Your attic explorations unearth a lovely, sepia-toned, cardboard-backed image of a family: moon-faced baby on Mama’s tidy lap, proud Papa in his Sunday best. The photographer’s name is stamped in the lower right. It’s a prize find. Except that you haven’t the faintest idea who these people are.
Despite the last decade’s digital camera advances, we humans haven’t changed. We still think we’ll remember the day’s images forever, and face it: we’re lazy, and we put off labeling and organizing photos, often for years. If you own a digital camera, you probably have megabytes of images stacked up on your hard drive. If you’re conscientious, you’ve dated the folders and maybe even named the files descriptively. But if you want to archive your best images for posterity, we recommend annotating them with Photoshop’s File Info feature.
The File Info feature was originally intended for use by professional photographers and graphic artists sending files to newspapers and publishing houses. It provides a standard method of describing image files in the TIF (Tagged Image File Format), JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) and EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) formats. You can also annotate images in Photoshop’s proprietary PSD format.
Enter information such as captions, keywords, and photo credits and other third-party software can read that info. Some programs, such as Windows operating systems, will even be able to search through the data you add.
Just Do It
Open one of your favorite photos in Photoshop. From the File menu, choose File Info. The default set of fields is for writing a caption. At the top of the window, you see a drop-down menu for selecting different field-sets, including keywords and copyright. There are six field-sets in all.
The caption fields give you plenty of space to type in a detailed caption for the photo. You can also identify the caption writer, compose a headline, and add special instructions.
It will help if you use full names of people and places in the photo, describe the event or physical scene, and include a date (at least a month and a year). Once you’ve filled in the caption fields, click OK. Close the file.
To see how useful photo annotation is, try a search with the Windows Find File feature. Go to the Windows Start menu and select Find, Files Or Folders. In the Containing Text field, type in a specific phrase you’ve entered in the caption. Set the Windows search engine to look on the proper drive. Then click Find.
There are other options available for annotating your images, as well. Open your image once more and choose File, File Info. To move between field-sets, use the Next and Previous buttons.
Keywords. Move to the Keywords field-set. Type in a word or phrase in the top field. Click Add. To delete or replace keywords, first highlight them. Unfortunately, you cannot create a global list of keyword terms for your photos in Photoshop 6.0. To keep terms consistent in your collection, you may wish to create a separate text file.
Categories and Credits. These two field-sets are of most interest to professional photographers. The categories are three-character codes the Associated Press uses; the credits field-set is a formal way to record the photographer’s byline, his title, and professional affiliations.
Origin. This field set is good for describing historical facts about an image-the date it was taken, where it was taken, and so on.
Copyright & URL. Click Mark As Copyrighted and a copyright symbol will appear in the image’s title bar. Also, you may enter an official copyright notice and a URL (uniform resource locator) if additional information about the photo can be found on a Web site.
If you have a group of photos that require the exact same annotation, you can save yourself a bit of time. Fully annotate one photo, click the Save button in the File Info dialog box, and type a name for the file using the .FFO extension. Be sure to save the FFO file in the same folder as the photos. Then use the Load or Append button to attach the FFO file to any photo in the group.
A Practical Approach
At first, you may be tempted to over-annotate. But the most practical approach is to develop the habit of writing detailed captions for all your best photos. For optimum search ability, we recommend using full names and using a consistent date format. Be sure to identify the event, place, and any interesting objects that appear in the picture.
And spend more time grooming your photo collection. Can you discard any pictures? Are they arranged in intuitive folders? Finally, consider copying your newly spiffed-up collection to CD. Your descendants will thank you. .