How to edit IPTC metadata

How you can edit IPTC metadata for an image, why you should do this with caution, and which tools we recommend.

In Displaying IPTC copyright information as an image caption in WordPress, we showed how to display IPTC metadata automatically on your website. In this post, I would like to show how you can edit these data – for legitimate, non-malicious manipulation.

The International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) is a council formed by a consortium of various international press agencies, broadcasters, image agencies, and others. This body published the Information Interchange Model (IIM) in the early nineties.

This model essentially defines the structure of news metadata for various purposes. The section for image data mentions entries for text meta-information, for example, about authorship, the origin of the motif, the content of the motif, and many other points. The IPTC Core standard forms the basis, and after a few years, IPTC Extension was added to expand the core with additional valuable data rows.

In the following years, Adobe helped spread the standard by developing a method to embed the metadata into the image data. Later, it designed the subsequent standard XMP based on IPTC IIM.

For our purposes, the historical background is irrelevant; we consider IPTC metadata, as I will call it in the following, regardless of the exact standard they exist – whether IPTC, XMP, or Exif. Besides those I will discuss, many web services and programs usually do not provide information about this.

1. What you should know about editing IPTC metadata

At Image Source Control, we occasionally receive support inquiries asking whether our plugin enables manipulation of IPTC metadata – I will address this in point 4. However, the apparent interest in the task compels me to give you a few words of warning.

IPTC and similar metadata also serve to protect the rights of the author. Several designated data rows can store information identifying the creator and providing contact options. This ensures that the rights holders secure the attribution of their authorship and the perception of their exploitation rights without changing the image data by inserting, for example, a logo or watermark.

In Germany, paragraph 95c of the Copyright Act aims to ensure the integrity of the metadata – and other information, such as watermarks and logos – of copyrighted works.

Similar laws worldwide make it solely the prerogative of the author to edit the metadata of their images, even though it is technically easily possible for unauthorized persons. As soon as you make changes that could impair the identification or contact of the creator, you specifically violate copyright and put yourself or your business in serious trouble.

And what about data rows that, for example, contain keywords about the motif, the time of recording, or the place of recording, or identify a different licensor? As is often the case, one only finds out in court proceedings how a law is to be interpreted in individual cases. Since I do not want to become a precedent in history, I keep it in my workflows so I do not touch entries in image metadata, even if it messes up my cataloging.

Caution: When publishing images via web services, ensure with a sample that metadata embedded in the image is preserved during upload. It is not uncommon for foreign service providers – in misrecognition of German laws – to strip metadata from pictures uploaded by users.

WordPress keeps IPTC metadata in the initially uploaded image but removes it for resized images, typically used in the public-facing frontend. See IPTC copyright to learn how to display these data in the frontend.

If you, possibly due to a warning, are confronted with having to retrospectively re-embed accidentally deleted metadata from images en masse, I advise you to take your offer offline and re-upload the image data in peace, this time preserving the metadata. As explained, at least the indication of authorship must remain free of manipulation, which you cannot guarantee with a mass re-tagging according to your discretion. Been there, done that…

Now that that’s been said and you are either the author yourself and want to supplement the metadata of your images or are authorized to do so, let’s turn to the actual topic: How do you edit the IPTC metadata of images?

2. Editing IPTC metadata with a web service

Among a variety of providers, I have selected Picvario MetaEditor for you. The IPTC references the service and is just the right amount of comprehensive and incredibly easy to use. You decide whether you want to enter the desired metadata as IPTC, XMP, or Exif, and the service offers you synchronization with the corresponding fields of the other standards insofar as they have equivalents there.

According to Picvario, you can edit ten images. Those who need more or batch processing can sign up for a paid service. The interface of the free version is nicely straightforward and easy to use. In addition, each of the entries, which can sometimes be somewhat cryptically titled, is explained in a small tooltip. Super user-friendly and convenient!

This is how you edit the IPTC metadata of your images with the Picvario MetaEditor

  1. Go to the provider’s website.
  2. Select an image from your file system and upload it.
  3. Your image is displayed on the right with its basic metadata and a sidebar.
  4. Expand the IPTC and IPTC Core entry groups in the sidebar.
  5. Find the Copyright Notice and Credit Line entries.
  6. Click on the field with the small pen icon to the right of the entry.
  7. Enter the desired information – for example, “© 2022 John Doe” for Copyright Notice and “John Doe” for Credit Line.
  8. Confirm with Enter or with a click on the checkmark icon.
  9. If necessary, confirm the transfer of the entered information to the corresponding fields of the other standards by clicking Continue.
  10. When you have entered all the desired metadata, select the Download button in the preview area on the left and download the image with the freshly entered metadata.

A quick check of the IPTC metadata in the operating system shows that they have been embedded as expected. You could do this in Preview (on Mac) or using a command line tool like ExifTool.

Unfortunately, the file name changed during the download. You may want to correct this later to facilitate manual source research and thus enable contact with the author.

3. Editing IPTC Metadata with Adobe Bridge

If a SaaS solution like Picvario is not to your liking or if your budget is too tight, I have the perfect solution for you. Adobe, the U.S.-based provider of creative software and services mentioned earlier, is known for its pioneering role in the media sector since the eighties. Generations of professionals and hobbyists use well-known software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, and many more beyond the creative scene.

Almost a decade ago, Adobe completely overhauled its business model. After decades of struggles with piracy, it switched to a subscription model under the label “Creative Cloud” and almost completely ceased the business with one-time purchase licenses.

Part of the Creative Cloud is the media manager Bridge. This program is intended to serve as a central hub for your media, from which you start the editing and manage even large libraries. With it, you can tag, catalog, rate, and search your images by all criteria.

Another great advantage of Bridge, which I have come to appreciate over the years as the operator of a store with thousands of product images from mostly self-made photos, is the possibility of bulk editing wherever necessary. You can select any number of images and rate them, provide them with identical metadata, categorize them, and even convert their dimensions or change the file format. Thus, you can complete tasks in minutes that would otherwise take days.

Adobe Bridge Logo© Adobe

After raving about it, you’re probably wondering, “Gee, how much does this fun cost?“ The best part: Presumably as bait to attract prospects to the Creative Cloud, the use of Bridge is free! A real gift from Adobe and not a bad plan – I am so close to retiring my ten-year-old Creative Suite Version 5.5, the penultimate version of the predecessor to the Creative Cloud, and signing up for a subscription.

To use the program, you must install the Creative Cloud App, a kind of launcher for the actual programs, and register with the provider. Follow the instructions from Adobe and then install Adobe Bridge.

How to Edit IPTC Metadata with Adobe Bridge

  1. Locate the file in your file system by navigating in the tree in the folder palette on the left to the correct directory and selecting the file in the central content palette.
  2. If the metadata palette on the left is not displayed, select Window > Metadata Window.
  3. Expand the IPTC Core entry group.
  4. Find the entries Copyright Notice and Credit.
  5. Click on the field with the small pencil icon next to the entry.
  6. Enter the desired information – for example, “© 2022 John Doe” for Copyright Notice and “John Doe” for Credit.
  7. Once you have entered all the desired metadata, click the checkmark icon in the lower right corner of the metadata palette.

As mentioned, you can also select multiple images with the Ctrl (Windows) or cmd (macOS) key pressed and fill their metadata collectively with identical information. Learn more about handling metadata in Bridge, such as creating metadata templates and generally working with the useful program in Adobe’s support area.

4. Outputting IPTC Metadata as Image Sources in WordPress

As an operator of a WordPress site, you naturally want to provide your images with captions and image sources as prescribed. For this, we created the WordPress plugin Image Source Control, which allows you to manage the image sources of tens of thousands of images comfortably and even edit them collectively, find missing source information, and treat images stored outside the media library and integrated via URL on par with internal media.

Icon of Image Source Control

Image Source Control also reads the values from the mentioned IPTC entries Credit and Copyright Notice and presents them as suggestions for tagging. See Displaying IPTC copyright information as an image caption in WordPress for more information.

Get an impression of Image Source Control on the German demo website and take a look at the list of features.

Conclusions

If you are still undecided about how to provide your images with IPTC metadata, and if you might not yet have any media management software in use, I strongly recommend taking a closer look at Adobe Bridge.

After a short familiarization period with Bridge, a little adjustment of the file system of your workstation or server, and adaptation of your workflows, you will gain full control over your image editing. Even after years and thousands of images, you will maintain an overview and conjure up long-forgotten, suitable image material in seconds when an article calls for illustration.

If you have then conscientiously maintained the metadata of your image library and deployed Image Source Control on your WordPress site early on, you are best protected against costly copyright infringements.

Please note that this article does not constitute technical or legal advice. Please implement technical suggestions with due caution and always consult a lawyer for legal decisions.

Image Sources

Portrait of Thomas Maier, founder and CEO of Image Source Control

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