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Author Topic: Is there a need for a 'standard' management structure to image libraries ?  (Read 9192 times)

Rhossydd

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On a recent thread about DAM (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=92371.0), before the usual suspect turned it into yet another personal fight and had the thread locked by the OP, one concept was repeatedly used "build your organization based on what works best for you"
It sounds a reasonable proposition, but one thing that never was discussed is what happens when someone else needs to access your image library ?

Will just making it up to suit you be a good solution for proper archiving ? In future people might be trying to locate your images after your death/incapacity.

Maybe there is some merit in a 'standard' system after all ?
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FranciscoDisilvestro

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You point out really important issues, since most discussions in this and other forum seem to address the own personal views of the photographer but do not address when somebody else needs to search in your archive. The topic about death/incapacity is a whole complex issue and I'll just give my opinion later.

There is a standard from the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC), which is widely used in the news and media industry, used also by LR, PS and most photo editing tools (here the latest IPTC revision from July 2014). Basically all searches in news agencies and news/media organizations are based on the information in the IPTC. Based on my own experience of working in the newspaper industry for a long time (IT, including the editorial / photo archive) it was a continuous strugle to have the photographers include the information in the proper fields. In that scenario, photographers have several assignments daily and after a few weeks they would not even remember the who, when and where of the photos if they did not documented properly on time, unless they were of somebody famous or a big event.
 
Another consideration is that the usual practice is that the person who search for a photo is not the photographer but an editor or journalist, so without a standard it would be almost impossible to find anything.

Regarding the topic of death / incapacity, I guess nobody want to think about it, but we should. The first thing I would think about is what would I like to happen with my photos? Do I want to leave them as a legacy to my family or others? or do I just want to have them destroyed and good bye? If the answer is to leave them as your legacy, well, make sure somebody is familiar with your archive, how to access it and how it is organised. Document it if possible, at least the basic things.

A special note for those who have digital assets in the cloud: It is very difficult, if not impossible, to get access to the account of a deceased person in most cloud services. It is more difficult than getting access to the bank accounts, so make sure you have a way to handle this, either by sharing your assets, having a joint account or having the account in the name of an organisation (trust, company, etc.) and not a personal one.

Regards,

Tony Jay

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Francisco has highlighted just one more reason why the cloud is not a very good option in DAM right now.
Hopefully in the future that will change.

Francisco is correct in stating that there are standards for image metadata encapsulated by the IPTC.
However, especially for the individual photographer, they are difficult and time consuming to implement.

In addition, to use agencies as an example: if the standards were absolute then surely a standard keyword list would suffice for all.
In fact this does not happen and each agency has its own keyword list and standard for keywording.

When the concept of metadata and keywording is applied to the individual photographer the problem just magnifies.
Individuals tend to keyword at a level of detail that suits them.
Some will keyword an image as 'family' with no more detail while others will also list the individuals present and perhaps the occasion as well.
There is no absolute standard that says that one approach is correct while the other is incorrect.
The same applies to the detail entered into the various IPTC fields.

In general what one shoots plays a large part in determining how those images will be documented not to mention the intended audience of those images. A photographic editor in a large press organisation will 'see' your image in a completely different way to yourself and will classify it very differently.

Perhaps an even bigger issue than the survival and accessibility of the images themselves is the survival of useful metadata associated with those images. Using Lightroom as an example it is a fact that many individuals never write the metadata to file so all that carefully accumulated metadata only exists in the catalog. In the future it is not inconceivable that the version of Lightroom in which those images reside is no longer supported by Adobe and will not run on current hardware. An even worse, but also conceivable, scenario is that Adobe itself is long dead and buried. However, if all the image metadata is written to file then the original software used to do the work becomes much less important.
As long as information is written into the correct fields it will be easily accessible in the future.
Although IPTC standards may change over time every iteration is well documented and in any case most changes are additions to the standard rather than fiddling with existing fields.

Finally, electronic data is proving itself to be very volatile.
A lot of thought and effort needs to go into ensuring that one's images (and metadata) survive long enough for anyone else to actually access.
Furthermore changes in technology make the whole field of electronic back up and archiving a very fluid environment.
Excellent strategies from just a few years back become redundant (CD-ROM) while other opportunities arise.
Budget is also a consideration.
The Library of Congress has massive resources to ensure that its electronic data survive.
Even individual professional photographers do not have access to that sort of resource.
Nonetheless with some thought and planning current advances in technology make back ups and archiving progressively more easy, accessible, and affordable.

I use a combination of hard drives, internal and external, some onsite and some offsite, to back up and archive my images.
Metadata is written back to file (XMP in the case of RAW images).
As it turns out I also back up the Lightroom catalog and previews as well to every hard drive as well.
The software I use is simple free utility that does bit-for-bit backups.
I confess that I do not have specific instructions in my will dealing with my image collection - something to remedy here, I think.

Hopefully, in the future, the tools and technology available for making robust backup and archives for our images will continue to improve and become cheaper.
Nonetheless adequate technology is present now to do the job but the majority of photographers, professional or otherwise, are not taking advantage of these tools and so they are barely able to recover from a single hard drive failure today never mind have their images available for posterity twenty years after their death.

So, Paul, I commend you for confronting an issue which is always somewhat uncomfortable to think about but it is certainly possible to have our image collection outlive us and be readily accessible to future generations be they just our families or a much wider audience.

For reference Peter Krogh has written an excellent book dealing with Digital Asset Management that, admittedly, is showing its age a bit in the details because technology has moved on. He has also recently released a video tutorial series using Lightroom for Digital Asset Management. The technology utilised in that video is relevant currently. In any case both book and tutorial expand on concepts that have proven to be timeless.

Tony Jay
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jjj

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Re: Is there a need for a 'standard' management structure to image libraries ?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2014, 09:00:59 pm »

On a recent thread about DAM (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=92371.0), before the usual suspect turned it into yet another personal fight and had the thread locked by the OP, one concept was repeatedly used "build your organization based on what works best for you"
It sounds a reasonable proposition, but one thing that never was discussed is what happens when someone else needs to access your image library ?

Will just making it up to suit you be a good solution for proper archiving ? In future people might be trying to locate your images after your death/incapacity.

Maybe there is some merit in a 'standard' system after all ?
That thought was kind of instrumental in how I ended up organising my work [YY-MM-DD description]. I have done it so anyone or any OS can easily parse what I have done on a general level with any file manager or any other organising software. This also means it's relatively easy [if a lot slower] for me to find stuff even if I'm not using say LR, which may or may not be here by the time I'm gone.
Hopefully though the clever organising and searching that programmes like LR should still exist, so fancy smart folder organising will also be doable. Because no matter how good you physical folder organising is, selecting out from that is painful if you want a collection of your favourite photos of chipmunks wearing tutus that you took in Malawi at Christmas between 2001 + 2013, particularly if you then decide to at a later date to select all the best ones with them wearing sandals instead.  ;D

The benefit of using a Date-description folder thing with meta-data sorting on top of that is that you can organise by two completely different methods which complement each other quite nicely.
The date-description is the least faffy way of physically organising your files as there's only one possible way of doing it, not to mention that programmes like LR + Bridge can sort shots out into date folders on import, so even easier to do. The metadata organising then can reflect whatever way you like to organise things, so if you want to organise by location or pet [as some who didn't like date-description folders did with their physical folders] you can still organise that way. I originally organised my folders by subject such as location, pet, friends and quickly realised that was a disastrous method as not only does it fall apart as you gather increasing numbers of images, but deciding which subject to file shots by made placing things in folders time consuming or conflicting. Not to mention you had to then recall under which subject a photo was stored. Was it by person, location, pet or whatever criteria you use. Too much work, not enough time.
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jjj

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Re: Is there a need for a 'standard' management structure to image libraries ?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2014, 09:07:54 pm »

Perhaps an even bigger issue than the survival and accessibility of the images themselves is the survival of useful metadata associated with those images. Using Lightroom as an example it is a fact that many individuals never write the metadata to file so all that carefully accumulated metadata only exists in the catalog. In the future it is not inconceivable that the version of Lightroom in which those images reside is no longer supported by Adobe and will not run on current hardware. An even worse, but also conceivable, scenario is that Adobe itself is long dead and buried. However, if all the image metadata is written to file then the original software used to do the work becomes much less important.
As long as information is written into the correct fields it will be easily accessible in the future.
This is why I have the LR catalogue setting - 'Automatically Write to XMP' turned on. Catalogues can corrupt. I've had it happen in LR once, so all development/keywording work that was done since the previous backup would have been lost if it hadn't been for auto-xmp writing.



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