DAM it!

Have you ever said something like this to yourself? "I remember taking a wonderful sunset photo last year, and now I need a copy of it. Where did I put the file?"

C. C. Lockwood once told me that he spends at least twice as much time managing his images as he does taking them. He had just finished a year on a houseboat photographing Louisiana’s vanishing wetlands, and wasn’t looking forward to the two years he expected to take cataloging and managing his images.

arrrghAlthough we don’t use a formal Digital Asset Management (DAM) system at the studio (arrrgh), it’s almost impossible to manage stock images without one.

I’ve been through several different methods. I started out using descriptive folders, and I’m sure many, many people still use that method. It’s what we use at the studio, and it works for us. Sure, it could work better, but one step at a time. When I got there, they weren’t even keeping backups.

For my own images, I was soon overwhelmed by numbers, and moved to ACDSee (an early version). For a home user, it would still probably work fine, but it didn’t fit within my workflow and large number of images.

Next I tried iMatch. Now, this was more like it. It was robust, fairly quick, and made it easy to find my images. It also could keep the meta information with the image, so I wasn’t locked into that particular solution. I wasn’t real happy about the interface, but it was doing what I needed it to do.

lizardAfter a while, though, I realized that since I wasn’t entirely happy with the interface, I wasn’t using it as much as I should, and I was getting behind on cataloging my images. A search for "scaly lizard"  wouldn’t return anything unless it had been cataloged first.

Next, I moved to Iview. This was nice. The interface was slick and easy to use, it was pretty, and I kept up with my images. Then it was bought my Microsoft and became Expression Media. It became a little less pretty, and a little more buggy. I also realized that I didn’t like keeping multiple catalogs for my images — Expression Media has a maximum 2GB size for its catalog database. Time to move on.

Now, I’m using IDimager. It’s got a bit of a learning curve, but I’m getting the hang of it. It’s powerful, and can handle large databases (up to 2TB for the desktop pro edition). It’s very customizable to make it work and look like the way you want it to. And it’s got a remarkable support forum, with very quick updates to correct any problems found.

I think (and I hope!) that I’ve finally found a Digital Asset Management system I can stay with for a while.