These are my notes from the First International Photo
Metadata Conference, which was held on Thursday, June 7, 2007, in Florence,
Italy. This report is split into three sections corresponding to the
conference viewpoints of photo metadata creators and users, standards
bodies, and implementers.
Part II deals with reports from several photo metadata standardization
bodies about the current state of the industry and future developments.
History and Future of the Photo Metadata
presented by Michael Steidl: IPTC
Michael Steidl, the managing director of the IPTC traced the history
of the IPTC schemas and noted that the original Information Interchange
Module (IIM) standard was designed to be used with audio, video, and
other news elements not just photographs. This IIM schema was first
used by Photoshop 4 starting in 1994. The latest incarnation is IPTC
Core and was released in the spring of 2005. Today these two standards
are both used by many applications which means that proper synchronization
of data between these two versions is very important.
Steidl stressed that interoperability between applications requires
that users are presented with consistent user interfaces. For example,
some interfaces refer to the Creator field, while others use Author,
and some even use Photographer.
He also emphasized that it’s important for user interfaces to
be agnostic to cultural norms. For instance, it should not matter whether
the user is used to writing the date as June 7, 2007, or 6-7-07, the
system should accommodate these and use the localization info to display
it in the most prevalent format.
Wouldn’t if be nice if…
presented by Harald Löffler: IFRA
Löffler reported that IFRA is the world's leading association for
newspaper and media publishing, and that they currently have 3000 members
in 70 countries.
Löffler asked the crowd, “Wouldn‘t it be nice:
…to have an automatic image workflow from the photographer to
… to know all the time, when and where and by whom a photo was
… to get your revenue share?
… not to rekey again, what others have already done earlier?
… to create high quality colour images for different types of
… without manual intervention
His overriding theme, echoing the principles put forth in SAA’s
own “Metadata Manifesto” is that we should not throw away
metadata – we need to preserve it. IFRA has done extensive work
regarding automatic image processing issues. They found that the preservation
of EXIF data (such as ICC profile related data) is needed for proper
and efficient image processing.
He left the audience with some conclusions and open issues, such as
the need for well defined mappings between EXIF, IPTC IIM, IPTC Core,
PLUS and other schemas. The need for “Write-Once” metadata
values, the means to handle versioning of metadata values, and improved
support for controlled vocabularies on the user interface level. In
addition, imaging devices are not confined to cameras anymore, and mobile
phones don’t have EXIF info.
Global Metadata Rights Standards
presented by Jeff Sedlik: PLUS
Sedlik stated that “If keywords are chaos – then intellectual
property (copyright) marking is mayhem.” He then explained how
the mission of PLUS – To Simplify & Facilitate Image Licensing
– can make a difference by providing “Global Metadata Standards
for the Communication of Image Rights.”
The freely available PLUS glossary contains over 1500 license and intellectual
property related terms. Words and definitions from a larger number of
image agencies the world over were collected, synthesized, and reviewed
by panels of volunteers to build a common glossary in American English,
which was approved by both Licensors & Licensees. The glossary reflects
the common practice of PLUS, which is to first create a master using
one language, and then let local working groups translate to other languages
(making it a multi-lingual means of communicating rights and usages).
The PLUS media matrix and license data format contain standardized
menus which can be used within e-commerce solutions. This allows the
buyer to use the same codes and/or definitions regardless of image supplier.
PLUS codes can be embedded in the image, and held in a central registry.
To simplify the adoption of PLUS they have build a set of standard
licenses for rights managed material, called PLUS Packs. The Stock Artists
Alliance (SAA) has released a free open-source price calculator which
uses the PLUS Packs and is designed so that photographers and image
distributors can populate with their own pricing information.
PLUS is currently developing an online registry where photographers
can list themselves and possibly their images so that any agency, publication,
etc. can verify the origin and rights of any image in real time. If
you haven't already visited their site at http://www.useplus.com, you
should do so.
“Use the label, make it stick”
presented by Sarah Saunders: BAPLA
Saunders has worked with John Moore (manager at Conde Nast and Pic4Press)
on digital workflow issues. She discussed how the British Association
of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) has worked to develop a single
custom panel within Photoshop for metadata entry.
She asked the crowd, “Why do we need metadata?” and then
answered it for them.
-Copyright protection (orphan works)
-Identify the picture/author/source
-No need to re-key information
These issues, in tandem with orphan works, explain why there is an
increased importance on metadata. Without being to identify the photographer
or know who holds the copyright, future image users might be able to
use images in the future without making any payment.
The fact that there are so many different fields creates confusion
for those entering metadata. The Pic4Press group identified the most
important fields that should always be entered. Then they along with
BAPLA created their own custom Photoshop template. This template only
makes use of existing fields within the IPTC / File Info and unfortunately
only works with Photoshop CS at present. The main goal was to get people
the most important information, as many agencies still have the tendency
to simply put all metadata into the caption/description field.
Sarah emphasized that the Caption, Credit and Picture Number (Document
Title) should be entered into ALL images.
>>>Proceed to Part III
Download The IPTC Photo Metadata White Paper and transcripts of many
of the presentations given at the Conference from http://phmdc.org/
You’re also invited to discuss further developments of the requirements
and open issues which have been raised at the Conference on an IPTC