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.
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 (Read The ABCs of an efficient photography workflow) they also start looking at different tools that can help them achieve their goals (Read Is your photography workflow good enough?). I mean software tools…programs that help me view, edit and categorize my pictures.
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 (Read What is the problem ?).
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 pictures is concerned, image viewers help photographers in only one way: organize your pictures by using 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 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 2.0, ACDSee Pro and iMatch.
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 tasks I usually use an image viewer (Faststone Image Viewer) because it’s fast and simple. However, when simplicity is not enough, better 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.