Fishing for information

by Dominique James

I follow a simple, straightforward and consistent workflow. And it goes like this: after selecting my best shots and after applying enhancements using Aperture, I bring them one by one to Adobe Photoshop CS3 for localized editing, and then save the final edited images back into Aperture. In submitting the photos, I export from the final edited PSD images from Aperture into a designated folder before uploading to an FTP server. (Of course, for a more streamlined workflow, I can just submit and upload the photos direct to an FTP server with the free ApetureToFTP Pro 1.0.1.)

But before sending the photos out, I often want to check and review the information about the images. To do this, I pressed Control + Click (or Right Click) on the exported image, and scrolled down to Get Info. The Information Pane pops up, and as expected, I see there all the embedded information.

This is exactly what I did with last week's photo assignment, a casual portrait session with Maniya Barredo. Maniya Barredo was prima ballerina for the Atlanta Ballet, and she is now the artistic director of the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre in Georgia.

maniyainfopane.jpg

What surprised me, which I may have previously overlooked, is the fact that the Information Pane now seems to show a whole lot more data than it used to. And since these information are automatically embedded in the photographs, these are the kind of information that you may or you may not want to share when you send out the digital image files via email or FTP, or when saving them to a CD or DVD for distribution.

What information can be "read"? For starters, in the topmost section labeled General, what is displayed includes: kind of image file, actual size of the image, where it is located, when it was created and when it was modified. And then, it also includes the image label and color, the name and extension, what software to use to open it, a preview of the image, and settings for sharing and permissions.

On top of this, there are other (and even more) information listed. The entire metadata of the digital image file shows up. Listed in the More Info section are: pixel dimension, the make of the capture device, the device model, color space, profile name, focal length, alpha channel, red eye, fnumber, exposure time, and even the date when the image was last opened. And because the image has been imported to Aperture, and then exported out of Aperture, additional IPTC data that you've encoded upon import are listed as well. This includes the headline title, instructions, city, state or province, country, and perhaps most importantly, keywords -- each and everyone of them.

And as if this is not enough (and this is probably a very useful thing), there are aspects in this Information Pane that you can change or update on the fly.

For example, you can change the file name and hide its extension. You can choose and designate a different application as the default when opening the image. And, you can set sharing and permissions.

But wait, there's more. Other than these settings and metadata adjustments, perhaps the most practical thing you can do is to add comments to the blank editable "Spotlight Comments" area. You can write any comment you want in the allotted space. But in the interest of assisting the Mac's internal search engine, it may be most practical and logical to just type in keywords each separated by a comma.

You have to remember that from right inside Aperture, you can of course create a version and "edit" in or out the metadata, IPTC and all other information that you want a particular image (or even a set of images via the lift-and-stamp tool) to carry when you export it out direct to an FTP server. I consider this to be one of the most powerful and flexible capabilities built right into Aperture. It's just interesting to know that we have the option to do it after, and even when out of Aperture.

I selected another image, this time, a RAW image file saved to a folder which was referenced in Aperture. This particular image was from yesterday's photo assignment, a landscape shoot of Savannah's well-preserved and well-maintained and well-operated historic district.

savannahinfopane.jpg

The Information Pane of this image showed the same kind of information as the one exported from Aperture, but with one main difference. Despite the fact that I manually typed in the IPTC data and a whole lot of keywords when I referenced the image along with the other images in Aperture, these did not show up. In the processed PSD photograph I exported from Aperture, all the additional IPTC metadata information did show up. But picking on the Referenced image direct from the file folder will not read the metadata and IPTC data that have been added inside Aperture. The original image files in the original file folder from where they have been referenced truly remains untouched.

What this means is that if I want the IPTC metadata and keywords to show on all images, I will add it when importing to Aperture and then export the images from there. But if I want to pick an image from a designated folder without the additional metadata, it is still possible to add keywords by simply typing it into the Spotlights Comments area, which somehow, appears to serve the same purpose: top-level Spotlight search recognition.

To put this into a test, I typed in the only word common to both the Maniya Barredo and the Savannah photos: Georgia. Despite the fact that both photos were archived on an external hard drive, and despite the fact that the Maniya Barredo photos contain the word Georgia as a keyword from Aperture and the RAW file contained the word Georgia in the Spotlight Comments, both images showed up as primary choices.

Of course, none of the managed images inside Aperture showed up in Spotlight. One difference therefore between a Managed and a Referenced image, is that you'd be able to search through your library of images via Spotlight if and when the Referenced images is keyword-tagged in Spotlight's Comments with the search parameters.

Since now I know that all images I export out from Aperture carry over all the metadata and IPTC data, and since I have a clear idea on how they can be searched through Spotlight, this gives me another reason to be more conscious when it comes to adding (or not adding) information (whatever the case maybe) when it comes to importing to and exporting from Aperture. We often hear the phrase: "If you can control information, you can control everything." In this case, and with Aperture's flexibility, we can completely control the management and search of photo images in our Macs from within and outside of Aperture.

Knowing how these things work can help us figure out what is the best strategy for typing in IPTC, keywords, and other information, and how useful they can be when conducting searches inside Aperture, and searching with the Mac's Spotlight.

2 Comments

David Crellen
2007-11-28 12:50:02
Thank you for your article, Dominique. Knowing that this information is disseminated within the image file makes you realize the impact of the meta data you provide and helps you to develop a strategy that best serves you. There are two glaringly missing pieces of information in the Getinfo pane that I feel is the most important. They are the Credit and Copyright Notices. How are we assured that these two crucial pieces of information permanently accompany your image?
Dominique James
2007-11-28 13:30:00
Very crucial indeed, David. Since a lot of information can and have already been listed, a couple more lines won't be too hard to add, and it would be too important to add. Aperture now let's you add these information as an IPTC data, but it does not show up in the Info Pane. There is a work-around we can do right now, such as deliberately noting a credit and copyright notice in the Instructions and Headline fields, but then again, it's a work-around. And for something as important as Credit and Copyright Notice, we can only hope that Apple engineers revise and update the Info Pane to include these crucial data in their very own fields. Perhaps, implementation of credits and copyright notices may even need to start from the imaging capture devices? What do you think?