Image Metadata for Your Digital Assets

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Impactful visual imagery — from photographs to logos — are crucial to today’s brands. What would Nike be without the swoosh, or Frosted Flakes without Tony the Tiger? Well, they wouldn’t be the same brand. Marketers need to have easy, secure, and reliable access to these assets. And this is possible by using image metadata.


What is image metadata?

Image metadata is information about a visual file or resource. This data describes what the file is, details about it, and how it should be used. 

Some common metadata fields for images are filename, file size, date created, and licensing information. There can also be fields to record the image’s content, such as description or keywords. And there can be fields that are uniquely relevant to a particular collection, like product ID.

Why is metadata for images so important?

Metadata is valuable because it allows assets to be easily found and retrieved. And in the context of a large collection of photos and images, the metadata is truly as important as the image itself — because if it can’t be found, it can’t be used!

Metadata powers search functionality so that a specific image can be easily located, or search results can be browsed to find files that fit certain criteria. 

How to manage image metadata

When it comes to metadata management, there are few best practices to keep in mind.

  1. Develop processes. Every organization should have policies to define who’s responsible for creating image metadata and when. It’s common for assets to be tagged when they’re uploaded to a digital repository, such as a digital asset management (DAM) system. This tagging can be done by the individual uploading the files, the system administrator, or another team member. Regardless, a thoughtful approach to metadata creation and administration will make sure content is organized, findable, and shareable throughout its lifecycle.

  2. Be relevant. Metadata fields and values are only helpful if they make sense to the user. When determining your metadata, review key terminology that’s commonly used and depended on throughout your organization. Also, take into consideration your global users to ensure they can easily find what they’re looking for. Interviewing your users and reviewing taxonomy schemas already in place will give you a good place to start without reinventing the wheel. 

  3. Make it complete. If an asset has ten assigned metadata fields but only two have been populated with values, the search tools won’t have enough information to help you find it. Insufficient metadata can even have legal ramifications. If the licensing information is incomplete, your company might be at risk of using that asset without permission. This can be especially true when managing the metadata for stock photography. Most DAM systems have features to help support thorough metadata entry, such as the ability to make values in certain fields required upon upload. 

  4. Ensure it’s accurate and consistent. High-quality and effective photo metadata hinges on accuracy and consistency across all assets in the repository. For example, if one photo of a cat is tagged with just the word “kitten,” another with just “feline,” and a third with “kat,” none of these images would be returned in a simple search for “cat.” By limiting metadata entry of certain fields to options from a predetermined list — called a controlled vocabulary — you can help ensure that metadata language is the same across assets. 

If you’re thinking that metadata entry sounds like it could be a time consuming endeavor...you’re correct. Fortunately, DAM systems often have tools to help ease the burden of metadata creation. Upload profiles can automate part of the process by placing files into the appropriate groups. Batch editing tools allow users to make changes to metadata across multiple assets, while metadata mapping can add automation to your tagging workflow. And in some cases artificial intelligence (AI) and image recognition technology can be used to help tag images.

There’s no doubt about it — marketing is a visual industry. And keeping image assets organized and findable is essential. Consistent creation of high-quality image metadata will have a dramatic impact on your ability to keep the right assets at everyone’s fingertips, whenever they’re needed. 

See how the Widen Collective® can help you take control of your image metadata. Request a demo today. 

Topics: Photography

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