In the IPTC location data we have 4 fields to work with, which should be treated as a hierarchy: Country, State/Province, City, and Location.
I've been populating these for years, but right now I'm reviewing my files and have started thinking a bit more about what "Best Practice" might be...
Most of us using these fields do so just to manage our own files: does anyone have expectations of this data being used in a structured way by recipients of the images?
This isn't something that the DAM book talks about in any detail.
Of course we should be consistent in the way we spell location information, and when describing the State/Province field the IPTC Core 1.0 documentation says
Since the abbreviation for a State or Province may be unknown to those viewing your metadata internationally, consider using the full spelling of the name.
Sensible advice, which should flow on to the other fields such as Country and City. For example, Lightroom's Metadata Browser just works on strings, so if you have two different spellings of a country it will show you two country trees...
Going through these fields:
- Generally Country's easy to fill in, right? But what should we do with images taken on a vessel in international waters? Leave it blank? That could be OK: Lightroom shows this in its browser as "Unknown country" which seems about right.
However, iView/EM's Place Finder will completely ignore images if the Country field is empty.
- State/Province isn't hard usually, except for examples such as when we're 100 km offshore. (again with the martitime references!)
- City seems straightforward, but what should we do out in the country where there's no relevant City/Town?
If there is no city, you can use the location field alone to specify where the photograph was taken.
- Location is a general-purpose field: I've often seen this left blank.
As per the description in the IPTC Core doco:
Enter the name of a location shown in the photograph. This location name could be the name of a specific area within a city (Manhattan) or the name of a well known location (Pyramids of Giza) or (natural) monument outside a city (Grand Canyon).
some people fill in the fields as Country/State/City/Suburb. My own habit has been to treat a suburb as a City: it's got a postcode so why not?.
So Country/State/Town/location... For a nearby park I might use Australia/Victoria/Box Hill South/Wattle Park. Other examples are:
Australia/Victoria//Grampians NP (no relevant town nearby),
Australia/Victoria//Southern Ocean, and
That last example (with State and City empty) highlights my major issue at the moment: there are identifiable locations within the park (e.g. the Visitor Center, some lakes, etc) which I would like to put into the hierarchy. But to put those into the Location field I'd have to promote the park name to City or State. We can put these into Keywords, but it would seem sensible to use the explicit hierarchy of the IPTC Location fields to put the information in context.
Do you think it's reasonable to arbitrarily promote Parks (as an example) to the status of "City"?
What should we do in a small country with no State/Province level?
There's also the ISO Country Code, which is usually described using some of the same words as for Country ("This field is at the first level of a top-down geographical hierarchy"). Does this mean we should be populating BOTH Country and ISO code? This is scriptable so isn't a particularly hard issue, but I guess the question is not about data entry but more about whether the fields are actually used by anyone beyond organising their own collections.