A good photography workflow should be nice and consistent. It should consider the SEO of the final images we export as well as the security of the original files.

A little while ago I wrote a blog post about metadata and why it is so important for your images' SEO scores. This covers a lot of the background to this first stage in my workflow and I would suggest a quick look at that post if words like metadata, EXIF and IPTC don't mean anything to you yet.

On page SEO

What I am NOT talking about here is your on page SEO. If you run a small site which acts as a portfolio for your work then on page SEO will also be very important. This is a separate topic and will be addressed separately.

Image file SEO

In this module I am referring to the SEO of your image file as a standalone file. It might have got separated from your website or be part of a large collection of images available for purchase through a gallery based website framework like Photodeck, Zenfolio, SmugMug, Pixieset or any number of other providers.

On these platforms images are not surrounded by text which has been carefully crafted to be indexed by search engine spiders. The images are displayed as thumbnails in a gallery or, when clicked on, an enlarged version.

In a nutshell:

At the time of writing (February 2020), Google have just announced that they will soon be beta testing the display of more image metadata beside the results of a Google image search. In addition to pointing out when an image is subject to copyright Google will now also display licensing information, and even a link back to the photographer's website to where the license can be purchased. You can read more about the details here. This is potentially great news, and I will adapt this course as and when the results appear. It means the inclusion of metadata is even more important than it already was.

In that blog post I describe how to edit IPTC data using Lightroom. In this post I will show you how to add the majority of it in Photo Mechanic at the time of ingestion. Not everybody has Photo Mechanic so I will follow that with a run-through of ingesting straight into Lightroom as well. If you don't have Photo Machanic then jump to the next topic to learn how to import straight from memory cards into Lightroom.

Watch me take you through the process with Photo Mechanic first:

There are a several reasons why I have chosen to add the metadata using Photo Mechanic and not Lightroom, at a later stage.

Local and Global stationery

The two different ways to add metadata within PM are useful for different situations and requirements.

Global stationery (as PM calls it) is a great way to apply metadata to multiple files at once. Local stationery is easier for the odd single file which needs slightly altering. It is more of a pain for editing multiple files because you can only apply the data one image at a time.

Photo Mechanic is fast

PM is fast and efficient and the traditional keyboard shortcuts (tapping the up arrow to jump back to the start of a field, down to the end) work in PM's dialog boxes and don't in Lightroom's (well not on a PC anyway).

Photo Mechanic has Variables

PM includes the ability to use {variables} within the fields to save copying and pasting data into several different places.

For example, one of my metadata templates contains the following in the Description field:

{event}, {dow} {day} {mnn} {year4}, {copyright}

It injects the title of the event (this I change for each new ingestion) followed by the day of the week, date, month and year which it automatically generates.

Finally it adds the contents of the Copyright IPTC field, which in my case reads: © {year4} Nico Morgan. All Rights Reserved. Again the year is generated for me at the time of ingestion.

This means that if I start with this template, add the event title and job-specific keywords and then ingest, all my images will have a consistent and industry standard style of metadata embedded within them. 90% of the metadata job is now done.

Later, when I am naming people in the images, I edit the Description and Headline fields to begin with: {persons} - . I also add {persons} in the Keywords field. Now all I have to do is highlight the files which show the same person or people, open the Global stationery pad, add the names of the people in the Persons shown field and then click Apply Stationery to Selected. PM then replaces all the instance of {persons} with the contents of the Persons Shown field, which could be one person or several, separated by commas. And if you add the regularly used people to PM's database it will even autocomplete them for you, though this is buggy.

Code Replacements

This is a key feature of Photo Mechanic. I don't mention it in the video because I don't use it very often but, at big events, it is an absolute lifesaver.

It works like this:

Before the event, in my case a sporting event, I get a list of the competitors and their numbers. I create a tab-separated list like this

1 Joe Bloggs
2 Andrea Smith
3 Bob Dunn

I edit the settings in PM to tell it where my file is on my disk.

Now, when editing metadata I can enter "\1\" in any field and PM will replace that automatically with "Joe Bloggs". When working with long names, or ones which are difficult to spell, this is a huge time saver.

Next I will try to describe how I take my newly ingested (and fully IPTC equipped) files and import them into Lightroom and edit them. In the last part I will talk about Publishing and how Lightroom's built-in tools, and a plug-in or two, keep my files and metadata up to date even after they have been exported to the web.

Adding files to Lightroom

Because we have already moved our files from our memory cards {or camera, if you attached it directly} we just need to add our files to our Lightroom Catalog so that it knows where to find them and it can create image previews.

In the Library module look for the Import button in the bottom-left of the screen and click it.

Adobe Lightroom Import dialog
The Add Images dialog

The dialog which opens is divided into three sections.

On the left we choose the place we want to add the files from - the source.

On the right-hand side of the dialog we have some important options.

Give everything one last check and when you are happy, hit the Import button to start the process.

Because the files are already on the system, the process will be quick, then Lightroom will start the process of generating previews of our files to speed up the process of moving around Lightroom in due course.

Now we can begin the process of editing and that is a whole different topic which i will cover elsewhere. You can now jump the Lightroom import section below.

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