Back in the day, we all had a family member who kept the photos. They may have been prone to scrap booking or slide shows but their passion was essentially organisation. The state of their photos was probably a mirror of their home, well labeled tupperware, days set aside for washing, picnics packed with well wrapped variety. If you have been the lucky receipent of one of their photo archives, you will find legible descriptions attached to the photos (on the slides, on the back of the prints, or in the album) explaining who is in the photo, where and when it was taken and what was the occasion. This information is the 'metadata'. It is the data about the data that brings context and brings value to others, or to those who have forgotten.
The maximum amount of metadata possible is having the photographer present and capable of total recall so you can ask any question about the image. But even in people with higher functioning memory, accuracy will be compromised with time. So what is the minimum amount of Metadata?
To answer this, we need to ascertain the purpose of the photograph. If you are making images to sell on a stock photography service, you need to use a metadata 'keyword' set that describes the image in a universal language (I will explain more about this later in the series). If you are not shooting for stock libraries, this is my suggested minimum in order of importance: Value of the image (rating) Date taken Who or what is in the photo Location What is happening in the photo
Why have I placed value on top? At some stage, you need to decide which of your photographs is more important than the others. The problem is too many photographs, so an importance ranking is the first step into the lifeboat and the lifeboat is small, consider this: It's five years in the future, how many photos would you be prepared to look through? How many would your family be prepared to look through? How many is enough to tell the story? I propose there are about 60 photographs per photographer per year.
60 does not account for major events or holidays, but it is a lot of photos to go through if you spend a couple of minutes on each. More importantly, over a lifetime it makes for a huge collection.
It is an unfortunate contradiction that typically the most creative people live the least ordered lives. But in being creative, one should also have the skill of editing. Deciding what is left out, and what is most important will help those works survive.