Photo Management.

This is "Part two of an unknown number of parts" in a series I'm calling "Cory talks about how he manages his images." In Part One, I described the history of the schemes I used to manage my photos, including some of the rationale behind each of my switches to a new management system.

I struggle with managing my images constantly. It seems like the photos I come out of my camera are always either receiving really esoteric naming schemes, or are being put into some trendy new piece of photo management software. On the other hand, images I download from the Internet, or are sent to me by people are stored haphazardly in an ill-conceived folder structure that tries to separate "pictures of friends" from "pictures of trains" and "pictures that are random."

My main problem with my personal photo collection at this point in time is the fact that it's poorly organized. Even when I find a great piece of organization/management/processing software such as Aperture, which is where my images are right now, I have problems with the actual tasks of applying metadata, coming up with a naming scheme, and deciding where in my library to put each image. It looks organized, but because I've got images from two or three different eras of management, and even a bunch of images that simply don't have good naming applied to them, it's difficult to decide where an image goes, or to find an image once I've put it in its place.

The answer, quite simply, is that I need to beef up my use of metadata and keywords. The thing I need to decide really quickly here, as I continue working on gathering even more images, is whether or not I want to continue using Aperture for my images, or if I want to look into other Mac-only programs, or switch to Adobe Bridge.

Enter Photography 382. This class is pretty amazing so far, the instructor is very energetic about the subject, and does a great job of explaining thing, which is awesome.  The focus of PHO382 is preparing digital image files for output, and the beginning of this is setting up a good workflow for acquiring, storing, backing up, and organizing digital images. The main tool for the class so far is Adobe Bridge CS3. We've been learning about batch renaming, applying metadata templates, and adding keywords to images. I expect we're going to continue learning various things about Bridge and picking things up about it as the semester progresses. So now, I just need to decide if I want to switch to it for managing my images, and when I want to do that.

I'll admit that Aperture isn't the best solution for everything I do, especially when my photos are considered, because Aperture lacks an equivalent on the Windows platform. I can't just copy my library or my folder structure out to a file server or onto a FAT32 disk and open it on a Windows computer, like the ones at work, or even my mobile computer. In addition, it's more difficult than it needs to be when I copy images from my mobile computer to my Mac, because the images are still in an unprocessed form, I have to apply my naming convention and do my organization when I get back home.

Another advantage of finding some other system by which I can organize my images is that I am not necessarily tied to the Mac as a platform. I love my Mac dearly, but I'm simply not sure if I'll ever buy another mobile Mac again, and I may not even buy another desktop Mac, depending on what Apple ends up doing in the next few years. Chances are very high that I'll have a Mac as my next desktop, but just in case, I like the idea that my option to switch to Windows is open. (In fact, I once needed to do just that, during my first semester at NAU my G3 PowerBook was always on its last leg, so I moved my then-Bridge-based collection of photos onto the Dell OptiPlex machines I'd gotten from surplus sales. The transition was really quite easy. Oddly enough, that Pentium III/933 machine got better SETI@Home scores than my 1GHz PowerBook G4 ever did.)

The main problem with having that multi-platform solution for image management, of course, is that I have no large-capacity storage areas that work with both Macs and PCs. FAT32 would almost be acceptable, except I doubt that a 750 gig fat32 drive is going to work too well. Add to that, I don't have Photoshop CS3 for Windows anyway. I may need to do research on software that lets Mac OS use NTFS drives, or software that lets Windows use HFS+ drives, because sharing drives tends to be a general problem for me, not only a photo management problem.

A big disadvantage I can see of using Bridge for my photo management is that it's not the best app ever for actually searching for things I need. Even the PHO382 instructor I have mentioned that he uses a piece of image cataloguing software, instead of only using  Bridge. I'm going to investigate this more as an opportunity for how I use Bridge (and maybe Aperture!) because I like the idea of having Bridge for setting up a lot of the metadata, naming, etc, as well as having Aperture if I want to search/catalog and do some of the things at which Aperture is great.

So I haven't actually made my decision yet, but there's a good possibility that I'm going to be moving my photo operations back to Bridge. Stay Tuned however, for Part 3 of the first-ever Strapped to a Desk multi-part series, on "how Cory manages his photos."

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