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OK, so you’ve just spent two weeks scanning your box full of family photos. GREAT!

Don’t stop there, because this is not much better than not scanning them.

The next step is to IDENTIFY them – IMMEDIATELY.

Why captions/metadata are critical

The caption will travel with the photo.

Programs like Lightroom read the metadata and use it to group photos into collections or find a photo. If there is only one person in the photo, you can put their name and date in the file name. But if the photo contains mulitple people, such as in a family reunion photo, you can’t put everyone’s name in the file name. That’s where the metadata comes in.

Another reason is because, even if you have your photos neatly sorted into folders by family group, there are times when a photo could belong in two different folders. I usually make a folder for individual people, but because that person may appear in a photo with his wife, who has her own folder, and their children, who each have their own folders, tagging and captioning allows me to create virtual folders (collections) of that person that includes all the photos that person appears in no matter what folder they are in.

It especially helps if you don’t organize your photos into folders. You can then search for a name in Windows Explorer and it will find all the photos with that name in the caption or keywords for you, even if the name isn’t in the file name.

How to apply captions

There are numerous programs like photoshop, lightroom, and other photo processing files that will allow you to edit the METADATA. If you are in editing the photo already in photoshop, then by all means, add the metadata in there. However, the easiest/cheapest way to caption your files is to just use Windows Explorer.

Windows Explorer

  1. NAME THE FILE to make it easy to search for, such as “Homer Wagner family”. This should be short enough to show easily in file listings, but long enough to be clear. Avoid numbers and abbreviations such as HHWfam. that isn’t clear enough to someone getting the file after you.
    1. open a file explorer window full screen and turn on the Preview panel. You can make the panel, and hence the image, larger by dragging the edge of the panel to the left
    2. Alt-ENTER to open the Properties dialog box. It will appear over the existing window. you can reposition it so you can still see the image fully.
    3. Click on the DETAILS tab
    4. Type the CAPTION in the Title field at the top. Be as complete as possible. Include dates, places, relationships, and make it clear who is who if there are multiple people. Include everything written on the back of the photo. Also include the studio name that might be on the front of older cabinet cards.
      Example: Back L-R: Henry Wagner (son of John), wife Mary (daughter of George and Mary Phillips), son Henry Jr. (age 8). Front L-R: daughter Mary (“Mare”) (age 6), daughter Wilhelmina (Minnie) (age 4). ca 1876, Canton Missouri. Taken Jewell studio, Canton. Caption hand written by Mary.
    5. TAGS (aka KEYWORDS) (a couple fields down). These help in mass searches and collections. Tags should be anything you would want to search for or group by.
      1. Enter each tag separated by commas. spaces are OK, although it’s better to use a dash. Don’t use a comma in a single keyword because it will be interpreted as two tags. Canton, Missouri is actually two tags. Canton-Missouri is one keyword. The reason to do it this way is so you can search for Canton-Missouri and that’s all you’ll get. But if you have entered it as two keywords (Canton, Missouri) and you search for Canton, you might also get Canton, Ohio if there those in your collection. This is especially true with names. Because there are so many John Wagners, you need to create a keyword for each that will only find the John Wagner you are looking for. If you know you have multiple John Wagners, you could create a keyword using his date of birth (John-Wagner-1845). For my grandfather Homer Henry Wagner, I included his initials because Henry was pulling in other Henrys – so his tag is Homer Henry HHW Wagner. Now I can just search for HHW and only his photos are returned.
      2. I tag all names, dates, places.
      3. Tags for the caption example above: 1876, Canton, Missouri, Henry Wagner Sr., Mary wife of John Wagner, Henry Wagner Jr., etc.
      4. If you don’t have the time/patience to enter a tag for everyone in the photo, at least enter the place and general family names (Wagner, Phillips) to help with collections and sorting later.
      5. You can select a range of photos in a folder, or even all of them, and type in keywords that you want to appear in all of the photos. This is a great way to add a family name or place to a bunch of photos without having to do it one by one. )
    6. click OK to save
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