How do I store/catalogue digital photos in a workplace?
July 29, 2007 11:37 PM   Subscribe

I work in a (university) residential college and we have an archive of digital photos of College events that is growing exponentially. What software can I use to catalogue/store all these photos?

As you might imagine, a residential College has a lot of events that happen each year, and at every event, you will have numerous students/staff taking photos. A small subset of these photographers copy their photos to our server for the College's historical records and/or publicity. Even though it's a small subset, we still have thousands of photos and this is constantly growing. Currently, the photos are stored in a directory on the server (with subdirectories for each event etc). This used to acceptable ... but it's really proving ineffective as the number of photos increases.

What I am after is something like Picassa or Adobe Lightroom ... some software package that can maintain, store, tag, catalogue, and search our photo library.

Here's the catch ... I need it to work with multiple users on multiple computers. Is there any software package that does that? The likes of Picassa and Lightroom (from what I have read) only really handle individual use - they aren't designed as collaboration tools.

So ... any suggestions? The work environment is Windows based. However, happy to hear OSX and Linux suggestions as well. Thanks.
posted by tobtoh to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is there an objection to using an online system? It seems like a flickr pro account would be a good way to deal with this. You can make all the photos private as well, if you like.
posted by jacalata at 11:56 PM on July 29, 2007

Seconding the Flickr. I'm not even a heavy user, and have gladly paid the $25 yearly for such an exemplary service.
posted by awesomebrad at 12:06 AM on July 30, 2007

I think Flickr is a terrible idea. Maybe Pro is faster but the regular version seems only adequate. Plus it's not very portable and what happens if it's no longer developed or supported at some point.

Anyway, I do hope you can find a decent solution. I think we're rapidly approaching a point where we'll be producing more data than we'll ever be able to deal with, much less store in a way that's useful for the future. I think we eventually need an open source and platform independent way to manage even an individual's files.
posted by 6550 at 12:20 AM on July 30, 2007

Online solutions have a number of negative points for my particular case. I have an exceptionally fast connection (being hooked effectively into the uni connnection), but with a downside that we get charged Aus$22/gig that we download.

Also, as 6550 highlighted, I'm always a little nervous about trusting a third party provider with our photos. If for whatever reason they went bust, that would be years and years of photos (and tags and descriptions etc) that would be lost.

Finally ... does Flickr allow multiple users on the one account? I'd want staff and students to all be able to 'upload' photos and have permissions to tag/maintain etc. (no need to answer this, I'll go visit the Flickr site and find out myself).
posted by tobtoh at 12:44 AM on July 30, 2007

Could you use something like dspace? You'd need a sysadmin, and maybe some programming support to get it going, but then anyone at any computer could upload photos and metadata via a webform. It's typically used for institutional research repositories like electronic theses and dissertations, but it would certainly handle images just as well.
posted by donnagirl at 1:02 AM on July 30, 2007

I'd go with a self-managed website with gallery software that would mirror flickr functionality. That way you control it and don't have to worry about provider changes and such.

You could set it up locally - just whip up a simple server setup and away you go. Then

On thing you might want to seriously consider is storing metadata in the photos where possible for the sake of posterity. You're files will probably exist long after your particular setup goes away.

I'm curious what the librarians have to say
posted by srboisvert at 2:32 AM on July 30, 2007

I think that Portfolio by Extensis is still the leader in professional Digital Asset Managers.
posted by cda at 5:04 AM on July 30, 2007

At work we used Cumulus, by Canto, for several years. The website describes it thusly - "Canto® Cumulus® digital asset management software enables work groups to easily find, share and publish the files they need—no matter where the files are stored, no matter what medium they're stored on." (We eventually switched over to an in-house PHP solution, mainly because my bosses wanted to be able to do custom stuff with our image archive, and they also didn't want to be stuck with Cumulus if it ever went off the market. BUT, it was a pretty good solution.) The version we had (from 2004) allowed you to add images, organize them into categories, and give them keywords only on one machine (the machine housing the cumulus program), but many users could search, browse and download through a web page interface. Our only complaint at the time about the software was that the search functionality seemed limited, but I wouldn't be surprised if they've improved it since then. You'll need to dig into the Canto web site if you need to allow many users to ADD images to the catalog from various locations - at a glance, it still looks like images have to be added on the main machine that houses the Cumulus program, but I am not 100% sure about that.
posted by chr1sb0y at 6:23 AM on July 30, 2007

Fluxiom, although pricey, is very nice and would really fit the bill. But, yeah, Portfolio is probably the way to go.
posted by tmcw at 6:26 AM on July 30, 2007

I've also used Cumulus also for this sort of thing. Central system that allows you to store images on your servers and load the image searching application on user systems. I think they recently came out with a web interface too, but I never got a chance to test it. Allows for tagging, keywords, etc. Sometimes felt a little clumsy but overall does the trick just fine.

You should also check out the University Photographers Association of America. I'm fairly certain there is some sort of forum or email list-serve where people can ask these sorts of questions. Though I don't see any mention of it on the site.

This is probably a silly question, but do you have a university publications/marketing/photography office? Or is that your office? I ask because if a university publications/photography exists elsewhere within the college (i.e. not the division you work for), they may already have a solution. If you are the official photography division, disregard this last part.

p.s. I know you didn't ask and this is a complete derail, but please please please make sure you have photo/likeness releases on file for the subjects in those pictures. Also make sure that you have ownership rights to the photo from whatever staff member/student took them (particularly if it was with their personal cameras). There will come a day when you use the photo for something publicly and whoever is in it will claim that they didn't give you permission and try to get you to remove it/pay them for their likeness. Trust me on this. IIRC it is also a point of discussion for the UPAA or similar organization recently, I'm pretty sure they'll have much more information and implementation suggestions.
posted by ml98tu at 8:13 AM on July 30, 2007

Lightroom 1.1 added more features for managing a library from multiple computers. I'm not sure if it's good enough for what you need, but it's made my life a lot easier managing my library between multiple computers and multiple external drives.

I haven't tried this, but I think you can put your library on a shared network drive and set each computer to load that library?
posted by bradbane at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2007

If you know someone in the school that could host a website on a LAMP server, you could install Gallery2 image management system. It is extremely easy to install, setup and maintain on a day to day basis. All work is done through the web browser and if the base program does not meet your needs, you can get extra modules to accommodate everything you'd need to do.
posted by ijoyner at 10:38 AM on July 30, 2007

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