Fotopedia – some missing guidelines

The following are suggested extra guidelines for people who contribute or evaluate photos for Fotopedia. They are meant to support Fotopedia’s goal of being simultaneously an encyclopedia (well-documented, trustworthy) and aesthetics (coffee table book). The following are thus suggestions for future versions of Fotopedia’s own Guidelines document.

Fotopedia contributors are like journalists

The missing guidelines below are mainly to support the encyclopedia side of Fotopedia.The existing guidelines are mainly to support the aesthetics side.

The general philosophy is simple: if you contribute to an encyclopedia you are essentially in the same situation as a journalist or writer of a non-fiction book. You have to be precise enough: Somebody may actually want to travel to see what you photographed. A student may use your photo to learn about a topic. Your photo may end up in the student’s report. Someone may view your photos to remember what they visited 10 years ago. Etc.

So we all have to at least try to achieve some degree of documentation about…

  • what. Sometimes the title of the article is enough. But often the answer is a bit more complex: “pyramid”, “Egyptian pyramid”, “a pyramid at Cheops”.
  • where. This is almost always relevant. Traffic lights are different all over the world. Fotopedia is filled and viewed from all over the world.
  • when. This is almost always relevant. All cities looked different 20 years ago, and will look different in 20 years. Even mountains change.
  • who. If the thing you show may have been made by a famous artist. Or depict or commemorate a famous person.
  • why and how. May be less relevant here than for news. But sometimes a few words of explanation are needed.

Guidelines are not rules

Although we might call them “rules” for short, these are truly guidelines: once you understand them and why they exist, you will find that there are cases where it is ok to ignore them once in a while.

The guidelines try to adhere to the same style as the community rules used in Wikipedia: short and simple rules with a clear rationale.

Be specific

File under the most specific article possible.

Example: file under Monarch Butterfly if you know the butterfly is a monarch butterfly. If you don’t know, file under Butterfly – maybe an expert will fix this later. But don’t file under Insect or Animal.

Example: file under the name of a monument rather than the city or region or country.

Rationale: we don’t want to lose important information. General categories in the encyclopedia (Pacific Rim, Electronics, Mountain, Statue) may be filled automatically in the future (e.g. best photos from subcategories). But it takes an expert to add the missing information.

File based on what’s shown

Don’t file based on where you were standing. File based on what’s in the photo.

Example: you are on bridge and take a picture of a boat. If the photo shows only the boat, it won’t help people looking for pictures of the bridge.

Example: you are island K (as in Kitcheners) and photograph island E (as in Elephantine). It would be very misleading to link the photo to island K because it shows a different island.

Check that you aren’t showing a neighboring monument.

They all have different names and probably different articles. Don’t just use the name of the bus driver shouted when you get off the bus. Tour guides actually point to different things and they all have different names.

Example: In some areas of Rome, the density of monuments is so high that you can see 5 or 10 different things from one location. Each has its own Wikipedia entry. But they don’t have big colorful labels like shops in a shopping area. So you may need to check. Wikipedia accuracy should be enough.

Capture date information

For pictures of famous people, add the year the picture was taken. And possibly the occasion.

Example: was the photo of Jimmy Carter taken before he became famous? Or during his presidency? During a lecture he gave after his presidency?

In most cases I suppose a year is good enough unless it was clearly an event (concert, protest march, election, flood).

Rationale: You looked different 10 years ago and your environment was probably different. It is tempting not to add a date to a recent photo, but somebody may use the photo in 10 years. For photos that are 30 or more years old, the date of the photo is one of the first things one typically asks about.

Capture the exposure date for any photograph not taken with a digital camera.

Capturing the data of any image for an encyclopedia is generally a good idea. Fortunately, the capture date is automatically recorded within a Raw or JPG photo itself, so may be used and made available by Fotopedia in the future. But when an analog photo is scanned, the date the photograph was taken is not known. An exception is for APS-C film which does have digital information for each image – and some professional scanning equipment (e.g. Fujicolor Fontier) maintains this.

Capture location information

Capture the location of artworks, especially depicting people.

Example: if you file a photo of a statue (of a king, president, pharaoh) under the portrayed person, you should document (via linkage or caption) where the statue is. If that particular statue has an article of its own (Statue of Liberty) there is no problem. But Egypt is full of statues of Ramesses II, and famous people often have multiple statues. Provide enough information to distinguish one statue of that person from another.

Document the area where animals are photographed.

Example: Elephants in India are a different species from Elephants in Africa and even have their own articles. But making sure the location is documented makes it simple to distinguish major or subtle differences that you may not be aware of. Even sparrows in Spain are slightly different from the rest of Europe. The same applies to domestic animals like cows and cats. If you are not an expert, just record where the photo was taken.

Works of art

Record the name of the artist who made the artwork.

This can apply to painters, sculptors, and architects.

Example: So where possible, capture the artist who made the portrait that you photographed.

Rationale: Such information can help trace where the artwork is exhibited and when it was made. And some people may be interested primarily in the artist rather than the subject of the artwork.


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