Photo Metadata Conference
"Working towards a seamless photo workflow"
7 June 2007
Florence, Italy (Europe)
The Conference in Retrospect
by Angela Murphy, The Image Business
In a ground-breaking move the European organisation of picture agencies Cepic hosted the first international Photo Metadata Conference entitled ‘Working Towards A Seamless Photo Workflow’ at the Cepic Congress 2007. The conference was jointly organised by the standards organisation IPTC and media organisation IFRA, and sponsored by Adobe with the aim of bringing together the many and varied parties that have an interest in improving the application of metadata standards to digital images.
The conference attracted a heavyweight audience of 130 delegates most of whom represented leading organisations concerned with the creation and dissemination of digital imagery.Creating a Metadata Network
Images may go through many different stages in their progress from origination to publication. The digital image workflow may also involve many different actors, all with slightly different priorities – from the photographer taking the shot or the imaging technician scanning the copy, through the news and stock agencies, to the final published product in print or on screen. In addition, the need to archive and reuse images may have a very different role in different organisations. Nevertheless, in today’s increasingly mature and sophisticated marketplace, concern with data integration, interoperability and metadata standards is no longer just the concern of museum curators. It is now seen to be of vital importance to the entire media industry.
As a result, IPTC and IFRA, and the other standards bodies, found that this year their work has attracted more interest than ever before. The resulting programme for the Conference read like a Who’s Who of the image business – and attracted a similarly informed audience.A Stellar Cast
Among the image creators were two photographers well known for representing the interests of freelance photographers in search of better standards, David Riecks and Peter Krogh. Among the picture users were the Head of the Stern Photodesk, Andrea Trampe, Roger Bacon of Reuters, Simon Span of Trinity Mirror and – in the audience – seasoned picture researchers and editors, Veneta Bullen and Charlotte Lippmann.
Representatives of the professional and standards bodies included Harald Toeffler of IFRA, Michael Steidl of IPTC, Jeff Sedlik of PLUS and, in the audience, Staffan Teste of Cepic and IPTC, Linda Royles and Catherine Draycott from BAPLA , and Angela Murphy from the Museums Copyright Group. Also in the audience were people notable in the picture library world, including Andrea de Polo from Alinari, Jessica Tier from the Bridgeman Art Library’s MILE project and many others.
Finally, the conference looked to the manufacturers and software developers for presentations of some potential solutions to the problems aired earlier in the day – namely Gunar Penikis of Adobe Systems Inc; Joe Schorr of Apple Inc.; Clemens Molinari of Fotoware; and Josh Weisberg of Microsoft, with Peter Stig of Hasselblad and Hiroshi Maeno of Canon representing the camera manufacturers – and several reprentatives from Nikon, speaking from the audience.Searching for Images
A common theme of the presentations from picture users related to the practice of batch keywording by photographers whereby individual images taken on a particular project may be keyworded with words that relate to a whole project. Picture editors searching for particular topics may then find that their searches bring up may individual images unconnected with their search. One potential solution emerging from discussion of this issue pointed to the need for keywords to be contained within two distinct keyword fields – one related to batch keywords – and the other to keywords relating solely to individual images.
Also dominating these presentations were the issues arising from the picture desk and agency software that stripped out metadata (even exif metadata !) when migrating images from one system to another – difficulties highlighted by both Reuters and Trinity Mirror. It was also clear that out in the field, many users were not conforming to IPTC guidelines and definitions. One clear result from the conference was the heightened awareness of the self-imposed issues that arose from this practice – and the need for camera manufacturers and software developers to take account of the needs of picture users all the way through the digital workflow. Clearly, the ramifications of these problems will run and run – but all agreed that the only solution was to keep on talking and to carry out some retrospective reconciliation within all our image management systems.Discovering issues
It was clear that in order to make life easier for picture users, picture suppliers – whether internal or external – need to work hard to find cost-effective ways of moving their own working practices closer in line with emerging standards. Photographers and agencies, submitting images to a picture desk like Stern that is searching through 12000 images a day to use just over 200 images, could easily see the advantages of adopting consistent standards within the images they are submitting.
Users talked about the frequently incorrect use of IPTC fields and the imposition of an ‘orgy of keywords’ to try and get their pictures used. Particularly important within this area is the need for our industry to pay particular attention to the way in which we allocate dates and locations. As Roger Bacon of Reuters pointed out, dates and locations that are perfectly adequate for topical images submitted for news stories will often be totally inadequate for archived and historic pictures.
Another major issue is the importance of ensuring that copyright information stays with digital images throughout the image workflow – a particular concern for photographers and agencies with the advance of ‘orphan works’ legislation. Although picture users cautioned against putting individual bank details into IPTC headers that may migrate into many different databases !
As David Riecks pointed out, it is vital that high quality metadata is put into image headers as early as possible in the chain of supply so that it also appears in low resolution images. Digital images are particularly vulnerable to loss and misuse and photographers need to have a clear idea of what happens to their metadata after their images leave them. Above all, both suppliers and users need to avoid getting embroiled in the ‘culture of blame’ that can prevail – and work together to resolve these issues.Looking for solutions
There are now many plug-ins that can resolve issues like the loss of UIDs. If an agency needs to impose their own UID, they just need to ensure that the original filename is retained in another field. (NB Photographers need to note that using ‘Save for Web’ indiscriminately may wipe out image metadata.)
The need to widen the field structure of image headers was a theme taken up by both photographer, Peter Krogh, and Jan Leidecke of BVPA/Keystone in Germany. Both had strong views on the areas that needed developing, particularly in relation to complex rights information and structured vocabulary.
One of the most important new initiatives to emerge from the conference was Canon’s announcement that it is working to develop a permanent image ID that is created at the time the image is created and cannot be removed. This was universally hailed as a major step forward – and one that many hope will be followed by the other major manufacturers.
Among the initiatives demonstrated during the day were the simple data-entry screen presented by Sarah Saunders of BAPLA – an initiative designed to encourage BAPLA members to start using IPTC headers. This also demonstrated the flexibility of the Adobe structure. As Gunar Penikis of Adobe pointed out, the new release of the Adobe’s XMP toolkit is open-source and therefore freely available for adaptation by specialist users. Its capacity to hold business information is also likely to become more important as more users build XMP-based solutions into their workflows.
This xmp extensibility was also central to the developments within both camera and image management software as was clear from the presentations given by Hasselblad’s Peter Stig who focussed particularly on Hasselblad’s enhanced raw file processing and the automated metadata handling demonstrated by Fotoware’s Clemens Molinari.
The focus maintained by Apple’s Joe Schorr was on providing ‘tools that photographers will really use’ – and it was clear that Apple’s ability to address photographers’ needs was endorsed by this partisan audience. Joe demonstrated the ways that Apple’s Aperture software enabled easy metadata input using ‘drag and drop’ and buttons to make the process simpler. Certainly, Microsoft’s Josh Weinberg, was eager to demonstrate that Microsoft too have woken up to the fact that improvements in image management is key to the development of their own new applications.Conclusions and the way forward
In all this was a fascinating and deeply stimulating conference day leaving delegates with much to think about – and with plenty of work still to be done. As Michael Steidl of IPTC and Harald Loeffler of IFRA both emphasised, the image business is now showing signs of much greater unity than ever before and the White paper that they have now produced should prove to be a significant milestone along the way.
All delegates left with a copy of IPTC’s new White Paper published to coincide with the meeting – and highlighting the core issues that still need to be resolved by the world’s professional bodies, software developers, camera manufacturers and standards organisations as the image business moves forward in this rapidly changing world. containing most of the core information. Most importantly, the delegates showed their renewed willingness to work together to achieve those goals.
A full schedule of the conference and copies of all the presentations that available for download are on the IPTC website at http://www.iptc.org/goto?phmdwp2007
From a Photographer's Notepad
by David Riecks
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
Part II: Photo Metadata Implementers
This all can be found on David's Controlled Vocabulary web site.