Dealing With IPTC Problems

Using IPTC fields is a fantastic way of transporting your metadata along with your images, but be wary of compatibility issues.

IPTC fields in jpegs are part of a universal standard to facilitate the exchange of information (metadata) attached principally to jpegs.

For all that this standard is suppsoed to be universal, you will find that various image editing and image library programmes identify these fields with different labels. So one image library database might refer to an IPTC field as "State", another as "State/Province", and yet another as "Province/State".

Sometimes the field names seem to bear only a passing resemblance to one another. We've seen two different pieces of software refer to the same field as "Author" and "Byline".

The confusion this causes is more than academic. If you are trying to import a picture into an image database and you want to import the metadata for the field "Byline" but discover that Photoshop refers to it as "Author" you can find a lot of holes in your imported metadata.

Problems also arise if the image library database software is designed to read IPTC in only Mac jpegs as opposed to PC, or vice-versa. All those great keywords and captions could end up as blanks when the images are imported.

To avoid major frustration when buying image library software in particular, we advise that you choose software which can collect its metadata from any IPTC field and write it to any nominated field within its database. (Being able to import data from a spreadsheet or CSV file is also useful.) So if a photographer has saved his copyright information in the field "Instructions", make sure you can import into whatever field you want within your database, such as "Special Instructions". Also make sure that the software reads IPTC from both Mac and PC jpegs.

Avoid like the plague any software which writes and reads IPTC information in its own special part of the jpeg as opposed to the fields normally used by Photoshop. This can lead to the IPTC information being invisible to some other programmes or from being overwritten by your image library software.

Ask the software sellers about these particular problems before purchase. If they don't know what you are talking about, find someone who does, or buy another product. You can also try importing IPTC into a demo version and see how you get on.

I know this sounds like very geeky stuff, but believe me the consequences for being able to run your photo library or web site, or to get keywording done, can be horrendous.

As the saying goes, act in haste, repent at leisure.