Digital contact sheets - need a new workflow
August 7, 2017 10:15 PM   Subscribe

I produce client moodboards as 'contact sheets' (using Echo Images' freeware- the least dodgy source . So far I select images in Picasa, export to a folder to copy file names (via tokens in cmd line) and to compose a contact sheet eg then I delete the files. Once I've masked the image they look nice and the process is very fast.

But is there a way to select images and then produce a series of hard-links from them?, then I could always go back to the base images, and not clutter my hdd with duplicates. I'd also retain easy access to file names. Also picasa is becoming less reliable since being dropped by google, so it's a weak link for me.

I'm familiar with symbolic/hardlinks and use Link Shell Extension but if there's a better way I'm all ears.
posted by unearthed to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
is there a way to select images and then produce a series of hard-links from them?

As a school netadmin I wrote a couple of little cmd scripts to do this kind of thing, for keeping the photos attached to personnel records in the school admin package up to date with the latest available photos. My workflow was also based on Picasa: I used its face recognition feature to find the photos I wanted, then set the Nickname in the associated Person details to be the staff employee number.

The script would parse the .picasa.ini files that Picasa leaves behind in any folder where edits have been made, use the results to match up a filename with each employee number, and do things with those files. Those files are plain text. Open one up in Notepad and you'll rapidly get an idea of the format you need to parse.

I would expect that a similar technique would work OK for you, perhaps using Picasa album names instead of personal nicknames.

I'm not sure that Picasa is actually becoming less reliable for this kind of thing. It's certainly becoming less available; if you designed a workflow based on it you'd want backups of the installer for the version you were using.

If you really want to ditch Picasa and you're willing to use a little bit more disk space than actual hardlinks would save you, would basing a workflow on something as mind bogglingly primitive as multi-select / Copy / Paste Shortcut in Windows Explorer work for you? Shortcut (.lnk) files are not filesystem-level links, but quite a lot of applications are happy to treat them as if they were.
posted by flabdablet at 10:32 PM on August 7, 2017

Thank you Flabdablet, I'm working my way around how to do that, I hadn't noticed those files before. I'm not (even) a batch file level coder, so cmds would be beyond me, but yes I can see how it'd work. I'll do some more thinking on your ideas and see how I can make it work.

No I don't want to move away from picasa, and yes I carefully keep copies of the version I use.
posted by unearthed at 10:49 PM on August 11, 2017

I'm not (even) a batch file level coder, so cmds would be beyond me

Sounds like what you want is pretty simple. Let me mess about with a Picasa instance here and see what I can come up with. What version are you using, and can you provide me with a link to its installer?

I don't know what your moodboards look like, but if they're simple and regular enough that using a contact sheet tool to build them beats using Picasa's inbuilt collage maker, then it should also be pretty trivial to build them with a script using Imagemagick to do the image assembly and manipulation.

I'm thinking your workflow could come down to:

1. In Picasa, select the photos you want to put on your moodboard and make a Picasa album out of them. This doesn't actually duplicate any image data, it just makes Picasa database entries and backs those up in .picasa.ini files.

2. Double-click on a script file, which finds all the photos in your library tagged with the name of that Picasa album, assembles a moodboard from those and dumps it on your desktop (or some other convenient standard place).

I'd be happy to play with writing a one-step script like that, if you can provide links to a few sets of source photos along with the end results of your present workflow.

If you need to alter the layout, simplest thing would be just make a new script per new layout by copying and tweaking old ones; I know you said you're not a coder, but altering a number here or there in a simple script and seeing what happens is a pretty good place to start building that highly useful skill set.
posted by flabdablet at 5:41 AM on August 12, 2017

Hi and thank you for trying this, Currently I export picasa selection, and then make a contact sheet using a freeware I found with the amazing name of contactsheets - but it does the trick. I also get the image file names at this point (using cmdline) to extract them as a list to use in a spreadsheet.

I've PM'ed you a dropbox link with the picasa version, a sample folder of images and final contact sheet, as well as how I use these sheets in client presentations.

I'm a bit busy right now but will get here every two days.
posted by unearthed at 1:04 AM on August 14, 2017

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