Get nagged for tags

by Giles Turnbull

David Weinberger's Point. Shoot. Kiss it goodbye is a wonderful essay on the fundamental problem of digital photography.

Digicams make everything so quick, so easy, that we all go a little crazy. We take hundreds, thousands of snaps and actually look at, or make use of, a tiny fraction of them. We're filling hard disks with gigabytes of pictures, and we have no idea of what's there and whether it deserves to stay. If you could find all the bad pictures, all the useless ones that you're never going to use again, wouldn't it be nice to dump them and free up some space?

Sure, some people are organised enough, and have the spare time to devote to keeping their photo collections under control. You can get hold of apps and plugins like Keyword Assistant which makes adding tags a breeze, but that still requires you to devote the time to sit down and do the tagging.

I believe there's plenty of people - myself included - who are too lazy or too busy to sit down for hours at a time, tagging or otherwise organizing their photo collection, no matter what software they use to do it. We need something that fits in with the way we work.

So here's my idea. Let's call it Tagnag.

It's an app, or a utility, or an iPhoto plugin. It works by interrupting you at a time interval you set in the prefs - every five minutes, every two hours, once a week, whatever - and showing you a photo from your archive. Under the photo is a blank text field and a line of instructions saying: "This photo has no tags. Please enter some now; or hit Command+Delete to remove the photo from your archive."

All the user has to do is bang in some tags (names, places, anything meaningful to them) and hit Enter, and the Tagnag window disappears, making changes to your iPhoto/iView Multimedia/A.N. Other Photo Manager App database in the background. You're free to carry on with your work.

OK so it will take a while to go through a collection of thousands of photos, but the idea is that this approach is flexible and fits in with your other tasks, in a manner that suits you. If you find yourself sitting in an airport with nothing constructive to do, you'd be able to engage Tagnag's "Turbo" mode and zip through 50 or more photos one after the other.

Did somebody say Lazyweb?


2005-10-26 14:27:53
Tagging photos
I wonder how many people have sorted out the more basic business of giving each image an ID of its own. A relative of mine just got a digital camera and frequently sends me images, and each batch of two or three images that arrives has photos with the exactly same filenames as the last batch - something between S4010001 and S4010006.

Now, my relative, like me, is a Mac user and this won't faze his copy of iPhoto, which, as you know, disposes imports into its byzantine filing system under rules of its own making. But what if he ever needs to move them to another application? I've advised him to go over to a system where he renames them as he takes and downloads them, using his-initials-year-month-001 upwards. (OK unless he takes more than 999 photos in a month!)

Obviously, people who come to O'Reilly will have sorted this out long ago, but I'll bet most of the public hasn't, and will have a few headaches coming, particularly as most people are erratic when it comes to backing up.

2005-10-26 16:17:05
Download PhotoCM from VersionTracker.

It's a contextual menu plugin, with lots of EXIF features. I download my photos to a folder, then highlight, and choose "Batch Rename Using EXIF Date". Files get named year-month-day-time-XXX.jpg so you can take up to 999 photos per day. Hey presto, unique file names.

2005-10-26 20:49:20
I would use it
I think this is an absolutely fantastic idea, and I would use it in a second if it existed.
2005-10-27 09:35:59
Wouldn't it be nice?
If you could be add tags as you import. Maybe the interface for importing fotos into iPhoto needs to be a bit smarter. That's the one time when I may be willing to categorize and usually its the one time when I have the best chance of remembering the details.

The tagnag idea could be expanded into a whole class of nag applications. Maybe a nag manager. The UI for each nag could just be a dashboard widget so as to interrupt regular workflow as little as possible.

2005-10-27 12:45:12
Tagging photos
Renaming is the first thing that happens when my camera card meets my computer. I have a script that copies the images off the card naming them YYYYMM-DD-SSS where SSS is a three digit serial number. (This is an extension of my labeling scheme for film scans where the "DD" was a serial number for a film roll for the particular month and SS was a two digit frame number on the roll.)

Then an AppleScript directing iView Media Pro does some rudimentary tagging, mainly setting the location, author, copyright etc.

I find that between date and location I can usually zero quite efficiently in on a picture I remember. The next level is tagging for people in the photo which is more tedious. If a series is from some notable event, I'll stick that in as well.

2005-10-27 15:56:03
I'm struggling to see the value gained by renaming photos with date/time filenames. Maybe if you're manually organizing them into file/folder hierarchies, but I'm still satisfied letting iPhoto handle that tedious chore for me.

When EXIF info is available in useful ways (e.g. the Calendar pane in iPhoto 5 and for Smart Albums) then filenames are usually irrelevant. Often they only matter when exporting, when I'd want to use something more meaningful to the intended recipients than their original (or date/time-renamed) filenames for uniquely identifying them. Maybe I'd include the date/time as part of the filename but not as the entire filename.

I really like that it's possible for filenames not to be a "primary" component for organizing and/or identifying photos with iPhoto. Unfortunately that makes iPhoto libraries hostages of iPhoto, which can be a serious limitation for people who also want to access/manage photos in different ways using other apps. I hope we'll eventually (preferably soon) see a solution to that problem with other apps (including Finder!) properly cooperating and interoperating with iPhoto-managed data without losing the benefits of iPhoto.