So What's This IPTC Stuff Anyway?

by James Duncan Davidson

In a comment to my blog post from last week, Set Up Your Metadata View, a self-described N00b asked the question: What's an IPTC? Well, it's a good question with two primary answers. The first is that IPTC stands for the International Press Telecommunications Council which is based in the UK and which develops standards for the news industry. The second is that the IPTC acronym is used by photographers and photo editors in the news industry to refer to the standard set of metadata attributes defined by the IPTC that can be applied to images.

This set of attributes, first defined in the 70's and significantly updated in the 90's, encompasses pretty much any bit of metadata that you can think of attaching to an image that might be useful for the news organizations with distribute and process vast numbers of images. There are dozens of defined attribute names, many of which are useful only in a news-based workflow. However, there are a number of these attributes that are useful in any context, such as a headline for an image, a caption, the location of the image, a byline indicating who took the image, and a copyright declaration.

With just these bits of information embedded into an image in a standard format and using standard attribute names, a photograph becomes immediately more valuable and useful to anybody that happens to get their hands on it.


David Riecks
2007-01-02 21:58:47

I was lucky. I discovered IPTC metadata, aka File Info in Photoshop 4 and have been exploiting it ever since. With issues on the horizon such as the "Proposed Orphan Work Legislation" the need for a positive means of identifying your images gets stepped up a notch in terms of importance.

In addition, you've brought a very important point to light... that being that other applications in the workflow have to be either savvy of IPTC metadata, or at least do no harm, and leave it be.

The other authors of the Metadata Manifesto and I feel the same way and shared our vision for steps that we all can take to insure that metadata is preserved and used.

See for details.


Asbjørn Ulsberg
2007-01-03 00:11:39
Uh, I'll try again. Could you perhaps elaborate a bit on the relationship between IPTC and Dublin Core and how the IPTC NewsCodes are related to this image tagging concept?
The N00b
2007-01-05 13:59:23
Thank you James. Very informative.
James Duncan Davidson
2007-01-05 17:43:59
David: Thanks for the link! I totally agree that embedding metadata within images is a very important thing. Now that I've been thinking about it again, I'm looking at how to make sure I can take even better advantage of what's available in IPTC and other metadata efforts.

Asbørn: IPTC News Codes are interesting, but I haven't yet delved into them deeply. When I was reading through them the last time, it seemed like that they were deeply useful to the news industry in manage images going through their pipelines. As a source originator of this information, I've been focused on making sure I do my part of the job right: Copyright, Headline, Caption, Byline, etc.

The N00b: You're welcome. Glad to help. You asked a really good question that merited it's own blog post.

Keith Higbee
2007-01-06 07:05:08
Thank You James,
Is there an export to BizDesign's "ImageFolio" for Aperture that you know of, or where could we find out? It would make life a lot easier to do "batch updates" on info in Aperture than one by one in the digital database!