7-year-old white boy with dark blonde hair in a pink tie dye shirt sitting on steps with information about where the photo was taken

Metadata: Your New Favorite Photo Organizing Tool

In the digital world, we navigate everyday, metadata plays a crucial role in organizing and managing all the information at our fingertips. Despite its importance, metadata often remains unknown. In this blog, we’ll dive into the highlights of metadata, exploring what it is, why it matters, and how it impacts your photo organization.

What is Metadata?

Metadata, in its simplest form, is data about data. It provides essential information about digital content, helping to describe and categorize it. It serves as a bridge between users and the content they seek, facilitating efficient retrieval and management of information.

Family at Epcot with Metadata appearing to the right of the screen

Types of Metadata:

There are several types of metadata including structural, descriptive, technical, and administrative. When we think about photo organizing and the role that metadata plays in this process, we think about descriptive and technical metadata.


Imagine that you have taken a photo with your phone. Beyond what you see in the picture, there’s some hidden information that we call “technical metadata.” It’s like the behind-the-scenes details about the photo.

properties of an image on a pc

  1. Date and Time: This is like a timestamp for the photo, telling you when it was taken. It’s like a digital clock attached to the picture.
  2. Location: Some photos contain location data, like GPS coordinates. It’s like a little map telling you where the photo was taken.
  3. Resolution: This refers to the size and quality of the photo in terms of pixels. It’s like the sharpness or clarity of the image
  4. File Type: This tells you the format of the photo, like JPEG or PNG. It’s like the type of container that holds the picture.
  5. Camera Model: The camera used to take the photo is recorded in the metadata. It’s like the brand and model of the camera.
  6. Exposure Settings: This includes things like shutter speed and aperture, which control how much light enters the camera. It’s like the camera’s settings for brightness and focus.
  7. ISO: ISO determines how sensitive the camera is to light. It’s like adjusting your eyes in different lighting conditions.
  8. Focal Length: This indicates how zoomed in or out the photo is. It’s like how close or far you are from the subject.
  9. Orientation: It tells you whether the photo was taken in landscape or portrait mode. It’s like the way you hold your phone when taking a picture.
  10. Software Used: Sometimes, the software that edited or processed the photo is recorded. It’s like the “ingredients” used to enhance the image.

Metadata pulled up on Adobe lightroom from a Windows computer

All this technical metadata is useful because it helps you understand more about the photo, how it was taken, and the conditions under which it was captured. Plus, it can be handy for organizing and sorting your pictures. Just remember, it’s like having a little note attached to each photo that gives you extra information about it!


Image of child with metadata from an apple computer

This is the information that you add and isn’t known by your camera. Here are some examples:

  1. Title/Caption: A short description or title for the photos that capture the story behind the photo (like writing on the back of a printed image)
  2. Tags/Keywords: Adding relevant tags or keywords that describe the content of the photo such as “birthday”, “museum”, “trip”, “zoo”, “first day of school” or really anything else that may make it easier to find your photos. For example, my son likes to lie down on benches in museums so I have a “laying down in museum” tag so that I can gather all those photos together. Other tags that I use for business purposes are “looking at photos”, “photos on tv” and “photo gift” so I can find a photo to put in a blog or on social media. 
  3. People: The names of people in the photo. This way you can find photos of different people or describes them for future generations. 
  4. Photographer / Copyright: Most often used by professional photographers but can be used by any person taking a photo.
  5. Date and Time: This is the date and time the photo was taken. If this is taken on your phone, it should be accurate but this is something that can be changed. For example, if a printed photo is scanned, the date on the digital image is the date it is scanned and not the day it was taken. Also, sites like Facebook remove all metadata so if you download a photo from there, it will show the date it was downloaded. If you use a digital camera, it is important that you make sure the time and date are set accurately.
  6. Location: If you have GPS turned on your phone, this may be already in the technical metadata but it can also be added after the photo is taken.

Image of two people on a beach with the Metadata from the image pulled up to the right

Why is Metadata Important?

You have a bunch of photos from different events, like parties, vacations, and family gatherings, all mixed up in your photo album. You know you went to some of those places, but you’re not sure when or where exactly. Now, that’s where metadata comes to the rescue!

Think of metadata as a “photo helper” – it’s like a little note attached to each photo that secretly holds important information about it. This hidden note includes details like the date when the photo was taken, the location (where you were when you took it), and the people in the photo.

With this helpful note, you can easily organize and find your photos later on. You won’t have to scratch your head and wonder, “When was that beach trip with my friends again?” or “Which restaurant was that delicious meal from?” The metadata can remind you of those details, just like a memory jogger.

If you are trying to put together a photo book or slideshow for a special gathering using metadata, you can easily find photos of that person, family, or place. It almost feels like magic. 

As you can see, metadata has a lot to offer and may be considered the unsung hero of the digital world. As technology continues to develop, metadata becomes that much more important. With a vast sea of things to discover online, metadata can help you stay organized and find what is important to you. 

Still feeling lost amidst thousands of photos with no real organization? Schedule your free 20-minute consultation with Lisa to learn more about how you can organize your photos with metadata!

Other Metadata blogs from my colleagues in The Photo Managers:

Metadata for Genealogy: Use These 7 IPTC Metadata Fields in Your Family Photo Archive




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