Saturday Shout: Managing Your Digital Archive

March 25, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Saturday Shout | 18 Comments | |

Saturday ShoutI’ve just finished reading “The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers” by Peter Krogh (available for $22.02 in the US, £16.46 in the UK, full review coming next week) and it’s highlighted a LOT of shortcomings in the way that I archive my photographs (or rather in the way that I don’t archive them). Before I try and work out my own system, I want to find out how you all store, organise and manage your photo collections? What techniques and software do you use? How do you backup your images? What naming system do you use? Shout out now..

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#1 Tom Husband

I'm reading "The DAM" book too and it does have a lot good information. The author uses a Mac so is partial to I-view for archiving. He does mention some other software for PCs. The one I use is IDImager. I've been using Imatch for a few years but always found it confusing. IDImager is very intuitive and you won't find any better customer support.

1:57 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006

#2 Olivier_G

My detailled workflow:
- I name all my original files as YearMonthDay_HourMinuteSecond and add an alphabetical index that increases only to avoid doublons and systematically restart at A (with XnView and/or Rename). Ex: 20060325_103301A; 20060325_103302A; 20060325_103302B; 20060325_103303A; etc...
- Those original files are stored on my HD by year folders and are never edited (even no lossless rotation). I use only IPTC to annote/organize them.
- I make copy of selected pictures (about 1 out of 10) to work on: RawShooter for RAW conversion, NeatImage for noise removal, PTLens/Radcor for corrections, Picture Window Pro for editing.
- The final edited image is saved (TIFF 24/48 bits depending on image) and stored on my HD in thematic hierarchical folders. I keep the index name and add a meaningful title. A small JPEG version is made for web usage.
- I archive them on Verbatim DVDs (originals in Year Folders; finals in thematic folders) with MD5 integrity file (hkSFV), without multisession. DVD are named like Photo_0001A (A is a copy for home, B for another place). I use Cathy to catalogue/search them. I use CDSpeed to check the quality of burning. DVDs are stored verticaly in jewel boxes (no light, constant temperature) and seldom manipulated except for checking and reburning 2-5 years later.

I use XnView to browse/organize the originals (automatic rotation based on EXIF, even for RAW) and the finals. I can easily find any original/version as I keep the same Index from Original in all versions. Originals are archived on 2 DVDs, Keepers are additionnaly archived as TIFF and JPEG on 2 DVDs and all files are available on my HD for Viewing/Work. I only use standards, Naming is quite robust and those softwares for Image Management are freeware and can easily be replaced.

I tried iMatch, iView and some others and wasn't satisfied. I contribute to XnView and would like to suggest the Author an improved Image Management System.

2:34 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006


The most important thing is to use Delkin 100 year archival DVD-Rs.

If that's not good enough, you could use the Delkin 300 year archival
CD-Rs instead.

Very reasonably priced, as well.

3:33 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006

#4 Olivier_G

Well... Gold media use phtalocyanine which is more sensitive to laser variations than Cyanine and Azo: you may end with a lesser quality record depending on your writer (and its age). Many people actually experienced more errors with Gold Media.
My opinion is that I prefer a good quality record that will age pretty well for 5-10 years like with Azo... rather than a golden crap that will last 300 years, especially when considering price and availability.
Of course, if you own a Writer that has excellent compatibility record with phtalocyanine and stay calibrated, those Gold media are strongly advised.

4:43 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006


Very interesting, O_G. I'll have to look into that further.

5:09 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006

#6 JimmyD

I basically download each shoot from my Nikons, which have been set to number the files sequentially)to my Mac, make a catalog in i-View (awesome application), then burn them onto TDK CDs or DVDs.

I prefer CD's as they seem more stable. I burn everything I shoot, good, bad or indifferent to the master CD as you never know what you might want to go back to someday, like that lousy picture of your late uUcle George, but it was the only picture you had.

I also trust TDK CDs as the business I used to be in, we'd burn 200-300 archival CDs a month and never had a failure. Too bad they're taking their name off of CDs and private labelling them now, it'll make them harder to find.

6:11 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006

#7 JimmyD

Ooops, that was supposed to be "late Uncle George..."

6:17 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006

#8 PhilA

I'm on a Mac and therefore never need to do anything .. ha ha ha .. just a little joke .. I've never had a system failure till a couple of weeks ago when I dropped my Mac notebook, not anything any computer can cope with.

However I was gald that I had a full back-up!

I use a shareware application called SuperDuper, it makes a bootable carbon copy of my hard drive and for a couple of $s registration fee you can use it in delta mode. This takes 15 mins a week to have an exact copy of my hard drive.

So my flow is like this:
I copy from my FlashCard to a tempory desktop folder.
I rename the files with Something_Better_ddmmyyyy and add my own Metadata with Photoshop.
I copy them to a permanent home on my hard drive.
I then import them to iView, I add all the extra catalog items from iView, star rating.
I back up my hard drive with SuperDuper. I have two backup firewire drives which I flip flop between.
I then feel confident to reformat my flash card.
Once a month I archive the last month to CD, that includes the RAW and any Photoshop images.

So it worked for me .. until my computer was fixed I simply plugged in my firewire drive into another Mac (on loan from my son) and I booted from my drive.
When i got my Notebook back with new drive .. I simply booted from my own backup and reversed the backup to copy to the proper hard drive. Perfect. Nothing lost or down time.


8:05 pm - Saturday, March 25, 2006

#9 AA

I'm on a Mac too.

Generally I do not add Date/Time to the file name, as I mostly trust the tag that is added by the system.
But I do rename all the files as I browse through them and basically create folders by alphabets and then divide them in to years.

I mostly have been dumping them in to a couple of large external HDs on which I run utility every few months to make sure the files are in order - and it looks like it's time I bought a Terabyte soon.
The important photo files that have been worked on and prepped I burn to DVD, and that helps preserve the file's integrity a little more than having them on an HD which is constantly being scanned and accessed as we all know and the chances of the files getting corrupted are low but there is always a chance.

All those CDs and DVDs that claim to have 100 year life and all that - what's the point? I'm not going to live that long and by then file systems and computers will have changed and the quality of those photos will be shite anyways, because printing will have come and gone since the virtual, 3D video experience will be the way to go, directly inserted in to our cerebral cortex - photography will be a thing of the past! We're going to be able to experience video imagery LIVE and in the moment....
So don't get suckered in to spending extra cash on stuff you don't really need.
Plus, unless I am extremely famous and someone's going to write my autobiography and think that my shit's worth preserving - #### it when I am bored with the photos, I'll burn them all....... if people want copies they already have got the files and prints or I will hand them over to them......

3:34 am - Sunday, March 26, 2006

#10 Mike Zdancewicz

I'm a hobbyist, just beginning to formalize a system.
I store all my photos on my hardrive and back up to an external USB drive weekly. I also backup photos on CDR's everytime I shoot.

I use ACDsee Pro software to keep a database of my photos and to help me find them. The tagging and searching facilities are quite nice. I can give them a tag of 1 thru 5, with 1 meaning my best photos, what I'd consider publication quality. Most of my photos are tagged at 3 or 4, meaning average quality, imperfections making them a 4.
I can also add keywords and categories, so I can search by "family" or "football" and find the subject's photos by name. This works great for me.

3:39 am - Sunday, March 26, 2006

#11 John Koontz

Speed is of the essence for me. I wrote about my method on my blog.

I'm also going to do a backup on an external drive once the drive arrives.

5:34 am - Sunday, March 26, 2006

#12 Chav


1:56 pm - Sunday, March 26, 2006

#13 Daveed V.

My main drives are a software RAID-1 configuration (i.e., the drives are mirrored). A nightly script updates separate Firewire drives to be a delayed backup of the main drives.

I've been thinking that I should add another script to actively verify the disks, so I can detect failures in a timely manner.

9:37 pm - Sunday, March 26, 2006

#14 Ben Bryan

I also renumber my images from DSC_0934 to month/date/year/photo taken that day such as 032606-089. I have a 140 GB external dribe and have appropriate folders for each year, month and date. With that much space I have all photos from 2001 till now in a massive "backup folder" as well. I have been burning CD's as well.

11:36 pm - Sunday, March 26, 2006

#15 Edwinek

Well, I rename my pictures like Olivier does: They are then stored in folders named yyyymmdd-SomethingDescriptive, which in turn are stored in folders per year. All of this on a 250Gb HD, which is mirrored on an external 250Gb firewire drive. Also, everything is backed up on CD's, with a duplicate stored in a physically different location. I can't really use IPTC, since I shoot Nikon NEF's which are closed format and have been known to be ruined by trying to annotate them. Still looking for a good way to add keywords to them.

7:30 am - Monday, March 27, 2006

#16 PhilA

Just a word of caution to anyone else using iView!

I just had my first error - "couldn't save catalog file - [1310]" after searching on Google I found that my catalog was too big. I tried to reduce the size of the catalog and save but it wouldn't work. It seems once you get the error you will never be able to make a change and re-save the catalog. You have to go back to the start and re-import.

So anyone with a catalog approaching 1.4 - 1.5 Gb then stop and think!

I was ok by simply reducung the thumbnail size and quality, and I can keep them all in the same catalog.

I'm now thinking about splitting the catalogs .. a tiny image at import and then after I've graded and tagged them copy the "keeper images" to a second catalog with settings to create larger images for presentation.


7:35 am - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

#17 bob simpson

i take my photos, download them immediately to my laptop into a folder called: town address name. do a short edit in photoshop to choose the two or three to keep. rename these with the same image number plus an additional name eg the size or crop etc. these two or three are put into a sub folder with the date.
when i get home i save all the images direct from the camera to a single large folder on an external drive in numerical order so i can always refer back to them if necessary.
the photographs to have editing or to be used are saved to a folder on the external drive from the laptop with the calender month as the title. they are agian edited as required in photoshop and saved in a new date folder.
hope this makes sense. long-winded to write, but it is extremely easy to do.
you end up with folders within folders, but everything is tidy and easy to find and control.

11:07 am - Saturday, April 1, 2006

#18 Mark Andreani

My workflow's getting more organised by the day, thanks to having adopted APPLE APERTURE to project manage my files.... process is pretty simple - digital images are downloaded from CF cards into Aperture, web pages generated in that software to produce personal sites where the client can select shots for retouching; I then produce albums (folders!) in Aperture containing selected shots and work (retouching) in progress, and then once OK'd files have been uploaded to my lab (COLORWORLD via their STUDIO PARTNER software), I get Aperture to create 'Vaults' (archives) of that entire client's project folder. At the end of each day, my automated daily back-up copies my clients' work folders from my 15" Powerbook to my main desktop Mac, and then backs-up this AGAIN to an ageing but new-disc'd 3rd Mac - a G3! Finally, at the end of each month,I burn x2 DVD back-ups of all that month's work - one copy gets kept on the premesis, and the 2nd copy is shipped off to my parents' house for off-site safe-keeping...

7:55 pm - Saturday, April 1, 2006