Saturday, April 6, 2013

Photo Mechanic Keywords

In the last post I mentioned how useful Photo Mechanic (PM) is for adding keyword information to your images. Keywords are important for anyone who posts their images online either to a personal web site, photo sharing, stock or wire service. They assist search engines be it a local site search or an entire web search via Google when people are trying to locate images of a particular object or person etc.

 I'm not going into details here about adding and applying keywords to your master list or to your images using PM, the user manual explains how to use the keyword dialog just fine. I will however try to explain one feature PM provides that is beyond the basic functionality of a simple linear keyword list. PM allows you to use a nested vocabulary or a hierarchy lists of keywords which builds out keywords based on parent / child relationships as well as synonyms.  For instance a "Cow"  is a "Farm Animal" and could be referred to as a "Bovine". So the keyword phrase "Farm Animal" is the parent keyword of "Cow" the child, and "Bovine" is a synonym keyword for "Cow". The more descriptive and inclusive your keywords are the better the chance a search engine will locate one of your images over another.

 PM comes with a basic vocabulary of keywords, it's intended to illustrate how the hierarchy menu of the "Structured Keywords Panel" works. You can also look at the supplied keyword text file behind it to see how to build your own. The Keyword Panel comes with a list of Regions from around the world and another for Animals, which I soon discovered was very incomplete. I decided to look at their text files to see how I could build my own, ones which would relate directly to the subjects that I normally photograph. I'll try to explain how the text files behind the "Structured Keywords Panel" dialog box work and how you can build your own custom structured keyword menu.

 Start by opening the main Structured Keywords Panel which is accessed on the menu bar through "Image / Structured Keywords Panel". I highly recommend that you first make a copy of the vocabulary file that ships with PM this way you can revert back to the factory list that shipped with PM. This is done by hitting the "Save' button located in the lower right area of the panel, a typical save dialog box will ask you where to save this file. The "Merge", "Load" and "Save" buttons are very important going forward when modifying the vocabulary files create outside of PM with a standard text editor and I'll explain their use later in more detail. 

 With any text editor that allows you to save files in the UTF-8 format (ex: Windows NotePad) you can now open the file you just saved.  You will notice that the menus are displayed based on the order of top to bottom and the amount of indentation for of each column of text. The columns must be indented by using the TAB key only, if there are spaces used to offset your columns you will find that the menus you're trying to build won't line up properly. Each indented column represents the child of the previous column of data or its parent to its left. The keyword menus are ordered left to right the same way the columns of text appear in the text files, left most data appearing in the 1st or left most menu column, followed by the next column etc.. The flyout or expanding menu to the right is determined by the order in which the text appears in the file top to bottom. Note, PM will automatically sort your data alphabetically within the parent/child relationships after you import it so do not worry about the order in which you entered in your text. Synonym words that appear in bold in the menu are encased in curly brackets {} and should appear in the same column of data that they represent for a group of keywords, or indented one level to the right if they are representing a single object. 

 One thing that needs to be covered is how to added keyword files into PM and how to save or backup the ones that you use and may wish to share with others. This is where the "Merge", "Load" and "Save" buttons are used:

 Save - Always do this first before making any changes to your structured keyword list menu. This is your backup and the only way to return to the previous version before you initiated a change. You can also use this if you wish to share your keyword list(s) with another PM user.

 Load - Overwrites the current structured keyword list or lists that appear in your Structured Keyword Panel menu with the contents of the keyword text file you are importing. Only the contents of the text file you are adding will appear after load has completed.

 Merge - Will append your current structured keyword menu with the contents of the new text file you wish to add. If you want to use the lists that I've created you can select only the ones that interest you and use the merge button to add them into your structured keyword menu one at a time.

Using the FREE files that I have supplied is pretty simple. Go to my  Photo Mechanic Keyword Vocabulary page and download the zipped files that interest you. I suggest that you 1st make a backup copy of your current structured keyword list using the "Save" button before you  "Merge" the contents of my file(s) with yours.

I have created keyword list of the following Flora and Fauna with their Common and Scientific names:

North American Birds, Canadian Insects, North American Dragonflies and Damselflies, Canadian Butterflies, North American Mammals, North American Reptiles, North American Amphibians, Ontario Wild Flowers.

Also available is a list of Canada and US nature areas, which includes:
National, Provincial and State Parks, Nature Preserves and Conservation areas, Wildlife Management Areas and Bird Sanctuaries, National and State Forest, Arboretums and Botanical Gardens

Another more localized list of my area: The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Golden Horseshoe parks is also available, it includes parks from: The City of Toronto (amalgamated), Niagara Falls, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Hamilton,  Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Pickering, Ajax, Oshawa, Milton & Halton Region

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