It is very easy these days to find information on the net with search engines such as Google. Useful data can be retrieved by searching for a word or phrase, given by the user, in a database that includes almost all accessible pages on the net - this is a revolution in information access and one of the things that makes the Internet of what it is today.
Search is based upon the fact that the information on the net is in the form of text… but photographs, music and movies are a different challenge because computers can’t interpret the contents of those kind of files. Tagging enables media files to be included in search results.
It is for example impossible for a computer to search your collection of pictures of girls in a ballet show without the picture being tagged with a text describing the content. Computers do not “understand” other type of media - yet.
It is therefore very helpful (or even necessary) for photographers to tag their pictures with keywords to make them searchable (other methods are grouping in collections etc.). Keywords have to describe the picture in the best way possible but with single word; content (girl, ballet, dancing, show, Maria, Sarah, Lisa), location (City theatre, Reykjavik, Iceland), photographer etc. Although regarding location there are other dedicated fields more suitable for that then keywords.
Keywords are a form of metadata that are written in the picture (or XMP sidecar files if the format don’t support it), exported with the picture and are therefore usable for others, like client, family or friends. I don’t think Google and other search engines are using those meta data yet, but they probably will in the future. Many stock agencies use keywords to search their database so the metadata is utilized today in some ways.
Lightroom supports keywords and in my opinion it’s the heart of it’s DAM implementation with its multiple ways of recording keywords and hierarchical groupings. I will therefore spend the next few installments talking about using keywords in the program in more detail. Next week I will discuss the different ways of tagging pictures with keywords in Lightroom.