Advanced Aperture: Mastering Metadata

Aperture is Apple’s professional photography application. It has many strengths and roles in a digital photographer’s workflow including RAW file decoding, image adjustment and book design to name but a few. Today I am going to demonstrate Aperture’s metadata settings.

The Basics

In terms of digital photography, metadata is the information about a photograph. On a simple level, metadata can tell you the date that a photograph was taken on. It can tell you the shutter speed and aperture setting used to create the photograph. It can even tell you the make and serial number of the camera that took the photo.

Nearly every piece of information about your camera and its settings are saved as metadata inside the photograph’s file. Finding and using this information, however, depends on the application you use to view and store your images in. Aperture shows you all of this information, and it also allows to add some of your own.

Terminology – EXIF and IPTC

Metadata can be separated into two types: EXIF (which stands for “Exchangeable image file format”) and IPTC (“International Press Telecommunications Council”).

EXIF metadata is created by your camera when you take a picture and embedded into your digital photo file (be it a .jpg, a .tif or even a RAW file). As mentioned above, this can include such information as date, time, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, flash settings, camera model, lens model, focal length – in fact, pretty much everything that we as photographers might need to know about why a photograph has turned out so well (or so badly). This information exists whether you use it or not.

IPTC metadata is data that you add to the photograph after it has been taken. The definition of IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) might give you a clue as to what industry is associated with this step. Ever wondered where that witty byline underneath a photograph came from? Or how the magazine editor knew the name of the photographer? It was all added by the photographer during the editing process before it hit the picture desk. This information only exists if you spend the time to add it.

How Much IPTC Information is Needed

The purpose of the International Press Telecommunications Council is to standardise the metadata fields between camera and software manufacturers. The idea is that if a photographer adds his information in a metadata field on one type of software, the picture editor will be able to retrieve that information accurately on any other piece of software.

Figuring out how much IPTC metadata you add (or, more significantly, how much time you spend typing it all in) is entirely up to. It is well worth investing the time and effort as anything that you add is embedded in the file wherever you export it to.

I am going to now show you how to get the most out of Aperture’s metadata.

The Metadata Inspector

Customising the Presets

Copying and Pasting Metadata

So, we’ve mastered the Metadata Inspector, we’ve customised it, and even started to add our information. However, the metadata we add in the inspector is only applied to one image at a time, the image which is highlighted when you start typing. How can we apply our hard work to many images at once? Here’s how:

Option 1: Lift and Stamp

Option 2: Using Your Own Presets

Making Metadata Work For You

The IPTC metadata fields cover a lot of possibilities, the idea being that it appeals to the common ground between photographers and picture editors. But these options might not be suitable for you. Wouldn’t it be great if you could customise the fields yourself?

Warning: every piece of metadata that you add to a photo gets embedded in the file when you export it. If you do make customised IPTC fields and fill them with personal information, it will get exported with all of the other data. I recommend duplicating the photograph that you want to add your personalised information to so that you have one version for exporting to clients and one version with all of your recorded information.

The Power of the Smart Album

And there we have it. I hope that I you have enjoyed reading / watching my tutorial and that I have managed to open up the world of metadata for you. If you have any questions, please do feel free to post them in the comments section below and I’ll endeavor to answer them.

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