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Working with Metadata Templates in Adobe Bridge

Adobe Bridge is an excellent file browser for use with Photoshop. But it can do so much more. This week I want to address how to use it for manipulating the keywords, copyright and other metadata embedded in your images.

Adobe Bridge Metadata template menu optionsThere are lots of kinds of metadata. When your camera records a shot, it embeds metadata detailing many of the settings you used to take it. Many programs allow you to rate your best shots with five stars and the others with a somewhat lower grade, saving the results as metadata within each image. Metadata is just data about something else. In this case, it's not the data for the pixels that actually make up your images, its data that provides additional information about those images.

There are also lots of standards for how and what metadata should be supported by image formats and programs. The most familiar one to digital shooters will likely be the "Digital Still Camera" or "DSC" standard. Developed by the Japan Electronic Industry Development Association, it not only defines the EXIF data (EXchangeable Image File format) standard used by your camera to record the aperture, shutter speed and other settings, it also gives us that weird DSC-plus-number file naming convention your camera probably defaults to. There are also metadata standards known as IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council), DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) and more. In some realms it seems as if every group loves standards so much they want one of their very own. The early days of digital imaging were like this but things have settled down now and DSC EXIF and IPTC in particular are now widely supported.

Adobe products were early adopters of metadata. In Photoshop, you can access the metadata for the current image by using the File Info menu option. The entire Lightroom catalog concept is built around image metadata. Adobe Bridge supports metadata too, although many users seem to be aware of only part of what it can do.

File Info metadata in Adobe BridgeFirst, the obvious: As you browse through your folders of images, you can easily click below the ones you like and add a five-star rating to them. You can apply predefined labels with the Label menu or keyboard shortcut equivalents. Both of these become part of the XMP (Adobe's eXtensible Metadata Platform) metadata. I told you Adobe was an early adopter of metadata. You can access much of the other standard metadata for an image using the appropriately named Metadata Panel. If you don't see it, make the panel visible by turning on the checkmark for it on the program's Window menu. From the Metadata Panel you can see all the supported metadata that already exists for the selected image. You can also click on the small pencil icon to the right of any of the editable fields to change their value.

Now for the slightly less obvious: Just like Photoshop has a File Info menu option, so too does Adobe Bridge, and it's located in pretty much the same place on the menus. From here you can see basically all the embedded metadata whatever its source was. Indeed there are so many different types of metadata exposed here that Adobe built the interface in tabs to group like elements (you can even add your own tab if you're a programmer). You can use the left and right arrow buttons at ends of the row of tabs to go from one group to the next. There's also a downward arrow at the very right to select the tab you desire from a dropdown list. If you don't want to see all the tabs, you can click on the "X" icon on any given tab to close it. It's not gone for good of course; it's merely no longer displayed. You can always get back to it using the tab dropdown list. One tab worth making special note of here is the "History" tab where you can see a list of everything you've done to that image in Photoshop, provided you've turned on support for this in Photoshop. Geeky types will also probably enjoy the "Advanced" tab where you can see all the metadata Bridge can find in a hierarchical list, even if there is no tab specifically defined to show it formatted.

Now for what most people seem to miss: metadata templates. While updating metadata one image at a time as can be done with what I've described so far, doing so can rapidly become tedious if you have a lot of images. For this sort of situation, you'll be thankful that Adobe Bridge's metadata support includes templates. A metadata template consists of any number of metadata values saved together under a common name. A typical example would be your name, address and copyright information. You can then select a bunch of images in Bridge and apply that template to the lot of them all at once — much easier than doing this one image at a time.

The menu options to handle everything you'll need for working with metadata templates can all be found on the Tools menu. Let's look at them one by one.

Creating a metadata template in Adobe BridgeThe first menu option for metadata templates is called "Create Metadata Template." You'll need to give your new template a name, but the real meat of the dialog is the selection of which fields you want to include in your new template and the assignment of values to those fields. Expand each of the major groupings and scroll down to find the fields you are looking for and then enter values for them in the right hand column. When you type a value for a field, Bridge will automatically place a checkmark beside that field. If you turn on the checkmark for a field yourself without entering a value, Photoshop will assume you want to use a blank value for that field. Whatever is checked will be part of your template. Whatever isn't checked will be ignored when using that template. When you're done entering the metadata values you want, click the Save button.

Tools >> Edit Metadata Template will allow you to revise any of the templates you have created in Bridge. If you just made one after reading the previous paragraph, you should see it listed here. After making any needed changes, click Save again.

There is no menu option to delete a metadata template, but it's not difficult to do. Open the Create Metadata Template dialog and click on the small triangle icon to the right of the template name field to expand the popup menu, and then select Show Templates Folder. This will open you the folder in which your operating system keeps metadata templates where you can then use standard Windows or Mac OS X options to delete or rename whatever you desire. Knowing how to get at this folder can be helpful if you want to copy templates from one computer to another too.

Applying a template to a group of images is simple. First, select the target images in Bridge and then use either "Append Metadata" or "Replace Metadata" from the Tools menu. The difference is that the former will only affect metadata values that don't currently have a value while the latter will overlay whatever was there regardless for the fields that are part of that template. Neither choice will affect values that are not part of the applied template. For example, suppose you move and want to change your address in the metadata for a group of images. If you create a template containing only address, city, state and the like, you can use "Replace Metadata" to modify the address embedded in all selected images whereas "Append Metadata" will only fill in the address fields for those images that don't already have address metadata, probably not what you want in this case. Keywords, Description and other metadata fields will remain unaffected with both Append and Replace since these values are not part of your address template.

Templates have many uses and I've barely touched on them in the descriptions above. Since you can easily create a new template, apply it, and then delete it when you're done, you can make one for just about whatever metadata need strikes your fancy. Any field of fields you want to update in multiple images can be done quickly by creating a template and using it to append or replace the target image metadata. If you want to experiment with the possibilities, create a copy of a folder or multiple folders of images and go to it. You can keep the results of delete those copied folders when you're done playing around with metadata. Getting familiar with metadata templates can save you a lot of effort in the long run so a bit of time spent learning now can be well worth it.

Date posted: September 18, 2011


Copyright © 2011 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Migrating Keywords Between Photoshop/Bridge and Lightroom

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