Metadata can be defined as the "data that provides information about other data".

For example, an image of a product is data. Details like the image dimensions, the file format, aperture, camera brand and model, date and time when the image was created, etc. forms the metadata of that image.

If your business manages a big library of digital assets, it is necessary to maintain metadata information to aid data discovery, identification, classification, security, compliance, and optimization.

With the help of metadata, all your digital assets (Images, videos, PDFs, etc.) can be classified and retrieved effortlessly.

There are several types of metadata, each with its unique use case. From descriptive metadata that explains what the data is about to technical metadata that details how data is stored to structural metadata that describes how complex objects are put together. We’ll be discussing every metadata type in detail in this blog post.

What does metadata do?

Metadata provides information about a digital asset, making it easier to manage, understand, and work with. Here's how metadata functions in a more detailed way:

Organizing and classifying assets

Metadata organizes and classifies assets by assigning specific attributes or tags, creating an efficient structure. For instance, an image's metadata might contain the date of creation, editing software, or related descriptive tags.

Enabling asset search and retrieval

It facilitates swift and accurate search and retrieval of digital assets. Looking for a campaign image from two years ago? With well-crafted metadata, you can find all classified assets using the metadata.

Track digital asset lifecycle

Metadata also tracks the lifecycle of a digital asset. It captured when an asset was created, who did it, and the modification history, aiding effective document management or content creation.

Track asset versions

Metadata is a trustworthy tool for tracking different versions of an asset. It keeps a detailed record of all changes, ensuring efficient version control.

Facilitate smooth transfer of assets

To successfully transfer digital assets between systems or platforms, metadata is your savior. It houses technical information like file format and resolution, which is crucial for accurate interpretation and display in the receiving system.

Understanding the different types of metadata

There are many ways to classify metadata, but we'll focus on six key types for this article. These categories organize metadata based on its purpose, structure, and content.

1. Structural metadata

Structural metadata is like a map of data, showing how different pieces of data are connected. Think of a digital encyclopedia, where the structural metadata would show how different articles are linked and arranged.

But how does this help in digital asset management?

  • Structural metadata helps understand how data connect, which is crucial when managing large amounts of information.
  • If you're connecting data from different sources, structural metadata helps fit everything together without confusion.
  • Using age-old images and videos can be a breeze with structural metadata.
  • It makes it easier for people to search for the information they need.
  • It helps make correct reports and analyses by explaining how the data is structured.

Let’s understand structural metadata better with a detailed use case of a public library digitizing its entire collection of books and manuscripts.

Each book is a collection of chapters, sections, pages, paragraphs, etc. The structural metadata would provide a detailed map of how all these elements within each book are related and organized.

The metadata for a book might include the order of the chapters, the number of pages in each chapter, the relationships between different sections, and even how footnotes and references connect with the text.

2. Technical metadata

Technical metadata provides details about how the data was created, stored, and how it can be accessed, read, and interpreted. These details include the file format, size, creation date, resolution (for images or videos), or any other technical specifics.

  • It helps in preserving and archiving data because it provides necessary details to make sure the data can be accessed and used in the future.
  • It aids in managing data by providing critical details like when the data was created or modified, which can be useful in version control.
  • Systems can use technical metadata to determine how to read and interpret data correctly.
  • It can facilitate efficient searching and retrieval of data by allowing users to filter results based on specific technical criteria.

A film production company with a vast digital library of video clips is a good use case to understand technical metadata and its usage. The technical metadata for each clip might include details like video format, duration, resolution, frame rate, bit rate, color profile, etc.

This metadata is used by video editing software to interpret and display the video correctly. It can also help editors find specific clips that meet their requirements, such as a certain resolution or format. Without technical metadata, managing, using, and finding the right video clips in such a vast library would be daunting.

3. Descriptive metadata

Descriptive metadata answers the ‘what’ of an asset/ object. It provides information that helps identify and locate an item within a database or other digital repository. This information may include elements such as title, author, keywords, abstract, and description.

But what makes it valuable?

  • It makes searching and locating specific data easier. By using the information in the descriptive metadata, users can find the exact data they're looking for.
  • It helps in organizing data. With descriptive metadata, a large dataset can be easily classified and sorted.
  • It allows for effective cataloging of data, making it easier to manage and access in the future.
  • It aids in understanding the content, context, and purpose of the data. This helps users to determine if the data is relevant to their needs quickly.

A practical use case could be an online store. For each product listed, the descriptive metadata would include information such as the manufacturer, distributor, manufacturing data, expiry data (if any), and possibly user ratings.

This metadata helps potential customers find a specific book, understand what it's about, and decide if it's the book they want.

4. Preservation metadata

Preservation metadata, as the name suggests, is focused on the long-term preservation and usability of digital resources. It records technical information and history about a resource that ensures it can be properly maintained, accessed, and understood over time.

This metadata includes details like the original format of the resource, any changes made to it, who made those changes, when they were made, and why. It can also include information about the software or hardware needed to access the resource, the location of backups, and details about who owns the rights to the resource and who can access it.

Here's why preservation metadata is so important:

  • It supports the long-term preservation of resources by keeping track of all the details needed to maintain and access the resource.
  • It ensures that resources can be accessed and used correctly in the future, even as technologies change.
  • By recording the history of changes made to a resource, helps establish the authenticity and integrity of the resource.
  • It helps manage who can access the resource and what they can do with it by keeping track of rights information.

Let's take a museum digitizing its collection as an example. The preservation metadata for a digitized painting might include details of the scanning process, changes made to the digital file, the software required to view it, and copyright information. This metadata helps the museum ensure that the digital version of the painting can be accessed and understood correctly, now and in the future.

5. Governance/Administrative metadata

Administrative or governance metadata is information that helps manage and administer data. It includes details about when and how data was created, who can access it, what they can do with it, and how it's been used over time.

  • It records who has the rights to view, edit or delete data, ensuring that data access is controlled and secure.
  • It tracks when data was created, modified, accessed, or deleted, providing a clear history of the data's lifecycle.
  • By providing a history of data usage, administrative metadata supports audits and compliance with data regulations.
  • It can include information about the quality of the data, supporting efforts to maintain high-quality, reliable data.

For example, in a hospital's electronic health record system, the administrative metadata for a patient's record might include details about when the record was created, who has accessed it, any changes made to it, and who approved those changes.

This metadata helps the hospital manage the patient's record securely and effectively, supports audits and compliance with privacy laws, and helps maintain the quality and reliability of the data. Managing and controlling data can be complex and risky without administrative metadata.

6. Provenance metadata

Provenance metadata, quite simply, tells the story of a piece of data. It provides a historical record of the origins, custody, and ownership of the data, tracking its journey from creation through various modifications to its current state.

  • It verifies the source of the data, helping to establish its authenticity.
  • By providing a clear history of the data, it aids in assessing its reliability and credibility.
  • It provides transparency about who has modified the data and why, supporting accountability and integrity.
  • For scientific data, provenance metadata helps in reproducing experiments by providing detailed historical records of how data was collected and processed.

Consider a scientific research institute that conducts numerous experiments and collects vast amounts of data. The provenance metadata for a dataset might include details of when and where the data was collected, who collected it, how it was processed, and any changes made to it over time.

This metadata enables other scientists to verify the data's source, assess its credibility, understand exactly how it was derived, and possibly reproduce the experiment.

How Imagekit leverages metadata in media asset workflows

ImageKit is a comprehensive Digital Asset Management (DAM) system that enables users to manage their video and image assets effectively. It provides a secure and centralized space for users to upload and store their media assets.

Not just that, Imagekit also optimizes digital assets for better performance. With features like dynamic image resizing, you can generate different sizes and variations of images directly from the image URL in real-time. This not only ensures optimal loading speed but also enhances the user experience.

To optimize images and video assets to the best, Imagekit leverages metadata management capabilities.

  • Automatic extraction: It identifies and removes extraneous metadata such as camera settings, date, time, and copyright information. Programmatically extracting metadata helps in further optimization of images to reduce file sizes and to make the website or app load faster. But this only applies to the final output image delivered by ImageKit. The original master file, stored in the ImageKit media library, maintains all its original metadata for archival or internal use.
  • Custom Metadata Fields and Tags: You can create custom metadata fields to categorize your assets based on your specific needs. This might include metadata tagging files by project type, client, or any criteria that suit your workflow. This level of customization makes searching and locating the right assets a breeze.

To create a custom metadata field based on your requirements using the schema. For example, if you want to create a metadata schema for Price,’ here is how you do it in Imagekit.

Next, use the code below to get the custom metadata field. You can find the private key in your Imageki account information.

You can also update and delete any of the metadata field parameters.

  • Fetch Image Metadata from URL or Uploaded Files: You can fetch image metadata from a URL or an uploaded file. It can retrieve information like resolution, file format, and compression used. This feature ensures the correct display of your asset and provides essential context that can inform decisions about how to use the asset.


Metadata is instrumental in managing, preserving, and utilizing digital assets effectively. We looked at different types of metadata, including structural, descriptive, technical, preservation, administrative, and provenance metadata, each offering unique insights to improve the usability and understanding of digital assets.

ImageKit stands out as a dynamic Digital Asset Management (DAM) system that leverages the power of metadata. It offers metadata management capabilities like automatic extraction of unwanted metadata for optimization, creating custom metadata fields and tags for efficient categorization, and the ability to fetch image metadata from URLs or uploaded files.

All these features contribute to a more organized, searchable, and efficient system for managing image and video assets.

By providing a seamless blend of organization, accessibility, and optimization, ImageKit offers a robust solution for managing and delivering digital assets efficiently.

Sign up for a free trial of ImageKit to learn how it can streamline your digital asset management.