Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Adding source information to image files - Tuesday's Tip

I have hundreds of family photographs and documents in image format (.jpg, .gif, .png, etc.) saved in my genealogy files. When I save them to my computer I try to give them obvious titles such as "White Family 1900 federal census." But my naming conventions don't always offer me a way to indicate the source of the file or who the people are in a group photo.

In order to maintain order in my image files I insert source and photograph information within the properties of the file itself. There are several ways to do this, and I will cover a couple here. The first will be using Windows Photo Viewer. Those of us working on a PC and Windows platform use this program when viewing our image files.
The above .jpg is a roll of Confederate Prisoners at Fort Delaware, Delaware, but there is nothing on the .jpg image itself to indicate it's source. To add this information to the file, click on File and then Properties.
This will bring up the Properties window for that image.

The properties window shows four tabs along the top: General, Security, Details and Previous Versions. Click on the Details tab.
The information under this tab highlights the description of the image file. The top portion allows you to give the image a title, name the subject, and add tags and comments. Because I'm fairly lazy, I just insert all the information I want to add under the Comments box. In this case, you can see I added the complete source citation for the image. I also have used this comments section to list the names of individuals in a photo...especially useful for group photographs. After entering your information simply click okay and it is saved for reference later.

You can also add file information in photo editing programs. When you create or open an image file in Adobe Photoshop you can embed file information on the image by clicking File then File Info.
Doing so will open the File Info window which offers a myriad of options for adding information about your file.
Each word in the left-hand column indicates another tab within the file information window, similar to the Windows Photo Viewer Properties window.

Detailed information can also be added to your image files through Windows Photo Gallery. Play around with the programs on your computer to find what method you like best. Adding sources and names to images will go a long way in helping you to organize your family history images.


jmdt said...

Your tip is very timely. I have been thinking that I really need to bite the bullet and tag all my photos to make them easier to find. This is a great idea to also add source information (when applicable) to the comment section!

Wendy Grant Walter said...

This is a great idea! I never knew that this capability existed in Windows Photo Viewer. I was just looking at all the many census images in my FTM media file last night and wishing that I had a way of knowing which, for example, 1900 census image was for a particular family. Thanks for the tip!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

I hope that it is helpful! I have been scanning in some old family photos and doing this for each one, so I thought it might be helpful to share. Plus I was hoping that posting about it would help to motivate me to add descriptions to my old images. No luck yet!

Aillin said...

Thanks for these great photo tips. I had never looked at 'File Info' in Photoshop before. Just had a look then and now I have lots of new ideas for adding information to my family history photos, thanks.

Michelle Goodrum said...

Thanks for writing a great article! My comment turned into a post of it's own which you can read over at

The Turning of Generations

Anonymous said...


Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Yvonne- You are so welcome...I do hope it helps. Also be sure to check out Michelle's post on the same topic at The Turning of Generations!

Nancy said...

This is really helpful information because I didn't know it was available or possible. Is the information that's added this way called metadata, or is that something else? Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Nancy- Yes, this is metadata. I've been reading up on it and have read a useful tip: be sure that whatever description, or metadata, you add to a file is not something that you would rather the "world" not see. If you post an image online that you have added metadata to, others will be able to read it so you want to be sure there are no privacy issues with what you post.

Nancy said...

Thanks for the additional information, Heather. With family and family history photos, it would be easy to overlook (or not have known) how careful one has to be. It will be great for source information, though. Thanks for sharing.