Organising JPG Photos

Posted on 16 October 2012

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After a pretty disappointing experience with Picasa I am looking for a new way to organise my family pictures. I’ve found out the hard way that there are only two certainties in life: databases and metadata folder structures and filenames.  So the first thing I want to do is rename my photos to a yyyymmdd_hhmmss format and organise them into folders per year/month. I’ve found that I am not the only one as most photo-tools have to option to rename and organise files based on ‘date taken’ from the EXIF data. So that is part one of this article: renaming photos. Part two is: adding or correcting metadata.

Metadata

Adding metadata to pictures is like writing some information about that picture on it’s back. So far so good.

But when it comes to digital pictures and metadata it can get messy. There are the JPG comment, EXIF, IPTC and XML entries. Thera are a lot of ways to save this information and some programs read the JPG comment, others only read the IPTC description tag. A google for ‘image description metadata‘ led me to this interesting article about the subject.

What we wish is a system like the mp3 system: everybody uses the same metadata system to remember the track, artist etc. What I like to remember is:

  • When. EXIF date taken. Sorting the images on exif date also is a very good way to spot and delete doubles.
  • Where. Thank god for GPS.
  • Why. This is the description of the picture. Like the subscript in a photobook.
  • Who. Who are the people in the picture, AND who has taken the picture (copyright).

I found that for me the EXIF and IPTC data are the best place to put this information. But even then: there are a few different tags to use for this information. For the filesize it doesn’t really matter if you use EXIF or IPTC, it adds about 64 byte per tag.

EXIF Metadata

Each jpg file can contain a 64kB segment that holds the EXIF metadata about itself.  I like to use this exif data, as each camera uses this system to write information about the picture. One of the things that are written into the EXIF data is the ‘date taken’ information, based on the clock of the camera. It can also contain information about the camera, lens (more about this later), shutter speed and GPS location. The GH2 doesn’t have a GPS module, so this information has to be added later. It’s also possible to add a title and copyright/author note.

I’ve tested quite a bit of software, ranging from Picasa, XNview, ACDSee to GeoSetter.  A short review:

  • ExifGUI2 is too difficult for me.
  • GeoSetter is great software for GPS metadata (it also includes angle of view etc) and a very nice and simple way to preview on secondary screen. Unfortunately you can only use it to edit GPS metadata.
  • ExiftoolGUI is great free software for editing all metadata, including EXIF and IPTC. But there is no way to get it to preview images fullscreen on the second screen.
  • XNview can only edit a few metadata tags, but has a lot of nice options for comparing images, timeshift, renaming etc. You can set it to preview on the second screen by ticking this option in the options menu.
  • FastStone. Have not tested metadata, but I know that it can save your selected photo’s in a .exe file. Photo’s can be selected using ‘labels’.
  • PixVue is a plugin for Windows Explorer. It works with virtual albums and can generate IPTC captions through a popup (so no way of fast caption editing).
  • Picasa… not sure about where it stores it’s metadata. As far as I know only GPS data is saved in EXIF tags.
  • iTag is windows software. It needs dotNET framework 4, I don’t know if I like that. It takes the title and puts it in the IPTC:headline and the IPTC: ObjectName. It takes the description and puts it in IPTC:Caption-abstract and the EXIF:ImageDescription. It takes the copyright text and puts it in the IPTC:copyright and the EXIF:CopyrightNotice. It reads the IPTC:headline, IPTC:Caption-abstract and IPTC:copyright. If those are not present it reads the EXIF:ImageDescription and EXIF:CopyrightNotice. So be aware: if there is different information in the EXIF and IPTC tags, you will never know the text in the EXIF tags.
  • PhotoMe is freeware that can edit exif and iptc metadata.
  • ACDSee is not free. It can edit EXIF data. I am not sure if it has a lot more options then the combination of my favorite three free packages.

Then I found this article that states you can even do it in windows explorer (I wouldn’t do that, because it adds a lot of clutter like XML and other files). But in the end, the best option is ExifTool by Phil Harvey. What scared me off was that it is a command line piece of software, butthen I found the free ExifToolGui, which is a very nice interface for ExifTool. It’s a great start and helps in doing a lot of the basic stuff that you can also do in the other software without writing any commands. And then, when the day comes you need more, there is this nice ExifTool Direct window where you can type your own commands. I found that I was making my own command within a few hours and it was easy. So really: give it a try!

When: Date

The EXIF metadata entries are: DateTimeOriginal, CreateDate and ModifyDate. Those can be equalized using ExifToolGUI. The confusing thing is that XNview use other names: resp. DateTaken, DateDigitized and DateModified. Both ExifToolGUI and XNview can time-shift these three values in case the camera has been set wrong.

There also is the FILE:DateModified, which can also be synchronised to the EXIF:DateTimeOriginal by ExifToolGUI. XNview can’t do this, but it can also time-shift this value as well as the FILE:DateCreated value.

To conclude: it’s best to set the EXIF:DateTimeOriginal to the right value and then sync all other tags to this value.

File renaming

After setting the EXIF date right, this one is easy. XNview and ExifTool both can do a great job on this! In ExifToolGUI you can use the standard dialog for this under various-> file: name=DateTimeOriginal. It takes the date and time from the Exif metadata and uses it to rename and/or organise your files. XNview also has a great option that can do a lot of renaming, including EXIF:DateTaken.

Where: GPS

The GH2 does not have a built-in GPS unit, so to add GPS data one can import a log file into ExifToolGUI or set locations manually. This will work great with a smartphone GPS logger, but I’ll have to find out how this works.

Another option is GeoSetter, this one can even show the orientation of the camera and angle of view on the map, but seems to add more EXIF tags with the GPS data. I don’t think that more is better, but maybe some websites and/or software do not recognise the GPS tags that are used by ExifToolGUI. A nice thing about Geosetter is that you can add favorite locations.

The third way is using Picasa. It stores the GPS data in EXIF tags like the others. I’ve not examined which tags are used exactly.

Why

This is the description of the picture. There are a few places to save this: EXIF:ImageDescription, EXIF:UserComment. FILE: description (database?). JPEG:Comment. IPTC:Caption-abstract, IPTC:ObjectName (obsolete?) and IPTC:Headline. According to the IPTC specs there also is a IPTC:Title (which is different then the Headline), but I can’t find it in my free software. As far as I read the Title tag is for an unique ID, while the Headline is for a short description of the picture. Here is another great explanation.

I would like to use the Exif tag for this as well, but I’m not sure if that is the best option. It also depends on the publishing place:

  • PicasaWeb only reads the IPTC:Headline I think. But they call it Title, while XNview is giving it the name IPTC:beschrijving;
  • Facebook can’t read EXIF data but it can import IPTC data and displays the following tags in the their description field: IPTC:ObjectName <br><br> IPTC:Caption-abstract IPTC:CopyrightNotice
  • Windows XP Explorer can search on JPEG:Comment, but can’t display it. It can display the IPTC:title and caption. Explorer can search and display the EXIF:ImageDescription.

So far it’s not decided yet, but I think it might be best to fill the EXIF:ImageDescription and the IPTC:Caption-abstract with the same description text. iTag will do just that, but it only reads the ITPC tag (so you will not know if there already is information in there.  XNview can copy the EXIF:UserComment to the JPEG:Comment. To copy the JPEG:Comment data into the IPTC:Caption  you can use XNView -> use comment as IPTC:Caption. The best way so far might be making an exiftoolgui workspace that can show each individual tag but edit multiple tags from one field. If only I knew the shortcut for saving the metadata to the picture it would be keyboard-navigation only.

Who

The one who has made the picture: EXIF:Artist or EXIF:Copyright. Which one to use? There also is the IPTC:CopyrightNotice field which is read by facebook. Therefore, I might be going for the IPTC: and EXIF: copyright fields (duplicate information, I know!).

The people in the picture: this one is difficult.  XML might be the place to put this.See the ‘sharing’ below. It might best to write the names in the ‘why’ field and let the sharing software also recognise and tag the faces in their own database? You could use IPTC:labels, which can be edited with (for instance) Picasa. But I think it is best to add “- with…” to the end of the description.

Lens information

When you use a M43 lens, information about this lens will be written to the EXIF MakerNotes:

Lens Type : LUMIX G VARIO 14-42/F3.5-5.6
Lens Serial Number : 21FG41002011

One of the things with the GH2 is that it can adopt to so many sort of other lens-mounts. The disadvantage of that is that the camera will not know which lens you used and so it will not write it to the EXIF data. When you think it is useful to know which lens you used for a particular set of photo’s, you can write this information afterwards. This is when I started using the ExifTool Direct window of ExifToolGUI:

-d %Y
"-MakerNotes:LensType=LEITZ WETZLAR ELMARIT-R 1:2.8/24" 
"-MakerNotes:LensSerialNumber=2834326" 
"-Exif:FNumber=2.8" 
"-Exif:MaxApertureValue=2.8" 
"-Exif:FocalLength=24.0 mm" 
"-Exif:FocalLengthIn35mmFormat=48 mm" 
"-Exif:Copyright=Dirk Voorhoeve"

Picture Orientation

Another thing with the GH2 is that the orientation sensor is in the lens instead of the body. So when using a legacy lens, there is no orientation information from the camera. With the files from the GH2, there are three ‘Orientation’ tags: one in IFD0, one in IFD1 and one in the MakerNotes. When you use a M43 lens the camera will write the same value for all three EXIF tags, for instance Rotate 270 CW.

But when you rotate the picture with software like XNview, only IFD0 is changed, the other two remain as Horizontal (normal). Good to know: apart from this tag there is  NO EXIF data changed by XNview (apart from maybe the thumbnail picture). This is one of the stupidities of having the same information multiple times in the EXIF data. As far as I see only IFD0 matters for viewing orientation in xnview and other sofware.

Color corrections

See my other post about RAW pictures.

Selecting pictures

I like to keep all my pictures in one place and then make a selection for viewing the best pictures. ACDSee and XNview can classify (1…5) the pictures, but this selection is saved in their own database. Picasa can make a selection with ctrl+8, this is stored in the database as well but you can configure it to update only those photos to PicasaWeb (see below). You can put them in albums, but this is saved in their own database only. I’ve had a lot of problems with restoring these albums, lost all my ‘people’-tags and never got it to sync to the corresponding webalbums, so I don’t trust them anymore

Sharing

Then upload to picasaweb.google.com can only be done with the picasa software (with the web-interface it is only onefile at a time). Because I don’t want to install Picasa software (yet), I’ve been looking into facebook.

Uploading to facebook is much easier with flash upload. But it takes a while as it seems the pictures are processed (resized) on the server, not on my computer. It takes forever. Unfortunately, Facebook does not read any EXIF data (so no date/time or GPS from exif) but it can read a few IPTC tags (see above). Facebook does has a face-recognition program with tagging (very scary to know that they will be able to find you on any picture that they (or some dictator sometime soon) can get their hands on) but it is not as smart as I remember Picasa was. Setting the sharing options (specific people only) is easy, but still I feel it is a bit scary to upload all my family pictures to facebook.

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Posted in: GH2, Photo