1. Kim Rowley
    January 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Found the photo in a heartbeat! Great info, thanks!

  2. Barry Wheeler
    January 25, 2012 at 9:58 am

    The exercise works particularly well if you have the freeware program Irfanview on your Windows computer. After the file is located through the search, Irfanview will show you the Exif or IPTC metadata.

    The Nikon D3 and other pro cameras have a voice memo feature. But the memo is recorded as separate .wav files and there is no word recognition text nor is any speech information embedded in the file.

  3. Mike Ashenfelder
    January 25, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for the response and the information, Barry. Voice-to-text can’t be far away.

  4. david kepley
    January 25, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I found the photo in my search results and clicked on it, but not locate McLaverty’s name or the quotation. is there a next step to locating the quotation?

  5. Suzie Henderson
    January 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Worked like a charm on my Mac. Thanks!

  6. Mike Ashenfelder
    January 25, 2012 at 10:38 am


    If you look at the comments on the bottom of the page of part 1 of this article, readers mention the software or methods they use to display photometadata. Some software is easier to use than others, some software is free while other software is not. In comment #2, above, photographer Barry Wheeler recommends the freeware program Irfanview. You may have to try several to see which one you prefer.

  7. Margaret Kidd
    January 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Just tried it on my PC at work. I found the picture, no problem.

  8. Mike Ashenfelder
    January 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Thanks for testing it, Margaret.

  9. Elizabeth O’Neal
    January 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Found it easily with Windows 7 search. I opened the image using Windows Photo Viewer. Right-click on the photo and select Properties to see the quote. Very helpful – thanks!

  10. Alex
    January 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I found it. Great. Thanks!

  11. Claude Nozères
    January 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Found it easily with OS X Lion Finder search. Only other metadata is creator as Library of Congress.

    On the topic of ‘automatic tagging’, sometimes if something is widely-known, what you see in the image may tag the image, either by machine or human eye. So Golden Gate bridge–if read by human as text (say a scanned postcard legend), or image recognized by machine vision (Google goggles?), could get tagged by info. like map coordinates.

    In one case, I wanted to find the source of an special image. OK, this was an illustration, not a photo, but the metadata issues remain: who is the creator? How to find out if distributor embedded no metadata in the file on the web? I did a search using the text as visible in the illustration–luckily this visible text was unique and popular: “I am a Great White Shark”. Found it on the web right away (sadly, no-one seems to know the creator).

    The visible text was not part of metadata, but now I put that in the Description field and I can more easily find the image file again using a computer search, just like the case with your quotation in the photo of the children.

  12. Fletcher Oakes
    January 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Thanks for sending this along, Mike. I’m subscribed to this blog now.

    As to the test, I’m on a Mac laptop with a fairly recent system. I found it quite easily in Spotlight and Find.

    I also looked at the metadata in Photoshop and Lightroom. Again, no problem.

    In Preview, you have to search a little for the metadata by going to Tools–>Inspector. However, the keyboard command is Command I, which is the same as the System if you have the file highlighted in the directory.

  13. Terrell
    January 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Interesting that ‘Save As’ from within NetNewsWire on my Mac didn’t store the original file (note the difference in filesize as well as the lack of the relevant quote).

    Apparently, the file sent via RSS is not the same file being served on this page.


    from RSS:

    $ jhead Desktop/www_downloads/children_8b30595u_2501.jpg
    File name : Desktop/www_downloads/children_8b30595u_2501.jpg
    File size : 22062 bytes
    File date : 2012:01:25 21:11:16
    Resolution : 250 x 263
    Color/bw : Black and white

    from this page:

    $ jhead Desktop/www_downloads/children_8b30595u_2501b.jpg
    File name : Desktop/www_downloads/children_8b30595u_2501b.jpg
    File size : 61139 bytes
    File date : 2012:01:25 21:12:46
    Date/Time : 2011:12:29 08:27:52
    Resolution : 250 x 263
    Color/bw : Black and white
    Jpeg process : Progressive
    ======= IPTC data: =======
    Record vers. : 0
    Caption : “When the heart’s cold the voice of a child can warm it” Michael McLaverty
    Byline : Library of Congress

  14. Paul Riecke
    January 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Windows 7 Search found it.

    With the advent of touch sensitive screens and handwriting recognition software the Autographic method may make a resurgence. GPS data and time/date stamp are already a part of some cameras, as well as some basic facial recognition software. Integration of these features plus the development of new tools could help amswer many of the “who, what, where, and when” questions that viewers may have.

    The greatest obstacle that photographers have are themselves. When a photographic outing results in 500+ photos, then the task of writing captions seems insurmountable. Software exists to help annotate multiple photos at once but it might be better for the photographer to cull their images to reduce the workload, or, perhaps, be more judicious in selecting what they photograph in the first place and how they do so.

    The Dagurreotype photographer had many limitations to contend with but made some beautiful images within those constraints. Who has the patience to view 500-700 photos of Disneyland, or any one location at one time?

  15. John
    January 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    On a Mac, OS 10.7.2, browsing with Safari 5.1.2.

    1. “right-click” on image and save to Downloads folder.
    2. Immediate activate Spotlight search (control-space on most Macs).
    3. Enter “McLaverty” into Spotlight search box which opens up at upper-right of screen.
    4. Photo pops up within 2 seconds.

    BTW, what’s the point of saying that metadata is readable only with computer when digital photos themselves have the same limitations? (Printed photos are no longer digital, of course.)

  16. MaryRita Grady
    January 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I searched the desktop on a PC. Both the title of the photo and the photo showed up.

  17. Mike Ashenfelder
    January 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

    John, you’re correct about the photometadata and I rewrote my statement accordingly. Some photometadata is available on digital cameras, both phone-based and standalone cameras.

  18. Dan Dill
    January 27, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Windows 7 Search found it.

    By the way, hovering over it with the mouse displays as Title the quote and its author.

  19. Mike Ashenfelder
    January 27, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Wow. Even better. Thanks for that bit of information, Dan.

  20. David Riecks
    January 27, 2012 at 10:52 am


    I think that Mr. Wash may be focusing on the “cost threshhold is crucial to public acceptance” thought too much (which might be why Kodak is where it is today?) Apple has never shied away from pricing their devices at the upper end of the price scale and they have enough cash that they could buy the country of Greece at the moment.

    So I think there is greater potential for some advanced methods of adding descriptive information at the time of capture than some might think.

    A little more thinking outside the box might help to “connect the dots” that are already available. There are already voice to text features in smartphones now (Siri on Mac, and other options on Android). There are also features available now in some of the new pro digital SLR cameras that allow for input of data (via cable or even Wifi) to add info to a photo at the time of capture (many GPS devices do this right now). What is needed is a way to take direct user input and move it to a place in the camera where it can be used without great effort.

    1. Talk to a “voice recognition” app in your smart phone, or type in directly.
    2. Edit text if necessary.
    3. Press button to load this into a metadata template in the camera.
    4. Press shutter.
    5. Information is written into the image file in one of the various metadata containers.
    6. Lather, rinse repeat, until the option to add input is turned off (or have a toggle switch at input note whether this is for one shot only, for a specific time period, or to be used until turned off).

    The only downside to this method is that the descriptive info must be prepared and put into the camera in advance of taking the image (at least for “in camera” use).

    There are, however, already ways to record info after the fact that already exist. As Barry Wheeler noted there are “voice annotation” features available on some digital cameras. I have a microphone that is built into my Nikon D2X that I purchased in 2005. I can press a button after I take a photo and speak into the mic and record a message (you can, if you wish, even set it up to ALWAYS record what is said after the shutter is pressed, but I don’t use it often enough to make that worthwhile). However it doesn’t put that info into the image itself, it simply records a WAV file and tags it with the same filename and date stamp. You have to play it back later and write the info into the photo metadata in order to embed it so that it travels with the file. This is most helpful if you want to make it searchable, for later “discovery” purposes.


  21. David Riecks
    January 27, 2012 at 11:33 am

    In regards to Terrell’s comment about the image delivered via RSS not having the embedded info, this doesn’t surprise me in the least. Even though the pixel size (resolution) remains the same, the size of the file on disk has changed, so something happened when the image was delivered via RSS.

    Many images that are uploaded or “shared” via social media or photo sharing sites suffer the same purpose. See the results of an ongoing survey of these sites/services at http://www.controlledvocabulary.com/socialmedia if you are interested in seeing which services don’t respect your photo metadata and which DO preserve it. One hint for many is that the most flagrant is facebook. They not only “strip” your image of descriptive and rights based information, they also downsample it to a lower resolution. So don’t think that these services are a substitute for managing your own digital library or you could be in for a shock.


  22. David Riecks
    January 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that the results from your users conducting this test are finding that their results vary by computer OS and version (not to mention that it could vary even more if you had used a metadata field that was newer, or not common to all applications.

    Assuming the information is in the caption field, Spotlight on the Mac OS should pick this up as far back as OS 10.4 (10.5 for sure). Mac OS 10.6 added support for XMP (at least thos fields within the IPTC Core) so that would find it regardless of which field was used (see http://www.photometadata.org/META-101-metadata-types for details on the varous schemas). However, things are more murky on the Windows platform. I’d had to do some more checking, but you won’t see this information within the Windows XP at an Operating System level — you can with other applications like irfanview, or MS Pro Photo Tools, and other freeware. It may on Windows Vista, but do know that this info is visible within Windows 7. If you install the free application Picasa, then you can search for this information there an it will be found (the only fields you can “see” however, are the “caption” and “Keywords” fields — and only for files stored as JPEGs). I think Picasa may also into the older “legacy” form of IPTC-IIM.

    Some of your readers might also be interested in a program that the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) has launched, in cooperation with a number of other partners. It’s called the the Embedded Metadata Manifesto (http://www.embeddedmetadata.org/) and was developed to promote best practices in regards to embedded metadata for all digital objects (not just image files).


  23. David Riecks
    January 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm


    BTW, the drop-dead simplest way to “peek” into the metadata of a file online (or even locally) is to use the online version of ExifTools, which can be found at http://regex.info/exif.cgi

    The following link was generated by that tool specifically for the photo in this post.


    You can also see that you are still using Photoshop CS4 for Windows…. isn’t it time to upgrade? 😉


  24. Sherwood Botsford
    January 28, 2012 at 11:35 am

    The number of times I’ve had a clever caption when I took a picture, then later could not remember it. With a result of ‘why did I waste bits on this one?…’

    I don’t care if there is voice to text — (not really, I do care. Make it easier.) I would love be able to narrate a sentence or two when I take the picture and have that as a sound recording attached to the picture.

    Implementing it:

    Sound recorder goes on when the shutter button is half depressed. If a picture is taken, the sound byte is attached to that picture. No picture, then it’s an indpenedent voice memo between the previous frame and the next frame. This would mean that you would have a set of sound bytes interleaved with your images, like mixing two decks of cards.

    Back at the computer you could:
    Turn voice to text
    Discard, or attach to one of the frames.

    Given that any camera that can record video already records sound, adding this should be a software mod for such a camera.

    Nikon, are you listening? Put this on any camera that has a microphone.

    Hello? Hello? Nikon?

    Nikon never listens to me. Sigh.

  25. Clive McManus
    January 29, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Worked as quick as a flash. Thank you for this column and information.

  26. Judy
    January 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I found the photo also … Didn’t know you could drag a photo onto the desktop.

  27. Guy Claessens
    January 30, 2012 at 7:03 am


    even Windows XP’s search tool works.

    Kind regards,

  28. Mike Ashenfelder
    January 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Sherwood. In this list of comments, #2 and #20, photographers Barry Wheeler and David Riecks mention a few cameras that record audio. Also, Riecks gives the contact information for camera manufacturers on http://bit.ly/sbNrU0. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

  29. Jennifer W. Hanson
    January 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I downloaded the photo to my hard drive by dragging it to my desktop; I use a Mac PowerBook G4 and my OS is OS X 0.4.11. My browser for this exercise is Safari 4.1.3. I used Mac Spotlight to search for “McLaverty” and got the photo on my hard drive immediately. Thanks for this tip! My iPhoto library just got much more user-friendly since I can search for photos via metadata without needing to have iPhoto open at the time.

  30. Ed
    January 31, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I found the text without difficulty using Windows search, however this does nothing to solve my other concern, about the fragility (or instability of representation) of metadata attached to digital images.

    For example, I opened this image using IrfanView version 4.28 and found the quotation in both the Exif and IPTC metadata. Then I saved the image in PNG format. The Windows search found the PNG version also, but upon opening it with Irfanview, neither the Exif and IPTC metadata were accessible, and there seemed to be no available change to the settings to make it available. Then I saved the PNG as a JPG again. Once again, Windows search found the item, however upon opening the new JPG, only the IPTC data appeared, and the field which contained the quote in your original version was now blank (as were all the other fields, in fact). It appears that the text is being kept with the image during the save-as process, but distorted or shifted into a different header field that Irfanview does not recognize. No doubt different software would produce different results and with proper testing and techniques, this problem could be avoided. But to me, it highlights the challenge of properly curating digital photos, especially by untrained people using cheap or free software.

  31. Nolene Sherman
    February 1, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I dragged the photo from the blog page to my desktop and searched my Mac using spotlight. Found it immediately.

  32. Mike Ashenfelder
    February 1, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Jennifer, thanks for your iPhoto comment. This experiment proves that if we could (easily) add metadata/descriptions to photos, those descriptions would be viewable in a wide variety of metadata-displaying media.

  33. staplegun
    February 2, 2012 at 2:29 am

    I too have been on the hunt for the best way to embed metadata in images. The two stumbling blocks I came up against in software are: 1. IPTC seems to be the only standard used but it doesn’t have the fields I want (like ‘event name’), 2. I don’t trust the software will save the original image, EXIF, etc. untouched.

    In the meantime, my workaround has become my standard workflow (sigh): basically I bung as much as I can into the filename! But I used delimiters that I imagined I could parse and stuff inside the image file at some point down the track.

    An example:
    DSC05396 2006-04-22 Chicago–Millenium Park~Inside The Bean–John Dave.JPG

    Camera assigned id

    Date (ISO 8601 thanks)


    Sub-location/event (optional, multiple)

    Title (try to be descriptive)

    Other keywords, usually names (optional)

    Originally I deleted the camera ID, but then thought it could be useful to have a unique ID automatically in my ‘metadata’. …and then I bought a new camera which started from DSC00001 again, d’oh!

    It’s crude, but the key things are: we already have tools to edit it, it automatically sorts, we already have tools to search it, and I can arrange photos hierarchically if I want using filesystem folders!

    The downside is filename lengths are limited, especially if archiving to CD.

  34. staplegun
    February 2, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Errr, I put the delimiters in using angle brackets.

    Here’s the breakdown again

    Camera assigned id
    Date (ISO 8601 thanks)
    –double dash, if needed–
    Sub-location/event (optional, multiple)
    Title (try to be descriptive)
    –double dash, if needed–
    Other keywords, usually names (optional)

  35. sharon
    February 5, 2012 at 7:57 am

    In Windows 7, the quote shows up in both the Title and Subject fields. (Right-click on photo in search results, choose Properties, click on the Details tab.)

    Scrolling further down in Details shows that the Authors are Library of Congress, gives the date created and the program used (Adobe Photoshop CS4 Windows), more info about the image (size, resolution, etc.) and fields for Camera details which are not filled in (maybe because it was scanned, not made with a camera). The Camera and Advanced Photo fields are editable.

  36. Jason
    November 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Tried it in Ubuntu 12.04 using Places->Search for files.
    Entered McLaverty in the More options field (containing text) and it wasn’t found.


  37. Steve Tatum
    December 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Voice to text is now possible using the iPhone 4S or later. For example, you can take a picture with the Photogene 2 app and add IPTC metadata using the microphone icon on the iPhone keyboard. You have to be online to use Siri’s dictation feature. You can use other metadata apps for dictation, but not all of them have the camera feature built in. You have to take the extra steps of opening the app and fetching the picture from the camera roll.

  38. Howard Saffer
    December 29, 2012 at 7:35 am

    On PC running Vista, search found item in Explorer search (text appears both as ‘Subject’, and ‘Title’) – also appears under the same tags in Irfanview (which I mainly use).

    In XNview it shows under IPTC ‘Caption’, EXIF Image Description, and under XMP data

  39. Mike Ashenfelder
    January 2, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for testing, Howard.

  40. Bernie Hall
    December 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    I found it via search with no special sw. PC with Win 8.1

  41. Mary
    April 20, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I found your blog while searching for help in the opposite direction. I have been scanning 1,000’s of photos from pre-digital days. Once they are saved, I import them into Adobe Photoshop and add information including date taken, caption, tags and categories. Photoshop isn’t able to handle the number of pictures I’ve uploaded – it crashes or moves very slowly.
    In the meantime, for a part-time professional position, I’ve worked with shared pictures in a Dropbox that have lots of this information available. For the shared pictures, in the Windows “My Computer” file list, I am easily able to search for any of the information that has been added to those photos.
    My question is – do you know of a way for me to get the information that I’ve added to my photos IN Photoshop, into the picture’s file itself (the jpeg)? Your two posts (Oct. 2011 and this one) are the closest I have found. I haven’t found an answer in Adobe – and would guess their interests wouldn’t be served by helping me figure this out. I’m not inclined to spend money on an Adobe upgrade.
    Thanks for any ideas.

  42. Mike Ashenfelder
    May 22, 2015 at 7:43 am


    When you added descriptions to your photos in Photoshop, the descriptions should have gotten embedded into the files themselves.

    I’m going to forward your comment to David Riecks of photometadata.org to see what he has to say about it.


  43. Mike Ashenfelder
    May 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    [NOTE: Mary — from comment no. 41 — corresponded by email with David Riecks of photometadata.org. The text contains valuable information that may apply to others, so I’m pasting it into this comment. – Mike]

    [Mary wrote:]

    Thanks David. I’ll try to give you some information.

    I use Windows 7 and have both Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Adobe Premier Elements 9. My computer has 450 gig of storage with nearly 200 gig still free.

    I use very little of the capability of the Adobe products. I use Photoshop to help me keep the photos organized (by date and subject). I occasionally crop a photo or adjust the light but not much else. When I’m looking at photos in Photoshop, it is scrolls more and more slowly than it used to (more and more slowly as I add pictures) and it occasionally freezes. Sometimes, it recovers itself and other times I have to close and re-open the program.

    I have just under 20,000 pictures loaded into Photoshop and possibly 2,500 more on my computer that I haven’t added to Elements (and am not done scanning).

    I scan most photos with a ScanSnap S500. I scan some older or bigger photos on an HP Photosmart 6510. On the ScanSnap, I use “Excellent” under “Image quality”. From both scanners, I save the scans jpeg’s.

    Once I’ve loaded the photos into Photoshop, I can date the pictures, add captions and tag them. When I look at the picture in My Computer and right click to see Properties, some of that information shows up, but not all of it (captions seem to always get into the properties, dates sometimes get into properties and the tags don’t seem to ever get to the properties).

    I would like to not spend more money – so don’t want to upgrade the Photoshop. I’m not opposed to Adobe or to any software but money is tight.

    It is possible that I’ve asked the wrong question. I mentioned that for a non-profit I work with, the photos are in a single file in Dropbox with tags for year, photographer, and subject. For those, I use the Windows search feature in My Computer and find it easy and accurate. For my personal photos, I’m tempted to stop using Adobe for looking at the pictures (I might still use it for editing) and start simply using My Computer but I don’t want to lose the information I’ve attached to the pictures in Adobe.

    I appreciate any thoughts you have.

    [David responded:]


    That does help very much.

    First. You are aware that Photoshop (even Elements) can write a good number of IPTC metadata fields to a digital image file (like PSD, TIFF and JPEGs). I’m not as familiar with the Elements Organizer, so would have to install that to take a deeper look. I’ve always assumed it was similar
    in nature to Adobe Bridge, but it’s been several years since I took a look.

    In another recent exchange with a different questioner, I discovered that either Elements 9 or 10 was the last version that DIDN”T add photo metadata to the originals.

    Are you only currently using Photoshop to adjust the scans and save as JPEGs?

    Do you use it as the interface with the scanner? If so, and the image is in Photoshop Elements after the scan completes, you could enter metadata there. In the regular Photoshop it’s under the File menu, called File Info.

    Windows 7 should be fine as an OS. However, I would recommend that you move the scans to another drive as soon as possible. If the machine is not a laptop, you should be able to add an additional internal hard drive for little money. I just purchased a couple of 3 terabyte drives for about $100 each, and smaller capacity drives are even less.

    200 GB of free hard drive space should be fine, but if you are experiencing slowdowns, this may have to do with “cruft” building up in the OS over time. I know some IT folks that recommend wiping and reinstalling the OS every 18 months to avoid this. As a stop gap, take a look at Ccleaner, a free application. It’s well worth the time to install and gets rid of some of the “cruft.”

    Keep in mind that if the original image you save is a JPEG, then it’s best not to crop or otherwise modify the pixels (tone, color, etc) as that will subject the image to an additional round of compression. I generally recommend that the original be saved as a TIFF from the scanner, and then after you are done applying any adjustments, save out the result as a JPEG (and keep the TIFF in reserve). If you are scanning to a JPEG and then opening in Photoshop, you are degrading the images. For highest quality, scan to a “lossless” format first, then save as a JPEG at the end.

    While the Windows search in Win7 is ok if you have it set to “index” the files, it’s generally quite slow. If all the finals you are storing are JPEG, I would recommend you take a look at the free application from Google called Picasa ( http://picasa.google.com/). The search in Picasa has the special google indexing sauce and it is amazing. I have access to a number of commercial DAM (Digital Asset management) programs and I still use Picasa on all of my machines.

    Picasa can be used to add metadata to JPEGs (not to TIFFs unfortunately), but is limited to the Caption (Description) and Tags (Keywords). From version 3.9 and later this is stored using XMP so is compatible with Adobe products. For suggestions on other software see https://iptc.org/standards/photo-metadata/software-rights-test/ for details on other products (free and lowcost) that properly use the IPTC photo metadata standards.

    The right-click properties method of viewing metadata in Windows 7 is fine for viewing metadata, though there are some problems with using this for writing metadata. Microsoft still has some issues in Windows 7, in regards to the GPS info and possibly some other Exif info, so I would avoid its use for writing or updating files. There are several other applications besides Picasa that work with JPEGs and are free, some also work from the right-click menu (see list above).

    If you are using an application that uses the IPTC standards you should be fine. See http://photometadata.org/META-101-metadata-types for more details.


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