Photographers today not only capture huge numbers of image files, but we also capture other content, such as video and audio recordings. Managing and storing all these files so we can easily find them is becoming a major issue for many of us.
Amateur photographers are often content to use Adobe Bridge, Photoshop Elements or similar programs to keep track of their photos on their computers. However amateurs have it fairly easy, as they often do not need to maintain access to a large back catalog of content. Plus, their image volumes are often significantly lower.
Professional photographers of all types typically have different requirements. For example, we need to:
- Manage a huge, constantly growing volume of images.
- Handle video, audio, animations, layouts, and other types of media.
- Have ready access to an extensive back catalogue of content.
- Find images quickly from many years back.
- Track contracts, model releases, publishing histories, and other documents.
In this article we will concentrate on the software side of the solution. In the next article we will look at the hardware side, an area in which HP is particularly strong.
Many photographers use software such as Adobe’s Bridge in their daily work. I know I do. It is great for examining the results of a shoot, sending images into Photoshop for work, and automating some tasks. However, it falls down rapidly when it comes to managing huge collections of images stored on multiple devices, from external hard disks to large DVD backup libraries.
The problem is that few professional photographers can keep all the images we need on a relatively few number of disks, no matter what the capacity of the disk. We inevitably must maintain an extensive library of CDs and DVDs, plus external and network disk drives containing images. Finding the right images can be tough.
The solution lies in developing a proper filing system and using software that can track files on multiple storage devices. The most widely used “digital-asset-management” programs are Extensis Portfolio and Canto Cumulus. Both companies offer a range of solutions tailored for individual photographers, multi-person studios, and large publishing companies. These robust programs have been around since the 1990s.
What’s important to understand is that these software programs are not a magic bullet. They both require work. For example, you must be prepared to add keywords and other metadata to the catalogs so that finding the right asset is easy. This is up-front work that can save considerable time and pain later.
Setting up a digital asset-management system is a perfect task for an assistant, studio manager or intern. Just make sure that you spend time thinking about the workflow first. You must also create a master keyword list to avoid issues that can arise when different people have different ideas about the right words to describe an image.
The asset-management system you set up for your studio will be similar to those used by stock photo libraries, but with the added ability of telling you what disk an image or video file is stored on, so you can go and find it.
This also means you need a sensible system of disk numbering (like YYMMDD_HHMM, where yy is year, mm is month, dd is day, hh is hour and mm is minute) that tells you when a disk was burned. Then, every disk should be uniquely labelled and filed in numerical order in a secure disk storage system, such as the media storage cases offered by Vaultz.
Part 2 looks at the hardware side of organising your digital assets.