Adobe Lightroom and Metadata I chose to discuss Lightroom first because I think it has the most wholistic approach to organising digital images of all software packages. I would have like to have seen it introduced before Photoshop because these many years of focus on 'photoshopping' has distracted the world from the real problem of managing collections of photos. We've been like toddlers, all games but no cleanup.
The first step to being organised in Lightroom is to configure your "Metadata Presets" template (Library>Metadata>Edit Metadata Presets). You fill this in once. If you manage photos for other staff or family members, then make one for each person. In the section 'IPTC Copyright', if you elect to use "Copyrighted" , you will need to update the date each year. At this point you can enter Keywords, but I would advise you to leave this field empty for customisining to each shoot. Otherwise, fill out every field you feel you can that would apply to all of your photography.
Congratulations, just doing this is a big step to fixing the problem of orphaned files.
If you are a photographer who wishes to contribute to stock libraries, you will want to now build a Keyword list that suits the field you are working in. Many libraries provide a downloadable list that you simply import by Library>Metadata>Import Keywords.
If you want to be really organised you can construct your own hierarchical keyword list. Doing this at the beginning keeps your keywords more consise. For example, consider your family members, do you keyword them by their full name, by their nick name or first name? It seems obvious, but look into the future and consider what will become important. If you build this initial list with careful thought and add to it with similar consideration, it will stand the test of time. Here is a site that will guide you in creating keyword lists, both standard and heirachical; <http://www.learn-to-Lightroom.com/articles/keyword-hierarchies/> and here is how to create a list outside of Lightroom; <http://Lightroom-news.com/2009/05/04/keyword-list-creation-outside-Lightroom/>
Now lets bring some photos into Lightroom. choose import, pick the images, on the right under "Apply During Import", then "Metadata". and choose the appropriate template, move to the Keyword field and enter the keywords that best describe the overall set of images you are importing. Applying individual keywords to individual images needs to be done once the images are imported.
You should now have all of your images in the library and you can begin the process of individually assessing and keywording each image. If you are not intending to apply keywords to individual images at this time, be warned, it gets harder with every day that passes to do this!
I personally prefer to do an edit pass through the images first, this will eliminate the images I don't care about. I use the "X" key shortcut to 'set as reject' obvious failures, eventually I will delete the rejected photos entirely from the catalogue and from my disk. How you approach this is very personal, but I err to keeping a photo.
As well as rejecting photos, I also star rate images at this stage. One star is something I don't care about, but don't want to delete, two star says it's ok, three is for a photo I want to keep or show a client, four is for something I'm proud of, and five star is for my portfolio. To star rate, use the Library module, and hit the 1,2,3,4, or 5 keyboard key to apply the rating.
Now I have ascertained the importance of the photos, I can filter them to show only the three star and above, or as I like to say, those I care about. It is these that I lavish keywords on.
You can use the shift key, or the control/command key to select multiple images then enter the keywords, or go one by one. Using a comma "," will separate the keywords. You will notice Lightroom attempts to fill in a keyword based on the letters typed, it is advisable that you follow these suggestions as this will keep your Lightroom keyword 'catalogue' to a minimum and ensure you use consistent naming protocols.
If you have set up a hierarchical keyword system, you will note that when applying a keyword the above hierarchy items will also be applied. Here is an example: my hierarchy looks like this:
Family Atkins Elizabeth
When applying Elizabeth, Lightroom prompts the Elizabeth,Atkins,Family keywords. Very helpful.
If you finish in good time, and feel ready to do more, head back to the one and two star rated images and apply the keywords to them, it cannot hurt.
The last, and most critical step is to save the metadata to the files themselves. This is a rare feature, and the main reason why I chose Lightroom over other software programs. Lightroom places the "Save Metatadata to File" under the ubiquitous keyboard shortcut of control/command "S". The old File-Save command. For proprietary Raw files (NEF,CR2 etc), Lightroom will supply a sidecar file (.XMP) that is saves alongside the RAW file, for DNGs, Jpegs, Tiffs, Psds, Lightroom will save the metadata into the header of the file.
Why is this save feature so important?
It prevents your images from becoming orphans.
If you have to rely on a software catalogue to hold the keywords in a database or library then you need that software to read the metadata, where Lightroom embedding it in the file itself allows for the file to hold the information, therefore survive separation from the software, database or library.
The object is to add value to each photo for the future so you can understand the context around each photo taken, this is why I recommend Lightroom, it provides the best tool to help your photos survive into the future besides printing and writing on each one.