The DAM Forum

Software Discussions => Choosing Software/Other DAM Applications => Topic started by: KevinW on October 11, 2006, 07:30:41 AM

Title: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: KevinW on October 11, 2006, 07:30:41 AM
I wanted to supplement the information on this forum regarding Photoshop Elements (PSE) and its suitability for DAM. I have been testing it for several weeks now on an archive of around 10,000 images. PSE has two modules: the Editor for adjusting the image, and the Organizer for managing the image collection. The package is good, but lacking in some important ways.

First, PSE's Editor and, specifically, its Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) implementation, will NOT update the embedded JPG preview in DNG files, even in the latest PSE v5 release. This makes it all the more important that DNG conversion occur after you've made your raw adjustments, since subsequent changes won't be reflected in the embedded JPG. This is not a huge hurdle if you're also using PSE's Organizer for your catalog. The Organizer can be forced to rebuild thumbnails from raw images (DNG or other raw formats). It will, however, limit the use of other catalog products like iView Media Pro since, if the embedded JPG is not up-to-date, the catalog will show an out-of-date preview. Based on the user's manual (Appendix D), IVMP is not able to render DNG files on Windows (the Apple version can use Apple's own raw engine, apparently).

Second, PSE's Organizer is fairly limited in its ability to write IPTC data. Keywords (which it calls Tags) and Descriptions (captions) are about it. You cannot write City, State, Country, or copyright fields into your images from the Organizer. It can, however, read much of this information and even search on some of it. You just need to use a different application to get the data in there in the first place (I use Photo Mechanic, which is outstanding). PSE's Editor can edit several of these fields, but it's a poor choice since it requires re-saving the file. This either re-compresses (and degrades) a JPG file or reqires opening a raw file and saving in another format (TIF, PSD or new JPG). In any case, PSE doesn't seem to permit editing metadata on a raw-format file, and hence is not a workable approach.

Third, PSE's Organizer doesn't have a way to re-read the embedded metadata in an image. So if you update the keywords in a file, Organizer will be ignorant of the changes. The only option is to remove the file from the catalog and re-import it. Oddly, it is perfectly capable of showing the current embedded metadata in the "properties" section, but this is only revealing information in the file, not in the catalog entries associated with the file.

Fourth, there is no way to sort the catalog by filename. This is a major drawback if derivative files are identified by appending suffixes to original filenames, as per Peter's book. If you could sort by filename, you'd see the original first, followed by the various derivaties. No such luck in PSE, however.

Fifth, if you work with external hard drives, PSE Organizer is a bit clumsy if the disk is off-line. It will attempt to reconnect to the files automatically, though you can set it to not do this. Even so, whenver you want to see a full-size view of the image, and will attempt to re-connect with the actual file, triggering a search of the local hard drive (fruitless, since that's not where the image files live) that must be cancelled manually. Specifying the drive as "offline media" is no good either, since it then assumes the files can never be modified (i.e. as if they were on DVDs), so any attempts to edit the image (by, say, sending it to the Editor) results in a local copy being made. My approach is to just not ask to view images at full size unless the hard drive is online, and to uncheck the option to "automatically reconnect" to files. For best results, the media where the files live should be online.

These are the main things I've run into through actual use. I'm sure I've missed some.

Overall, Photoshop Elements works fine as a basic DAM tool if you use it in a "closed loop" -- using both the Editor and Organizer together, and don't need it to integrate or play nicely with additional applications. If you hope to use a full-blown catalog app like iView instead of PSE's Organizer, be warned that the embedded JPGs will show the raw settings at the time of DNG conversion, and will not be current if the raw settings were changed later. To update the embedded preview, you'll need the full Photoshop program or, perhaps, Lightroom. If you use Organizer as the catalog app, be warned that changes to embedded metadata made by other applications (including PSE's Editor) cannot be updated in the catalog except by removing and re-importing the changed file.

With all that said, PSE was more than enough to provide the eye-opening experience of being able to see and find all my digital images. It was able to help me identify inconsistent or missing keywording, and its Collections feature, though basic, was a far better way to organize and sequence a slideshow than what I was doing before (in Powerpoint). Keep an eye out in case PSE's implementation of ACR is changed to permit updating of embedded DNG previews; if so, then a full catalog app like iView coupled with PSE's good Editor will make an excellent solution for around $250.


Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: David Anderson on October 11, 2006, 07:46:49 AM
I asked about the DAM abilities of Photoshop Elements in another thread recently, not because I planned to use it (I have full PS) but because I was giving a talk about DAM to my camera club and wanted to say something about budget solutions. Peter Krogh pointed out that PE can only edit one Raw file at a time, which is quite a significant limitation. Unless I missed it in your post, you didn't mention that one. However, thanks for a pretty comprehensive coverage of many other aspects of PE.


Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: KevinW on October 11, 2006, 08:01:07 AM
Hi David,

I saw that post, and thought the topic deserved highlighting some of the other aspects of PSE that users should know about if they're considering the package. Personally I have not yet had the need for applying RAW conversion settings in bulk; I just don't shoot that kind of volume.

PSE's ACR does permit you to apply the settings from the previous conversion to an image. In PSE Organizer, you would CTRL-Click on, say, five images that should all get the same setting, and send them all to the Editor. Get the settings right for the first one, Alt-Click on "Update" to save the new settings without opening the file (this is similar to clicking on "Done" in the full ACR version). This will then load up the next image in the sequence. Select "Previous Conversion" from the Settings pull-down menu, Alt-Click "update" and so on through the remaining images.

While this isn't nearly as fast as what Bridge will do, it's a workable solution for small-volume or occasional needs.


Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: KevinW on October 11, 2006, 08:30:43 AM
No sooner did I write up my review than I found another significant drawback: PSE Organizer will not write tag information into raw formats, including DNG. This presents a major roadblock to migrating to another catalog program down the road, since all keywording (or collections) done on DNG files will basically be stranded in PSE.

I suspect it would be possible to generate JPGs with the same filename, write the keywords into the JPGs, and then use another application to pair up the raw and JPG files and synch the embedded metadata. Afterwards, the JPG can be scrapped. I know Photo Mechanic has this feature, and other applications may, also. I would want to test this workaround before putting any effort into keywording my DNG files in PSE.

This seems quite an important drawback to me, making PSE suitable only for JPG-based workflows.


Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: David Anderson on October 11, 2006, 09:02:50 AM
An inability of PSE to write metadata to DNGs might not be such a big deal. I haven't fully made the switch to DNG yet, but if I remember Peter Krogh's recommended workflow correctly, he applies all his bulk metadata to the original Raw files in Bridge. This metadata goes into XMP sidecars, and is subsequently transferred to DNGs via Adobe DNG Converter. IVMP will import all this data when the DNGs are catalogued. If there is any subsequent need to write additional IVMP-applied metadata back into the DNG then IVMP can handle that. In other words, I don't think that PK normally applies metadata directly to DNGs from Bridge. On that basis, the fact that PSE can't do it is a moot point. No doubt PK will correct me if I am wrong.

However, if you are saying that PSE can't put metadata into XMP sidecars for original Raw files such as CRW, CR2, NEF, etc, but can only store it in some inaccessible internal PSE database then that is a significant problem.


Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: KevinW on October 11, 2006, 10:58:26 AM
To the best of my ability to figure out sidecars, PSE doesn't write to these, either. I tested by attempting to embed a new keyword into a DNG (as well as into a NEF) from PSE, and then used Photo Mechanic to display the embedded metadata, and the new keyword didn't show up. Also, I can't see any .xmp files in the file directory (or anywhere else). I may be missing the boat, but it's not looking promising.


Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: dhull on December 29, 2006, 09:00:18 PM
Another issue people should be aware of is that edits made in ACR for PSCS2 which make use of features like straightening, cropping, curves, -- basically using any feature that is not supported by the PSE version of ACR -- are lost to the PSE organizer.  It will display a thumbnail for the RAW file but anything applied to it using a feature not supported by the PSE5 version of ACR will not show in the thumb.

As far as writing tags to RAW, it will show a dialog claiming that it is doing it, but it is not.

PSE has a really nice UI but they need to fix up RAW handling a bit.

Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: Chris Bishop on December 31, 2006, 08:44:50 AM
I have just acquired CS2. BUT still use Elements v3 as my DAM application.
A-- It cannot write to DNG's, but creates the data in it's own catalogue. OK if you don't want to switch, there is a script in iVMP to import the Elements catalogue. It is flawed, but a solution is on the web in iVMPs' forum. I haven't tried it yet but the thread shows success.
B-- It can only modify one RAW at a time. This is OK as a DAM cataloguing software as any alteration will be on an individual file to create masters and derivatives from the DNG archive. Luckilly I can use Bridge-ACR-Rapid Fixer.
C-- It can "stack" versions of the same file so all the archive, derivatives and the master can be linked, that way there is no need to sort by filename. This can also be used for "similar" shots eg portraits.
D-- It can mimick the labels and ratings from Bridge and reads "Rank & File" converted metadata. It cannot mimck the colour scheme fully.
E-- It may just be possible to send the Elements catalogue to Lightroom v1. Not yet but the Lightroom forum is hopeful.
F-- There is a helpful "open with" menu item that is adaptable to yuor needs. I have Focus Fixer, Lightzone (RT) and others to aid processing/creating the master-It automatically finds CS2 as an option.
G-- v3 (now cheap on ebay etc) can have full curves and channels by buying add ons. (I have CS2 so no longer needed) BUT if this is the main / only software single processing restrictions apply.
Chris Bishop

Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: dhull on March 03, 2007, 10:29:41 PM
Having now spent a lot of time with Lightroom, it is clear to me that all of the complaints that I had about PSE5 with respect to it's handling of RAW files have been addressed in Lightroom.  My biggest issue with PSE has always been deficiencies in the organizer with respect to renaming filed, batch processing, and incompatibilities between it and Photoshop when handling RAW files.  While Lightroom might not be the same level of high powered DAM application that iView is, it is a big step up from Elements.

I wonder if Adobe will use Lightroom (in some reduced capacity form) to finally create a ubiquitous entry level photo processing application for both MAC and windows.  One would have to thing that the inability to run Organizer on the MAC was problematic for them.  Now they could produce PSE with an identical interface on both platforms.

Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: KevinW on May 17, 2007, 06:14:44 AM
Though I missed the announcement (if there was one), but ACR 4.0 is compatible with Photoshop Elements 5.0. This was surprising to me, since ACR 4.0 was announced initially as compatible only with Photoshop CS3. I downloaded the new ACR and installed it, and it has some excellent improvements that address many -- but not all -- of the issues discussed previously on this thread:

1. It provides the same new adjustment controls as in CS3 and Lightroom, including the "recovery" and "vibrance" sliders.

2. It will now embed and update the JPG preview in the DNG files, with options to embed a "medium" or "full-size" preview reflecting the ACR settings. Note: this is something Lightroom does not even do yet.

3. For proprietary (non-DNG) RAW files, it now gives you the option to write ACR adjustments to a sidecar file rather than to its own mysterious and undocumented database. You also have the choice of telling it to ignore existing sidecar files if it believes raw adjustments also exist in its database. (Hint: avoid the secret database at all times.) Testing confirms that updates to the ACR settings for a DNG file are written directly into the DNG file.

4. There is an interesting option to apply sharpening only to the preview image. It needs more testing to figure out exactly what it does, but I can see the advantage of applying sharpening only to the embedded preview for proofing work, but leaving the image unsharpened when it is opened into the photoshop editor (where better sharpening tools, including plug-ins, are available).

There is still one major drawback to using Elements in a raw workflow: the inability to apply the ACR settings to multiple images at a time.

Still, these are all excellent improvements -- especially since I had expected PSE 5 would languish under the old ACR version-- and give users many of the adjustment tools found in Lightroom and PSCS3, albeit for one-image-at-a-time use.



Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: Chris Bishop on May 17, 2007, 07:55:05 AM
Elements v4 can access ACR v3.7 This allows ACR v4 corrections to be read, but not fully "further adjusted". This means LR  or CS3 users can still send files to v4 of Elements. As stated v5 is more capable. v3 left behind, as is CS2 or earlier. So much for backwards compatability.
Chris Bishop

Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: KevinW on May 23, 2007, 05:27:54 AM
I figured I'd round out this post by describing the applications I use in conjunction with PSE. If you're starting from scratch, this setup saves too little money compared to the full PS CS3. But if, like me, you already have some of the pieces, then it might be a cost-effective way to add just the DAM- or RAW-related capabilities you need. What you really miss out on with PSE over PS is Bridge (for ratings and metadata) and its implementation of ACR (especially the ability to apply ACR settings to multiple images). For image editing, I have found PSE to offer everything I need, though this won't be true for everybody.

For importing, browsing, rating and metadata work, I use Photo Mechanic ($150, It works straight from (and on) the image files, so what you're seeing is the information in the file itself rather than catalog information that may or may not be synched with the underlying files. It's a very speedy way to review images, displaying the embedded JPGs in raw files (NEFs, DNGs...etc.) It also has powerful file renaming features, and has legendary customer support.

After doing a first pass of ratings in PM, I open the folder of images in Lightroom ($199 intro price; now $299). Since it is rendering raw files, rather than displaying the embedded previews, this takes longer. I determine the raw conversion settings based on the higher-rated images, and then sync the settings to the rest of the group of similar images. When I'm done, I export the XMP data, which updates the sidecar files with the ACR settings.

Then I run the free Adobe DNG Converter, which creates the DNGs from the camera raw files and their sidecar files. This, too, takes a bit of time.

I then look at the DNG files in Photo Mechanic to finalize the ratings based on the adjusted conversion settings. I could have done this while in Lightroom, and occasionally I do, but it's much faster to scroll through different images and make side-by-side comparisons in PM. When the ratings are finalized, I write the star ratings as keywords, and also use the Priority field so iView will read the labels.

At this point, the work on the images is finished. I transfer the images to the archive and import them into iView.

I already had PSE and Photo Mechanic from my pre-DAM (and pre-RAW) days, so what I was really missing was a catalog application and a way to apply ACR settings to multiple images at a time. For awhile I limped along applying ACR settings only to the higher-rated images. Lightroom, at $199, has solved this very nicely. It might also get you as much cataloging functionality as you need, but I also picked up iView (Lightroom wasn't out at the time, and even now I'd still recommend iView). 

That's my setup, for what it's worth.


Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: Chris Bishop on May 23, 2007, 07:25:35 AM
Fine. LR will only get better, and those " in the know" nod, nod, wink, wink suggest the next upgrades could be free or cheap, as they want the product out in the market place and not held back by any financial constraints. Or at least that's how I read it.
for those rerading the post and wondering about following it. Two suggestions
One: try Image Ingester Pro as the ingestion program. It can do a lot for the money (if I remember $40).
Two: Get iVMPro quickly while it is available, before it becomes Expression Media-that appears to be having teething problems, being a new v1 product.
Chris Bishop
Another thought "on the run" Image Ingester pro (IIP) can read ACR presets and apply them to the ingestion of loads of photos. Set ACR once as you like it in Elements and import the photos with that preset applied. It may allow Elements users to apply RAW settings quickly to a lot of files, and only need to change the odd one or spend time on the "winner".
If this doesn't work because IIP doesn't find the settings created by Elements, then Marc, the developer appears to live on this forum so would soon pick up on it and work towards a fix.
Good one Marc.
Chris Bishop

Title: Re: Photoshop Elements as a DAM application
Post by: dcoberlin on June 10, 2007, 12:42:50 PM
I am new to this forum. I hope to tap into the obvious expertise of the contributers to this thread. Please tell me if this should be a new thread.

The DAM book makes it obvious that I need to develop a more effective and forward looking system even if I am just a serious amateur.

I have been using PSE3 an now PSE5 for a few years with the goal initially of organizing a gargantuan collection of JPG and TIFF images consolidated from various media, computer hard drives and EHDs. I keep a main catalog and consolidated library on an EHD and my spouse two sons and I use this on at least 3 computers  (in two countries) each of which has its default catalog. We usually download our current SD cards as much as is on each computers hard drive and use the the EHD as the master catalog and storage site. I am loath to delete files from the SD cards as we occasionally reference images from the camera and use the cards to download at different computers as the master EHD is not available in all locations. I eventually wish to begin to use RAW files and DNG if I can first get a handle on my current inventory of files.

The problem is duplicate files on the master EHD and in the catalog. I used Duplicate File Finder ( Of 22,000 fairly recent files on the digital images folder 1/3 are duplicates. Many but not all of them are also true duplicate in the master catalog. Of the 130,000+  image files on the master EHD consolidated from all sources about 30% are duplicates !

I like many of the features of PSE however it seems to be a bit slower and I fear the problems with backup etc. which I have noted in forums.

I am tempted to clean all the duplicate files from the master EHD and start over with a new catalog. I would like to use a function like the PSE 5's new downloader option and have the folders automatically created and named by date. I would also love to import the many tags and collections though most have none.

Can I do this or am I better to somehow repair my unwieldy and overloaded EHD and catalog?

If I import in small batches how small? How often to do File> Catalog>Recover? Am I better off having various catalogs e.g. one or more for scanned photos etc.? How big a collection of files can be handled by any one catalog without bogging down?

I have been reading with interest the other software available and am considering IDimager, IMatch, iView however I am unclear which version of each would be most appropriate for me and which would have the most ease of use, stability and compatibility with my current status.

I know this is a lot but please set me on the right path.