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Digital Asset Consolidation

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Like most Aussie families my mob tries to get together at Easter and Christmas. Normally that means a trip to my parent’s house in Hamilton, Western Victoria. While we all currently live in the same state, it wasn’t possible to get together this time around. I expect to make the trip to visit my mum, and one of my older brothers, in around a week. My own Easter break was particularly quiet. I got a lot of sleep, took a few walks and spent quite a bit of time consolidating my digital assets. Actually the process is currently described as Digital Asset Management (DAM) and is a major issue facing all professional photographers working with current DSLR cameras.

These days the process is considerably easier than when I shot film. With the intention of establishing more organised work practices I can remember undertaking massive clean up operations involving trashing thousands of negatives, slides and prints. During one such clean up I filled 6 very large garbage bags, the wheelie bin variety, full of images. The next step would be to re-file the remaining images into a system that would allow me to locate individual slides/negatives when required. I would estimate that I have around 40 three ring binders full of film-based images categorised as follows: China, Tibet, Ladakh, Myanmar, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Central Australia, The Top End, Wilsons Promontory, Philip Island, High Country, etc. I also have numerous binders full of duplicate slides used for teaching (from the days when slide projectors were favoured by photography tutors) and submission for publication in magazines.

Regular readers of this site would know that I am an avid user of Adobe Lightroom. As well as having a high quality and intuitive Develop module, the ability to easily import, rate, categorise and keyword your images makes it a great application by which to better manage one’s digital assets (images). By typing in a few simple keywords I can locate an individual image, or series of images, from a catalogue of many thousand within a matter of seconds. That is, assuming the keywords have already been assigned to the image/s in question. Ideally this would be done at the time of importing the files from the camera, via a card reader, into the Lightroom Catalog (US spelling). But, for the less organised, it’s possible to spend a few rainy days catching up on this kind of work.

Right now I have too many catalogues, spread over several drives. Sadly you can only successfully search for an image within the catalogue in which it resides. So, I’ve begun the process of consolidating catalogues as follows:

  • Film (mostly from a variety of Leica M and R series cameras, Hasselblad X-PAN and X-PAN II panoramic cameras and Hasselblad medium format cameras)
  • Mobile Devices (e.g. Apple 3Gs iPhone) and
  • Digital (original images from my Canon 5D and 5D Mark II DSLR cameras)

Each of these 3 separate catalogs will be stored on the same drive (at this stage that’s a 1TB external drive, although I plan to invest in a Drobo down the track) with 2 other 1TB external drives being used as backups (one at home and one at another location).

After passing this idea by my friend and colleague, David Burren. I put a link to David’s upcoming tour to Antarctica on a recent blog. Here it is again at Antarctica 2010: A Photo Odyssey. The tour is now confirmed although I believe there may still be a few places available. Check directly with David if you’re interested. Anyway, as all my files (film-based scans, DSLR and mobile phone images) will probably number less than 10,000 I’m going to take David’s advice and put them onto a single Lightroom Catalog. It’s a smart move as that quantity of files won’t be so high as to dramatically slow down the software’s functionality.

I expect to have all my catalogs consolidated, into a single catalog, together with the necessary backups detailed above, by the end of next week. Then the final stage, improved keywording and rating, I expect to finalise over coming weeks. By the end of the year I may also store a third backup onto Cloud Storage.

So, while it’s a lot of work, it’s a breeze compared to what I put myself through back in the days of film. Ultimately, the result will be a far better and more easily managed system than was previously the case. I’II then be able to focus on the next project: getting the best of my thousands of film images scanned, imported (with appropriate keywording and rating) into my new Film catalog. There are far too many images for me to scan, so I’II probably look at sending the job out to a bureau that specialises in this type of work. Once completed I’II write about the process, cost and quality.

One great advantage of looking back at older work is that you get to see it again through older and, hopefully, wiser eyes. During my Easter endeavours I discovered a few images from last year that I decided to re-process, in a slightly more aggressive manner, than I would have previously. The slideshow at the top of this post features some of these images. More will follow over coming days.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography


2 Responses

  1. Even though it’s a little old, I found this to be an excellent starting point for sorting out my images. Hopefully this can be as useful to your other readers as it was to me when I was sorting my mess of an archive.


  2. Hi Fergus,

    You’re spot on. I’m aware of The DAM Book and can recommend it for anyone who wants more than just a cursory understanding of the subject. It’s written with photographers in mind and is widely considered the best source in its field. Updated last year its well worth a look, particularly for folks who are still prepared to read text books. I was considering discussing the book in a later podcast. But, for now, your suggestion is well timed and appreciated.

    All the best,


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