Photo “tags”

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I really like flickr, but it has the flaw of being a paid service.
Can’t fault them for it, but when it comes to long-term archival of photos, obviously Flickr is not a viable solution.

However, I do so love those Flickr tags.
Pre-Flickr they were usually referred to as “keywords”.
PhotoSuite had them, and they were a really nice feature.
However, in that app and others (e.g. iPhoto), the feature is locked up by a propreitary means of storing the tags.

Thus my quest — to find an open way to save tags.
Some sort of XML schema would be an obvious method.
Of course, this need only be used for import/export/archival.
But that’s what I’m all about here: archival.

An app would likely keep this data ina a database for quick access and search.
When you archive the photos to cassette/floppy/Magtape/CD/DVD/BD/HD-DVD/whatever, the tags would be saved with them.
Otherwise, tags are a waste of previous time and energy.

So, if you know of a standard, open means by which tags can be saved/restored, please let me know!
My Googling revealed nothing.

development, software, the Net.

About rae

I'm a long-time Mac and iOS developer. I'm also a big fan of Ruby on Rails and relational databases. I tend to work remotely, in my basement with occasional trips to the office. I'm also a big videophile, both TV and film, and can't wait for a good, inexpensive home 4k solution.

7 comments on “Photo “tags”

  1. David "Ned Ludd's Antichrist" Barker

    What’s the official nerdal stand on why the jpeg format doesn’t include info tags like the mp3 IDvX tags?

    Seems to make sense, it’s only flat text, so since storage space and bandwidth are conquered problems, why not?


  2. rae Post author

    Ya, I know about IPTC and also EXIF, but this info is pretty fragile (various apps will wipe them out), and only apply to JPEG images. I was thinking a bit broader than that: GIF, PNG, TIFF, maybe even MP3, AVI and MOV one day. Hm, a lot (all?) of those have ways to add meta-data, but they’re all format-specific, which is a pain.

    So I think a separate file in the directory (hopefully one per directory, not one per file) with all the info would be fine.

    This is primarily aimed at archival copies, so considerations r.e. adding/deleting are not very important. For that, you just use a database.

  3. Jeff K

    I reread the topic title a few times, but it still says “Photo Tags” to me. Proceding on that basis, and at the risk of offending any Mac software pirates who might be lurking and looking for a score, I might point out that Adobe makes a product called “Photoshop Album” whose starter edition came free with my camera. You click a tag button and presto, only the thumbnails for that tag appear. A quick read of the system requirements suggests PC-only to me. Linux is in the stone age on this one, however, I don’t use the software (much) myself.

  4. David Riecks


    IPTC is a standard that’s been around for a while. Long enough that IPTC revamped the standard to work with XMP (XMP is combo of XML and RDF, and can be linked to a wide variety of image and data formats). The big advantage to IPTC is that it’s supported in so many image database applications. See the programs page for a list of some of the better programs that are available off the shelf for reading and reading/writing IPTC metadata.

    IPTC’s legacy format is supported in JPEG as well as TIFF, Photoshops proprietary format (PSD) as well as a number of other formats such as DNG. The XMP format, including IPTC Core (IPTC4XMP) goes beyond that to include Acrobat (PDF), InDesign, and Illustrator files.

    You are correct in stating that the data is “fragile” and this has more to do with the nature of other “non-iptc-compliant” software that doesn’t honor or even recognized these “tags” in the data stream. It is, however, possible to “lock-up” the metadata if you save as a PDF, and then use the Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent the file from being overwritten.

    Unfortunately, if you are looking for something that travels with the file itself, that is more “secure”, there really isn’t much else available at the moment. 😉

    BTW, Photoshop Album’s “tags” aren’t transportable, so that’s only a solution if you don’t need to exchange the data with anyone else.


  5. rae Post author

    By “tags”, I am referring to those bits of text (sometimes called “slugs” or “ketwords”) you associate with your photos. Typically they may include things like location, people, occasion (e.g. birthday), etc. Very much like the “tags” used by Flickr. Not date though — that belongs in the file’s path I think (e.g. store picstures in “Pictures/2005/02 Feb” or something. Datestamps on photos are okay, but they sometimes get overwritten by overzealous image-editing/managing software.

  6. Mick

    Not sure if this is the kind of thing you are looking for you annotate files with IPTC info one by one or several at a time then you export the annotations which adds them to the file. Then photoshop can read them too (you do have to drop a file into photoshop’s plugins folder or something). So the IPTC info is always with the file (after you embed it in iView).
    This program is awsome and can’t recommend it highly enough – if it’s what you are looking for. I use it for archival and it has several options for this.

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