In a perfect workflow world, we would all save time with automatic metadata tagging — keeping things organized, facilitating better collaboration, and freeing up more of our time to focus on our goals. Between ambitious creative ideas and tight deadlines, there’s not much time left for busywork. Manually tagging digital asset metadata can be tedious and ineffective. If you haven’t explored automatic metadata tagging (also called “smart tagging” or “auto-tagging”), it can make all the difference when you’re trying to find that proverbial needle in a haystack.
Welcome to a wonderful world of workflow possibilities! We’re going to cover:
Before we dive into tagging digitals assets for a better workflow, let’s cover the basics of smart tagging. Smart tagging is feature you’ll find in a wide array of tech tools that uses artificial intelligence to identify clearly defined objects and attributes in photos, videos, etc. And it works. AI has become incredibly well-trained at recognizing object, human characteristics, photo styles, and more.
If you’ve ever been asked to solve a Captcha for security reasons and found yourself squinting at the screen or even needing to repeat the task, that’s because the bar is set pretty high to ensure that AI can’t solve the Captcha. But if you’re working with AI, this high level of effectiveness can be invaluable to your workflow. It’s especially useful for organizations with vast collections of images, video, and collateral that have chosen to implement a digital asset management solution.
Let’s say that you’re working late on a project. You just need to add some final images to the design document, and you’re done. You remember some great stock photos your team had previously purchased which would be perfect. All you have to is find these photos of a young woman in a dark blue blazer, against a city backdrop.
Unfortunately, as you type those attributes into your digital asset management or folder system, nothing comes up. This could be because no one bothered to tag the images, but it’s also very likely that someone did — and you still can’t find them.
That’s because we all have a unique take on language and labeling. Manual tagging is only as consistent as the perspectives of the people carrying it out.
Let’s say the reason you can’t find that image is because your colleague who tagged that digital asset grew up in a place where that type of jacket is referred to as a “sportscoat,” rather than a “blazer.” They personally felt that the image subject looked very young, so much so that they tagged “girl” instead of “woman,” without really thinking about it. Maybe they recognized the exact city in the background, so they tagged the image with the proper noun for that city, rather than a more generic term like, “city,” “downtown,” “urban,” or “cityscape.”
If digital assets aren’t tagged effectively, they’re hard to find. This creates an endless cycle of lost time, repeated work, and that dreaded feeling that you’re asking colleagues the same questions over and over again. Oh, and your colleagues feel it, too.
Automatic metadata tagging in your DAM can save your team a lot of time by assigning obvious metadata. But beyond that, it can actually make your assets more searchable by smart tagging an asset with multiple search phrases. In other words, instead of choosing “sportscoat” over “blazer,” smart tagging might apply both of these terms to the image. This leads to a more robust, user-friendly, and searchable collection of assets. You can find what you need, when you need it, without having to pester a coworker about where those assets might be hiding.
Finding what you need, when you need it, can sometimes be the difference between a good day and a bad day at work. We know that time is precious — and susceptible to workflow roadblocks. Automatic metadata tagging makes it easier to find what you need, but that’s only the start of it.
Digital asset metadata can be tagged either by a human or by AI. In the earlier example, when your coworker tagged the stock photo in a way that was incompatible with your search, we can assume that manually tagging that asset was not the best part of their day. Nothing says fun like looking at a picture and trying to think of every word another human brain might associate with it. Unfortunately, if you’re doing this at work instead of in a party game, it’s a lot harder and there is no prize for getting it right.
Here’s the thing. Manual tagging may be easy, but it's not effective. We draw a blank. We stress out. No matter how fast we are, we still lose valuable time. And when it’s over and we try to get back to what we were doing before, our concentration is completely broken.
Using the right automatic metadata tagging software solution can eliminate this issue entirely.
Smart tagging takes care of all the little, obvious, tedious bits of metadata, so you don’t spend time doing that busywork. It builds a strong foundation of searchable metadata. You can use that foundation as is, or you can build upon it with some additional metadata that you’ve manually assigned to your digital assets. Depending on the metadata tagging software you use, you might even be able to automate additional smart tagging; this feature can add dates, client information, and more.
Automatic metadata tagging can easily handle what might seem like an insurmountable task for your team. Companies can improve discoverability of all their existing assets relatively quickly by employing smart tagging with robust metadata tagging software. Journeys International, for example, used Extensis Portfolio’s smart keyword functionality to add DAM keywords to their entire collection of assets. They’ve continued to build on that foundation so that no matter how many images they have, they can always find what they need.
Smart tagging technology has evolved rapidly over the past several years and become increasingly effective. Yes, it increases discoverability, saves time, and reduces costs. It helps people find what they need, when they need it. But to us, the real beauty of this technology is that it reduces distractions. Whether you’re a creative or an analyst, there’s nothing worse than having your concentration and flow broken by frustrating busywork. Automatic metadata tagging may not sound all that remarkable at face value, but its true value is how it allows you to achieve remarkable results without interruption.