16 Responses to “How I found my best Digital Asset Management (DAM) system” | Guest Post

  1. Peter Russell October 28, 2014 at 14:52 #

    Mike,

    I am interested in your journey and results with DAM software, but your approach demonstrates just how many ways there are to skin a cat.

    I have run a stock library since 1971 when everything was totally ‘handraulic’ and physical images, in the form of prints or colour transparencies, were sent out to clients with typewritten delivery notes. Up until the early 90s everything was filed (if that’s the right word) using the ‘Shoe Box’ system and card indexes, allied to just knowing where everything was – in other words using the key man principle!

    During the first Gulf War demand for military images ramped up frighteningly fast and we invested in a DOS-based library package that was part delivery and invoice system, and part DAM for the sum of over £3500 – a great deal of money in those days. However all this did was allow data for images to be linked to bar codes that enabled physical ‘File Info’ descriptions to be printed for the images being sent out and cross-referenced with both the image database and the billing side. In fact up until starting to scan images in the mid-90s this remained our primary DAM tool and was only finally dropped in 2004 when support ceased.

    However, as soon as we had digitised files – long before I first starting shooting with digital – we needed a DAM program. SCC PhotoGrid was the first one, running from a single floppy disk on Windows, but it was only a matter of time before Portfolio appeared on the scene – firstly on Windows before we changed to using Macs in 1999.

    However, the one key factor in all this, that seems to differ from many of the other correspondents in the DAM issue, is that ALL the metadata that we added to image files was ALWAYS done using firstly File Info in Photoshop and latterly with Adobe Bridge. This applies to all the RAW files that we shoot. Thus the DAM programs that we needed ONLY had to extract metadata – NEVER add any. That is what made my hunt much easier – apart from needing a cross-platform browser for clients as well.

    All the hard work is accomplished in Adobe Bridge using a wide range of File Info templates that can be modified on the fly if required or used again and again with minor revisions. We use a standard range of Keywords that we have developed and find that it works extremely well. Sure, it takes a great deal of effort and time to add the metadata to the RAW files, but this is time and effort that have to be spent somewhere in the life cycle of the images to be documented.

    All the critical exposure adjustments etc are also carried out in Bridge at this time, meaning that Media Pro (for example) can read the edits and display RAW WITH the corrections, allied to searching after extracting all the metadata, which is a brilliant bonus. Portfolio could read RAW files but not extract any exposure adjustments nor metadata. Of course the latest generation of RAW files are not supported by Portfolio, making it useless for this task now.

    All output is accomplished by importing the adjusted RAW files, with their sidecar xmp files, into Adobe Lightroom where nothing else, apart from cropping and adding GPS coordinates if necessary, is done before the files are output using a wide range of presets that we have developed. This ranges from outputting to high resolution TIFFs or JPEGs, through producing newspaper-sized files, right down to web media sized files.

    This approach still allows us to output files through Photoshop where critical retouching or other image manipulation is required.

    However, the big deal for me is that ALL the metadata is already in the file when it’s output from Lightroom or opened in Photoshop. My DAM program never has to add anything.

    From what I read of others using DAM programs I believe that many are making life harder for themselves than they need. For example, if I do subsequently need to alter the metadata in a file I prefer to add it through Adobe Bridge and document the changes through an update in Portfolio or Media Pro, without ever physically opening the image file in any program.

    Even today Extensis offer some brilliant documentation on DAM, whilst a great deal more information can be gleaned from IPTC.

    Keep up the good work – there seem to be very few people actively using small/single user DAM solutions – and not enough are talking to each other or developers about the requirements. Having read you excellent article I can see why so many people – both users and developers – are confused!

  2. Mark January 10, 2015 at 20:49 #

    Hi! Thanks for your article. I’ve never heard about Photo Supreme before. It’s really simple to use, especially their interface for keyword tagging! Daminion has similar functions too. However I understand why you possibly didn’t find them. For ‘recently used’ you should have opened ‘Window– Recently Assigned Tags’ and choose any of them. Instead of ‘Favorites’ and ‘Suggested’ (honestly I didn’t understand the principal difference between them) Daminion suggests tags after typing some first letters. For tag presets – ‘Window – Assign Tag Preset’.
    But I wasn’t satisfied with Photo Supreme’s server version (we are using the server version of Daminion that’s why I wanted to compare). It’s funny but the installation as super-difficult as their interface is super-simple =) With Daminion it just took some seconds to install. And there are some more drawbacks in their server version which we noticed.
    Nevertheless, I liked some of the Photo Supreme options so much that I’m going to vote to have them in Daminion (like Info, geo-tagging by the file name and Nearby tag).

  3. Jeff C. September 4, 2015 at 20:32 #

    Thanks for wonderful article. Was curious as to why ACDSee Pro did not make the cut into the final 3 and what version did you evaluate?

    I have also been doing recent research on this topic. My short list came down to Daminion, ACDSee Pro, and Photo Supreme. I am still evaluating.

    One thing that is surprising about some of this vendors is why they don’t also add PDF support as that would give users one tool for both DAM for photos and DAM for documents.

    Daminion is the only one that has taken that approach and is along the lines of a full DAM as opposed to primarily Photo management and I like that they still provide a home user desktop solution.

    • Mike Briggs September 8, 2015 at 22:29 #

      Hi Jeff

      I’m pleased that you (and the others above too) found the article helpful.

      In reply to your questions about ACDSee Pro, I was evaluating version 7, and I quickly found a number of mismatches with my criteria. Unlike the three that made it to my shortlist, ACDSee’s DAM capability was an addition (albeit some years ago) to what started out as a RAW processing and image editing program. My research suggested that it is these ‘original’ areas of the program that get most of the attention. I see that version 8 is now being marketed as “the first digital asset management software with layers” – again putting the emphasis on improvements to image editing, not to its DAM.

      While I didn’t do a full software test, ACDSee’s DAM capabilities seemed to be rather limited. I wasn’t able to find a way of importing my existing catalog of hierarchical keywords – which, along with exporting them again was one of my key screening criteria – and it didn’t appear to allow the automatic assignment or writing of keywords to industry-standard fields. As a result, my research into the product didn’t need to progress much further.

      My overall impression was that, despite its undoubted strengths in other areas, ACDSee’s DAM functionality didn’t challenge the capability and sophistication of the shortlisted contenders, and that major improvements in this area were perhaps not likely to be a priority. Having taken a quick look at version 8, I haven’t seen anything to change this impression. It’s probably fairer to think of ACDSee as strong challenger to Lightroom, rather than to Photo Supreme or Daminion.

      Regarding the use of photography DAMs for more general purposes, Photo Supreme can be used to manage PDFs (and any other kinds of file, if you register them in the program options) by using sidecar files, though without previews – something that I do make use of from time-to-time. I believe that Daminion can indeed also handle PDFs and various other files, including providing previews for some file types.

      Both Photo Supreme and Daminion have both made significant enhancements since I wrote the article, by the way.

      Good luck with the continuation of your own research.

  4. Rogan Coles December 30, 2015 at 07:28 #

    Hi Mike,

    Another vote for Photo Supreme. Like Peter Russell, my DAM efforts harken back to the pre-digital age, to the computer era of DOS and back to handwritten 4×5 index cards, etc.

    First off, my hard drive filing system is sacrosanct to DAM set up. Software-wise, if all else fails, that filing system is always going to be there. Also essential for any backup and archiving operations,

    This filing system is strictly date based – year, month, day. Elsewhere, others have suggested place and other sorts of filing and naming taxonomies. Too long as I see it. Way back then, there was this thing of database “normalisation” – as in the least redundant way to refer to any item of data. In days of DOS, there was that 8.3 file naming convention. Today, things are little better, but the habits from that time still stick.

    Back to DAM and workflow. Like Peter, I still rely on Adobe’s Bridge as my first port of call. Use Bridge to rename my images and to apply basic metadata – as per various templates made for the propose. In Bridge may also do some image rating. Why Bridge? Bridge is one of the few applications that store’s the original file name in the metadata. Why’s this important. A few years back used to label and number my selects sequentially. Big mistake. All I was doing here was creating a huge disconnect between the selected images and those in the RAW archive. Now, I use the original file number in the renamed image file. Now, its easier to get back to the original RAW file which I never rename.

    Next stop, Photo Supreme (PSu). Need to add here that prior to the PSu, was using IDImager from about version 3.xx. Before this and in between have looked at various DAM and other filing type applications as they have come up and, keep on reverting back to PSu.

    While I have issues with PSu, there’s one area where it rules supreme (pardon the pun) and that’s with keywording. As someone once said, “keywords are king and they’re key to the door”. In the present day and age, images are found based on their appled keywords.

    Also, PSu works well with my hard drive based filing and archiving system. This is the tool with which I manage my image archive.

    To add to the complexity of my digital workflow – as opposed to my DAM system, Capture One (C1) is my preferred RAW processing tool and that’s all I use it for – RAW to TIFF master file conversion. Up until C1’s version 9, C1’s handling of metadata was not IPTC compliant. This now seems to be fixed in version 9.

    And then, use Lightroom CC (LR) to manage the distribution of my images and, that’s all – nothing else. Why? LR promises a lot but then, and that’s the problem. As a RAW processor, I get better results with C1, something that I’ll concede is subjective. Keywording in LR is lackluster. Again, a subjective view. As for the other LR modules – rarely use them. But, the export feature is great – this together with the file management system that I’ve brewed up for the purpose. And yes, its strictly based on what I can see on my hard drive. If LR disappears for whatever reason or something better comes along, I’ll have no issue in switching.

    As I see it, there’s no one DAM based or orientated application out there that can do it all. All in all and in the greater scheme of things, all this comes down to the lowest common denominator – as to what I have and can access on my hard drive – active working drive or archive hard drive. Nothing else matters. Each of the applications mentioned above handles an essential component in my digital workflow. If any of the applications heads south and disappears off the scene – read Apple’s Aperture – this is not likely to affect or have a negative impact on the way my images are stored on my hard drive. This image filing system is essentially my DAM system.

    Need to add here that this hard drive set up is not too far removed from the way I manage my pre-digital negative files and colour transparencies.

    Just another point of view in the greater scheme of things.

  5. Nilson Bazana June 1, 2016 at 21:09 #

    What a really inspiring, well-written article!

    From the moment I read your disclaimer that ‘one [which] is “best for you” is not necessarily “best for me”’, I knew I was bound to read something miles away from those usual, run-of-the-mill ‘best of the best’ lists.

    I also particular ennjoyed the way you cut to the chase by, delving straight into the only three that in your opinion mattered, instead of taking us through several pages of ‘why this or that title is no good’.

    I couldn’t help identifying myself with your narrowing down which DAM actually ticks your boxes regarding all your requirements and preferences

    I must say that seeing Digikam among the best was both a curse and a blessing, as I do intend to stick to Linux for operating system but, at the same time, I can’t even keep the bloody thing of refusing to work with other Linux distros other than the KDE-based ones it was innitially designed for – as it is the case with Linux Mint, which I currently happen to have on my brand-new machine.

    At least that settles my mind on trying to make it work with my OS and not giving up.

    Only time will tell whether I’ll succeed on keeping Mint or not, but your article’s definitely set my mind on getting Digikam working – whatever the Linux flavour it is on.

    So, thank you ever so much for a pleasant and informative read!

    • Mike Briggs June 10, 2016 at 17:41 #

      Thanks Nilson – good to know you enjoyed the article!

      I hope digiKam plays nicely this time around 😉

  6. Martin August 8, 2016 at 17:41 #

    Hi Per,

    Great article. I also use DXO Optics Pro for editing and I was curious to see how you handle the export from DXO back into Photo Supreme. I tried it but it opens a new PS software instance instead of going back to the original screen.

    Thanks,

    Martin

    • Per Karlsson August 9, 2016 at 10:13 #

      Martin,

      All honour goes to Mike Briggs who wrote the article!

      I have never used DXO so I know nothing of how to use it.

      Maybe someone else knows?

    • Mike Briggs October 15, 2016 at 22:04 #

      Hello Martin

      My reply is perhaps a little late to help, but my workflow involves using both programs separately.

      Photo Supreme is normally used to catalogue the RAW files first, then – often some time later – I swap software to process them in DxO. After files are exported from DxO I swap software again and import them into Photo Supreme – so I’ve not experienced your issue…

      Mike

  7. John Harmon August 17, 2016 at 23:35 #

    This thread is somewhat old, but I thought I’d chip in anyway.

    I think IMatch 5 http://www.photools.com/im5/ could be an excellent match for your preconditions. First, it’s designed from the ground up to use open standards and not lock you in to a proprietary solution. And it meets all of the items in your functionality checklist. It’s highly flexible, allowing it to be adapted to your workflow. For example, I’m also a DxO user, and IMatch integrates very well with DxO. It will even allow you to add metadata to your CR2 files, though I’d never do that; in any event, it transparently handles ‘buddy files, including ,xmp and .dop (DxO) sidecars. And, coming soon, a new product, IMatch Anywhere, will allow you to share an image database over a network and even the internet if desired. Fabulous software!

  8. Fred Thompson September 12, 2016 at 23:13 #

    digiKam is now at version 5.10, Daminion is at version 4.6, and Photo Supreme is at version 3. This article is rather dated. Has anyone found/created a current comparison, possibly with IMatch as well?

    • Mike Briggs October 16, 2016 at 01:09 #

      Hi Fred

      I can’t help with an alternative comparison, but as the author of the original article I thought you might appreciate a mini-update.

      Since choosing Photo Supreme I’ve not revisited digiKam properly, but it would still remain on my shortlist, and it seems that the authors have been doing a lot of backroom work to update the code. However the download page does mention that the Windows and Mac versions are not as stable under Windows (although, as mentioned above, I didn’t hit stability problems when I tested the earlier version).

      Based on my suggestion I now have a friend who uses the latest version of Daminion for light-weight DAM work, and hasn’t mentioned any problems so far – but personally I wouldn’t want to swap to it for my heavier usage.

      Photo Supreme has indeed been updated, the most obvious change being the addition (in version 3) of a very useful browser-like multiple tabbed layout, as well as various minor improvements and bug fixes. At the present time it’s on version 3.3 and continues to suit me well.

      As for iMatch, I’ve seen some good reports about the latest version, and I’ve taken a quick look around it too. My initial impressions are that it seems capable, is aimed at the wider DAM market as well as photographers, but for keywording and geotagging (the two areas I particularly looked at, as a heavy user of both) I prefer Photo Supreme’s approach. However it would take a lot more research to see if enough has changed – in relation to my wider evaluation mentioned in the article, not just the functionality and usability of the software – to make it through to the shortlist.

      Mike

  9. Martin October 18, 2016 at 05:26 #

    I am also in the process of evaluating various DAM software packages. First tried iMatch and while the UI is nic,e I was having issues with it displaying some imported images. The importer said it was done but I was just seeing a small icon in the main window. Interesting that the Quick View window was displaying them correctly. Removing and re-importing seemed to resolve most of the issues except for one larger folder with over 12,000 files that seemed to choke the importer. It sat at about 98% complete all day and never finished.I guess it didn’t like my system.

    That is when I saw your review of Photo Supreme. I too am mainly looking for a keyworder so I can find my images. I use Downloader Pro to get they off the memory card and give them standard names and DxO to process the raw images. So far in my testing, it is looking good.

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