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Old 01-11-2006, 07:47 AM   #1
Cristen Gillespie
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Default Principles of photo management

Marjolein - once Adobe Lightroom gets going (I know it's Mac only right now), it might be just the thing for you. Perhaps if you give me more specific needs from an asset manager, I could see what Lightroom does, or does not do (currently), that you want it to.

   
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Old 01-11-2006, 10:41 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cristen Gillespie
Marjolein - once Adobe Lightroom gets going (I know it's Mac only right now), it might be just the thing for you. Perhaps if you give me more specific needs from an asset manager, I could see what Lightroom does, or does not do (currently), that you want it to.
I'm certainly following developments for Lightroom - it might end up in my toolset (if I can afford it!). But at this point it's hard to say really what I need from an asset manager - I'm starting basically from scratch but reading as much as I can, product descriptions, articles, even a DAM book I just bought [1], and testing several apps.

One problem is that I do not - as several products and even the DAM book assume - deal only with digital photographs I take mself, in batches of a "shoot": I use an analog camera, occasionally two, and not all films are completely filled in the space of a day or even more. I also use my little camera phone (and used the one in the phone I had before this). I may end up buying a real digital camera some time, but not yet, and likely not this year. I get photographs from others, do do with as I please, or specifically to use on my web site, either as prints (so they would need to be scanned), or as digital images (they might be in some RAW format although I haven't seen that yet). I bring things from trips that I like to use as illustrations, and make scans of them on my flatbed scanner. I might even want to make use of stock photography or clip art. That's a lot of images of various origins, in various formats, with overlapping date ranges, with different copyrights. And one way or another, all of those images will need to managed.

Even accounting for the difference between a "browser" and a "cataloguer" (a difference I started to suspect in my long rambling "thinking aloud" post in this thread, and then saw confirmed a few days later when I picked up the DAM book), I can already foresee I will need more than two applications. And however sensible the archiving system promoted in the DAM book seems, it is based on "shoots" and won't work unchanged for my varied collection of images.

Actually testing such software, ideas come to me. I already have a much better idea now that I've re-acquaited myself with ThumsPlus and worked with XnView (and the two of them together). I'm learning how applications could integrate and which kinds of integration (and non-conflict) are essential. I'm still far from even designing a storage system for all this material although (thanks to the DAM book) I've seen that my first attempts aren't going to cut it.

This is one reason why I last month ordered the film scanner I wanted to have even though I still haven't worked out what new computer hardware I'm going to need to "drive" it - I can use it temporarily with my laptop which by now is actually a bit more powerful than my aged "main" computer: that way I can get more ideas while practicing making scans (storing raw scans as well as a "master" version? storing derivatives in a separate structure or not? what processing do I need anyway to get from raw scan to master? what would be a good set of plugins to have to do essential editing? etc.)

So while I appreciate your offer, I could not really tell you what I would need from Lightroom - yet - or if I could use it at all. I'll be sure to try it out when a windows version is available - if it will run on Win2000 that is...


[1] The DAM Book, Digital Asset management for Photographers; by Peter Krogh: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/059...id=1137007506/
I dithered a lot before buying the book, putting it back, picking it up again, ... because it seemed so much based on Bridge (which I'd never heard of before seeing this book); but actually it contains a lot of useful concepts regardless of applications used, and is also beautifully done - well worth the nearly EUR 33 I paid for it here.

   
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Old 01-13-2006, 07:21 AM   #3
Cristen Gillespie
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Krogh's books sure looks purty on the cover. I'll have to get a looksee at B&N.

Asset Management, if we were all perfect, would follow the rules of database design. Know what you need before you start entering data.

However, in the real world, we start with pictures and figure out as we go what it is we need<G>

One thing, at least as far as my understanding goes, the "shoot" you refer to isn't a physical source thing--the photog shot 150 images of Model Sasha on 1/20/04 and that's the "shoot." It's the folder of files you bring into the browser/cataloguer. So if you set up directories by date, assuming that's what you want, you don't have to worry about the source of the images, whether cell phone or glass negatives you've scanned. What you have to worry about is seeing that they're placed in the correct physical location.

However, even that isn't immutable. In Portfolio I can create any number of galleries based on whatever criteria I want, and in Lightroom, if I've understood correctly, you create Collections that pull files from multiple "shoots" into one Collection according to whatever criteria you have for it. I haven't yet found time to try out Collections (my mom is still needing a lot of attention) These aren't the same as the "shoot" or "catalog" that creates thumbnails which keep track of the file in its physical location. So any program which can do more than act as a browser can let you manipulate the files according to your own needs, even momentarily and temporarily, without dealing with their physical source or location.

If you plan to archive your files, and there are oodles of them, you'll want to be able to catalog, not just browse, through them. Cataloging always costs more, but when your source files run into the many hundreds, if not thousands, and you want maximum flexibility in how you use those images later on (by date, location, photog, camera, scenic or portrait, whatever), only cataloging makes that easy and sensible.

And if you don't want to keep all your images on a hard drive connected to your computer, you'll want a program like Portfolio that provides you with the ability to manipulate the thumbnails created from CD or DVD without having the CD or DVD "online." If it can't work offline, you'll be working harder soon. (Or you can simply daisy chain humongous hard drives<G>) Only being able to work with files that are offline, imo, is worth any price. (Bridge being "free" to me, so I don't worry that it's incomplete and primarily a browser<G>)

   
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Old 01-13-2006, 09:44 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cristen Gillespie
Asset Management, if we were all perfect, would follow the rules of database design. Know what you need before you start entering data.

However, in the real world, we start with pictures and figure out as we go what it is we need<G>
Luckily, I have experience with database design, and years ago even started a database for my pictures (without any images, just a catalog with numbers, dates and descriptions) - but that, far from complete, is sitting on an old computer that hasn't been turned on for a few years now... maybe I'll still be able to get at that data, maybe not. But going digital in the sense of planning to get every image into digital form, not just the ones I get by email or off my camera phone, I essentially need to start over, and I do realize quite well how hard a task that is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cristen Gillespie
One thing, at least as far as my understanding goes, the "shoot" you refer to isn't a physical source thing--the photog shot 150 images of Model Sasha on 1/20/04 and that's the "shoot." It's the folder of files you bring into the browser/cataloguer. So if you set up directories by date, assuming that's what you want, you don't have to worry about the source of the images, whether cell phone or glass negatives you've scanned. What you have to worry about is seeing that they're placed in the correct physical location.
The fact that a "shoot" isn't anything physical is the problem, really. It's what I would call a "logical batch of images" - but for me that could mean images covering 5 films from two cameras, with overlapping date ranges for the films, notes kept for individual pictures or short ranges of them, plus images taken with my camera phone (same date overlap), which have EXIF data in them. Then I get on the train, get off again the next morning in another city, and effectively start another "shoot" - likely with film still in the cameras from the previous ones, and the camera phone pictures not uploaded anywhere (but at least they carry dates).

See the problem? What Peter Krogh describes is a whole workflow with a "shoot" as the basis. That doesn't match with what I do - and it's only the first conceptual problem. I've been struggling with the concept of "overlapping" films (from different cameras) since I started to write that little database; it's worse now - and it's not something that even fits into Peter's storage system. For instance he uses "buckets" to store images in (essentially directories) and puts the end date at the end of the directory name. But I have physical films, and need to be able to find those back - and tie them to the digital catalog. Eventually I arrived at a system to give each film a number (a sequential number within a year, e.g, 2005-063), and assign that number as soon as I put a film in the camera; and I keep notes by date (in a separate booklet for each camera if I'm using two). Each film is then also assigned the range of dates it covers (if there is more than one date). Fine so far - but how do I integrate that with the digital images from my camera phone? I have a whole new "overlap" problem and this one I haven't solved yet.

Then I have images - some I make, some I get - from other origins and even of other types: more overlap. Peter's system, however clever and sensible, simply does not fit. It's a matter of not only database design but also file system design (and Peter does make it clear the latter should be organized to enable back up and archiving). But what I need is just conceptually a whole lot more complicated than what he describes.

So what's a shoot (for me) really? A city? A hike? A country? A trip?
When I'm at home I can download images from my camera phone any time, but I'm not in the habit of pulling a largely unexposed film out of the camera (unless I come back from a big trip). The basis of my workflow will (mostly) be the batch of films I get back from the lab - a large one after a trip, smaller ones in-between; as well as "shoots" in between with the camera phone. And several other starting points for the other types of images. I can't have one workflow, in other words, but need a whole number of different ones depending on the origin of the images. And, importantly, there's not going to be a nice chronological order.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cristen Gillespie
However, even that isn't immutable. In Portfolio I can create any number of galleries based on whatever criteria I want, and in Lightroom, if I've understood correctly, you create Collections that pull files from multiple "shoots" into one Collection according to whatever criteria you have for it. I haven't yet found time to try out Collections (my mom is still needing a lot of attention) These aren't the same as the "shoot" or "catalog" that creates thumbnails which keep track of the file in its physical location. So any program which can do more than act as a browser can let you manipulate the files according to your own needs, even momentarily and temporarily, without dealing with their physical source or location.
I can so something similar with ThumbsPlus. I can do a query, and store the result as a collection; I can even update it and any new images matching the criteria will also be in the collection. It uses a database for "external" mete data, so that's good - in MS Access format by default, which I don't like, but it can use ODBC and should (that way) be able to use MySQL. I'll need to study how to do that, since that would enable me to even tack other things (like extra tables) on to the database if needed, and have all the tools I might later need to convert the data into another type of storage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cristen Gillespie
If you plan to archive your files, and there are oodles of them, you'll want to be able to catalog, not just browse, through them. Cataloging always costs more, but when your source files run into the many hundreds, if not thousands, and you want maximum flexibility in how you use those images later on (by date, location, photog, camera, scenic or portrait, whatever), only cataloging makes that easy and sensible.

And if you don't want to keep all your images on a hard drive connected to your computer, you'll want a program like Portfolio that provides you with the ability to manipulate the thumbnails created from CD or DVD without having the CD or DVD "online." If it can't work offline, you'll be working harder soon. (Or you can simply daisy chain humongous hard drives<G>) Only being able to work with files that are offline, imo, is worth any price. (Bridge being "free" to me, so I don't worry that it's incomplete and primarily a browser<G>)
Exactly that is why one needs a "browser" (XnView for me for now) as well as a "catalog program" (ThumbsPlus for now). I don't have oodles yet but once I seriously start scanning all my files (after working out a storage system for everything) I will have. Try this: one "big" trip nearly every year, about 4 weeks, roughly 1- 1.5 film per day - since 1987. I knew I would need a catalog when I started - long before there were such things as digital cameras or (consumer) film scanners: that's why I started to make one

I still don't know whether ThumbsPlus can do all the things I need - but I do know it can work with "offline" collections: it has the thumbnails and database data and can work with that, and even if needed prompt me to load a particular CD, for instance. But I would like some sort of scripting capability - it does have batch capability but I'm not sure that is scriptable.

But my biggest problem for now is to work out a storage system that integrates all my images, different from Peter Krogh's but at the same time as easy to archive and back up. I can't build a real database until I have that worked out. Frankly, it's giving me headaches...

   
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Old 01-13-2006, 10:59 AM   #5
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Some random thoughts; no recipes for success, no prescriptions. Maybe something will trigger an "AHA". Maybe not. ,-)

While the concept of "shoot" and "roll" don't fit your needs, you might consider them as useful attributes that an image might have. Roll could, among other things, point you to the physical location where the negatives or slides are stored. Shoot might be anything that makes sense to you/helps you remember where a photo might be.

"2005-China-Shanghai" for example.

But roll or shoot as the record unit? No, it seems not. Given your description of sources of images (anything, everything! <G>) it seems that the individual database record wants to be the individual image.

The database would have to know where on the HDD the image file is but that could be almost anywhere and organized in any way that suits you. I organize my batches of images under folders per year and underneath that a folder for each "event" that the photos cover, arranged by date in folders like 12-25-Family_Christmas. Then there are folders like 00-00_Garden and 00-00_Cats for random shots that fall into one of a series of ongoing subjects. Or 12-00_Misc for misc. shots in December.

Hmm. [leaps off in a different direction] What if all new images were saved as is and conveted to a JPG thumbnail of reasonable size. Any new images that began as JPGs would retain their EXIF data; with an image catalog/browsing program, you could add further EXIF data while looking at the picture, within its context (other photos in same batch) The EXIF data could become the "feed" to your database; the low-rez images would make further visual browsing very quick and if there were a consistent relationship between the name/location of the thumbnail and the full rez image, the latter would be easy to find as well.

   
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Old 01-14-2006, 03:52 AM   #6
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Some random thoughts; no recipes for success, no prescriptions. Maybe something will trigger an "AHA". Maybe not. ,-)
Thanks! I'm partly doing similar things, but the way you put things triggers new thoughts as well.

For instance, "roll" is something I use already: 2005-003 would be the third one started in 2005. Images then get named after that with the negative number tacked on: 2005-003-16 - with whatever extension. More suffixes for derivatives but I don't have a consistent method for that, and maybe it should just be consecutive numbering and metadata anyway. For presentation I tack on a suffix for main dimension, such as w150 for a 150-pixels-wide image or x400 for a 400x400 image. Not set in stone yet for the suffixes, but that's my approach for now. But reading your post I'm suddenly thinking I could adapt a somewhat bit similar naming system for my digital images, like 2005-DCM-023 would be the third image taken with my camera phone in 2005. Hmm.

Folders... From the DAM book I've learned that naming folders for content isn't always very flexible but I could apply a label for a trip as that would be more chronological; everything else would be keywords: Beijing, China, environment, Olympics; cat pictures would just get keyword cat - not be in any specific folder. Maybe parallel folders for film and digital, named simply by year:
  • 2004
    • film
    • w800i
  • 2005
    • film
    • w800i
etc....

Need to ponder your message some more, it is getting my gray cells working!

   
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Old 01-14-2006, 01:16 PM   #7
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Ok...I've split this thread off and I'm posting so the thread will post in Get Posts > New Posts...

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Old 01-14-2006, 08:07 PM   #8
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Thanks, Terrie.

Plus a repeat of the comments in the original ;-)

   
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Old 01-15-2006, 09:03 AM   #9
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An observation, possibly not at all valid<G>, but it seems to me you're trying to carve in stone what you want before you know you want it. The point of a lot of features in both good browsers and asset managers is how flexible your "filing cabinets" are. IOW, how well you can cross-reference the same file so it can suit many different purposes.

The key to allowing yourself to create a physical location for the files (if you don't scan 'em and archive on CD or somewhere, they're not much use no matter how clever your organizational scheme is), without undo worry about how that physical location is going to affect your ability to retrieve those files, is naming conventions and keywords. It really doesn't matter what the "card catalog" container looks like. It matters what you do to be able to retrieve it. In theory, and I don't advise this, you can dump all your images into one great pile (the catalog). It won't matter where they come from, who took them, when they were taken.

You just want to be able to reach into that pile and pluck the image you're after out and plunk it down on a web site or layout page.

Jot down on a piece of paper what criteria you are likely to use under any given circumstance to organize your files--be that date, location, camera, subject matter, even file size or format. So you might have a file that was taken on July 12, 1978, in China, Beijing, in the Forbidden City, in the something government building, of a local young man polishing the floor, and the file was taken on 35 mm film, and maybe it's now been scanned in 16 bit and isn't retouched yet. (Always save your scans separately from the finished file, but you know that).

All that goes into keywords. The keywords can reside partially in the filename, partially in the EXIF data *you* create. Perhaps you named it China071278Beijing. I don't know ThumbsPlus, but I gather it is very similar to Portfolio. Any portion of a keyword can be used as the basis for a search.

So in the case of the young man polishing the floor, I might have added keywords not only for date and place, but subject, and more than one keyword describes this subject (young man, worker, people, occupation...), and more than one keyword describes the location (China, Beijing, Forbidden City, building x...).

So my files are a huge pile of images on the floor and I can still retrieve the ones I want (every picture involving Beijiing, for instance, or Beijing AND people AND occupation). Or Beijing, not cell phone camera, not nighttime, not landscape, and people.

You don't care *where* the files are physically located. You only care that you can get at them again in such a way that you can retrieve them when you have a different purpose from the first time you retrieved them. The real work is in the keywords. Today you need pictures of Beijing, tomorrow pictures of workers from all over China, and the day after, you want pictures of government buildings all over the world. Just give your archival disk a unique name and the asset manager will tell you what disk the file you want is on. It's up to you, of course, to make physically locating the disk something less than the complete nightmare it sometimes is for me (shame on me<ggg>).

Don't give yourself a headache<G> Give yourself a jolly big keyword list and figure out which set of keywords should go in the name, which in the name of the catalog, and from there you move into galleries that are flexible. And if your naming convention for filenames only holds up for a year, and next year you have another naming convention, you're still covered. Because you're not going to retrieve files based on location or filename, but on keywords.

The hard part is taking the time to assign those keywords. Get sloppy and images will get lost. But catching up is a great rainy-day activity. ;-)

   
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Old 01-15-2006, 11:22 AM   #10
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Good points. I'd modify the "one big pile" strategy with an eye toward backup, though. So far, my year by year system has made it fairly simple to back up to CD or more lately DVD and probably in the future, doubleDVD or whatever they call it.

But whatever the storage system, backup is a clear necessity, so a bit of thought to structuring it w/ backup media capacities in mind is a good idea up front.

And it might be good to be able to track a given image in the database to where it's backed up.

Brings up another point ... online vs offline storage.
Sooner or later I figure I'll want to sort through the images from a few years back, keep some handy on the network server but relegate others to backup. I'll need some way of tracking those down.

Simpleminded me, I may resort to something I suggested earlier. Make relatively low-rez downsampled versions of them all, say at screen size, keep those on the PC so I can enjoy them, but put the fullsize originals away on CD/DVD.

It'll then be simple to track down the full size original of \2003\00-00_Cats\TN_IMG2013.jpg

   
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