Software to manage science photos
October 5, 2017 11:02 AM   Subscribe

We take a lot of photos in the lab. Ideally, I want to be able to tag batches with project, organism(s), location collected (text is fine, don't need geotags), etc. and also have a notes field for more detailed info. Ideally, we could then select photos to create reference albums to identify various organisms, with notes and photo. Is there software that will make it easy to tag these and access them from 2-3 Win 7 computers using our network drive for storage? What does your lab do?

Wants, in approximate order:
Runs on Windows 7
Sort / search by date taken
Tagging (easy! if it's not user-friendly it won't happen consistently)
Notes field
Store data on network shared drive
Ability to produce digital and printed galleries for reference
Ability to access from multiple computers
Basic editing (brightness, contrast, color balance)

I'd prefer to not store these in the cloud, but it's a possibility if there aren't good options for storing data on our own servers. I'm decent enough at MS Access that I could homebrew something, but I'd rather find a readymade solution.

Previous questions aren't quite right and are 7+ years old.
posted by momus_window to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Picasa can do all that stuff. No longer supported, but still available and still works.
posted by flabdablet at 12:00 PM on October 5, 2017

I personally would not use Google's adandonware for scientific research, especially it's funded with public money.

Do you currently work with federal money (NSF, NIH, USDA, DOE, etc?) or plan to do so in the future? Because they take QA/QC on this stuff fairly seriously, and they will want to see rigorous checks and best practices.

This can in principle be done well for free via 'roll your own' with SQL or other data/metadata management systems, but that costs money for labor.

For a listing of open source digital management software, see here.

Many of those may be overkill, so also check out Lychee.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:54 PM on October 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's been a long time since I used it, but iMatch by PhoTools was pretty damned good when I mainly used Windows. It isn't free though ($109.00). 30 Day free trial available here.

IrfanView (freeware) was also pretty popular back in the day.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:36 PM on October 5, 2017

SaltySalticid, I work for a public university and yeah, we are seeking federal funding. How can I learn the minimum I need to know about best practices? Current system is to include written sample ID information in the photo and photo date can be used to find relevant details in lab notebooks. I don't anticipate that lab notebooks or in-photo labels are going away, I just want easier access to this stuff.

IrfanView doesn't appear to support tagging.
posted by momus_window at 1:45 PM on October 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

How can I learn the minimum I need to know about best practices?

I'd advise you to seek assistance from senior faculty in your department. Actually maybe not, they sometimes know less than a savvy new professor on this stuff. Also can check with your office of sponsored projects or whatever it's called in you neck of the woods. They should have someone who can come talk to your group about reliability, cross-checking, backups, etc.

Always a good idea to touch base with them at the very beginning of the process, if for no other reason than to learn about their secret cryptic deadlines ("we needed your proposal X weeks before it was due to the agency you're applying to, and if you didn't know that it's not our problem.")

It's doesn't really matter if you have notebooks, unless you are printing out the photos. The digital photos are themselves research data that should be treated as carefully as any bug in a jar or tissue in a freezer. Labeling, meta-data, etc.

You'll need to make a data plan, you can google /[your agency] + data plan ( + photograph)/ to find their material. For example, here's some info from USGS on data management plans and QA/QC You can also find rando example data plans people have posted for their own grants, e.g. here's one from UNL.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:35 PM on October 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

FWIW, SaltySalticid's recs are beyond anything I've seen in any lab I've worked in / collaborated with. Maybe this is subfield-specific? The data plans I'm familiar with and finding online using the terms above are about describing what data you'll collect and making data public, usually at publication. If they mention images, it's that they'll be in non-proprietary formats (e.g., .tif).

The linked docs also seem pretty in keeping with what we're doing - take notes on paper (or collect data digitally depending on logistics), enter data digitally and quality check, make sure digital data is backed up. Lab notebooks are research data. We back them up with scanning or photos. I'm not sure why they "don't matter".

I'll ask faculty members how they handle photos as the opportunity comes up, and I asked IT if they have suggestions - I'll have to go through them to install software, anyhow.
posted by momus_window at 4:08 PM on October 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I personally would not use Google's adandonware for scientific research

There's a well-respected cross-platform open-source alternative that's been under active development for a long time and looks likely to remain so, but Picasa is a little less featureful, Windows-native, and therefore a little more approachable.
posted by flabdablet at 10:17 PM on October 5, 2017

Photo Mechanic will do this. It's quite fast and is compatible with all the big data standards for photos. Tons of journalists use it. The batch tagging and captioning is very fast and easy.
posted by thenormshow at 6:29 AM on October 6, 2017

Followup: IT said other labs are using Picasa. One is using Phototheca, which is appealing to me due to the lack of focus on editing images and simple interface.
posted by momus_window at 10:12 AM on October 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

You might also look into free, open source Resourcespace - here's info on installing Resourcespace on Windows.
posted by kristi at 5:27 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently got a rec for ThumbsPlus, but I haven't tried it because...

Phototheca and Photo Mechanic were unbearably slow on our mediocre computers, and this is with less than a year's worth of photos.

I think we're going to wind up with a spreadsheet with one line per sample + one folder for each sample with photos inside, stored on the shared drive.
posted by momus_window at 3:32 PM on November 29, 2017

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