I just got a newsletter from Marlo Schuldt saying that his Heritage Collector software is now able to embed IPTC metadata. My ears perk up whenever I hear IPTC. Good one, Marlo. The more software sharing IPTC metadata the better.
A long time ago, Marlo and I had a very long conversation about filing systems and family history and life’s quirky little moments and everything else under the sun … It went on for several months over hundreds of emails. I didn’t like his, then new, software. I thought it was too boxed in and heading for trouble. He thought I was flying too far out of the box. So, after enjoying our friendship, he went back to working on his software and I went on to become a rabid fan of IPTC.
IPTC is a standard for metadata, so if you’re going to spend time annotating photos, (and it would be a good idea to do that) it’s easier if you do it in a way that carries over to other software.
I have several dozen beautiful studio portraits of unidentified relatives. It makes me crazy. Probably 75 years ago someone still remembered who they were. Can you imagine your great-grandchildren looking at 10 or 20 thousand digital photos of unidentified persons?
Last week I finally finished standardizing the photo-naming convention across my entire terrifyingly-huge collection. It didn’t take long at all using ACDSee Pro’s batch-mode options. Everything now starts with a date. If I don’t know what the date is, it’s 0000 until I decide. The date (hyphen) is followed by a family name (hyphen) which is followed by a number. Done. Finished.
The photographs are only further identified by their embedded information.
Here’s the downside of IPTC. When you embed metadata into photographs, for any casual observer it’s disappeared unless you have software that reads IPTC. Let’s say you send off a batch of loose digital photos to a non-technical relative. First thing that’s going to happen is they’re going to write you back and say, Who are all those strange people and why should I care?
So, you write back and say, To find out who they are and what they’re doing, all you have to do is install such and such and click on the IPTC tab. Before they’ve even finished reading your sentence they’ve rolled their eyes and deleted your email.
Unless you know there’s information embedded in photographs and how to look for it, you just wouldn’t know. Fortunately, there are various ways to extract the IPTC data into easily shareable form.
If you make photo albums using jAlbum for instance, you can choose to have the captions show up with the photos.
In ACDSee Pro, I’m able to print PDFs of photo collections, in various formats and include the embedded IPTC captions (as well as dozens of other things) underneath. I’ve done a lot of this sort of thing for my family history wiki. For instance, printing one gravestone photo per page of a particular family line, or a combination of stories and photos. I could make an album instead but it looks really good as a PDF, keeps everything together and ACDSee Pro does a beautiful job of it. Since I also have a PDF editor I can add or subtract pages if I want to make changes in the future.
Some programs have their own PDF printers. Word processors, for instance. If not, just get PDF Creator. It’s free and you can use it forever for anything. Just choose it in the Print box instead of your paper printer.
Adobe Elements has many creative things to do with photos, some of which include captions, and most of which I’m unfamiliar with.
Picasa was obviously not thinking about genealogists when they designed their software. It only understands IPTC captions in relation to JPGs. There are several print options including text color and border thickness. I’m not crazy about the results or the limitations but it could work for some things.
If you’re looking for free, and we love free, XnView is a great choice. It does a lovely job of printing captions (and anything else you could want) for TIFFs as well. Depending on the software, there’s lots of different information you can embed in photos. I tend toward captions, keywords, copyright and GPS. I don’t know if it’s changed recently or I just didn’t notice it before but XnView also writes IPTC to TIFFs which puts it in the major league of IPTC software.
It’s been a long time since I had a copy of Heritage Collector on my computer. And now I have questions. Does it import IPTC already embedded? I would assume so. Does it write IPTC to file formats besides JPG? If it does, this combination of IPTC and its range of other organizational and output options could be a winning combination.
So, whether your friends and relatives know there’s embedded IPTC metadata or not, you can still share the photo info with them and they’ll likely be dazzled by the fact you can do that. If you don’t have the time, or inclination, to print everything you’ve got, either as a PDF, a slideshow, a video or a Word document, it might be a good idea to leave a breadcrumb trail of READ ME files telling them what IPTC is and how to find it.