Having useful metadata associated with your images makes a lot of things simpler. Having relevant keywords and location information on an image can make it easier for others to find it out on the web, as well as providing you with more ways to sort and manipulate the images in your library.
But even without that, one basic piece of metadata you should apply is your name and copyright information. This is split up into several pieces, starting with the Creator and Copyright sections. Lightroom and Bridge/Photoshop obviously deal with this in the same way. Other software will have equivalent functions. Here I’m only showing Lightroom’s functions.
The reason I’m writing about this now? As you’ll see there’s some date information in here so even if you’ve set all this up before, now that it’s 2015 you should review your setup!
This is where you get to specify your name and contact details. You don’t need to fill in all possible fields, but at least put something in the Creator Name field, and some way of contacting you. I prefer to at least put in an email address as it works internationally.
This is where you can mark an image as copyrighted, and put some detail in the copyright notice associated with that. There is a standard format for this which is compatible with most copyright laws around the world, and it’s made up of three parts.
- The word “Copyright” or the symbol ©. Don’t use “(C)” or similar: that has no legal value. On OS X you can enter the © symbol into Lightroom with Option-G (I think on a Windows machine it’s Ctrl-Alt-C, but Alt-0169 [using the numeric keypad only] has worked since the days of DOS).
- The year of first publication (in a book, on a website, via email, etc). The copyright starts from this date, and lasts for a term decided by legislation (I believe it’s currently 70 years for photos in Australia). In my case I don’t know when I’m first going to use an image, but I don’t want to forget to fill this field in so I use the current year.
- The name of the entity owning the copyright. If you’re assigning the copyright to your business you would put the business name here. The Creator fields give contact details: you don’t need to go overboard and make this field too long.
The default value I put into the Rights field is “All rights reserved”. When sending images to a client I will typically replace this with an explicit statement of what rights they are being given to use the image(s). I use a Virtual Copy in Lightroom to do this without changing the Rights value of the underlying image. The “PLUS” metadata extensions give a lot more control over this, but that’s a more-complex topic.
Instead of “Copyrighted”, it is possible to mark your images as being in the public domain, but I would be hesitant to do that. A photo in the public domain can be used by anyone for virtually anything. A copyrighted image can also be used by anyone, but legally they’re supposed to get your permission first. If you mark it as Public Domain you’re explicitly giving up your rights over the image. Remember that we’re setting up a default condition for your images: you can always mark individual images as Public Domain later if you want.
Use a Metadata Preset
Rather than filling this information in by hand, use Lightroom’s Metadata Presets to fill in all the information at once.
I use presets which I can apply during Lightroom’s Import process. They fill in my Creator info, the Copyright info, and some of the Location info. I can always then select groups of images and update the location info, but this is all about saving me work. Usually all the images in an import were taken in the same country, the same state, and sometimes even the same suburb.
You’ll notice that I give the presets names which clearly describe them (and in an order which sorts cleanly). My name, the year, and the location is usually enough. Meaningless names such as “Mine” don’t tell you much about what’s in the preset.
During the year I define more presets. If I’m going to be doing multiple imports at a new location I’ll define a matching preset. If I get a chance I’ll pre-define these before I head out on an expedition. I can use the “Edit Presets…” line on the menu shown above in the library’s Metadata panel, or during an import I can do the same from the “Apply During Import” panel.
When defining a new preset I don’t re-enter all the info of course. I select an existing preset, change the bits that need changing (the copyright notice, the location), and then save under a new name.
I don’t define presets for every location though. For example if I’m importing a card’s images which were taken in a variety of Victorian locations I’ll just assign the Victoria preset to them, then in the library select blocks of images and update the City field as appropriate.
At the end of the year I end up with a bunch of presets I’m never going to need again. It’s time to delete those, and define new ones if I haven’t already. To keep the list manageable during the year I’ve probably already deleted some (e.g. if I know I’m not heading back to a location in the same year) but the change in year is a rollover point.
Update all your machines
I use two machines (a desktop workstation with my “master” catalog and many terabytes of storage, and a notebook which I use to manage my photos during an expedition and later import that catalog into the master) and at different times I import photos using both machines. So I make sure the new metadata presets are set up on both machines. If I had Lightroom set to store the presets with the catalogs I would have to set up the presets on every catalog.
Copyright in the cameras
In my cameras I set the Copyright data (which gets embedded in JPEGs and RAWs) to a generic value which doesn’t include the date. I also set the Owner/Author name. These examples are from an EOS 7D MkII. On the older Canon cameras you can’t do this in the menus, but if you connect to the camera via USB and Canon’s EOS Utility software you can set this data that way.
All my photos typically go through Lightroom before being sent anywhere, but this gives me a failsafe just in case. By default these values will end up in Lightroom’s Creator Name and Copyright Notice fields.
If you decide to include a year in the camera’s copyright information then obviously you want to update that at the New Year too!
Where this information goes
With the relevant data on all the images in your library, you get to do some more filtering if you want. For example in my libraries I have photos by myself and by my wife, and with different Creator fields I can filter them easily even if we were using the same camera type (which is a common difference). Of course, I do need to be careful to not assign my Creator/Copyright information to her photos when i import them!
When you export images this data is inherited by the new files. As long as you don’t exclude it during the export of course.
Lightroom export plugins such as Jeffrey Friedl’s Metadata Wrangler can give you finer control over which data is included in the export, but the above choices are built-in to Lightroom.
With the data embedded in the copies you send away (via email or the web for example) it’s in a standard place where common tools can find it. No-one should have the excuse of “it didn’t say it was yours” although unfortunately there are some website tools out there that silent strip the data.
You can also easily imprint the Copyright string for each image onto the image during export using Lightroom’s Simple Copyright Watermark.
It’s not very pretty, and you don’t get control over the font/size/placement, but it’s a start. You can do prettier watermarking in Lightroom, but at least this way it automatically uses the appropriate copyright string for each individual image.
So given that it’s now 2015, have a think about how you set these metadata fields on your images, and consider updating your presets with new copyright strings. Including the year in the preset names might remind you to update them when 2016 rolls around!