Easy Peasy photo Tagging?

Boreal

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Short term lurker, first time poster... in fact I joined the forum for this one specific question. We'll see how it goes after that :)

So, the backstory: semi-professional with a catalog of many thousands of photos built up of 11 years of digital photography. Very few of these photos are tagged for easy search. They are organized in folders by Year, month, and (sometimes) event or day. Impossible to find a specific photo unless you know exactly when you took it.

I've looked at a variety of program solutions: I have Aperture, iPhoto, I've tried Picasa. For organization, I am unhappy with all of these for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is simplicity and elegance. And I hate it when programs make copies and duplicate my photos (iPhoto, looking at you!) although I know there might be a way to turn this off.

And so the search continues. Here's the brainstorm I had recently. If anyone else has some insight, I am looking for reasons why this will not or should not work for me.

Put tags in the file names. Windows has a path limit of 248 chars, and a path+filename limit of 260. Mac is 255 chars and unlimited path. The entire library is stored on a dedicated 1Tb HDD like this:

Photos/2012/01/2012012 [tag1 tag2 tag3]

With this setup, I have over 200 characters of taggage space available, which should be plenty to put as many descriptors as possible. Here's how I see the pros and cons:

PROs
  • easy to implement
  • no third party software
  • platform independent
  • can search easily w/Spotlight or Windows search
  • can search for multiple tags (but not true boolean)

CONs

  • need HDD connected to be able to search
  • each file has to be individually tagged (some copy/paste, but each filename has to be unique)
  • will be slow to implement
  • inelegant?

So here's the question: Is there a valid reason why I should not adopt this system? Yes it will be a long time to get up and running, but it's fairly easy to run through the 100-200 photos on a busy day and tag them on the go. Not much longer than using a semi-automated system (Aperture or suchlike).

And if anyone thinks this is not a good way to go, are there any other ideas out there?

I haven't committed to this system just yet, but am inclined to start. Real. Soon. Now.

Cheers - I look forward to the conversation.
 

480sparky

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I simply rename my image files after I download them on my HD.

So DSC7K_1234 becomes Stone Bridge 0001, DSC7K_1235 becomes Stone Bridge 0002.........

And, the file they all go into is named Stone Bridge 2011_11_14.

What you may want to do is to look into keywords.
 
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Boreal

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This is pretty much what I am suggesting.

WOud you elaborate a bit on Keywords?
 

480sparky

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This is pretty much what I am suggesting.

WOud you elaborate a bit on Keywords?

Keywords are descriptions stored in with the image's metadata. Let's say you took a photo of a sailboat silhouetted against a sunset. You could use the keywords Sailboat, Sunset, Ocean and Sailing. The, years from how, you're looking for any photos you took with a sailboat in them. You search your keywords for Sailboat and said image is included. If you searched for any of those keywords, the same image will be returned to you.
 
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Boreal

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This is pretty much what I am suggesting.

Would you elaborate a bit on Keywords?

Keywords are descriptions stored in with the image's metadata. Let's say you took a photo of a sailboat silhouetted against a sunset. You could use the keywords Sailboat, Sunset, Ocean and Sailing...

OK, I am following you. What you call keywords are what I (and I think most of the Web 2.0 world) call tags.

So yes, I could use metadata to insert tags, but this suffers from: requiring a third part metadata editor, and an extra step.

Why not just put tags in the file name and be done with?
 

MLeeK

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In your search for programs you seem to have not mentioned Lightroom. WHY? It's power is in it's cataloging and search features.
There are programs that are specifically made for what you are doing as well, but Lightroom is basically the main choice.
Lightroom4 Beta is free to use until it's finalized.

DPBestflow is a government funded study on the preservation of photography and photographic images. They have a lot of great information on this here File Management | dpBestflow

There is a book out for the DPBestflow project on workflow from the bottom up that is extremely interesting and a GREAT read for everyone from the basic photographer to the very advanced. Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow-A Guide to Staying Ahead of the Workflow Curve
 

480sparky

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This is pretty much what I am suggesting.

Would you elaborate a bit on Keywords?

Keywords are descriptions stored in with the image's metadata. Let's say you took a photo of a sailboat silhouetted against a sunset. You could use the keywords Sailboat, Sunset, Ocean and Sailing...

OK, I am following you. What you call keywords are what I (and I think most of the Web 2.0 world) call tags.

So yes, I could use metadata to insert tags, but this suffers from: requiring a third part metadata editor, and an extra step.

Why not just put tags in the file name and be done with?

First, most keywords can be copied & pasted across an entire file. Right now, I'm working on the first batch of TPF Across America shots I just took a couple hours ago. All of them will have the keywords "TPF Across America" and "The Photo Forum" attached to them.

Then I start to add more specific keywords to smaller batches of images. Barn, Farm, Machinery, Railroad, Tracks...etc. Batch process, works in the background while I'm posting here.

Third, you can add a nearly endless list of keywords, although using too many will create searches with far too many returned images. Renaming a file takes just as much time as adding a keyword anyway.

I think you're hung up over this 'special software' requirement. Lots of DAM software can search for keywords. You're simply trying to reinvent the wheel.
 

The_Traveler

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One advantage of using a semi-aided tagging system is that you can have hierarchical trees of tagnames and you lose the artificial length limit.
A system (like LR for example) allows you to make and load a predefined hierarchical tree. Then it will suggest tags based on letters typed.
This eliminates spelling errors, shortens tagging time, allows retagging easily and allows rethinking your hierarchy.
You can import folders with tag presets thus shortening times to tag.
 
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Boreal

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In your search for programs you seem to have not mentioned Lightroom. WHY?

A few reasons:

1. Already have an investment in Aperture.
2. Don't want to learn YAWF (Yet Another Workflow)
3. Trying to get away form a third party solution, dependent on upgrades, etc etc.
4. The benefits would need to be an order of magnitude better than my modest proposal.

I know LR has its adherents, and I'm not in this for a debate (I am pretty sure that there are lots of forum threads bashing this out already.)

What I woudn't mind is some feedback about how tagging in the filename will not work as described. In other words, what am I missing? I already know that it will be slower to do and catchup with, but that is a price I am willing to pay in order not to have to learn a new system.

Thanks for the reply. :)
 
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Boreal

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One advantage of using a semi-aided tagging system is that you can have hierarchical trees of tagnames and you lose the artificial length limit.

THis is fair dinkum. I think I get around this by using copy/paste (since I will be batch tagging files anyways, all with very similar names). But I get your point. I don't think it's a big issue with me tho...
 

The_Traveler

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The hierarchical issue is turned out to be huge for me, much more than I thought.
two examples -

1) there are three generations of my family living, myself and two brothers - we all have children and some of them have children - we are talking in the neighborhood of 25 different names - the idea of doing searches to find any possible combination or somehow encoding additional names as summaries of groups is mind boggling - to me. So I have a family tree and I can bring up pictures by searching for any node or individual.

2) I run a large effort for one non-profit client that results in about 3500 images in one day. We have 7 or 8 photographers shooting up to 35 different homes (assignments overlap according to day). Rather than send me all their huge files, I get screen size images to retain. So I may need to search for all photos done on a certain day (easy enough) by a certain photographer at a certain site. When I import these photos, I tag them appropriately (and don't touch the names) and then, when the final high res images are chosen, it is easy to generate lists of what I need from whom.

My guess is I have several hundred hierarchical arranged and non-overlapping tags.
 

MLeeK

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I also found a need for the hierarchy. I shoot a ton of sports for several different schools and auxiliary organizations. At one point I might need to find all images of Joe Blow while at another point I may need to find Joe in football. I see joe in football, wrestling , track, boys volleyball and summer baseball. There are a LOT of images of joe in my collection.
Each year I pull up the seniors and look for the oldest images I have of them for the yearbook. This year I pulled everything from 1999 to 2002 on those kids. MUCH easier because I have done the tagging on them appropriately.
Not to mention I think we are talking a LOT less time than your name/word tagging would. I just select all of the images of Joe for todays game And then click on joe under wrestling 2011-2012. It adds all of my keywords for the year, school, etc. Everything in that tree. No typing anything unless you have to add a new keyword. Which you do 1 time.
 

The_Traveler

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The absolutely smartest thing to do, IMO, is to spend some time creating a hierarchy (it's easy to do in a text editor) and then importing it.
Then just start importing images, folder by folder and tagging them.
It took me about a month of spare time to import and tag about 10,000 images.
I am always refining them, adding tags to existing images, etc.
 

jodyapap

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In your search for programs you seem to have not mentioned Lightroom. WHY?


What I woudn't mind is some feedback about how tagging in the filename will not work as described. In other words, what am I missing? I already know that it will be slower to do and catchup with, but that is a price I am willing to pay in order not to have to learn a new system.

Hey Boreal,

Quick answer is the fact that your search cannot do boolean OR or NOT searches all by itself means you have an inferior system.

I think the main reason your system is a bad idea is that while it will be an efficient system for YOU to find your images, it will not be useful in any other setting. In other words, if you ever share your images, sell them for stock, or end up integrating them with any others, all your work will be wasted, and you will have to rekeyword all your images.

I agree that you are trying to reinvent the wheel. If you were coming up with a greatly better system, then I'd tip my hat to you. However, I (and trust me, I've keyworded over 250,000 images) know that developing a good system to properly keyword your images the first time following standard best practices is the shortest route to having a well managed image library.

Your system will not really save you much time while keywording now, compared to doing it the generally accepted way, and will most likely lose you time when you have to redo all your keywording.

Hope this answers your question.

Jody
 

KmH

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Easy Peasy photo Tagging?
Naw. Think nightmare. :lmao:

In short your previous years of keywording ignorance, plus your less than effective file naming and organization scheme is going to cause you some severe pain now to get to where you want to be.

Invest $30: The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers

Aperture and Lightroom are both cataloging PIEware (Parametric Image Editing software), though you don't say which release of Aperture you have.

Cataloging software returns search results way quicker than a browser can. You've been using browser file naming and organizing, and propose continuing doing the same.

Aperture and Lightroom don't have the ability to open multiple catalogs at the same time, and they cannot search for missing files on a collection-wide basis. Aperture in particular does not expose the directory to the user for easy control of the file location.

Consequently all of your images really need to be in a single catalog, but that catalog can be sub-organized into collections. One nice thing about collections in a catalog is that they are virtual folders, and the images in each collection don't actually have to all be in the same folder on your hard drive.

If you try to add computers, more than 1 user, more than 1 hard drive, or more than 1 catalog, the workflow advantages of cataloging PIEware start to breakdown.

Unfortunately Aperture and Lightroom are still missing some very significant cataloging capabilities, but for most photographers they are the best they have to use for managing their images.

Good luck!
 

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