Image management solution for a medium sized personal scanning project

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by John Faughnan, Jun 13, 2004.

  1. I'm looking at doing a largeish (3000+ image) scanning project [2].
    For various reasons I'm probably going to hire a student to do the
    scans and buy a Nikon V ED negative scanner (hard to find btw, most
    vendors are sold out).

    The image acquisition part is relatively straightforward. I'll be
    keeping the negatives of course. I'll image at about 2000 dpi and
    store as 99% JPEG. [1]

    My main questions are about image mananagement. I've looked at a few
    reviews of lower end software (iView MediaPro, Microsoft Imaging
    Suite, Adobe PhotoAlbum, Picasa, ACDSee, etc), and I can't tell if
    anything does what I want. I've used iPhoto extensively on my OS X
    machine, but this project will probably be PC based. Here's my short

    1. I want all the metadata to be accessible, ideally stored using a
    commercial database structure. So I can directly manipulate image
    identifiers, image paths, image titles, descriptions, roll
    information, catalog/album names, etc. I'd be happy with an Access
    database, a FileMaker database, or an open source database.

    2. I'd like very good support of embedded EXIF tags. So the album
    software should be able to write data to EXIF tabs within the JPEG
    headers -- such as image title, description, data of acquisition, etc.
    This data will mirror what's in the image management database.

    3. I want the album software to manage unique identifiers, ideally
    also within the EXIF header. I want to be able to go from any image to
    its metadata. The album software also needs to manage filename
    collision. I'd be just as happy for the album software to name every
    file with a unique identifier and blow away the original file names.

    4. I'd like to be able to set a prefix or suffix applied to images in
    addition to the album maintained image unique identifier.

    5. The solution needs to scale to tens of thousands of images and to
    manage image migration to external media catalogs.

    6. I'd like to be able to define a subset of the catalog and burn it
    to a CD along with a local catalog.

    7. I'd like to be able to edit images in an external editor
    (Photoshop, etc), and have the image software handle versioning
    (retaining the original).

    8. Indexing, searching, keywords, etc are nice, but not the main
    thrust of this project.

    I think these requirements are more typical of high end professional
    solutions. I hope to cobble something together from a few packages. I
    wonder too about some of the less familiar open source image
    management solutions, including some that are web based. I'd guess
    they'd be more likely to meet my needs.

    I don't care as much about integrated image management tools.

    Any thoughts from experienced users -- esp. Pros?



    meta: jfaughnan, jgfaughnan, image management, photoalbum, database,
    photo album, metadata, scanning, imaging, home, personal

    [1] In 10 years I may do this again with 2014 technology. Then it will
    be lossless. I am also consider JPEG 2000 for the better color

    [2] I have thousands of unfiled family photos. I plan to image the
    negatives and then manage digitally. I'll discard the prints and keep
    the negatives. After imaging everything, I expect to delete at least
    half the images over time. To help fund the project the student will
    do similar work for others. I plan to sell the scanner after a few
    months of use -- I don't do ongoing film work.
    John Faughnan, Jun 13, 2004
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  2. John Faughnan

    M Barnes Guest

    If you're willing to do this operation separately, I don't
    think you can beat Lupas Rename:
    I've used it for just the purposes you describe, flawlessly.

    Also, I have used ACDSee and IMatch. Both work fine
    for most of what you want to do.
    M Barnes, Jun 13, 2004
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  3. John Faughnan

    Terry Guest

    You don't mention Thumbs+ or IMatch, the best two packages in what I
    consider low-end. I suggest you start with them. I use IMatch, so most
    of my answers will deal with that.

    IMatch at

    Thumbs+ at
    Thumbs+ uses commercial DBs. The default is Access, but it can be
    configured to use various other DBs, including SQL Server.

    IMatch does not use a commercial DB. However, you can access all the
    metadata using it's built in scripting. Also, you can export the data
    to XML (or CSV) and re-import it. So you could export to XML, use
    various XML tools to make your changes, and then import the data back.
    In my opinion it would be easier to use the internal scripting (object
    oriented, quite powerful), but whatever works for you...
    IMatch can import data from EXIF or IPTC into the DB, and export data
    from the DB to EXIF or IPTC fields. They are not, however,
    automatically kept in sync -- you must explicitly export again after
    you have changed the DB.

    You can also edit the EXIF/IPTC data directly, so if there is some
    stuff you want in EXIF but not in the DB, you can manage that easily.

    However, below you mention keeping images off-line. That will make
    keeping the DB in sync with the EXIF information difficult (regardless
    of what image management solution you use).
    I suggest you do this before entering the images into the database. If
    you don't care about the original filename, why not get rid of it
    immediately. Create a unique ID from the current date/time.

    There are various renamers that can do this, I use THERename

    IMatch and Thumbs+ both include built-in renamers that can do this.
    Neither can generate a UUID in the technical sense, but they can
    create a unique name based on date/time (at least IMatch can, and I
    think Thumbs+ can).
    In the filename, you mean? Easy. Though again I would do this before
    putting the image into the DB.
    Both handle large databases, and can manage images on off-line media.
    In IMatch, this could be done in various ways. You could create a
    subset DB, but personally I would export the metadata for the "local"
    images to XML, and burn that onto the CD/DVD. Because XML is text,
    that makes the data readable any time anywhere (eg, if you need to get
    at it in 10 years).
    Versioning could be difficult, depending on what you want. Versioning
    can be handled by using a standard set of filename conventions, or a
    standard set of directories. If you standardize your workflow, these
    packages will work OK for this. But neither handles versioning
    inherently. For example, I would like image management to link all
    versions of an image to the same "entry", with one thumbnail. Under
    that thumbnail entry, you would be able to get to different versions
    (and different file types, raw, jpg, tiff, etc.). I don't know of
    Image Management software that works this way, though I think we'll
    see it in the next year or so in IMatch.

    In IMatch you can use the structured categories to keep track of
    versions, and this can be quite powerful. But every version has its
    own thumbnail, so it's not my ideal versioning.
    And *any* package will handle this.

    On the other hand, if keywords and searching are just "nice" (not
    required), why are you bothering with image management at all? What
    will you be storing in the database, and when will you be searching
    the DB for what?
    If you plan to delete half the images, why not do this *before*
    scanning, instead of after. That will save you 1/2 the cost and time.
    You don't have to scan it, enter it in the DB, figure out its
    description and keywords, back it up to multiple media, etc.

    A final question: Is this worth the time and effort to you? Managing a
    large collection of images takes time. And it sounds like you plan to
    do significant editing (since you want versioning) = more time.


    Terry, Jun 14, 2004
  4. Terry, you ought to win some kind of usenet award for thoroughness and
    helpfulness. Maybe a vintage 1970s Stan Lee No-Prize :)!

    I will investigate both recommendations, they sound much better than
    anything else I've looked at. Your renamer suggestion is also much

    A couple of responses to some of your specific questions (you've
    addressed all of my primary questions):
    I was originally thinking I'd eventually move all the images to my
    Mac, possibly after I buy my next machine (currently I'm running on an
    iBook that's straining under the image load). So I wanted an
    application to park and manage the images, preferably an app that
    would allow me full control of metadata and optimal export
    capabilities. The plan may change, but having control over the
    metadata gives me more flexibility.
    It's a division of labor issue. I can't outsource the editing step,
    but I can outsource image acquisition. The person doing the
    acquisition will be managing the metadata (basically limited to roll
    date and roll identifiers!), I'll be doing the editing. I'm much
    faster at editing/deleting in a digital than analog workflow -- I have
    a rhythm for it using ranking measures, sorts, side-by-side
    comparisons, etc. The main metadata entry (comments, etc) will occur
    after the editing stage.

    Given my available time for this kind of work, the cost/benefit ratio
    looks good. For a few hundred dollars I can get a task done that
    otherwise awaits my retirement.
    I've been all digital for acquisition for a couple of years, and
    managing that library takes me about 1/10th the time and energy it
    took to manage albums. Maybe 1/20 to 1/30! I don't think that's true
    for everyone, but it works for me. Even more than the acquisition
    benefits of digital (many pictures -> good pictures, darkroom, etc)
    digital image management has been a big personal plus. (Even using
    iPhoto - a very imperfect product that's less imperfect than it used
    to be.)

    Thanks again,


    meta: jfaughnan, jgfaughnan, digital image management, photography
    John Faughnan, Jun 15, 2004
  5. If one already has Photoshop (CS) is there any compelling reason to not
    use the Image Browser to manage digital assets?
    John McWilliams, Jun 15, 2004
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