best lightweight tool for os x image database?
June 16, 2006 9:01 AM   Subscribe

My wife is an art history professor who uses a mac, and has a large collection of scans of images. She needs an orderly way to organize the scans for sensible, easy retrieval.

She doesn't have time/resources to enter complete metadata for all of the images, so we aren't talking about a massive database project involving complicated queries and such. Need something that fits into a lightweight workflow solution.

How would you go about it? thanks!
posted by davidvan to Technology (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the standard iPhoto is pretty good. It should have come with her Mac as part of iLife. There are more complex options that would allow you to do things like enter metadata for images, but obviously she doesn't need those. With iPhoto, she can categorize and do some light tagging if desired.
posted by rossination at 9:10 AM on June 16, 2006

Currently, IviewMedia Pro is the best tool for what she needs. Adobe is releasing a promising product later this year that may be even better - Lightroom. Although that will likely be much more expensive.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:39 AM on June 16, 2006

I am an art history professor/Mac user, and honestly, I use the software that came with my Canon camera, sorting images into folders based on which class I use them for.

This obviously isn't ideal for several reasons, and if I had the energy and wasn't totally cheap, I'd use iView.

Some other solutions my colleagues have devised: handcrafted FileMaker databases (great because they're totally customizable and only as complicated as you make them; but relatively time-consuming to set up); EndNote (which two or more versions ago became able to handle images; it's useful because it encourages you to record source info for images -- I know she doesn't want to enter metadata but this particular item of data can be a lifesaver); and various department-sponsored solutions related to display/archives software like ArtStor, which I've never really used.

I find iPhoto maddening because it hides your original files -- not only do you wind up working with some alternate version of your image file, but it's also really annoying to hunt down that original if you need it. In my experience, iPhoto/iLife is a closed experience -- great if you're working inside it and with its goals as your goals, but otherwise awful.

My overall advice, though, is that she take a weekend and play with every piece of software she can find (or at least a demo) -- ultimately, everyone works with images differently, and so what I love may well turn out to be what she hates, and vice versa!

And, having said all this, my experience is that most of my colleagues still do what I do -- have a bunch of folders with images, and hunt through them when they need to drag-and-drop into papers/Keynote presentations.
posted by obliquicity at 9:42 AM on June 16, 2006

what's wrong with iPhoto and flickr?
posted by matteo at 9:42 AM on June 16, 2006

oh, jinx blaneyphoto.
posted by obliquicity at 9:42 AM on June 16, 2006

Sorry for this as it is only XP, but Google has a great image database tool called Picasa that you can download from their website. I use it on my desktop at home (XP) but find it is a great tool for image arrangement. It uses a combination of folders and thumbnails.

If we can put a little pressure on the Googlites, maybe they'll release it for OSX or perhaps there is a beta release that is on the net. Haven't had time to do the research.

Don't mean to be noise, but I think you might find it to be a fairly useful tool.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 10:10 AM on June 16, 2006

If she opts for iPhoto, but already uses that for personal photos, when holding down the option key as the application loads, she can select a new folder to be a secondary image library (or, of course, select an existing iPhoto library).
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:20 AM on June 16, 2006

if her university take part in '' she can probably create a 'personal collection' and store stuff there. The metadata? she can probably pull some things from other public collections.(side note I work for
posted by darkpony at 10:51 AM on June 16, 2006

Just a thought.

She could use The finder to organize them.

Basically do this:
import photos (to a folder using apple's image capture)
Organize (using the finder's thumbnail view, large) based on major criteria.

Create a bunch of Automator apps/droplets that tag the info with spotlight.

Now, this meta data can be used by Spotlight, Iphoto and others, making it quick and easy to search gobs of picture.

Bonus: if she moves the pictures to another drive, the spotlight extra metadata will go with it.
posted by filmgeek at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2006

It may appear to be overkill, but I'd definitely encourage you to consider buying Photoshop CS2 (or even the whole Creative Suite2—a much better deal) at academic pricing, so you can use Bridge to sort and view your images. I teach drawing and make frequent slide shows based on scans and screen shots, and Bridge is wonderfully effective and efficient for organizing, sequencing, rating, batch renaming, creating contact sheets, creating metadata, searching, etc. And of course it links right into PShop and the other CSuite apps, which are obviously useful for tweeking, creating overlays, pdfs, handouts, presentations, whatever. It's exactly what iPhoto should be and isn't, including fast and comprehensive.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:25 AM on June 16, 2006

That should read: "...creating metadata OR NOT." I never use the metadata functions in Bridge; it's all just drag'n'drop.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:30 AM on June 16, 2006

If iPhoto doesn't do what she wants, I would recommend either iView Media Pro or its lightweight cousin, iView Media. ( Both do a good job of organizing images, including photos and scans. She would have to input some metadata, but it can be minimal depending on her needs. I wouldn't advise Adobe's Lightroom for organizing scans; it's more of a photographic workflow program that will compete with Apple's Aperture.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2006

It also occurs to me that there have been a lot of discussions about art history-related software on email lists like CAAH (Consortium of Art and Architectural Historians, hosted by Princeton) -- if your wife isn't a subscriber to that list, I'd recommend it, because then she can search their archive (and it's a good resource for other things, too). In fact, they just had a discussion about this last month that wasn't the first.
posted by obliquicity at 6:14 PM on June 16, 2006

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