Adding File Info and Annotations in Photoshop

On top of pixels, alpha channels, color profiles, and all the other image data you can cram into your image files, you can add a variety of reference information where you shot the picture, who owns the image copyright, and so on.

In Version 6, this extra data can take the form of cataloging information that you enter in the File Info dialog box or text and audio annotations that you can view and play right from the image window.

Recording File Information

If you work for a stock agency or distribute your work by some other means, you may be interested in Photoshop’s File>File Info command. Using this command, you can record captions, credits, bylines, photo location and date, copyright, and other information as prescribed by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) and the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC).

We’re talking official worldwide guidelines here. After you choose the File Info command, you see the six-paneled File Info dialog box. You switch from one panel to another by pressing Ctrl+1 through Ctrl+6 or choosing the panel name from the Section pop-up menu. Alt+N and Alt+P also go to the next and previous panel, respectively.

The first panel, the Caption panel, appears. Although sprawling with options, this dialog box is pretty straightforward.

For example, if you want to create a caption, travel to the Caption panel and enter your caption into the Caption option box, which can hold up to 2,000 characters. If you select Caption in the Page Setup dialog box, the caption appears underneath the image when you print it from Photoshop.

The Keywords panel enables you to enter a list of descriptive words that will help folks find the image if it’s part of a large electronic library. Just enter the desired word and press Enter (or click the Add button) to add the keyword to the list. Or you can replace a word in the list by selecting it, entering a new word, and pressing Enter (or clicking Replace).

Likewise, you can delete a selected keyword by clicking Delete. Browser utilities enable you to search images by keyword, as do some dedicated image servers. The Categories panel may seem foreign to anyone who hasn’t worked with a news service.

Many large news services use a system of three-character categories to file and organize stories and photographs. If you’re familiar with this system, you can enter the three-character code into the Category option box and even throw in a few supplemental categories up to 32 characters long.

Finally, use the Urgency pop-up menu to specify the editorial timeliness of the photo. The High option tells editors around the world to hold the presses and holler for their copy boys.

The Low option is for celebrity mug shots that can be tossed in the morgue to haul out only if the subject of the photograph decides to do something diverting, like lead police on a nail-biting tour of the Los Angeles freeway system.

The Copyright & URL panel enables you to add a copyright notice to your image. If you check the Mark as Copyrighted check box, a copyright symbol (©) will appear in the window title bar and in the preview box in the status bar along the bottom of the screen.

This symbol tells people viewing the image they can go to the Copyright & URL panel to get more information about the owner of the image copyright. You can also include the URL for your Web site, if you have one.

Then, when folks have your image open in Photoshop, they can come to this panel and click the Go to URL button to launch their Web browsers and jump to the URL.

Because only people who open your image in Photoshop have access to the information in the File Info dialog box, you may want to embed a digital watermark into your image as well.

Many watermarking programs exist, ranging from simple tools that merely imprint copyright data to those that build in protection features designed to prevent illegal downloading and reproduction of images.

Photoshop provides a watermarking utility from Digimarc as a plug-in on the Filters menu; before using the plug-in, visit the Digimarc Web site to find out which, if any, of the Digimarc watermarking schemes best suits the type of work you do.

File information is only saved in file formats that support saving extra data with the file. This includes the native Photoshop (.psd) format, Encapsulated PostScript (.eps), PDF (.pdf), JPEG (.jpg), and TIFF (.tif). Because you cannot format the text in the File Info dialog box, it consumes little space on disk—1 byte per character meaning that you can fill in every option box without adding 1K.

You can also save the information from the File Info dialog box by clicking the Save button. Or open information saved to disk previously by clicking Load. To add the information from a saved file to the information you’ve already entered into the File Info dialog box, click the Append button.

Using the Actions palette, you can create an action that adds your specific copyright, byline, and URL to an image. After recording the action, you can automatically add the information to an entire folder of files using File>Automate>Batch. For more information on the Actions palette and Batch command.

Taping Notes To Your Image

Photoshop 6 enables you to slap the digital equivalent of a sticky note onto your image. The notes can be viewed in Adobe Acrobat (assuming that you save the image in the PDF format) as well as in Photoshop 6. You can jot down ideas that you want to remember later, for example.

Or, if you’re routing an image for approval, you can ask questions about a certain image element or, more likely, explain why a part of the picture looks the way it does and why changing it would be an absolute travesty and total abdication of your artistic integrity.

The Photoshop notes tool works like its counterpart in Adobe Acrobat: Click in the image window to display a blank note, or drag to create a custom-sized note.

If you don’t see your name in the Author box on the Options bar, double-click the box and type your name. (By default, Photoshop displays the user name you entered when you installed the program.)

Type your comments all the standard text-editing techniques apply and then click the close box in the upperleft corner of the note window. Your note shrinks to a little note icon, as shown in the figure. Double-click the icon to redisplay the note text.

When you save your image, be sure to save in the Photoshop native format or PDF and select the Annotations check box in the Save dialog box. Otherwise, you lose all your notes. For information on how to delete individual notes in an open image and how to customize and import notes.

Voicing Your Opinions

If you like to speak your mind rather than put your thoughts in writing, check out the audio annotation tool. This tool works like the notes tool except that it inserts an audio recording of your voice rather than a text message into the file. Of course, you need a microphone, speakers, and a sound card installed in your computer to use this feature.

Also, Photoshop retains audio annotations only when you save the image file using the Photoshop native format or PDF, as with text notes. Be aware, too, that audio files increase file size significantly.

The audio annotation tool shares quarters with the notes tool in the toolbox. Press N to toggle between the two tools (or Shift+N, depending on the preference you established in the General panel of the Preferences dialog box). Click in your image at the spot where you want the icon representing your message to appear.

When the Audio Annotation dialog box appears, click Start to begin your recording and then talk into the microphone. Click Stop when you’ve said all you have to say. Photoshop represents your audio message with a little speaker icon in the image window. Double-click the icon to play the message.

Managing Annotations

If you’re a solo artist and the only approval of your work you need is your own, you may not have much reason to use the notes or audio annotation tools. Then again, you may be an easily distracted sort and find annotations a terrific way to remind yourself exactly what you’re trying to accomplish in an image.

And who’s to say that your friends won’t love being able to hear an audio clip of your dog Binky yapping at the vacuum cleaner when they view his picture in Acrobat? Whether you’re using annotations for fun or profit, use the following strategies to manage audio and text annotations:

  • Use the Font and Size controls on the Options bar to change the font and type size in an open note.
  • Click the Color icon to change the color of the icon and title bar for any new note you create. This option comes in handy if several people will be reviewing the image and putting in their two cents’ worth.
  • You can assign a different color to each author. To change the color of an existing note, open the note and click the Color icon. This time, you affect only the open note other notes by the same author don’t change.
  • You can move and copy annotations between image windows. Just click the icon and use the Cut, Copy, and Paste commands as you do to move and copy any selection.
  • If an icon blocks your view of the image, you can drag it out of the way. However, when you open the note, its window appears in the icon’s original location. Drag the size box in the lower-right corner of an open note to shrink the window if necessary.
  • Choose View>Show>Notes to toggle the display of annotation icons on and off. Alternatively, choose View>Hide All and View>Show All to hide and display icons and other interface elements such as selection marquees, guides, and so on.
  • To delete a single annotation, click its icon and press Delete. Or right-click the icon and choose Delete Note. If you want to delete all annotations, choose Delete All Notes or click the Clear All button on the Options bar.

If you send out several copies of the same image for approval, you don’t have to open each copy individually to read the annotations. Instead, open just one copy and then import the annotations from the other files. Choose File>Import>Annotations, select the files containing the annotations, and click Open.

Photoshop gathers up all the annotations and dumps them into your open image. Remember to save your image in the PDF or Photoshop 6 file format to retain annotations in a file. And if you’re sending an annotated file to other people for viewing, tell them that they need to use Adobe Acrobat 4.0 or higher to access the annotations.