Friday, May 13, 2011

Metadata, Image Files and Migration

Photo from LSE Library

Recently, Heather over at Leaves for Trees wrote a great post called Adding source information to image files - Tuesday's Tip. It got me to really thinking about a concern I have with metadata and whether it migrates with the file and is readable in different programs. One thing I am sensivite to is whether how I spend my time now will provide benefits in the long run. In other words, if I add source information, descriptive information, author or keywords/tags to an image file using one program, will I be able to see that same data using another application down the road? Heather's article prompted me to finally play around a bit.

I use Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 and Windows Live Photo Gallery (Vista operating system) so what is discussed here is pretty much the same as what Heather was discussing. Here are the results of my brief experimentation using a jpg file. I'd love it if anyone has any comments as to whether these kinds of information will be viewable in other programs. For instance, if I were to move these files over to a Mac, would I be able to view the same data in the various programs in that environment? How about viewing the data in other photo viewing/editing programs?

Photoshop Elements 8.0

First I opened a photo in Elements and input some information into the following fields. I picked these fields because they are the most likely ones I would be using.
  • Document Title
  • Author
  • Description
  • Keywords
Next I saved the image in Photoshop Elements and opened it using Windows Live Photo Gallery. Here's what transferred over from Elements and what field the data appeared in Windows Live Photo Gallery.

  • Document Title  data transferred to Title in Windows Live Photo Gallery.
  • Author transferred to Author
  • Description became Subject
  • Keywords became Tags
So far so good. This told me that I can use Elements to input metadata into the above fields and I will be able to see that same information in Photo Gallery.

Windows Live Photo Gallery

Next I opened an image in Windows Live Photo Gallery, input some information into the following fields and saved the file:

  • Title
  • Subject
  • Comments
  • Tags
This is where things got a little interesting when I went back to Photoshop Elements to view the image.
  • Title data in Photo Gallery became Document Title in Elements. It also appeared in Description!
  • Subject does not appear to migrate over to Elements.
  • Comments also does not appear to migrate over to Elements.
  • Tags in Photo Gallery became Keywords in Elements.


This little experiment told me that I'm better off inputting metadata into Photoshop Elements. If you input data into Windows Live Photo Gallery, one needs to be aware that some of the data may not be viewable, at least using Photoshop Elements.

Comments? Suggestions?

Thank you Heather for writing a great post and motivating me to look a little deeper at an issue that's been on my mind!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for writing this article, neither Adobe nor Microsoft has given me anything. I bought the programs referenced in this article with my own hard earned money.

© 2011, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. Interesting experiment, Michelle. I've started uploading my image files to Flickr as an another backup system (and allowing me to quit Mozy). I need to see how metadata is handled in uploads and downloads.

  2. I found this article to be very helpful ...

  3. Nira, The article you recommend is absolutely FANTASTIC! It's exactly what I needed. Everyone interested in working with their digital files needs to read it!

    Thank you.

  4. A year or so ago, I noticed the metadata was lost when the file was resaved as a smaller size.

  5. Anonymous, That is part of what I get so concerned about.

  6. Hi Michelle, "JL" has commented on using Microsoft Live Photo Gallery (I think) after having big problems with the GPS data and Metadata - he had to redo (first find backups) all his photos. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but he has a blog where he explained it, and he attends Scanfest. Wish I could give his blogsite. But you're "right on" to think about this metadata loss between programs. Also the original metadata on any photo can be lost too.

  7. Donna, I do remember JLog having problems with Metadata. I'm glad you mentioned it.

  8. You've hit on some big problems with tagging and labels. I use Adobe Lightroom from the same company who makes PSElements and especially like the batch tagging features. Unfortunately, it's more expensive than PSE, but it gives you more control over batch processing. I've also had good success with XnView, and it's FREE.

  9. Thanks for the info, Denise, I've been eying Lightroom but hadn't heard anything about it from anyone I actually know so I've held off. That and the cost.

    I'll give XnView a try while saving my sheckles for Lightroom!