IPTC: easily view and edit image metadata

From family pictures on your hard drive to professional shots by photographers or databases for an image editor: over time, image archives can become confusing. IPTC metadata is useful when trying to locate specific photos. If you already save your images using the IPTC standard, you will be able to filter them by name, location, date, or heading later on. IPTC is content-related metadata which contains information about media files and simplifies file exchanges. We will explain how these labels work and where the metadata can be found.

What is the IPTC standard?

There are two competing standards for creating, displaying, and editing metadata in image files: EXIF metadata which conveys technical characteristics such as camera model, shutter speed, and resolution, and IPTC data, which contains content-related information such as location details, copyright notices, and contact details. EXIF data is generated automatically when creating JPEG image files. IPTC data, however, has to be entered into the metadata by the user afterwards.

The full name of the standard is IPTC-IIM, and it was introduced in 1991 by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) as an Information Interchange Model (IIM). The international standard was meant to simplify the exchange of image files between news agencies, photojournalists, and editors.

The IPTC standard is compatible with files saved in the JPEG, TIFF, and PNG image formats and offers the benefit of allowing detailed, content-related information to be sent along with a media file. This makes subsequent searches through image archives easier and simplifies the task of sifting through and structuring image sources and holding a photo competition.

Fact

In principle, the IPTC standard is also suitable for other media files, such as text files and videos. However, the format is currently almost exclusively used for image files.

In 2004, Adobe’s XMP metadata format from 2001 was combined with the IPTC standard resulting in the “IPTC Core Schema for XMP.” IPTC Core supports both IPTC and XMP metadata in image editing programs and sometimes synchronises them into one metadata package.

Originally meant for the work of journalists, IPTC has now prevailed as a widely-used description model for amateur and professional photographers alike. It is also integrated into most image editing programs. IPTC-IIM is currently available in version 4.2.

Overview of IPTC fields

Which and how much information to include with an image depends on how the file will be used and with whom you want to share these details. IPTC fields offer a wide spectrum for content-related notes. They make searching for images easier and simplify the structuring of databases. Internationally, these fields are known as IPTC tags.

Information that could be found in IPTC description fields include:

  • Keywords
  • Copyright information
  • Location and time details
  • The names of the people in the image
  • Content-related descriptions/comments
  • A heading

The content details are composed of one content field and a specific definition or comment:

IPTC description field Comment
Location details Details about the location of where the image was taken
Location General information about the city
Federal state Places the object of the message into a context specific to a certain state/province/country
Heading Headline or included image caption
Description Summary/description of the content of the image
Keywords Important keywords for simplifying a search
Creation date Date when the image was created
Source Details about the source and/or agency that owns the image/text
Copyright notice Complete copyright information
Author/editor Details about the author/editor
Instructions Information about permitted usage, permissions, and other procedures

The number of IPTC tags depends on which image editing program is being used and what information is important to include. Generally, IPTC fields can be divided into three categories.

  • Descriptive: Content-related details about the image content; information about people, objects, companies, artwork, and more; keywords, headings and captions
  • Legal: Information about copyrights, creators, sources, licensing rights, and usage by third parties
  • Administrative: Details about location and time, professional qualifications, instructions for third parties

Why is IPTC data needed?

IPTC metadata allows an image file to be understood more quickly and makes it possible to structure and search for images efficiently thanks to standardised IPTC tags. Moreover, images can be filtered using concrete IPTC details and image archives can be combed through more thoroughly by using keywords. As such, maintaining and organising image archives or journalistic databases can be executed much more efficiently.

IPTC data can be thought of as accompanying text for image files. It has the advantages of being included directly in the image and sent directly along with the file. One quick look provides information about copyrights, sources, content, and contact details. In addition, IPTC data also helps to answer journalists’ eight sacred questions very easily:

  • Who is involved?
  • What happened?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • Why was it done this way?
  • What is the source of the information?
  • Who is this information meant to reach?

Viewing IPTC data easily

All digital images usually contain automatically generated EXIF metadata in their technical characteristics. However, not all images contain IPTC data. It is quite easy to see whether IPTC data is available. When using Windows Explorer, you simply need to right-click on the image in order to find the image properties and details.

With macOS Mojave, however, you have to click on “View” and then “Show preview” in the Finder.Then, choose a photo, look at the preview on the right-hand side, and find all metadata, including IPTC data, under “More.”

You can also conduct a search by using IPTC keywords in Windows Explorer and the Mac Finder.

Keep in mind that if you want to also edit IPTC data, not all image editing programs support the changing or creation of metadata.

Free software for viewing and editing IPTC data

There are many free programs that you can use to view and edit IPTC data. Here is an overview of free metadata software:

  • IrfanView
  • Exifer (Windows)
  • XnView
  • IPTCExt
  • ImageQuery
  • Mapivi

Commercial software for IPTC data

Most commercial programs for editing images and photos include an integrated metadata viewer which can be used to view and edit metadata. These include:

  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Adobe Bridge
  • Photoshop Elements
  • Capture One
  • Corel Aftershot
  • CyberLink PhotoDirector

What problems could be caused by IPTC data?

One problem associated with IPTC is a lack of data security. If you are not careful about removing private location information, names, or shot details from the metadata, you run the risk of sharing this information unintentionally with third parties after uploading or sending the images. As such, it is always important to take note of the metadata that is included with an image. Erasing image information can sometimes be just as important as adding it.

IPTC data is compatible with various image editing programs. Transferring data is not a problem in most cases. However, in certain applications, IPTC fields may sometimes have different names which can be confusing. It is advisable to stick with only one software program or to check which software program the image files should best be used with.

Note

It is possible for metadata to vanish during a data transfer. Therefore, it is recommended to create a backup in the cloud. With HiDrive cloud storage from IONOS, you can save your pictures in the IONOS cloud and ensure you have a backup in case of an emergency.


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