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The DAM Book-Digital Asset Management for Photographers

Author:  Peter Krogh

The techniques in the book are for serious amateur or professional photographers.

Chapter 1 consists of definitions and concepts to be used in the book.

The prime directive is "Don't Lose the Images." Additional goals of DAM include:

  • Find Images When You Need Them
  • Save Time
  • Make Images Look Right
  • Ensure Forward Compatibility
  • Software Independence
  • Create Certainty

The benefits of DAM are set forth as:

  • Aids productivity
  • Adds value to photos by making them searchable and therefore available when you need them.
  • Enhances the longevity of your images by making the available, able to be migrated between formats or systems and to provide3 ways to back them up.
  • For pros, it makes licensing easier.
  • It makes it easier to provider images to buyers.
  • Lets you roll with technology changes, such as changes in storage media, operating systems and file formats.

Two types of software are available: Organizing software and Adjustment software.

Organizing applications include:

  • Browsers
  • Cataloging software.

Browsers allow you to view files and possibly organize them, but is only useable for files on the particular storage media. They may be able to display metadata, but again only for the images contain on the media being inspected.

Cataloging applications do more than that in a database that remembers the information about the images, previews the image and stores the metadata information. It doesn't matter if the images are stored elsewhere. Catalogs are databases.

Krogh discusses and describes examples and advantages of both types. These include tools like Adobe Bridge or Photomechanic (browsers), Microsoft Expression Media or IdImager (catalogs). He notes that there are some overlaps.

Adjustment Software comes in two main types:

  • Parametric Image Editing software (PIEware)
  • Raster image editors.

In some cases, both the organizer and the adjustment software may be in the same package, but they are often not as completely functional as standalone products of each type. He lists other utilities which may help as well, but nothing that isn't obvious.

The first chapter also covers Rules of Sound Digital Asset Management, such as

  • Systematize
  • Don't Rely on Your Memory
  • Be Comprehensive
  • Build for the Future
  • Do It Once, But Don't Overdo It

 Krogh proceeds to explain the data lifecycle for images. He also discusses Intelligent Imaging Technologies.

The book includes comments in the chapters about various topics, such as "How about getting rid of stuff?"

After the discussion of Rules and Concepts, Krogh moves onto other topics. Chapter Two is entitled "Non-destructive Image Editing" and covers a number of editing topics including Parametric Image Editing, working with raw files, Included is a long discussion of editing raw files and why this is an advantage, including the ability to include multiple versions of an image in one file.

Chapter Three covers everything you ever wanted to know about metadata, including the benefits and costs of entering all that data. Included are a review of different schemas and how to handle and preserve metadata. He not only explains the technical basis for using metadata, but also the practical benefits of doing something versus doing nothing to aid in organizing your files. Learn how to rate your photos to help you find the ones you really want to use. Again he covers grouping images for different purposes and using metadata to help create the groupings as you can then group files from multiple locations in groups, rather than being limited by what you put in a particular folder. These concepts are related to different cataloging software. Also covered is how to use GPS information to show where your photos were taken. Some of the information will be best used by professionals or high-level amateurs.

Chapter Four covers using files and folders to help with your organization system. Learn to keep original files and derivatives (ones that have been edited) in another folder. He discusses how to archive your images using a "bucket" system and use backup media. File-naming is another important part of what you do to keep things organized. An example of one of his rules:

File names should be no more than 31 characters long, and the only punctuation should be underscores, dashes and a single period just prior to the file extension.

There are several more rules for naming files and folders. He also discusses how to name your files to avoid overwriting originals with modified versions.

Because the book is aimed at both PC and Mac users, he follows up with a discussion of hardware for image storage in Chapter 5, including hard drives and other storage media. Different media are appropriate for different stages of the images life. He includes detailed discussions of the hardware, including interfaces, connectors and more. He provides information that will serve you well for other purposes as well as digital image storage. You can learn how to install drives, store them and more. Other media are covered as well. He suggests various configurations for you and covers everything you might need to use with a laptop, a desktop, and a server configuration.

Next, he moves on to an important area that is easy to forget about—backup and validation of the data you are storing. Chapter Five covers choosing hardware or online services for backup of your images. The author outlines the principles for making your choice and discusses the risks of each available method. The basic principle is "Keeping It Live and Local." The discussion includes details on the characteristics of various storage media and purchasing the appropriate hard drive. He goes on to cover installing your backup hard drives and more with a discussion of what configurations to use. The chapter concludes with a discussion of networks, monitors and a number of different system configurations to meet different needs.

The next chapter is entitled "Backing Up and Validating Data." The most important concept is that if you can't restore your data, backups are useless. He has a basic rule called the "3-2-1 Rule" that covers how to back up images safely. There is a review of the threats to your data from lightning strikes to malicious and negligent damage. He covers the various backup types and how to validate the data. The information covered is of value not only for photographers but states principles that apply to all type of important data. Once all the principles are laid out, the author proposes several different configurations to meet different needs. The chapter closes with how to test the restoration of your flles.

The next chapter covers what the author calls "Image Ingestion," the part of the image lifecycle when images are downloaded and some basic processing tasks are done. The list of tasks is fairly long-nine tasks. Each is discussed in detail. Next he covers ingestion with Lightroom and ImageIngesterPro, with the advantages and drawbacks of each.

The next part of the process is working files management, custom work on images. He provides workflows for the process and explains in detail how to proceed with each. Much is it is aimed at the professional or advanced amateur preparing for distribution in various ways, including proofs and archiving. Again the author is very methodical and detailed in outlining the workflow.

The next two chapters are specific to some applications used for maintaining the workflow. The first is Lightroom, an Adobe product and the second is a combination of two Adobe products, Bridge and Camera Raw and a Microsoft product, Expression Media. Sample workflows for each are provided.

Chapter 11 examines catalog software, applying principles discussed earlier in the book. He is provides specific information about software, starting with operating system. There are concerns about compatibility and exporting files from one program to another: "Software must have a way to export the information in some usable form." There is even a short discussion of using the same principles on other files.

He continues with information on how to manage your catalogs. There are lots of flowcharts to help with understanding of the principles stated. Expression Media is the primary tool covered and he goes into great detail about how to use it. Again, lots of screen images are used to illustrate the functionality.

He concludes with a chapter on data migration. Again the chapter starts with an outline of the principles to be covered. The migration includes everything from moving the data from one hard drive to another, one storage media to another, dealing with file names, and converting to the use of DNG files (Digital Negatives). There are tips on how to find what's in a directory most efficiently using the system itself and how to deal with duplicate files. The most important heading is "Migrating Disorganized Digital files to an Organized Archive Structure," important because you don't need any of the rest of the book if you are already organized. There is a complete workflow diescribed.

The very last thing in the book covers migrating from film to digital. He covers using a digital camera (with a "film stage") to do the scans. He goes over naming your scanned images.

The book has no actual closing chapter; it just ends with the scanning. This is a dense, information packed book for someone serious about getting photos organized. The principles and techniques will require a fair amount of work, especially if you already have a significant number of digital images, however, the results will make it possible to use your images in ways that are difficult if you do not use the principles stated. Using folders and filenames to identify and organize pictures is simple, but in the long run, it is difficult to use. You cannot put sufficient information in a file or folder name to let you locate particular files of a certain person, location, event, time, etc.. You cannot find images of particular people or places without looking through all sorts of folders. Using the techniques in this book, you would be able to find all images of an individual through the use of a database (catalog) and to preserve your images for posterity.

I highly recommend the book to anyone serious about being or getting organized. It is well organized and indexed so that it is easy to follow a complex topic. The principles apply not ony to photography, but also to organization of other media as well.

The DAM Book, Digital Asset Management for Photographers, Second Edition

Author: Peter Krogh
Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc.
Publication Date: April 2009
List Price: $49.99, available on Amazon for $31.49.

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