Tagging photos

July 12, 2017

I’m slowly scanning some of my old photos to convert them into digital format — I’ve started with photos of family and friends, ignoring the scenic ones at this stage. I was very good back in the day — when I received an envelope of photos from the photo processing place, I labelled the backs of almost all my photos with dates (sometimes just month and year, but it’s a start) and names of people and places. I’m very grateful for the organised past me!

I decided to add these notes to the properties (metadata) of each scanned photo in Windows, just to preserve the information. But it’s tedious. It’s easy enough to add metadata for a few photos, but not for hundreds or potentially thousands of them. While you can select multiple photos and apply the same metadata to them, there are always individual photos where the metadata is different (a new person in a photo, for example). And because I didn’t really know what I was doing, I only added data to the title, subject, date taken, and comments fields, not realising that much of this wouldn’t be visible in photo manipulation software or online services such as Flickr, and that adding tags would have been a better strategy. It’s a lot of typing with much potential for typos.

I knew about products such as MP3 Tag for doing mass metadata changes to music files, so went hunting for something similar for photos. There’s very little out there, which surprised me. Most photo software has the ability to add tags etc., but doing so doesn’t write that info back to the file as viewed in the Windows properties, which is what I wanted; yes, I tried several software apps I have on my computer to test this out. Why do I want these tags preserved with the file? Because if I send/share the files with family etc., I want them to be able to view the metadata too, just like they would if they turned over the real photo.

I did find one piece of software that allows you to write your metadata back to the file, AND keeps a list of tags you’ve already used so you don’t have to retype them – just choose from the list as you type the first letter of a name. That’s Adobe Photoshop Elements (I’m using version 13.0). You use the Organizer functions to add the tags, then select all the files in a folder and go to File > Save Metadata to File (or Ctrl+W) to populate the Tag properties in the Windows file. Done!

It may not be the best solution, but it’s one that works for me.


  1. Interesting – I am facing the same issue but I have PaintShop Pro (v18 or X8) and have found these links which I will pursue:
    1. https://support.corel.com/hc/en-us/articles/215981768-Adding-keyword-tags-to-images-in-PaintShop-Pro

    I have used PaintShop since v4 but have not got round to tagging properly. I have always found it less expensive and as good as PhotoShop (which I have used on Projects).
    Hope this helps,

  2. Thanks Stephen. I tested PSP 15 (??) but didn’t find it quick and easy to add the tags. The PhotoShop I have is Elements, which is a cut-down and MUCH cheaper version of full PhotoShop. It’s working well.

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