I’ve posted about the unmitigated hell that is digital photo metadata in the past.
In the intervening years, it hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, you can make the case that it’s only gotten worse.
For instance, in the latest update to Adobe Photoshop Elements (PSE), a photo tool that Steph uses, every photo is automatically time shifted relative to the computer. I’ve poked around on the PSE user forums and I cannot find any evidence of a groundswell of users clamoring for this feature. In fact, I’ve never met, seen or talked to a photographer anywhere at anytime who ever expressed a need for this. Sadly, this unwanted photo metadata driven capability has created havoc for PSE users, who are all now anxiously awaiting a fix in the next release.
I’m currently working on a big photo project and I ran across some metadata issues related to the tool that I use, Adobe Lightroom.
Consequently, I took some time this week to create a couple of utilities to address two challenges:
1. Synchronizing / matching / equalizing the date/time across all metadata fields in all relevant files. Photo organizing and editing tools often enable users to change the photo capture time. This can fix photos that were created while on vacation in other time zones, to display properly with photos created on a different camera on the same day or that need to be aligned with a GPS track for geoencoding. Unfortunately, when the user edits the photo create date and time, they are only editing one of many date/time metadata fields that are stored in a wide variety of places in the digital photo files. It’s bad enough with a simple JPG file where there are only 25 possible date/times storage slots available, but if you are shooting RAW, there are three different files and 56 different places that date/time information can be stored for every single image you create.
Just about every photo organizing or editing tool, as well as every different web photo hosting site, uses a different one of those date/time fields to sort, display or organize the photos. Consequently, you can be faced with a total mess if you change the capture date in one photo organizing or editing application and then try to upload those photos to your favorite photo web site. They can sort and display just as you expect them in your desktop application and be a total mess on the web, or visa versa.
Even something as simple as sharing a photo with somebody gets to be complicated. On your photo tool, the photo can display a completely different date and time than what appears for your friend when they view the very same photo you emailed them.
To make things even worse, it seems every single photo organizing or editing tool and web site labels the date/time fields differently.
Which of these photo tool date/time labels is the time you shot the photo?:
- Modify Date
- Date Time Original
- Capture Time
- Photo Date
- Create Date
- Date Created
- Digital Creation Date
- Date Time Digitized
- Date Acquired
- Metadata Date
Sometimes, the same date/time field is labeled differently even within the same tool. For instance, Adobe Lightroom labels the very same date/time data “Capture Time” and “Date Time Original” depending on where you are in the tool.
You will search long and hard for a photo organizing / editing tool that accurately labels date/time information or enables you to see exactly which of the 23 or 59 different possible sources it is using for the date/time the tool is showing you.
2. Synchronizing / matching / equalizing the caption, copyright, credit, etc. information across all relevant metadata fields in all relevant files. Everything that is true about editing digital photo date/time data is doubly true about editing captions/descriptions, titles, labels, creator/artist, copyright, etc. Just about every photo organizing or editing tool available enables the user to edit this information. Again, the edit is only to one of many possible places to store that information. What is displayed in your tool is very unlikely to be displayed in another tool or on your photo hosting web site. This is very commonly seen with photo captions and titles, but it’s true of everything else you can edit as well.
All told, for every single JPG photo you create, there are 66 different places to store caption, copyright, credit, etc. information. If you are shooting RAW files, then for every frame you create, there are 172 different possible places to store caption, copyright, credit, etc. information.
And, again, photo organizing and editing tools all use different labels for these different pieces of information, often within the same tool. For example, Adobe Lightroom uses different labels for the same data for the name of the person who shot the photo and for the caption of the photo depending on where you are in the tool.
Just as with date/time, caption, copyright, credit, etc. information is total disarray in the digital photography world. One tool calls it caption, another description, another abstract, and on and on and on.
Create or edit a caption in one tool and you may never even see it in another. Put a title on your photo with your editing tool and it may not show up on your web photo hosting site.
And, of course, you will never know which of the 66 (JPG) or 172 (RAW) different possible sources for every single image that the caption, copyright, credit, etc. came from that you are editing or viewing.
If you are working with both types of data, date/time and caption, copyright, credit, etc., then there are 91 different places the information could be stored for every single JPG image and 228 different places for every RAW image and its sidecar files.
Which of those places are you editing?
Which of those places are you viewing?
Where, exactly, does your photo caption live?
Where, exactly, does the image create date and time for your photo live?
Welcome to digital photo metadata, where chaos reigns supreme.
To try and restore a little harmony, I created two photo metadata synch tools.
One synchronizes date/time information and the other synchronizes caption, copyright, credit, etc. information.
After running the utilities, all photos are fully populated and synchronized with all relevant date/time and caption, copyright, credit, etc. data.
The good news is that after the photos are synched, no matter what tool or web hosting site you use to view, display, edit, sort or organize your photos, the photos will always sort and display properly and show the same date/time and caption, copyright, credit, etc. information.
- Both utilities are structured and optimized for Canon photo files and Adobe Lightroom.
- If you shoot with another brand of camera or use a different editing package, you may need to change some of the configuration information in these utilities.
- Both utilities are built to run on Windows and have been tested on Windows 7 / 64 bit.
- Both utilities require an installed copy of ExifTool by Phil Harvey, which is a free tool you can download here: http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca/~phil/exiftool/exiftool-8.61.zip Unzip the file, rename the file to exiftool.exe and put a copy of it in your windows folder or in the folder containing the photos you wish to synchronize.
- The date/time equalize utility is here: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/docs/lr-datetime-equalize.zip
- The caption, copyright, credit, etc. equalize utility is here: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/docs/lr-ccc-equalize.zip
For both utilities, unzip the files and place them in the folder with the photos you wish to synchronize. In Windows Explorer, double click on the lr-datetime-equalize.bat or lr-ccc-equalize.bat file to run the utility.
>>> BACKUP YOUR PHOTOS BEFORE USING THE UTILITIES <<<
If you are interested in learning more about the 228 possible different places the date/time and caption, copyright, credit, etc. information is stored, check out these two spreadsheets:
- date/time: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/docs/photo-metadata-datetime.xls
- caption, copyright, credit, etc.: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/docs/photo-metadata-ccc.xls
More information on photo metadata is available here:
- Photo metadata overview: http://www.hackneys.com/travel/docs/metadataoverview.pdf