Photo Archive and Management Solutions

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Today I would like to discuss the management of your photo archive. After a few years of work, even as a hobbyist, a photographer can easily collect hundreds of his own works. Even hobbyists will occasionally get requests for specific shots from their portfolio, so it must be easy for you to find the shots you need quickly. Try as you might, you will not be able to remember every single photo, when it was taken, titles and contents. EXIF data helps to some extent, but such data will not be able to tell you about the people or things in the shot. You will need an advanced solution in order to navigate through the library of your work.

I admit that my old system of archiving my photos is starting to become cumbersome. Had I had the forethought to think of archives when I get into digital photography, I would have spent a little more money up-front on specialized software instead of, perhaps, some of the filters I bought. Yes, I truly believe that archive management is that important. But alas, I did not have such forethought and now I am faced with the unwieldy task of trying to reface my archive. But it is my hope that, once again, you will learn from my mistakes so that you are not faced with the same.

Not all archival solutions are equal.  There are many schools of thought about archival software, so I won’t try to dictate which you should use.  But at the very least, you should consider the following features:

  • Tagging – Tags allow you to string any number of items to a photo.  Tags can be anything you feel is appropriate:  Monochrome, Lake Placid, Tim, Blue, Green, Summer…you can literally describe each photo as it is added to your archive.  This makes it easy to find things months from now when you want to see all of the pictures you took at the mountain house – that you’ve visted twelve times across six years.  Tag searching doesn’t care when you took the shot or what camera you used.
  • RAW Support – If you use RAW, support for your camera’s RAW format is essential.  Double check that all your preferred file formats are supported.  Your archival solution will likely become part of your workflow.  Exiting your program to convert RAW files is a breakdown in your efficiency.
  • Interaction with your Photo Editor – This should be a no-brainer.  There is no reason why your archival solution shouldn’t easily interface with your favorite editing tools.  For that matter, there is no reason to consider any archival tool that doesn’t interface with your editing tools.

There are literally hundreds of software applications available on the market, not including  home-brewed solutions you may find documented on the web.  I obviously cannot introduce you to every option available.  But here is a short list of possible solutions (feel free to post your own suggestions):

Which solution you choose is going to depend more on style and preference.  As I mentioned above, you may also stumble upon some home-brewed solutions or open source software that may be able to achieve what you need.  Just leave room for growth as your collection will continue to grow.

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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