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davidlian is an ultra-geeky chinese dude that works for a technology PR agency. He loves fiddling with techno-toys, plays Warhammer 40K, and shoots pictures wherever he goes. Here, he rants about PR, Technology and anything else. Don't expect balance and un-biased, he ain't no journalist. Anything said on this blog are solely davidlian's personal views. Don't confuse them with company mantra, client's views or views of any organisation he may be part of.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Needed: Photo-tags standard in EXIF?

Was having a discussion with some techno-nerds yesterday about photo management. Yes, we all know, it's pretty painful.

My ideal photo management system would be to have all the tags stored in the picture file's EXIF data so that I can easily transport photos and not have to re-tag them in each device / service.

Photos - Share on Ovi

For example, take the picture above. If I had tagged it "bird", "parrot", "Wildlife" in Flickr and then moved it to ShareOnOvi, I'd have to retag it again. Similarly, while Windows Vista lets you tag photos, it loses all its tags once you moved it to an online service. Now, even the new Symbian S60 3 FP2 devices allow you to tag photos which can then be searched in-device. But all that is lost once you've saved those pictures to your Vista PC.

[Okay, for the unsavvy, a tag is essentially a word / category you can associate with a file (not necessarily a picture) that will help make searching for the file easier. So, if I tagged the picture above "bird", the next time I or someone else searches for "bird", this picture will come up.]

With devices becoming so connected, and content often stored on the "Cloud", what would really work is to have tags stored within the EXIF data of each picture file. This is similar to the idea of ID3 tags that audio files get. This way, no matter where I push, import or move the file, I can easily search for it using the same familiar tags I use, and without having to re-enter all those tags again.

What do you think? Will a smart company out there start working on this (if you haven't already?)

5 comments:

Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gray said...

about EXIF specifications, i think it's more about the conditions a photo was taken. photographers care about the photo, and by extension, the methods used in producing it. tagging, etc should be for cataloging purposes.

since i know u play Warhammer ;D i'll make a gamer's example.

we don't care what your chess pieces look, they can be all scratched and burned, or even be vegetables. the important point is chess is a game. so what do we keep when recording a game? the moves being made and it's components. it doesn't really matter who played the game, or when or where it was played. but the gameplay and the metagame is important.

same thing with photography. the subject matter is: the photo, that one glorious shot you want to keep for posterity. when photographers show off photos to each other there's an obvious question: "how did you do that?" not "what is that?" because regardless of the photo's subject, it is the effect that's reproducible.

at least that's what i think. if there's need for passing folksonomy (tags, geodata and such) then these social websites should make their websites more semantic aware. unfortunately, the lack of support for this may mean they're discouraging you from moving to a competitor =P

p.s. made some mistakes with the previous comment.

davidlian said...

@Gray: True, about EXIF specifications being originally about what stats the photographers originally cared about.

But, I'll give you the example of tagging GPS data onto photos of an example that EXIF can be used for different things. And it probably is heading that direction.

Ask any photographer and the greatest problem with digital photography is probably cataloging all those photos you've taken. And once you've ingrained yourself into a system (say the Vista Photo Manager), then exporting the photos to another system becomes a pain.

So, you're right again, it can be done but people don't do it for competitive reasons.

But in this age of Web 2.0, isn't our mantra to be open and share for the sake of the consumer? So this is a call for someone to take up this project and do it.

Not like anyone will hear. :/

Gray said...

i agree with you on that, but i doubt it will be part of EXIF. because that seems to be an industry standardfor cameras.

geodata/tags are only required during sorting, aka the time it has left the camera and is on your computer. so it might be an operating system thing.

that's until the day PCs become so small it's part of the camera. or the camera can get online and become your digital album interface as well as take pictures.

Leslie said...

I know this is late and you probably have it sorted but the 'Vista' method (at least inthier photo application) seems to use XMP (I did look in to this when looking at tagging in Linux). For bulk work there is an excellent commandline app called "exiftool" which can edit pretty much any photo tag. So there is an "ID" tag type speciifcation but it is relativly new and it is still "comming through". Exiftool will let you add,edit and delete IPTC and XMP tags. At the moment I am trying to write a GUI wrapper around exiftool.