So below is my original post on StackOverflow. Since I got no answers there I started looking around and found this site. I am pretty much a "photo newbie" . . . given this is a photo specific site it occurs to me my approach might be completely wrong. Surely, photo experts need to attach tags and categories to pictures by the 100s or even 1000s . . . what is the best way to approach what I am trying to do here?

So my concept was simple, but so far my iPhone and iPad are refusing to cooperate:

I have several hundred boxes that the family keeps searching through. My thought was to take a picture of the contents of each box, then search through the pictures to find things and go directly to the box that has the item.

My first thought was to create a database with AirTable or such, but that is a pain and uploads my images to their server. Then it occurred to me that there is MetaData on these pictures, perhaps I could tag the photo with the box number that way. However, while there do seem to be some free format fields in the metadata, editing those fields has proven to be a challenge. I have yet to find a good editing program. For instance Metapho seems to be pretty close, but the paid version which says it can edit the MetaData, but can only edit JPG files . . . the iPhone pictures are not JPG.

My other thought was to use the iPhone "Markup" feature and write directly on the image, but that interface is not very convenient and has problems with fonts "washing out" depending on the colors the text happens to appear over.

It seems like this should be easy, but so far I haven't found a convenient way to do this. In essence I want to make a database of images joined to a database of tags . . . any suggestions on how to do this easily?

As a side note, phase II of this project would be to add a contents list to the metadata and then be able to pull up pictures by searching the tags in the metadata . . . so far, I don't see how to get the iPhone to select pictures based on metadata tags . . .

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you set on doing this on a phone? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 0:01
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This seems, at least to me, to be more of a 'Superuser' type question. It's really more about database management that just happens to include data from the EXIF info of images than about how to take creative photos. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 1:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Adding tags to images is something most photographers here do routinely, I think. But doing it easily almost requires a keyboard, especially in your case with a lot of new tags per box. Not the kind of project I'd want to undertake with a phone and a tablet. \$\endgroup\$
    – remco
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 5:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please clarify if you're looking for existing tools that you want to automate or are considering writing code (i.e. an app) to run on iOS. Is your question about accessing the metadata from your self-written iOS app? The images contain EXIF data which you can browse with libs, google it. Accessing the other metadata that iOS generates appears to be private to Apple, I believe. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, I am not talking about physical photos in a box someplace. I am talking about "boxes of stuff - generally not photos" . . . I want a way to search the boxes without opening each one. I thought taking a picture of the contents would be an easy way to do this. But then once I selected a picture that has the desired item, how do I tie that picture to a specific box in the garage? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 16, 2018 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


I like this question all though it seems a photo specific option is a limiting factor and probably an unnecessary middle man in the quest for a searchable database solution.

My first though when read this question was to use something like Filemaker Pro, You would create a indexing system for your "boxes of stuff" I.E. box 1, box 2 etc, and create a document for each box with list of the contents of "stuff".

There are many Document Management software option out there with options for desktop, mobile, and cloud integration. I found this and this, reviews of some document management solutions while doing a web search.

While a photo would not be necessary in your scenario it may be useful. I would like to implement such a database for my Vinyl LP collection so having a photo of the album artwork and a file that tells me what box or cabinet my rarely played old album is located ( and what it looks like ) would be nice so i don't have try to remember or search for 20 min.

So while i can not answer your question as it is, it seems there is solution for this problem it is just finding the right one for you. I personally would not use one that is dependent on any cloud usage. ( are you listening Adobe ) There may already be a solution or i think it would not be to difficult for someone above my pay grade to develop an app that is configurable to yours or my needs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ An interesting rephrase of the problem. I've used document management systems at work, but never thought to bring something like that "home" so didn't consider it. Looks like there are a couple of open source systems. It seems very heavy though for something I considered a relatively light and easy task. However, given I've found no solutions so far, perhaps those thoughts are not correct. Once I considered solving the problem this/your way, I actually thought of a couple other non-photo problems such a system might help me solve. Let me explore, you might be on to something here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 16, 2018 at 18:33

Data Management seems heavy for "home use". I looked at a few, but they seemed centered on sharing and security which I didn't need at all.

My eventual solution is as follows:

  1. Take picture with iPad

  2. After taking a couple of pictures, start google photos on iPad which uploads photos to Google Photo without asking. Note: Info cannot be edited from this IOS app . . . too bad.

  3. Go to my desktop and update Google's "Description" field and add photo to "Garage Boxes" Album. These pictures/descriptions eventually get indexed by Google, though it can take up to 24 hours for the Descriptions to be update in the index.

Once Google gets around to updating the index, the search function works exactly as I had hoped. It is easy to browse the pictures/album and/or search the descriptions.


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