Ask LH: How Can I Permanently Tag Names Onto Digital Photos?

Ask LH: How Can I Permanently Tag Names Onto Digital Photos?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m organising my family photos digitally and have a burning question — how can I tag people’s names for posterity? Picasa, iPhoto and the like can recognise faces and record names, but the names are stored in a separate database, not attached to the photo. How can I store this data for posterity, guarding against different programs and different operating systems for the next 50 years? What is the digital equivalent of writing a person’s name on the back of a photo?

Image: Kate Hiscock

Thanks, Archive Anguish

Dear AA,

Fifty years is a serious problem when it comes to operating systems and making sure that everything is always going to be readable — as those who try to glean records from systems built around 1964 would be able to tell you. No one system is going to be perfect, right down to manually printing them and writing names on the back. Even names on the back of a picture can fade, and have you ever tried reading 50-year old handwriting?

You could in theory use a tool to edit the EXIF data on the photo, which at least is an open standard, and could be used to identify subjects in a photo alongside other data fields. Again, that’s not cast in iron in terms of absolute readability, because in 30 years time we might be storing all our EXIF data on completely incompatible data formats. Still, it’s at least more open than using a particular proprietary database tied into iPhoto or Picasa.

What measures have Lifehacker readers taken to permanently store the details of photo subjects on their digital images?

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Add it to the metadata of the file or have a file in each folder with the name of the file and a list of people in it. At the top of the file, lay out how they are named, left to right, back to front etc.

  • Recently digitised our family photos and I simply used the filename for everything. Year-Month-Day-(Where or What)-Who. My mum always wrote on the back of photo’s so made life very easy. The group photo’s with 10+ people I used the same filename convention but instead of listing all the people I put family name in the filename (most of my group shots had multiple family members in the group) and then scanned the back of the photo with all the names and made the files (1) and (2). It has made searching for photo’s or people in photo’s a breeze. A friend recently asked for any old photo’s for a birthday slideshow. I simply searched their name in the folder and up they came.

  • I use Photoshop Elements too apply tags to photos. You can then ’embed’ the tags into the photos EXIF data.

  • To 1 up the guys at life hacker, I’ll tell you my secret tricks…

    Use Windows Essentials- Photo Gallery:
    Not only can it detect faces for you (I tagged over 250,000 photo’s myself), but it can geotag, software rotate and adjust the dates within the exif, then you can also add keywords/tags to your exif, I search for a single person, then add their name as a keyword/tag – thus allow you to search for a person using explorer as it supports a tag field in detail mode by default as do most other operating systems.

    The greatest feature of all is that it remembers the region where the face was detected, so if you share it as a file (not as a re-compressed image) it’ll still have all that info and will not re-detect faces if someone else adds it to their Windows Essential Photo Gallery, picasa also detects the tags etc, so if you find you want to use both methods, you still can, but I just keep a backup of:
    “C:\Users\User\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live Photo Gallery” and if I re-install my PC I can copy it back and add the library locations back and it’ll have the same people faces I set as default as well as not re-detecting faces from images it’s already scanned from that HDD before.

    I have been waiting for 5 years for better software to come along – but nothing has.

  • Picassa has the option to store in the pictures, to enable it , Tools, options , name tags, and select store in pictures,

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