Mac-based alternatives to Photos?
December 25, 2018 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I just finished scanning my parents' entire lifetime of slides, about 7000 exposures. Photos does not support order-by-filename on import. I need a photo management system that does. The bitweight of the image assets is roughly 200gb, about 175gb if we only look at the full-resolution output. Details within.

I started in July and used three Pacific Imaging scanners running semi-continuously. I used a rigorous asset-naming schema and was able to capture the original position of each slide in its' original storage box in the entire project, which retains valuable dating information (we can know that a slide was stored in a given bin in spring 1968, for example).

The key to retaining and using that information is in each image file name - all you have to do is sort on the name and they are in chronological order, more or less.

My parents are quite elderly. I have uploaded the entire thing to Flickr, but that's going away and was only intended as a preview so they could see the progress. Additionally one of them has extreme (and, in my view, irrational) concerns that somehow having this image corpus available online could lead to identity theft, so a shared online work-and-storage space where we could all work on the filesets together is not an option.

I am considering cobbling together a solution that takes the captured metadata (estimated shooting dates, for example) plus the numeric order-of-capture information encoded in the filenames and building a lookup table that I would then apply to the assets using ImageMagick. The drawback? It's 7000 slides, and while I was rigorous in naming each box of slides (from 300-900 slides) each box's convention evolved slightly. If I go this route, I will be able to hand them a disk with the originals and a Photos library that they can just import and go to town on. But it will take me another three months to execute. Time is a factor.

I would be happy to provide more info about the project. I am aware that this is a subject of general interest to people of my age.
posted by mwhybark to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This article appears helpful, although I am unsure that Bridge is what my parents will find most helpful. I used it extensively in this project, however. I was unaware that Bridge is now free.
posted by mwhybark at 1:19 PM on December 25, 2018

If all they need to be able to do is browse the photos sorted by filename, the macOS Finder will do that. Switch to Gallery mode. Do they need additional features? Will they be editing the photos?
posted by caek at 1:32 PM on December 25, 2018

Yes displaying by name order seems like something that all file managers will do, so I'm wondering what we're missing.

For management with tagging and metadata attached I use digikam, it's free and quite powerful.
posted by deadwax at 2:08 PM on December 25, 2018

I think your challenge is that you’re trying to store your metadata in the file name rather in the iptc.

Photo Mechanic will do batch caption and append on file info.

One thing I’d think about is editing. In my own management of my family archive, I think it’s more important not to have someone else tens of thousands of photos. I would think about setting aside a few hundred of the best photos that tell a story. And then sit with your parents and have them tell a little story about those photos and write metadata in the iptc fields. Then make folders for each year.
posted by thenormshow at 2:23 PM on December 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Photos, as explicitly noted above, will not sort by filename.

Having put seven months into the project, I feel reasonably justified in handing off to my folks, even knowing they are unlikely to acheive any sort of winnowing or reordering. What's important to me - and to them - is that they are able to view the photos in a consumer-oriented photo manager in the order of filename. You are not missing anything, I think.
posted by mwhybark at 4:21 PM on December 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, perhaps this was not explictly enough laid out in my initial post: the filenames encode the initial physical location of storage of the exposure (Box A, Bin A4, order of capture), NOT the shooting date of the slide, which is always indeterminate to an approximation of 3 months (from visual information in the slide) to one year (from occasional date stamps or annotations that appear on the slide carriers).

I also took high-resolution slide-sorter images of each batch of slides, front and back, in order to capture the image annotations already available, at the explicit request of my parents. What I was attempting to do was to capture the data available from the slides in their storage.

The intent is to let Mom and Dad go from there. Yes, they won't finish. The objective was not to create a high-quality subset; the objective was to create a comprehensive basis for representing the physical objects which then can be used for a number of purposes. It's literally not for me or my kids (I don't have any). It's for my parents, and may be hoped to occupy them for as long as they have.
posted by mwhybark at 4:32 PM on December 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the follow up. Photo Mechanic will sort by file name. Or any other criteria. I’ve fed it folders of 2000+ images and it builds thumbnails very fast. From there they can easily caption, keyword, generate web galleries or on screen slide shows, rate and rank, tag, copy to new folders, crop, etc. All built on industry standard protocols, so the corpus can be loaded into something like Photos or Lightroom or something else if it comes along, and all the added metadata will travel with it.

Photo Mechanic won’t create books, won’t edit for color/brightness, etc. Its place in the workflow is to start with a large pool of images, view as thumbnail or full screen, sort, caption, etc., before moving onto photoshop to do image by image editing. It’s definately weak on posting to social media or exporting to a webmail client.

Good luck.
posted by thenormshow at 5:59 PM on December 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sounds promising. Thanks for the followup!
posted by mwhybark at 6:30 PM on December 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom also works well, has a bit of a learning curve, but can handle any kind of ordering, tagging, batch edits, etc. It's kind of a Photoshop for many pictures at once.
It can export to social media, create albums, slideshows, etc. It also works with RAW if that's your thing.
posted by signal at 4:06 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

GraphicConverter does a great job of being a files based replacement. Grab the free trial from their web site to see if it will work for you.
posted by advicepig at 6:08 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hunh, I used to use Graphic Converter a LOT back in System 7 days! Obviously it can't be the *same* program but good to see it's still around. I remember it being the absolute poster child for terrible UI design, to such an absurd degree that it provoked fondness after a while.
posted by mwhybark at 6:18 AM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Following up:

I am trialing Bridge free, seems OK; no great difference from the old pre-CC Bridge I was already using.

Unfortunately the output of this discussion is that I need to extract and extrapolate the date and subject metadata from the scan sets and then apply them to the images programmatically, for which I will use a combination of Google sheets (to normalize the data), A Better Finder Rename, and ImageMagick. Tax time is here so the delivery date for this project is now late spring.
posted by mwhybark at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2019

It might be faster to learn python, you could do what you need in a few dozen lines of code.
posted by signal at 6:22 PM on January 25, 2019

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