do not refer to the present picture are "pizzas" and "pizzas", "encyclopaedias" and "encyclopaedias", "brilliant" and "brilliant" or "armature" and "amatur".
You should list common abbreviations and synonyms (also eponyms) of terms. More common than "deoxyribonucleic acid" is the abbreviation "DNA" or even the English abbreviation "DNA". Also brand names or personal names that have become established in everyday use as the name of a whole genus should be considered. Just think of "Tempo" instead of "paper handkerchief", "Tesafilm" instead of "adhesive tape" or "Zeppelin" instead of "airship". It is important to offer alternatives in all these cases. You may not know which of the options someone prefers to search for but make sure that the images are always found.
If verbs must or should be listed in the keywords, please use the infinitive form (the basic form) in the keywords, in the street musician's example this would be "photograph".
Various image databases and DAM systems offer keywording aids for support. Predefined category trees are created in the application. There, terms can be offered that serve the purpose of keywording. This is suitable, for example, for defining an article structure, product categories or other recurring structures. The terms are created hierarchically in the tree. They start with generic terms and become more and more detailed in the lower categories. Creating and maintaining such a category tree requires some preliminary considerations, effort and discipline in maintenance.
The maintenance of keywords is a decisive factor for the successful use of your digital assets. The goal is to make them as easy to find as possible. Make it as easy as possible for those searching for assets to find a suitable image.