The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers

I had first heard of this book via the American Society of Media Photographers’ Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow (dpBestflow®) project -a Congressionally-funded project through the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program designed “To create guidelines for refined production workflows, archiving methods, and best practices for digital photography based on a variety of capture methods and intended image use.” Much of the information found on the dpBestflow® site is based mainly on Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow Handbook by Patricia Russotti and Richard Anderson and The DAM Book by Peter Krogh.


This is a very dense book geared towards the professional photographer, though graphic designers, studio managers and anyone who has to manage and curate an image collection would benefit from a thorough reading. With the rise of affordable storage media with larger and larger capacity, even hobbyists with only a casual interest in photography would do well from being familiar with some of the concepts and practices outlined in this book. They, too, will one day be the proud owner of a collection of images spilling over into the range of terabytes. As that collection grows, good asset management becomes even more crucial. This book outlines what you need to do and why.

Digital asset management means how you work with your collection of digital files (whether photos or other kinds of files.) It includes storage, backup, metadata, workflow practices, cataloguing, software used to process and interact with files, storage media, etc.

After explaining many of the reasons behind good digital asset management, the author goes into the nitty-gritty details of many fascinating topics: non-destructive  (parametric) image editing, metadata, hardware options for image storage, Adobe Lightroom workflow, Adobe Bridge/ACR Workflow, et. al. Some chapters make you groan when you realize you’ve been overlooking some essential area of your own collection for a long time (especially the chapter on metadata.)

There are some things you may think you already know how to do effectively -like have a decent file directory structure with coherent file names. Chances are, even the most organized and far-sighted amongst us will learn more than a few things from the chapter on naming and organizing files and folders (and the rest of us will be amazed at the number of things we could be doing better.) Creating a system that is future-compatible, yet can be quickly scanned, added to and easily restored takes thought and planning. Luckily the author has done the deep research, so you can admire the pretty screenshots of what a real image folder workflow looks like and then get to work adapting it to your needs.

Chapter six is devoted to data backup and validation. While it may seem kind of long and dry (especially to those of us more interested in the Lightroom screenshots and workflow), it is one of the more essential sections of the book. If you don’t care about losing your images to fire, theft, flood, Godzilla, spilling coffee on your laptop, then you can probably skip it. But more than likely, there will come a day when bad things happen and your hard drive will be dead or damaged for whatever reason. Then you’ll have wished you read this part of the book and invested some money in a backup system.

Chapter seven details best practices of downloading images from camera to computer and processing them (image ingestion.)  This includes downloading files, renaming them uniquely, applying metadata and backing up (among other steps.) The author explores specific image ingestion workflow options for both Lightroom and ImageIngesterPro (respectively.) While I’ve only used Lightroom in the past, ImageIngesterPro <url here> looks to be an excellent software package for those who need more control and automation during image ingestion than Lightroom can currently provide.

Chapter eight is about managing your working files (files not ready to be archived.) Raw file workflow, reworking archived images and file folder structures are explored. Chapter nine is an overview for working in one of the best cataloging PIEwares -Adobe Lightroom. Lots of juicy tips, pointers and a sample workflow. Chapter ten is all about an Adobe Bridge with Adobe Camera Raw workflow (with Expression Media included for cataloguing purposes.) This workflow can be an extremely good one, especially if you are working cross-platform. All three programs work with XMP data, so are very compatible with each other. They allow you to create work that is accessible in a variety of other programs and offer a good chance that you’ll have an image archive that’s accessible to whatever software you may be using in the future.

Chapter eleven is about cataloguing strategies. This includes what factors to consider when choosing your cataloguing software, managing your catalogs, basics and best practices of using Expression Media (cataloguing software), archive restoration and validation.

Chapter twelve closes on the subject of data migration (which is important in order to adapt your workflow and system to the technologies of the future.) Data migration principles, migrating from hard drive to hard drive, migrating from different metadata fields, migrating disorganized files to an organized archive structure and other important subjects are tackled.

All-in-all, The DAM Book is invaluable for the professional photographer or studio manager and is recommended by the American Society of Media Photographers.

This book, and all O’Reilly books, are available at a discounted rate for IDUG members

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