21 March 2009

Digital archiving - about hierarchical keywords

Hierarchical keywords are almost magic.

If used correctly, it applies many levels of organisation to an image in One Go. I'll get back to that particular "if", but first a couple of illustrations of hierarchies:

My examples are from Photoshop Elements 6. The first four categories in fig. 1 are predefined by Adobe. You can rename them and otherwise do exactly what you want with them, but I think those are nice categories for general purposes.

However, as a nature photographer I would like more categories. So I added one called "Animals" myself. Below you can see how this can be expanded to a hierarchial structure, branching out in many places (the "imported Keyword Tags" can be ignored for now). Here's how I have defined my Animals category, with subcategories and all:

Now, say I have a pic of a House Sparrow. When adding "house sparrow" as a keyword to the image, I would also like to add the whole hierarchy that words belongs to. Thus, by adding one keyword, I want the program to understand that I add both Birds, passerines and house sparrow. Also, if I later find out that I want to split the passerines into, say, "chirpers", "squeakers" and "thrushes", then my keywords for the affected images should be updated automatically.

Further, I would like the program to write those keywords into the files in such a way that other archive programs will understand it. In case I want to switch systems again, another five years down the line.

Lastly, there's a complicating factor called language. English is not my primary language, and many keywords will have synonyms in Norwegian. I want the software to keep track of that as well, so I don't have to double every hierarchy of keywords that I build.

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