This chapter describes “Digital Asset Management” (DAM) in general terms. We introduce a few concepts that should help to understand DAM in the context of taking care of a collection of photos.
In the following text, we often use “management” or “asset management” instead of “digital asset management” for easier reading.
Why Use Asset Management ?
Our asset (an image we care to take) comes in a box (the image file). We cannot see what is inside the image file, but we can look into it with software that comes with our computers.
Many people manage their files because it is relatively easy.
Managing images is easy too, but requires initial and continuing effort.
Putting effort into managing images will helps us and others, to not only find files, but to find images, and find them quicker than if we had to search images one by one.
If we care about our images, we manage.
- People who work with agencies manage images according to agencies’ requirements.
- Professionals manage their images because it provides some business advantage.
Levels of Asset Management
There is more than one way to manage files and images.
- minimal: delete the files (yes, this is part of management too) or store them chaotically.
- basic: store them in a well thought out structure of folders or directories.
- basic plus: hint at the file’s content by giving the file a name like “JohnDoeInIllinois”.
- comprehensive: use basic management and metadata like “John Doe” and “Illinois”.
Let’s look at a few examples of storage structures for basic asset management. We can devise other structures, but possibilities to build a multidimensional structure are limited.
It is good practice to create unique names for folders on all levels.
- Structure by date: Year > Month/Week/Day > Occasion
e.g. Photos > 2001 > 2001-10 > 2001-10-Illinois
- Structure by location and date: Location > Year > Location Detail
e.g. Photos > USA > 2001 > 2001-10-Illinois
- Structure by customer: Customer > Job-ID > Details
e.g. Photos > NatGeo > NG4711 > 2021-Illinois-Great Lakes
Asset Management System and Functions
Comprehensive asset management requires a foundation, let’s call it the asset management system. It is embedded in applications that focus on asset management (e.g. PhotoMechanic) or can also do other things like Lightroom, Capture One, PhotoLab and others.
Apart from being able to maintain itself in a healthy condition, the asset management system must also be able to do a few things for its users:
- Add assets – files and metadata
- Maintain assets – change metadata entries, find files and images…
- Remove assets – files and metadata
Digital asset management helps to preserve the value of a collection of photos. Use asset management to make your knowledge of your photos available to other people and applications.
As we’ll see later, PhotoLab focuses on metadata rather than on comprehensive asset management.
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