Tagging Photos :: Digital Photo Secrets

Tagging Photos

by David Peterson 13 comments

Most photo software that allows you to organize your photos has the facility to tag your photos. This includes software like Photoshop Elements as well as online services like Flickr.

But what is tagging, and why should you use it? Read on...


Tagging is the process of assigning words to your photos that describe the photo. Once your photos are tagged, your software can group all related images together saving you lots of sorting time.

For example, I could tag the image to the right with these tags : "Caroline", "Linda", "Paris", "Eiffel Tower", "Europe Holiday" and "September 2005".

Once your images are tagged, it's really quick to find all images from September 2005, or during your Europe holiday, or all images with Caroline. Or even all photos with Linda in Paris.

So in essence, tagging allows you to search your photos in the same way a search engine searches the Internet. You can quickly find the photo (or groups of photos) just by searching the tags.

What tag names do I give?

The beauty about tagging is that you can say as much or as little about your photos as you like. For example, I could also have tagged the above photo with "Mid Afternoon", "Caroline on left", "Cloudy Day" or even "Green Sweater" and "Jeans". But these take more time to create, so I recommend that you tag only the most important features of your photos.

A tag can be any (or all) of the following.

  • the location the photo was shot
  • <li>names of the people or things in the photo (as separate tags)</li>
    <li>what they were doing (ie water-skiing)</li>
    <li>prominent landmarks in the image</li>
    <li>the month and year the shot was taken</li>
    <li>any significant event (21st Birthday, or European holiday)</li>

I try to tag at least a who, where and when for each of my photos.

Tagging online

If you use a photo sharing program like Flickr, you share your tags with all other users of Flickr. So once I uploaded my Eiffel Tower picture, I can click on my Eiffel Tower tag and find lots of other photos of the famous structure taken and tagged by others! (see all Flickr Eiffel Tower or Paris photos).

Tag Ratings

Another idea for tags is to rate your photos. Sometimes your picture organizer will allow you to assign your photos a number of stars. The more stars, the better you like the photo. If your organizer doesn't give you that option, you can use tags. Add a "Rated 5" or "Rated 1" tag so when you want to just show your best photos, you can search for "Rated 5" photos (or "Rated 5" photos in "Paris" featuring "Linda"!)

Do you tag your photos? Has it helped you to find your photos quicker later on? Let me know by commenting below.

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  1. Jeffrey E Biteng says:

    Yeah to me its very important, it will make easier for me to search the photos, especially when the editor calls up and looking for this or that.

    Cheers David.


  2. Fábio says:

    Nice article! It really gave me what I need to know on how to tag photos. On the best tagging software, I've heard iTag (http://www.itagsoftware.com/) rocks.

  3. Bogdan says:


    I was wondering... If I tag several photos using picasa or acdsee on my computer at home and copy them on a cd or ipod and take them to another computer with the software above installed and ready to use.... will the tags still be available? Does the software embed the tags into the file itself, or does it create a local database, and when I copy/move the files on another computer, the tags will be lost?

  4. Peter says:

    Hi, thanks for your tip. I have a photo blog (since I don't know much about html - it's my easiest option) but it seems to take me forever to "tag" my photos. I use explore on windows XP - right clicking the photo I want to tag and clicking "properties" then clicking the "general" and "summary" tabs - filling in the gaps. I've tried to click more than one photo at a time by holding ctrl but it only ever works for one photo at a time. If anyone can suggest a quicker and easier way I'd be most appreciative.
    Many thanks

  5. Josep says:

    I use a program called "BrilliantPhoto", you can find more details in
    "http://brilliantlabs.com/". I think its a easy way to add descriptors inside the photos and look for them afterwards.

  6. Barbara says:

    I guess I've been sort-of tagging all my pics but didn't know it. I always put dates and events to my folders that I copy the originals to. Then once those digital negatives are copied, I put the originals on CDs. The copies are then in the proper folder, by date and event.

    I take each pic and put the info like this:
    01-25-Pete_Karianne_Lady Ginger Bailey-Mae
    (This is the heirarchy, by folder:2007>01.Jan>New Yorkie)
    If you have multiple pics for the same thing you can batch label them.

  7. David Peterson says:

    You can rate your photos using Bridge, but you can't (yet) add tags. Hopefully they'll add this feature in CS3.


    Do you recomend Adobe Bridge for tagging? can you even do it with it?

    Regards and thanks for the excelent tip!

  9. John Ballment says:

    If you are looking to use Flickr for online storage, may I suggest getting Adobe Photoshop Elements (PSE). With PSE you can tag all your files, then it has an option to write the tags to the files in the ITPC headers. Flickr will read these headers and automatically create the tags online saving you the hassle of tagging in two places.

  10. Erwin Serlé says:

    Especially tagging for things like date shot and other EXIF info is superfluous. And as you normally shoot more pictures in one place it might be easier to include information telling something about the location in the more general EXIF lines (at least if your browser allows you to edit EXIF information).

    On DAM: forget about it for personal use, it is sending an army out to crush that little ant with the pants.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.