It’s the end of August and we’re beginning to feel the slow passing of summer. We had a number of cooler days with chilly nights now and, as odd as that may seem for Southern California, it felt a little autumn-like. But otherwise, with the August weather (especially inland temperatures) being rather uncooperative towards hiking and photography, it was a rather quiet month, so this is a rather brief monthly update.
I haven’t done much “archive posting” either, in particular because of some back-end work that I’ve done in the absence of new photos to process. Well, I still have some photos to process (even some infrared stuff), but the photos need some time to ripen, or “marinate” as my friend Joe says.
Some of the stuff that I’ve been doing in August may be particularly interesting for those of my readers who are photographers too, so I’ll begin with a few photos and put the “behind the scenes” stuff at the end of the post.
Precious few blog archive additions this month, only three posts! Here they are:
Behind the Scenes (the big one)
What occupied a good part of my time in August was identifying the images that I’ve added to my website in 2015, verifying their publish date, and organizing them in preparation for registrations with the US Copyright Office (USCO). Why? Because copyright registrations for published images are limited to a single year of publication.
I’m still not done with it (see below), and the process involves a lot of manual data look-ups, in particular for dates and filenames. Astonishingly, my digital asset management software (Adobe Lightroom) has absolutely no built-in support for copyright registrations, and the necessary data around it. Hello, Adobe?
Now 2015 was a particularly productive year because I began to post a lot more photos to my website, in both new and archival blog posts (the latter dated back in time to more or less the date I made the photos), effectively building this online archive of my photos, right here (3600 photos online now). I’ve reliably identified about 1850 photos that I’ve published in 2015. That’s. A. Lot.
I believe this is something that quite some photographers will sooner or later run into, which is why I’m describing how I approached that in more detail, below. Maybe it’ll help one or the other person out there struggling with a similar challenge!
First step: identifying the photos that I’ve actually published in 2015. I’ve been able to track them down by various means, including WordPress’s own upload folder structure (which is organized by year and month), as well as the file dates, and some other data. I’ve actually downloaded the photos from my own website back to my computer, to have them all in a folder as a file list that I can work with.
Second step: tracking and organizing the photos inside of Lightroom, to have them in a workable arrangement for copyright registration. I added them to a collection, essentially “hand syncing” the file list from the website with my Lightroom catalog. It took me about one week! (and I had to take repeated breaks playing Candy Crush Saga, to take my mind off of this insanely repetitive and mind-numbingly dull task;-)
But the result is good, because it allows me to see which photo was published when (year) with a simple right-click (Lightroom’s context menu has an entry “Go to collection” and I’ve now created collections per year). Since I don’t want to rely on Lightroom alone, I’ve also added the publish year as a keyword so that I can save it as metadata to the file itself (or the sidecar .XMP file, which is just XML so this data can easily be extracted from it, should it be necessary).
Why do this? In order to be able to produce the correct copyright notice in the visible watermark, should there be the need to update/change a photo on the website – or whatever place where I want the copyright notice and watermark to appear (and in case you wonder: Why I watermark my photos). Did I mention that Lightroom has absolutely no built-in support for publication dates? In this case, the year of first publication is what needs to be in the copyright notice.
And obviously, this is not necessarily the year that you made the photo. If you made photos in December 2015 and imported them into Lightroom, but only get around to processing and publishing them in January 2016, the year that needs to be in the copyright notice in the watermark is – 2016, of course. So ideally, Lightroom should have an option to set the IPTC copyright metadata on export, but alas, it only supports doing that on import.
Third step: rename the files. Since I’ve been adding a lot of older files to my website in 2015, many of the files in Lightroom had wonderfully non-descriptive base file names, like DSC_2984, 20120815-DSC_8842, 2013.01.17 17.42.13-1, sheep or J2100023 – which are quite obviously horrible to work with. The USCO accepts them in a registration actually, but I wanted descriptive and unique filenames in order to reliably identify every photo.
I’ve decided to go with a naming scheme that includes location or keywords, year in two-digit format, and the four-digit number that the camera produces, like Lake-Hodges-12-8957. Searching my catalog for 12-8957 alone will reliably produce this single photo as a result most of the time. I rarely make more than 3000 photos per year so that works for me, but your mileage may vary and you need a different naming scheme then.
Fourth step: create a spreadsheet containing the file names, which I’ll need for the purpose of the copyright registration. I’ve found a “ListView” plugin for Lightroom, written by John Beardsworth, that should be able to produce this output, but alas, I couldn’t get it to work.
So instead, I’ve figured that I can export the photos from the collection as tiny thumbnails (since the only thing I care about is the filename anyway, at least in this case), and then simply use “DIR” on the command prompt, and redirect its (brief version, /B parameter) output to a text file. And when I name this textfile .CSV (comma separated values) I can then load it into Calc (I’m using LibreOffice). More time-consuming than getting the list directly out of Lightroom, but it works.
Fifth step: I’ll have to determine and add the exact publish date to the spreadsheet, for every photo… yes, you read that right. That’s what I’m working on right now. I first try to go by Lightroom’s edit history, which will contain an export as a step (for newer files, I’m creating a snapshot on export with Jeffrey Friedl’s same-named plugin, to be able to track that in the future as well, without relying on the edit history; I actually like to zap the edit history because it blows up the Lightroom catalog a lot).
If I don’t have that data in Lightroom, I’ll have a number of fallbacks: the file date on the web server and the WordPress upload folder structure (by year/month only; which is an approximation that the USCO allows, if it is marked as such – but, better to be precise methinks). Since the folder structure isn’t 100% reliable to determine the upload date in all cases, I’m now also adding a custom field to the WordPress database which contains the original upload date. So I can track that as well.
So far, so good. Except for the amount of work involved to determine the exact publish dates. :-}
One question that popped up was of course: how do I deal with this in the future? I don’t want to manually track the publish dates for my photos all the time! And since I’ve made this website the starting point for all images that I put online, the obvious solution was to simply keep the files as I export them from Lightroom in a separate folder – the file creation date is the publish date. Hey presto!
I can then once more use the command prompt, or perhaps a more fancy tool, like Total Commander, to create a file list (this time, with the date of course) as a CSV file, and load this into LibreOffice Calc. At that point, I’ll only have to add the country of publication, and I’m all set for the USCO registration). Since I plan to do registrations more timely, and multiple ones per year, I expect that no more than 500 photos will accumulate in that folder, so it’s not a problem.
Hmmmm… looking at all the text above, I should’ve probably branched that one out into a separate blog post altogether. Maybe I’ll finish the process to see if there’s any other obstacles I’ll run into, and then redo the whole thing as a summary. We’ll see.
And that’s it for August. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far! :-)