Windows 7 : Managing Pictures with Windows Live Photo Gallery (part 4) - Using Descriptive Tags

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5. Adding Captions, Ratings, and People Tags to Your Pictures

Although the Table of Contents feature is nice, you're probably going to want a more elegant way of filtering the view of your photo collection. For example, what if you'd like to see just your vacation pictures? Or pictures that contain only family members? Or any other criteria that might be important to you?

Photo Gallery offers a number of ways to help you filter your photo display so that you can see just the photos you want. The problem is that you have to do a bit of work to make these features useful. If you're really into digital photography, however, you may find it is worth the effort.

These features—tags, ratings, captions, and so on—are collectively called metadata. Technically speaking, metadata is "data about data," but in the context of a digital image, metadata is what describes and identifies that image. It is data about the image.


In older and non-Microsoft image editing programs, the metadata for each image wasn't always saved along with the image. This means that you could have spent hours fine-tuning your photo collection only to lose all the associated data later. Just to be clear, this is not an issue with Windows Live Photo Gallery: Anytime you add or edit any kind of metadata with this application, that information is stored inside of the image file. This means that an image's metadata will always be available going forward, both with other applications and with Web services such as Windows Live Photos.

For example, if you use Windows Live Photo Gallery to rate a picture with five stars, that rating will show up in Windows Media Player or other applications that are compatible with this kind of metadata. Likewise, if you change the rating, tag, or caption for a picture inside of Windows Media Player, that change is reflected in Windows Live Photo Gallery. It's the circle of life, people.

5.1. Using Descriptive Tags

The first of these features is called descriptive tags or, simply, tags. Tags are unique labels that you can apply to pictures to help you identify which ones are related. By default, your own photos will not include descriptive tags, though photos taken with digital cameras always include other metadata related to the technical details associated with the picture, such as its resolution, camera information, and the date and time the photo was taken.

Regardless of how you came to own a particular image, you can always create (and edit) tags, and you can of course apply them across multiple pictures as well. You can also apply multiple tags to each picture. Tags can be as detailed or generic as you want, but you might consider tags such as Family, Vacation, Personal, Work, Home, and so on.

To create a tag without applying it to a particular image, expand the Descriptive Tags node in the Navigation pane. Then, click the Add a New tag link, which is the top node in the list of descriptive tags. When you do so, an edit box appears with the text "Enter a new tag here," letting you create your own tag. Give it a name and then press Enter. You might want to do this repeatedly until you've created all the relevant tags you can think of.

To add these tags to your pictures, select the picture or pictures you'd like to tag and then drag them over to the tag name in the View By pane. As you do so, a small "Apply [tagname]" badge appears next to the dragged images, letting you know which tags you are adding. This is shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16. Tagging doesn't get any easier than this: use your existing drag and drop skills to get metadata to your digital photos and other images.

You can also drag pictures to multiple tags if you'd like, so, for example, some pictures might end up being tagged as Family, Vacation, and Personal.

If you want to remove all tags from a picture (or group of pictures), drag it to the Not Tagged node.

You can also add tags in other ways. To add tags via the Info pane, select a picture or set of pictures and click the Add Descriptive Tags link in the Info pane. The new tag will be added to both the pictures and the list of available tags.

To remove a tag from the Info pane, select the photo or photos you'd like to adjust and then find the tag name in the list under Descriptive Tags in the Info pane. Click the "x" (Remove) button to the right of the tag name, as shown in Figure 17.

Figure 17. Tags can be viewed and removed from the Info pane.


To display a view that includes more than one tag, Ctrl+click each tag name you want in the Navigation pane. Voilà, a custom view style.

After you've applied tags to your pictures, you can start filtering the view by this information. In the Navigation pane, simply select the tag you want and the Thumbnails view will change to display only those pictures that are tagged with that particular tag. In Figure 18, you can see the effect of viewing photos by tag.

Figure 18. Tagging is ideal for filtering the view in Photo Gallery.
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