Photos Before Metadata


Today’s Question: I just listened to your webinar on keywording and it is a great addition to the library. I have a challenge that I assume is not unique: how to organize a library of photos that are scans of slides and photos that were taken in the period long before GPS or even metadata were in use (taken in the period 1940’s through 1980’s). My approach to date is to rename the images to include the year and a very brief phrase on the subject. Then, I have some back-up for reorganizing / keywording in Lightroom. I would appreciate any thoughts or ideas you might have.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The filename you choose for scanned photos can most certainly be helpful as part of your organizational workflow. In addition, changing the capture date to reflect the estimated original capture date can be helpful, and of course keywording and other metadata updates can be useful as well.

More Detail: The metadata that is automatically added by a digital camera can be very helpful for organizing (and later locating) photos. That is something that is missing from older photos scanned from film or prints. However, there are still steps you can take to help keep these photos organized.

First, when the photos are actually scanned, it can be helpful to use a filename that reflects the estimated date of capture for those photos, as noted in today’s question. A brief description as part of this filename can also be helpful.

Placing the images into a folder structure that is based on date, such as folders for years and months, can also help ensure you have a basic organizational workflow beyond metadata.

I think it is also a good idea to update the capture date for these images, which can be done directly within Lightroom Classic, among other software tools. Finally, adding applicable keywords (and possibly updating other metadata fields) can help ensure you are able to locate specific photos later. This can include details such as the names of people who appear in the photos, the location where the photo was captured, and other pertinent information.

These various steps will help ensure you have as much metadata updated for your scanned photos as possible, so that you have more options for locating specific photos later, as well as reminding yourself of details of those photos.

Note that you can view a recording of my full GreyLearning Webinar presentation on “Keywording Strategy and Workflow” on my Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here: