Getting Started With Digital Asset Management

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I've amassed almost 5000 digital photos during my 4 years as a digital camera owner. Finding a particular photo is getting more and more difficult so I decided to look into Digital Asset Management. The bible for DAM is "The DAM Book" which I recommend reading if you are interested. Basically the approach advocates adding keywords and ratings for all images and to have multiple backups of your images.

While I do currently backup my photos as part of my regular backup, I don't back them up separately, and for now that's ok (2 copies exist). However, I have really been slacking off on the keywords and ratings of my images. As part of a plan to get organized (now that I have a lot of time on my hands) I have decided to rate and keyword all my images.

Before I get started, I thought I'd take a look to see if I should change my DAM program. I have been using Photoshop Elements 5 (previously 3 and 2) to manage my photos but it is getting slower and slower to navigate and find the photos I'm looking for and I can't access my catalog from my 2nd computer, a laptop. So I downloaded trials of both Lightroom 1.0 and iView MediaPro 3.1 to see if I might prefer one of those programs instead.

While Lightroom's DAM features are quite powerful, it does miss a few key points that iView MediaPro has:

unable to DAM files that are no longer connected (i.e. files are removed and are on DVD/CD can't be keyworded or rated) - this would also include a disconnected laptop where the files are stored on the network unable to reset paths (if file structure is changed can't reconnect files except on an individual basis - not fun with 5000 files)

unable to run a catalog across a network (this means the catalog can't be stored on one computer i.e. server and accessed from a client i.e. laptop - this might not be important for most people but this my preferred setup. I like to use programs from my laptop but run everything off my desktop/server. This makes for easy backups as only the server needs to be backed up. My dream setup would be to have two catalogs so that I could access it from both locations including as well as while disconnected from the network and sync the two catalogs back together!

OTOH, you are able to edit photos in Lightroom (similar to PSE) whereas iView MediaPro only calls the editing program of your choice to take over. Lightroom will also convert NEF files whereas iView MediaPro won't (you need to import/convert them using Adobe Camera RAW/DNG converter).

So what's my verdict? At this point I'm struggling to decide. On the one hand it'd be nice to have only one application to deal with (Lightroom does everything) but it's lack of flexibility when it comes to using network drives and it's inability to reset the paths as a workaround doesn't work for me either. I expect that I will probably re-evaluate Lightroom in a future version but until then, I won't be using it.

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