This blog seems to have turned into a discussion forum for DAM (digital asset management system) users. I don’t mind that, since this is an important subject for any professional photographer, and increasingly important also for non-professional “snappers”.
One person who has contributed much to this discussion is the photographer Peter Russell, with whom I recently had an email exchange on the future of DAM systems that I thought could be interesting to share. Below you will find Peter’s email to me and my reply to Peter.
Here are some of the other articles on this:
- I am looking for a good DAM: Digital Asset Management software, the initial article that has a long an contents rich comment thread
- Features and Functions that my Digital Asset Management System (DAM) should have
- What DAM system do you use? (poll)
- “How I found my best Digital Asset Management (DAM) system” | Guest Post by Mike Briggs
Finding a perfect DAM may be a mirage but I think we are likely to see new and better solutions in the future.
My conclusion at the end is: yes there is definitely a future for DAM systems. For many professional photographers they are very, very important and for “amateur” photographers it is becoming an issue too. But it is likely that the way we organise and catalogue photographs will be very different in the future.
Here is Peter’s mail to me:
I’m so glad that you started this question on your web site, although I suspect that you had very little idea that the comments would travel so widely or generate such strong views.
However, what the comments have illustrated is how small the single-user base for DAM applications appears to be, when viewed through the eyes of software companies. This is one of those times when ‘anecdotal evidence’, with all of us knowing, or knowing about photographers who use or are looking to use DAM software, would appear to inflate our perceptions of the market as a whole.
It has been a long and rocky road towards finding a suitable replacement for Portfolio that must, from my own point of view at least, encompass a cross-platform browser for clients. It is for this reason that – presently – Media Pro seems to fulfil the majority of those requirements, although it is still not a brilliant Portfolio replacement.
I have retro-installed Portfolio 8.5.6 onto a PowerMac G5 running OS X 10.5.8 Leopard where it runs quite happily, albeit slowly compared to the latest Mac Intel offerings. What is also important is that it successfully opens catalogues created in Portfolio 8.5.8 Standalone, meaning that all my old portfolios that I have slaved so long and hard to create and fashion are not entirely lost. I was always led to believe by Extensis that an upgrade would entail the catalogue being upgraded too, with no path to reverse this. Clearly that is not true!
Of course this is going to entail even more work on the DAM side of the web site as I bring things up-to-date!
I really hope that your blog, which is widely read (or so anecdotal evidence would suggest!), spurs on perhaps just a few dedicated developers who can engineer cross-platform software for single users that encompasses the wide range of solutions offered by Portfolio allied to the speed that Media Pro has – for a realistic price. Whilst I appreciate that Extensis are telling us that their perception for a single-user market is too small to make money (and I understand that approach fully) that does not tell the full story. How many units are they talking about I wonder? One man’s too few can easily be another man’s too many!
Clearly the market that supports developers would be a small number of companies making all the DAM software, rather than the problem we have now of too many companies fighting over crumbs and diluting their own efforts. If I could write code I would certainly have a stab at it. One of the keys I believe is that DAM software designed to extract and embed metadata into JPEG and TIFF files – the most common for photographers – is probably relatively easy as the format don’t look like changing any time soon, but the ability to design software to read and add/extract metadata from constantly changing RAW files is another ball game entirely.
I hope that this promotes further lively conversation and help for what is an astonishingly interesting subject for long overlooked by too many.
As I say in my DAM web page, I am really concerned that we are coming full circle and returning to a “Shoe Box Filing System”!
I hope not!
Peter Russell LBIPP
Peter Russell Photography
Here is Peter Russell’s photography site.
Peter also has a very interesting page with information and tips on Digital Asset Management.
And this is my reply to Peter with some of my thoughts about this discussion and the future of DAM:
You are quite right, I had no idea that my initial, fairly simplistic post on DAM systems would generate so many comments. I in no way consider myself to be a DAM experts – there are many such people around – just a simple user.
On the other hand, the interest seems to indicate that at least there are quite a few people out there who are interested in this subject.
But perhaps our (your and mine) interest in this area is somewhat skewed, since we are independent photographers managing our own stock library (at least I assume you are). Perhaps that adds an additional need for structure and order compared to photographers who just want to “keep track” of images.
I am often surprised by the views of other photographers who seem to be entirely happy with e.g. Lightroom’s way of managing images. Or perhaps they are simply not too concerned with finding old images (but that might still be relevant).
I imagine that the technologies and tools that exist today would make building a “proper” dam quite different from what it was those 15-20 (?) years ago when both Portfolio and Media Pro were originally built.
But perhaps the way people organise and look for things today are also quite different from what it was then. Today “tagging” and “searching in the cloud” is an everyday task, whereas “keywording” (the same thing) and cataloguing is perhaps “out”, although it is essentially the same thing. You could perhaps compare it with the way MS Outlook vs how Gmail works (if you are familiar with both.
Perhaps there will be a new generation of sw that will arise, with some of the functionalities that we are looking for. Surely when people – everyone – are taking thousands of images every year they will want to go back and find some of them at a later date. Or will they not? Is old family pictures and the like a thing of the past?
Another aspect of this is the need for increasing efficiency and speed. Photographers today generate much, much larger numbers of images than what used to be the case (digital is easy and storage is cheap). So much more images need to be catalogued, so it becomes even more important to have a tool that is fast and easy to work with.
It seems that the discussion following my post has at least spurred some interest in these issues and it seems it has even been beneficial for some DAM developers. I have the impression that at least the Daminion sw has benefitted from it to some extent.
Since photography is not my only activity I have difficulties finding the time to do some proper testing and evaluation of the systems so currently I am trying to run some of the most interesting solutions “in parallel” to see how they work, compared to Portfolio that is still my “production” system.
The one thing every photographer needs to keep in mind though, or will discover sooner or later, is that a picture without a descriptive text (call it tags or keywords or anything else) is worth nothing, because it cannot be found and it cannot be identified…
What do you think about the future of Digital Asset Management? Write a comment.