There is one big difference between image viewers and DAM software

Updated: October 22, 2018 | Contains affiliate links

Many of the conflicts in life originate from misunderstanding. Whether it’s between husband and wife, between parents and children or between friends, conflicts can be easily solved if we would all be more careful about what we say and if we would all be better listeners. These things are also true when it comes to photo management. Some people talk about organizing their pictures others talk about digital asset management. Both groups talk essentially about the same thing but using different terms. In this article I will try to outline some of the differences between these two terms and the tools that are used for each.

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Definitions please

Well to put it simply, organizing pictures is the simpler version of digital asset management. In other words organizing pictures is the first thing that comes to mind for a photographers that has accumulated enough pictures to get lost among them :) The first question for them is: how do I organize my pictures? I have them all over the place and I need to be able to control them.

On the other hand, digital asset management is a process that includes organizing pictures but it also includes other important steps like archiving pictures (or backing up pictures), secure storage. In other words, digital asset management is a comprehensive process that deals with pictures (one of the many possible digital assets) from shooting them to cataloging them (folders, tags, geotags), to printing them, to archiving them all the way to storing them. (Read How I organize my pictures).

The tools of the trade

As photographers move from organizing their pictures toward creating their own photography workflow they also start looking at different tools that can help them achieve their goals. I mean software tools…programs that help me view, edit and categorize my pictures.

Read Is your photography workflow good enough?.

I think most people start by using the software provided by the camera manufacturer. It comes on a CD when you buy your digital camera and it helps you transfer your pictures from your new camera to the computer. This software does a lot more things and it is sufficient…for a while. Well, it’s sufficient until you start having a lot of picutres…then you become frustrated. Well, at least I was when I got my first digital camera.

Also read What is the main problem with organizing digital photos?.

Image viewers are simple and fast

Image viewers are one category of software that is very popular with photographers. Image viewers are simple and fast and do a few things very well. Namely they provide a direct view of the directoy structure on the computer and privide fast access to all the pictures. Their main functions is fast access. Some image viewers provide extra bells and whistles like simple image editing, EXIF and IPTC metadata viewing and editing, resizing and cropping of images. As far as organizing digital photos is concerned, image viewers help photographers in only one way: organizing photo folders.

Read Organize your pictures in 5 easy steps.

Image viewers do not provide image tagging. Some of the better image viewers are: Faststone Image Viewer, XnView (also has tagging capabilities) and Irfan Viewer.

Digital asset management software gives you complete control

When folders are not enough for your needs (Read When folders are not enough) you need to turn to digital asset management software. The main difference between digital asset management software and image viewers is their database (Read What makes photography sofware tick). Digital asset management software is a lot more complex. The complexity lies in its ability to pull in metadata directly from images. Digital asset management software can read and write EXIF and IPTC (and XMP) metadata from all your digital pictures. All these information is stored in the software’s database and allows you to search and find your pictures very quickly and accurately (well as accurate as your metadata is). It is this database engine that allows you to enter tags and assign them to your pictures. Populare digital asset management software includes: Adobe Lightroom, ACDSee Pro.

The main difference between image viewers and digital asset management software is the database. Digital asset management software is based on a robust database engine that stores all image metadata (EXIF, XMP, IPTC) and allows the photographers to assign tags to images for a lot more flexible organization structure.

What tool do you use?

For day to day quick tasks I usually use an image viewer (Faststone Image Viewer) because it’s fast and simple. However, when simplicity is not enough, more sophisticated tools are needed.

What software are you using? Do you love the quickness of an image viewer or the complete control digital asset management tools give you? Maybe sometimes you use one and sometimes you use another.

Essentials for organizing your digital photos

Here are the essential products and services I have come to rely on for many years to keep my media collection organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Excellent Lightroom and Picasa alternative. If you need a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac (save 30% until Dec 1) or ACDSee Pro for Windows (save $20 until Dec 1) is my preferred solution for organizing your media on your computer. It has a very fast browser, beautiful image editing capabilities and you don't work with catalogs at all.

If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has excellent photo editing capabilities. Yes, Lightroom has a steeper learning curve as you have to learn to keep your catalogs in sync with your hard drive. But if you do image editing, Adobe Lightroom is my favorite.

I recommend Backblaze Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 4 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure. This is the best solution especially if you have a large quantity of media files.

Use a reliable & affordable external hard drive for backing up everything on your computer. It is absolutely essential for keeping all your memories backed up and safe.

Start organizing now using detailed, step-by-step instructions and videos:
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