Controlled Vocabulary

The First International Photo Metadata Conference

"Working towards a seamless photo workflow" (part II)

These are my notes from the First International Photo Metadata Conference, which was held on Thursday, June 7, 2007, in Florence, Italy. This report is split into three sections corresponding to the conference viewpoints of photo metadata creators and users, standards bodies, and implementers.

Part I: Photo metadata Creators and Users
Part II: Photo Metadata Standardization Bodies   << you are here
Part II: Photo Metadata Implementers

Part II deals with reports from several photo metadata standardization bodies about the current state of the industry and future developments.

History and Future of the Photo Metadata

presented by Michael Steidl: IPTC

Michael Steidl, the managing director of the IPTC traced the history of the IPTC schemas and noted that the original Information Interchange Module (IIM) standard was designed to be used with audio, video, and other news elements not just photographs. This IIM schema was first used by Photoshop 4 starting in 1994. The latest incarnation is IPTC Core and was released in the spring of 2005. Today these two standards are both used by many applications which means that proper synchronization of data between these two versions is very important.

Steidl stressed that interoperability between applications requires that users are presented with consistent user interfaces. For example, some interfaces refer to the Creator field, while others use Author, and some even use Photographer.

He also emphasized that it’s important for user interfaces to be agnostic to cultural norms. For instance, it should not matter whether the user is used to writing the date as June 7, 2007, or 6-7-07, the system should accommodate these and use the localization info to display it in the most prevalent format.

Wouldn’t if be nice if…

presented by Harald Löffler: IFRA

Löffler reported that IFRA is the world's leading association for newspaper and media publishing, and that they currently have 3000 members in 70 countries.

Löffler asked the crowd, “Wouldn‘t it be nice:
…to have an automatic image workflow from the photographer to the publisher?
… to know all the time, when and where and by whom a photo was created?
… to get your revenue share?
… not to rekey again, what others have already done earlier?
… to create high quality colour images for different types of publications?
… without manual intervention

His overriding theme, echoing the principles put forth in SAA’s own “Metadata Manifesto” is that we should not throw away metadata – we need to preserve it. IFRA has done extensive work regarding automatic image processing issues. They found that the preservation of EXIF data (such as ICC profile related data) is needed for proper and efficient image processing.

He left the audience with some conclusions and open issues, such as the need for well defined mappings between EXIF, IPTC IIM, IPTC Core, PLUS and other schemas. The need for “Write-Once” metadata values, the means to handle versioning of metadata values, and improved support for controlled vocabularies on the user interface level. In addition, imaging devices are not confined to cameras anymore, and mobile phones don’t have EXIF info.

Global Metadata Rights Standards

presented by Jeff Sedlik: PLUS

Sedlik stated that “If keywords are chaos – then intellectual property (copyright) marking is mayhem.” He then explained how the mission of PLUS – To Simplify & Facilitate Image Licensing – can make a difference by providing “Global Metadata Standards for the Communication of Image Rights.”

The freely available PLUS glossary contains over 1500 license and intellectual property related terms. Words and definitions from a larger number of image agencies the world over were collected, synthesized, and reviewed by panels of volunteers to build a common glossary in American English, which was approved by both Licensors & Licensees. The glossary reflects the common practice of PLUS, which is to first create a master using one language, and then let local working groups translate to other languages (making it a multi-lingual means of communicating rights and usages).

The PLUS media matrix and license data format contain standardized menus which can be used within e-commerce solutions. This allows the buyer to use the same codes and/or definitions regardless of image supplier. PLUS codes can be embedded in the image, and held in a central registry.

To simplify the adoption of PLUS they have build a set of standard licenses for rights managed material, called PLUS Packs. The Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) has released a free open-source price calculator which uses the PLUS Packs and is designed so that photographers and image distributors can populate with their own pricing information.

PLUS is currently developing an online registry where photographers can list themselves and possibly their images so that any agency, publication, etc. can verify the origin and rights of any image in real time. If you haven't already visited their site at, you should do so.

“Use the label, make it stick”

presented by Sarah Saunders: BAPLA

Saunders has worked with John Moore (manager at Conde Nast and Pic4Press) on digital workflow issues. She discussed how the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) has worked to develop a single custom panel within Photoshop for metadata entry.

She asked the crowd, “Why do we need metadata?” and then answered it for them.

-Copyright protection (orphan works)
-Identify the picture/author/source
-No need to re-key information
-Effective workflow

These issues, in tandem with orphan works, explain why there is an increased importance on metadata. Without being to identify the photographer or know who holds the copyright, future image users might be able to use images in the future without making any payment.

The fact that there are so many different fields creates confusion for those entering metadata. The Pic4Press group identified the most important fields that should always be entered. Then they along with BAPLA created their own custom Photoshop template. This template only makes use of existing fields within the IPTC / File Info and unfortunately only works with Photoshop CS at present. The main goal was to get people started to at least enter the most important information, as many agencies still have the tendency to simply put all metadata into the caption/description field.

Sarah emphasized that the Caption, Credit and Picture Number (Document Title) should be entered into ALL images.

>>>Proceed to Part III


Download The IPTC Photo Metadata White Paper and transcripts of many of the presentations given at the Conference from

You’re also invited to discuss further developments of the requirements and open issues which have been raised at the Conference on an IPTC moderated forum:


This report was prepared June 23, 2007 by David Riecks with assistance from Betsy Reid and James Mulford.
Words and Pictures are ©2007 David Riecks, all rights reserved.


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