The popular buzzword around digital photography today is DAM or Digital Asset Management. The concept of using DAM is to be able to integrate image cataloging and organization into one’s digital workflow to make it easier to find a photo amongst thousands. For a photographer that has over 10,000 images and hasn’t implemented DAM, this is a daunting task. I’ve been thinking about it and researching it for months, and only recently found THE resource on the subject. Peter Krough, a photographer, has written a book on DAM that brings many ideas to the table. While it’s certainly written with the idea of the professional photographer in it’s focus, it certainly can be adapted to any higher end amateur that needs a way to manage their data.
Conceptually, the organization starts at the fundamental level of “physical” data structure. I would liken this to a filing cabinet where one has different sub folders in larger folders. Peter makes the argument that this structure should be designed more to work with current backup methodologies and logical structures, rather than the subject or other contextual information. I have thought about this and wanted to argue with his points in the beginning, but after reading his arguments and thinking about the scalability of any other structure, it’s a no brainer. I’m currently working on re-archiving my images in a more accessible and scalable architecture.
The next key to DAM comes into play with what is called “metadata” or “keywording.” Every digital image has the ability to append various data about the image into the structure of the image – and in fact, every digital capture has this data immediately captured into the file when the picture is taken. The camera will record data such as shutter speed, ISO, aperture, the lens that was used and other highly useful information. Software can then read this data, called IPTC data, and can display or use this information to give us more information about what the image contains. This is where DAM software, such as IView Media Pro, comes into play. DAM software is specially designed to provide two functions – the first is to rapidly input specific information that “describes” the image and the other is to catalog what images you have and make those images more accessible by allowing you to search for any IPTC field.
So, for example, if I wanted to find all images of a particular person – I can simply search for that person’s name and find every picture of that person. As you can see, when you have a catalog of thousands of images, this is invaluable. I can also rate images on a 1 to 5 scale that will allow me to separate the cream from the crop, as it were. This is extra handy as I can now modify my search to find all “good” images of a particular person. Then if I wanted to get more specific and search for such and such person with a certain rating at a certain location, I can really narrow down my search.
While the task is daunting with over 15,000 images in my collection from the last three years, it’s going to be absolutely essential moving forward. There will come a day when that will likely reach over 100,000, in which case, I’ll be lost if I don’t implement DAM when it’s still manageable and can maintain it going forward.
I would encourge all to read Peter Krough’s book and check out his website. He is a good photographer that has spent much time thinking about the concepts and challenges associated with DAM. He also has a rather impressive amount of involvement in the photography industry and, as such, is still heavily involved in a forum about the subject of DAM that can be found on his website.