How Photo Metadata Can Help You Preserve Your Family Stories

It’s Halloween…and it’s the time of year when you’ll see spooky decorations and creepy costumes everywhere.

But to certain people (and you may be one of them)….what REALLY scares them is the term “metadata.” It sounds technical, confusing, and overwhelming.

And it’s true….metadata is a little technical. But when you find out more about metadata and how it works, you’ll probably end up appreciating what it can do for you and your family photo collection!

This post we will talk about about what metadata is (and how it can be helpful to you), then will give you some suggestions on how to get help when you’re working with metadata.

The Stories Behind Our Photos

You know that behind every photo, there’s a story. For example, if you’ve got a picture of your grandmother, there are details behind that photo about who took the photo, where it was taken, and what was happening when the picture was shot.

All those stories should be preserved, and if we’re only saving those details using a piece of paper (or information scrawled hurriedly on the back of a print) we’re limited by the person who wrote down that information, and their individual organizing system.

When photo details are saved with the image file, the stories are searchable – and to save information like that to a file (as we talked about in one of our previous posts), you need to understand and utilize metadata.

Editing metadata is the best way to pair the image with the story behind the image at all times.

What Is Metadata, and Why Is It Important?

Metadata is simply a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. Essentially, metadata is data about data!

When we’re working with photos, metadata is used to save the “who, what, where and when” of your photos, and that metadata travels with the photo file. That means when you save metadata correctly, the metadata will move with the image when you move a photo file from one location to another on your computer or when you share it with someone.

Storing information with an image’s metadata is a great way to make sure information about the photo doesn’t get lost, and it’s also really helpful when you’re trying to search for specific photos. When you’ve got up-to-date metadata saved with your images, your photos can be categorized, searched, and retrieved, much like the volumes in a library.

Metadata can include things like the:

  • Filename of the image.
  • Time and date the photo was created.
  • Settings of the camera used to take the photo.
  • Type of camera used to take the photo.
  • Location where the photo was taken.

When you’re using an SLR camera or a smartphone to take a photo, this information is automatically captured and saved in the file metadata.

Why You May Need to Change Your Images’ Metadata


Some metadata (like the location where the photo was taken) is recorded automatically in your image. But if this is missing because the originating camera doesn’t have built-in GPS, you can add this information to your photo’s metadata.

On the other hand, you may need to remove metadata from your images for security reasons. For example, when you’re sharing images on social media sites, you might not want the GPS location of your home in the photo’s file.  However, keep in mind that this information is useful later to identify the location of where a photo was taken.  To share a photo without the location identified, save a copy of the original, remove the location from the copy, then share the edited copy to social media.


You may want to correct the date and time that the photo was taken. If your camera clock wasn’t set for the time zone where the photo was taken or it wasn’t working correctly, you can adjust the date and time and save this to the metadata.

Keywords About the People in the Photos:

You can also add keywords to the image’s metadata. Keywords can be used to identify people, pets, or locations in the photo.

A Few Important Warnings About Editing Photo Metadata

Editing photo metadata can be a helpful way of capturing the stories behind your photos…but there are a few things you must be aware of, before you dig in.

1. The best way to edit the metadata of a photo is to save the metadata directly to the image, so that information will always travel with the image, if you’re exporting the photo or moving it around from place to place on your computer or tablet. The tools I recommend for editing metadata are Photo Mechanic or Adobe’s Lightroom.

2. If you use a library application, such as Apple Photos, to add metadata, you will NOT be saving your metadata directly to the image file, so you’ll only be able to utilize that metadata when you’re using that particular app or program. That means if you look at a photo outside Apple Photos, you won’t be able to search or view that photo’s metadata.

3. You can accidentally strip metadata out of your photo files by exporting them from certain programs, which means the technical information (date taken, camera settings, camera type) would get lost. That can mean a lot of work down the drain.

For further help understanding metadata, try this useful resource.

How to Get Help with Adding and Editing Metadata

The process of working with metadata can be tricky and technical, and there are places where you need to be careful – so many of our clients choose to hire a professional to handle working with their photos’ metadata.

Editing metadata and cataloging your photos is a service we offer at Picture This Organized. We are here to help uncover the stories that lie hidden in your photos’ metadata!

Get in touch with us today to set up a free consult to find out how we can help with this process.

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