I've long been confused about metadata in images. I mean, you hear the pros talk about it, you see those panels on the right side of Adobe Lightroom with odd fields to fill out, and you always wonder how to fill them out correctly, or perhaps, why you should in the first place.
So, let's start from the beginning.
What is metadata?
In the broadest sense, the term "metadata" actually means "data about data." Just about every type of file you encounter out there has data embedded as soon as it is created. This metadata can usually include information such as the date the date the file was created, the author, and other information as to how the file was created.
Right. So my pics have data about the camera settings and such?
Yes. This is called EXIF data (Exchangeable Image File Format) includes things like the size, file type, color space, camera model, and all that fun stuff that has to do with the process that the camera went through when creating the image.
But what if I want to add metadata to an image?
This is where IPTC metadata comes in! These are those fields you want to fill out so that people know where and how to find you to pay you for your photos. You'll use a photo editing program, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, and you can add copyright status, contact details, usage rights and more. I highly recommend the following tutorial by Helen Bradley, from Digital Photography School, on which she provides a brief understanding of IPTC metadata and how to add it to your images using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. She also created an amazing video that walks you through the whole process of adding this information using Lightroom. See here:
I also found these other handy resources that describe what each of the IPTC fields mean:
How can I view metadata for an image?
Besides Lightroom many other image editors, like Photoshop, will allow you to view and/or edit the metadata for images through the File > File Info menu. Additionally, you can Google search for online metadata viewers, which allow you to upload an image, or submit an image's URL, to view the metadata. One of my favorites to use is Jeffrey Friedl's Image Metadata Viewer.
Is metadata important for SEO?
Well, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, maybe! He says there's a possibility that Google may use geolocation data, if it is available within your images, to provide geographically relevant results to users. Pretty sweet right? Check out this video for the full explanation.
So, there you have it! The skinny on EXIF and IPTC metadata for photographs. Hope it's useful to you and that it clears up some of the confusion that this complex subject certainly brings.