Tip: Make raw files' EXIF data searchable with DNG

My colleague Fergus Hammond made an interesting discovery while using Mac OS X’s Spotlight feature to hunt for EXIF data in his photos. It seems that Spotlight can’t find the EXIF in some raw formats, but dropping images onto the free DNG Converter makes their metadata readable by Spotlight (not to mention making the image data itself compatible with numerous DNG-aware applications).
I tried an experiment with a handful of Nikon NEF’s from a D2X, and sure enough, converting to DNG made their EXIF data visible to Spotlight; here’s a screenshot. Now, I should mention that I’m not an expert on Spotlight’s capabilities, but these results seem in line with a document on the Apple site that lists “GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, EXIF, DNG” as Spotlight’s supported image formats. On my system (OS 10.4.4) Spotlight can find EXIF data in some (but not all) CRW and CR2 files, so your mileage may vary.
In any case, converting the D2X NEFs to DNG cut the size of each from 19.3 to 11.1MB–a clear benefit in and of itself.

0 thoughts on “Tip: Make raw files' EXIF data searchable with DNG

  1. Gunar Penikis (formerly the product manager for XMP) says, “Partner solutions such as MediaBeacon provide extensions to Spotlight to support XMP.” Hopefully we’ll see native support for XMP in Spotlight soon. (If this matters to you, let Apple know.)

  2. Mmm, the fact that spotlight wouldn’t find my Canaon Raw files (CRW) keywords has always bugged me, so i decided to convert those to dng. …
    But while I was testing out dngs I decided to add some more keywords to the CRW prior to converting. Lo and behold. after exporting the CRW keywords from iView 2.6.4 as I usually do in my workflow, the (b) keywords show up in Spotlight (\b) for the first time ever.
    Obviously, if Spolight finds the keywords in the CRW, they also can be found in the Finder Info window.
    After I noticed that the CRW displayed full sized in the Spotlight slideshow as opposed to a tiny preview for the dng files, I stopped the dng conversion and exported all my CRW keywords from my iView catalog.
    All of my 1200 CRW files now shop up in the Spotlight image pane and all can be displayed full size with the Spotlight slideshow.

  3. I just discovered one annoyance/quirk with Spotlight. It seems that it can’t handle IPTC metadata (and I think some EXIF) for PC-order TIFFs (required by some digital photo libraries), although it’s fine with Mac-order TIFFs, JPEGs, etc. Some of the metadata is accessible, but not Description, Keywords, etc. Convert a PC-order TIFF to Mac-order or JPEG using CS2 and the missing data are now accessible, so nothing has been lost.
    I’ve no idea if opening with iView solves the problem.

  4. Sometimes y have problems with the keywords in Metadata. It apears completely in Bridge but incompletely when I open the image in Photoshop. How can I resolve the problem?

  5. Hi John… I found this blog post using Google and while I realize it is old – I figured here as good a place as any to see if you’ve run across this problem.
    My wife and I have nearly matching Digital Rebel XTi cameras. As such I was looking for a way to distinguish her photos with mine using EXIF. I chose to use Owner Name (which is editable using the EOS Utility that comes with the camera). That now works and is on the file… but I can’t seem to find a way to have Spotlight search for the owner name. Any ideas?
    [Hmm… I’m far from the expert here, but I believe Spotlight only looks for a finite set of fields per file type. That’s why it can’t hang with the X (Extensible) in XMP, and why we can’t just ditch Bridge’s native search and replace it with Spotlight. In any case I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions to offer. –J.]

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