, ,

A challenge that I face at home and increasingly at work is how to best to manage digital media. Digital media includes photographs and videos (and some other viewable stuff) but in this post I will concentrate on digital photographs.

My new favourite acronym is “CASE”, Copy And Steal Everything and as usual other people have worked out how to do this and kindly told us. The American Society of Media Photographers has been sponsored by the Library of Congress to publish a detailed guide. This post is a shortened summary with my own comments to add some context and I provide links to their website which I encourage you to explore.

The problem we have is that our families, co-workers and customers all have cheap digital cameras and smartphone and recording images is really easy and fun.

The whole point of recording an image is that someone will see it later. In the commercial context everything done to an image before it is viewed is a cost that we would prefer to reduce or eliminate. In the personal context we may enjoy some parts of the process such as taking and editing photographs but there are other parts such as back-up that are time consuming and annoying.

Let us consider the typical use case.

  1. The User uses a camera to take a batch of photos of an event such as a holiday or sports fixture. We call this a “Shoot”.
  2. All the images from the Shoot are uploaded to a computer
  3. The User tags the images in the Shoot with metadata (this can be as simple as choosing a descriptive folder name such as “Paris 14”)
  4. The User selects some good images
  5. The User processes the good images, for example, crops them or adjusts the colour
  6. The User publishes some images to a document or website
  7. The User archives the original and processed images for subsequent recall by the User.
  8. A viewer sees the published image

It can be seen that there are many steps between taking an image and it being seen. Generically we can identify,

  1. Capture
    • Taking a photograph
  2. Ingestion
    • Storing the photographs on a computer and adding metadata and minor adjustments.
  3. Working
    • More dramatic working of the images, for example creating PSD files.
  4. Publish
    • publishing
  5. Archive
    • The archive is to enable the User to recall images when they need them.

This generic process is explained in greater depth on the dpbestflow.org website. There are also more specific workflows suitable for different needs explained here.

Ingestion, backup and archiving

Most teams (or families) have little problem with the Capture, Working and Publishing steps. These are typically quite fun and users have good tools. The onerous work lies in the Ingestion, Archiving and back-up part of the the workflow and it is necessary to find good software tools to help with this.


Ingestion has several steps and it is best to use a software tool such as ACDSEE Pro or Adobe Lightroom that can help you apply metadata and build an easily searchable catalogue.

  1. Copy the files to an appropriate location in working storage.
    1. a good location is
      1. …\pictures\20143\Paris shoot
    2. in practise is best never to change the location of a file because this upsets the catalogues and indexes. Therefore in a network environment a DFS share is preferred. For example \\www.mycorp.com\ImageArchive\…
  2. Add metadata (eg keywords) about each image and embed it in the image files.
    1. embedding reduces your dependence on your software tool in future
  3. Process the images
    1. Delete all the rubbish (out of focus, thumbs, and duplicates)
    2. Rate the images. Images are typically rated 1* to 5*.  For any Shoot you might have 3 or 4 “hero” photographs graded 5* and another 10 rated 4*. Embed the rating information.
    3. Non-destructively adjust images if necessary (eg. Crop, Contrast …)
  4. Backup images
    1. This is typically not necessary if the images are stored on a file server that can offer file level restore.
  5. (optionally) Archive these source images
    1. Optionally convert to DNG format
    2. Copy files to a read-only location so they are stored securely. This can be done using the ingestion tool or using a scheduled task on the server.


The purpose of Archiving is ensure that source and published images cannot be modified and can be recalled with ease. In the workflow above I have Archived source images during ingestion therefore it is only necessary to provide and additional capability to archive published files.

  1. update and embed meta-data
  2. optionally convert to DNG format
  3. copy files to a read-only location

Choosing Ingestion and Cataloguing software

At home I use ACDSee Pro 8 on 64-bit windows for my 700 GB collection of photographs. I plan to use ACDSee to upload them to Flickr which now offers 1 TB of free storage and will do another post to tell you how it goes.

At work most designers will be using the Adobe Suite on an Apple computer and it might make more sense to use Adobe Lightroom than the Mac Version of ACDSee however I have not used this product yet.