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What is Image Metadata? Learn the Categories & How to Use It

Last updated: May 31, 2023

What is Image Metadata?

Image metadata is text containing information regarding an image file embedded in that file. It describes details about various aspects of the image, such as technical information, creator data, creation date, and camera settings when shooting.

In general, this use of metadata can be used for organizing, managing, and understanding digital images. Therefore, it's a very important aspect because it can be used to process and identify several types of important information.

Image Metadata Categories

This type of metadata is often divided into three main categories, namely:

1. Technical Metadata

This metadata provides technical information about an image file, such as production, processing, and storage.

Some examples of information included in technical metadata are format, resolution, size, compression level, color profile, and other technical aspects related to the production or digital representation of the file.

2. Descriptive Metadata

This metadata shows information about the content, characteristics, and description of an image file. Usually, it's used to describe objects and provide context related to the content or meaning contained therein. Therefore, effective descriptive metadata can facilitate image search.

Some examples of information contained in descriptive metadata are the name of the creator of the image, special keywords for the image, a description, a title, comments, or other information related to the image file.

3. Administrative Metadata

This metadata has a form similar to descriptive metadata. However, it focuses on information related to administrative processes, copyrights, policy settings, and the maintenance of image files.

Some examples of information contained in administrative metadata are use rights and licenses, reuse restrictions, contact information for image owners, or similar types of information.

Image Metadata Formats

Here are some examples of metadata formats on images:

1. Exchangeable Image File (EXIF)

This metadata format is the most frequently used format in image files. EXIF metadata stores various technical information related to image files, such as their width and height, aperture value, exposure time, camera model, and other technical information.

It can be used to understand and assist in the analysis of technical details and shooting conditions.

2. Information Interchange Model (IIM)

This metadata format provides a framework for storing administrative, descriptive, and editorial information associated with image files.

Within IIM metadata, individuals and organizations are provided with instructions for adding details to image files such as title, genre, instructions, owner or creator, location and contact information, copyright and attribution specifications, and other similar types of information.

3. International Color Consortium (ICC)

This metadata format relates to the color profile embedded in an image file. The information in this metadata usually relates to the color characteristics of the image files, such as color profiles, color spaces, calibration information, and other details related to producing accurate colors.

4. Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP)

This metadata format was developed by Adobe Systems. This metadata has an XML-based format to hold various types of information.

XMP metadata is designed as flexible metadata and can be accessed by various applications and image file processing software. Therefore, XMP metadata can be combined with EXIF and IIM metadata.

How to Add Image Metadata to Images

There are two ways to add metadata to image files: structured data and IPC photo metadata.

1. Structured Data

Structured data is an implication between the image file and the page that displays it. This data must be added when the image is used, even if the image is the same. Here's how to do structured data creation, testing, and release:

  1. Add required properties, such as contentUrl, creator, creditText, copyrightNotice, or license.
  2. Follow the general structured data guidelines that don't violate the content policies for Google Search, ranging from technical guidelines to quality guidelines.
  3. Validate your code using the Rich Results Test.
  4. Deploy multiple pages that include structured data and use the URL inspection tool to test how Google sees the page. Make sure the page isn't blocked by a robots.txt file, noindex tag, or login requirements so that Google can access it. If the page is fine, you can ask Google to crawl the URL again.
  5. Submit a sitemap so that Google continues to recognize and be aware of any changes.

2. IPTC Photo Metadata

Image files can be directly embedded into IPTC photo metadata. We recommend using metadata management software to manage image file metadata, such as ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023, Adobe Bridge (Desktop) 2022/v12, or Adobe Photoshop (Desktop) 2022/v23.

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