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Those that have seen the moodstream tool at gettyimages.com might have expected that there are better image classification and management tools than what is currently available in Adobe Creative Suite or other commercial or open source graphics programs. Even the Google search by image tool that allows you to upload an image and find similar images is quite impressive, although it is not possible for the users to modify some of the criteria that Google is obviously using to process and match to return the results.

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Is there an accepted classification scheme for photos, other than based on their physical qualities (e.g. dimensions, colour/BW, orientation)? I am thinking in terms of metadata such as the colour style, mood, etc?

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If you mean like one globally accepted standard - no, there is none.

But there are few different types of metadata that contain various informations other than these purely physical.

EXIF is most common and globally-accepted standard that contains informations about author or location where photograph was taken along with custom description. However at the same time it's also one of the poorest formats in terms of described informations and a flexibility of supported file types (de facto it works only with JPG and TIFF)

IPTC was build to provide by far more information, you can read about all of the options in IPTC format description - between many it can store information about model, subject, location, object on an image, intellectual property, and so on.

XMP in a way it's a successor to IPTC, it extends IPTC format and provides support to the file formats that were never compatible with EXIF.

In general though the availability of editable fields an values you can provide to them depends very much on a software used, so the whole process of universally describing your photographs is by far more complicated than it appears on a first glance.

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I've found the "keywords" panel in Adobe Bridge to be a wonderful help for image tagging: http://helpx.adobe.com/bridge/using/keywords-adobe-bridge.html

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