Introducing the next generation of DAM software.

This blog has been quiet, but that’s not because I have been slacking off. For the last year or so, I have been hard at work bringing a new vision to life. On this day of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with a smart, focused and kind team at Tandem Vault to make something really great.

In many ways, The DAM Book 3.0 was a blueprint for the software we need, not necessarily what is currently available. As web-hosted visual media becomes a primary method of communication, we need a new platform to match. (And by “institution”, I mean everything from a family to a non-profit, small business, museum or corporation.)

All the pieces for the next generation are sitting there on the shelf. Of course the most important part has become utterly commonplace – behavior. We now use visual media and rich media for nearly every purpose, and it’s increasing daily.

We have built our new software, TV3, to be the Grand Central Station of rich media communication, with incoming and outgoing tracks, and easily operated switch gear. We’ve taken the features from marketing DAMs and adapted them to a much broader use.

I’ve been offering sneak peeks of the new software over that the Tandem Vault blog. These include videos that introduce some of the key features. Here’s a sample.

We’re going into a much larger beta phase in a week or so. If you are interested in participating, sign up here.

Rebuild Lightroom Previews to save space, add speed and confirm integrity

I have a new article up on Petapixel that outlines the benefits of a full rebuild of Lightroom previews.

  • Your catalog may be significantly smaller. My two main catalogs decreased in size from 600GB to about 200GB.
  • You may see a speed increase in scrolling – I saw a marked increase.
  • You will be informed if Lightroom fails to rebuild any previews, which may be an indication of a corrupted file (It could also be a file that Lightroom can’t open). The process correctly identified a handful of known-corrupted files that I use for testing.
  • Read the entire article here.

Note that I have outlined a specific work order for this, which I suggest following. I’d love to hear about anyone’s results, either confirming or conflicting with the results I got.

Webinar this Friday May 8

Here is a link to the notes for the presentation.

Use your shelter-in-place time to work on your photo collection – shore up your storage and backups, organize your photos, and create something! I’ll be doing a webinar this Friday, May 8 at 2pm EST on Facebook Live. The program is being hosted by Ripple Effects Images. You can find it on their facebook page.

There should be something in here for all photographers and people managing photo collections. I’ll provide some clear, actionable advice for improving your digital photography management.

Ripple Effects Images is the brainchild of National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths. The organization sends some of the best photographers and videographers out to report on the challenges facing women and children in the developing world. The images and videos are them made available for free to vetted nonprofit organizations. It’s a fabulous organization, doing great work.

I’ve been involved with Ripple for a while, and now as a member of their Board of Advisors. I’m thrilled to play a part in their important work. Here’s a video of Annie speaking to Adobe Max a few years ago, which should provide a little inspiration for our troubled times.

Also note that we have extended our shelter-in-place 50% off sale for all my books for another two weeks.

Chronosync Backup Tip: Chronoagent fixes reliability problems

I’ve been using ChronoSync for many years, and depend on it to manage backup from several machines to a central file server. It has worked quite reliably over the years, and I have only had to do some occasional maintenance. That changed over the weekend.

I’ve retired the old 2007 iMac that was my file server in favor of a 2015 model. This allows me more flexibility in drive enclosures, since it supports USB 3 and Thunderbolt.

The 2007 was still running 10.6, which is from 2009, but everything worked just fine. However the new computer (running 10.13) kept failing when I tried to synchronize. I tried everything I could think of – clean install of the OS, run a test sync on newly formatted backup drive, change permissions. And still the problems persisted.

The most common problem was ChronoSync failing during the sync, with a message that the target was not available (even when the target was clearly mounted), or the file just failing to sync.

I was seeing the “cannot locate target” warning in ChronoSync, even when the destination was mounted. After installing ChronoAgent, it shows up as an option in “Connect to:” and behaves just like the server did.

And then I remembered ChronoAgent. This is an option application in the ChronoSync suite which manages the connection from source to destination. After a quick installation, the problems have all seemed to disappear. I’m still testing all the machines that are pointed to the server, but it seems to have solved the problem.

Installing ChronoAgent was really easy, and makes the backup process much more trouble-free, particularly over a network.

I know several people who have complained about reliability issues with ChronoSync. When asked, my new reply will be to suggest setting up ChronoAgent.

Digital Media Objects – A definition

I use the term “object” a lot in The DAM Book 3.0 when I’m referring to digital media. It’s a pretty common word to hear in the software development, museum or enterprise IT community. While it’s frequently used, it’s not well defined. To add to the confusion, a digital object could refer to many types of things, like a password or a line of code. To help clarify the use of the term digital object, I propose the following definition for media objects: A digital media object is a file, set of files, or bitstream that can be rendered into tangible media.

Let’s take that apart.

  • A digital object is not necessarily a single file. Sometimes multiple files are needed to render the finished media. This could include an audio file and a video file. Or it could be a package of files. (An Apple Keynote document is a package of individual media files and a controller file.) The digital source could also be a bitstream, like a streaming video playing as an embedded object in a web page.
  • The essential quality of a digital media object is that it can be turned into actual media. This could be a photo, video, audio presentation or other thing you can see, hear or experience in a tangible way. This provides a useful separation from the more generalized concept of a digital object, which could be a chunk of software code, a password, or some other thing that does not ever need to be rendered to be useful.
  • A digital object could have a very complex internal structure (e.g., a DVD is a digital object that may be made up of hundreds of component files). Or it could be very simple, like a PNG image. It could be something that should be rendered in only one way, like a profile-tagged JPEG, or something that could be rendered in all kinds of ways, like a camera raw file.

Is a creative project a digital object?

An InDesign or Final Cut project fits the definition of a digital object because it can be rendered out in tangible form. But I suggest sticking with the designation of creative project to describe this sub-type of digital object.

These projects are really designed to create a freestanding output, which will serve as a playable distribution copy. From a workflow standpoint, it’s useful to retain this distinction between the project used for creation and the digital object output version.


Digital objects will usually have at least three parts: the media payload, some metadata and one or more digital object identifiers (DOI).

  • The media payload is the actual image, video audio, etc. This is the thing or things that can be made tangible.
  • The metadata describes, at minimum, what the media type is and how to render it.  The metadata may also describe the subject matter, provenance or other property of the media.
  • The identifier might be a traditional file name (which is one reason it’s important to have unique file names). Sometimes the identifiers are computer-generated hexadecimal IDs that are not really human readable. Here’s file name for a Lightroom preview JPEG: FFE3EBE9-0A27-412D-81F1-138284A21AE1-a689c6aea923108279afcc6fab8775c0.lrprev
    Of course Digital Object Identifiers are often not filenames, but instead a metadata tag. Lightroom creates and preserves one called OriginalDocumentID, which is also a hexadecimal identifier ED2A2082136A7F551B2F07CB9F2C4712


A file is similar to an object in that it has a name, a payload, and it conforms to a file format (such as TIFF). A file, however, must be a block of data, and not a bitstream or collection of files. So a file could be a digital media object, but a digital media object may be something other than a file.


As its name implies, a bitstream is a stream of digital data, rather than discrete file stored on disk. A bitstream may start life as a file, like a YouTube video, which has a beginning and an end. A bitstream could also be an ongoing stream of data, like a feed from a security camera – it might never be saved as a conventional discrete file.

This post is drawn from The DAM Book 3.0

Time to buy Hard Drives

The COVID-19 pandemic is certain to disrupt global supply chains. There are some things which are easy to get now, but are likely to be hard to get in the near future. Anything that comes from overseas can fall into this category. If you’ve been putting off your purchase of hard drives, it’s a good time to make the purchase. (It’s not just hard drives, but, hey, this is a DAM blog.)

We’re about to learn a lot about how global supply chains work and what disruptions look like. The transformation over the last few decades has been truly remarkable as manufacturing and distribution chains seamlessly integrate elements from around the world. But we don’t have much experience with the chains breaking.

We’ve have had disruptions in the past, like the 2011 Thailand tsunami which flooded a WD manufacturing plant making 1/4 of the world’s hard drives. But we’re facing something different here. The potential for supply disruption is now global, and can include components that come from many different companies. Additionally, we’re likely to see some disruption in shipping infrastructure of both components and finished product.

Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting hoarding or panic buying. But I am suggesting that if you are on the cusp of needing any new hardware, (and are in a position to make a purchase now), you probably want to think about accelerating your decision a bit. My personal expectation is that it will take more than a year for normal manufacturing and supply chains to get back to normal.

If you’re looking for new drives, here are a couple options.

For externals, I like the G-Technology drives. Right now B&H is showing 14TB for $480 in USB 3.1 or USB C. (Those pages also link to 10TB for $300).

If budget is really tight, the WD product line has drives for a bit less: 10TB for $200, and 14TB for $279. (The $250 12TB is currently out of stock.)

And if you are looking for internal drives, you can get a Seagate Iron Wolf 8 TB for $220, 12TB for $370, and 14TB for $430.

Of course, it’s also possible that a global recession will reduce demand for all products so much that supply pipelines will remain full for a long time – or that prices may even deflate.

As for myself, I’m up to date on my storage purchases, so I don’t need to buy anything now. I have been stocking up on the parts that I use for camera scan rails with the expectations that these may be hard to get soon.

Good luck to everyone, and stay safe. Make use fo this time to catch up on your work backlog, and be as productive as practical.

Offer Extended! 50% off Shelter-in-place sale

PLEASE NOTE: To guaranteed you get the discount, please go to DAMUSEFUL.COM instead of using the BUY buttons on this site!

Well, it looks like it’s probably going to be a longer shelter-in-place period than any of us want. So we’ll have lots of opportunity to catch up on streaming series, Zoom meetings, cleaning out closets, and calling old friends. We can’t help you there.

You may also want to catch up on some reading, or organizing your photo collection. We can help you with this. We’re dropping the price of all our books to 50% of the cover price, something we’ve never done before. This applies to both printed books as well as digital downloads. (Discount codes don’t apply during this period.)

Our sale will run for the next two weeks, until April 10 until the end of April.

We also have a limited number of rail systems for copying 35mm slides and negatives. Since some of these parts come from China, so we’re not sure when we will be able to restock.

Thanks for reading and stay safe.

Back in the Product Saddle Again

Six years ago, I was hired by PhotoShelter to create “PhotoShelter for companies.” Five months later, we launched Libris, which has now overtaken the photographer-oriented part of the company in both growth and revenue. I stayed on for a couple years, and eventually parted with the company, although we have stayed on good terms. I’m proud of my DAM achievement there, and I’m happy to see it doing well.   

And now, I’m back, making web services again: this time at a new company. A few months ago, I signed on as the Chief Product Officer at Tandem Vault, and we’re in the process of creating a brand new version of their software, redesigned from the ground up. 

While Tandem Vault is not the most well-known name in cloud DAM, it’s an extremely capable service. It’s a rare product that allows both self-service startup and scaling to enterprise-level functionality. 

I became acquainted with Tandem Vault when I was working as the Director of Digital Strategy at History Factory, a leading national agency specializing in heritage-based storytelling and institutional archiving. 

We were looking for a service that would allow us to provide increased engagement with the brands we represented. In that search, I looked at a lot of different services, from the venerable old-line DAMs to the high-end cloud services, to buzzy startups. In the end, the decision to go with Tandem was not even close. The capability, value and responsiveness was head and shoulders above the competition. 

When I left History Factory, I kept in touch with the Tandem Vault team, and they hired me to help whiteboard a new version of the product. Many of their features had been added organically over the course of several years, and it was clear that they needed a strong product vision to help build an even better user experience. 

Our whiteboard session was a smashing success. We shared a vision of the challenges and opportunities facing media management in the coming decade. We were also able to solve some complicated problems quickly and with no rancor. I’ve come to value a good working relationship as a requirement for any possible employment, and we really clicked.

In the last several months, we’ve been hard at work rethinking the service from the ground up. We’ve included a number of innovative features that are not found in any DAM service at any price. We believe we will be market leaders in areas like collaboration, mobile functionality, crowdsourcing, machine learning integration and scalability, to name a few. (If you want a more concrete idea of what we’re building, pick up a copy of The DAM Book 3.0 – it’s really a blueprint for modern cloud services. It’s also available at a shelter-in-place discount of 50%.)

We’re almost done with the design and data modeling process. The wireframes are nearly complete, and the dev team has begun to wire it up. It’s coming along nicely, and we will have something to show early in Q3. 

It’s been a real godsend to have something to put all my energy into in this very strange time, and will be an even more important distraction moving forward. I know that new product announcements are not of much interest in the current situation, but I also know that we all need to be able to remind ourselves that the worst of this will be over one day.

I’ll do periodic posts outlining what we’re up to as we get closer to release. If you want to be notified of our progress, you can sign up for updates over at Tandem Vault.

Stay safe everybody, and keep in touch.
Feel free to ask any questions below.

Quick advice on storage and backup

Editor’s Note: Since I’ve turned Facebook comments off, I’m experimenting with turning them on directly in the blog. Feel free to ask any questions you may have about this subject at the bottom of the page. No log-in required.

I’ve given this advice several times recently, so I figured I’d turn it into a quick blog post.  If you know someone who is struggling with decisions on how to store or backup media files, please share.

For most people, reliable storage and backup has gotten really cheap and easy to implement, even for people with lots of photos and video.

The trick is to make use of the newer high-capacity drives and affordable cloud backup services. So here’s what I end up telling most people who ask. Note that this advice is designed for people with a data set smaller than about 10TB who don’t need multi-user access.  And, this advice assumes that you have a media collection you want to store and protect, and that it exceeds the capacity of your computer’s internal drive.

General Advice
This holds true for most photographers and (since everyone is now a photographer) also for “regular people”.

  • Use modern big drives – 10-14 TB drives are newer, better designed, more reliable and much faster than older ones. They are also very affordable. If you are using multiple smaller drives, it’s time to replace with a single larger one.  Even if your archive is only a few terabytes, go for one of the large drives.
    Currently, I recommend G Technology drives. 10TB is the current sweet spot for prices ($300). You can bump up to 14TB for a total of $450. (I’ve linked to the USB3.1 version of the drive. You can also get these drives in Thunderbolt, but it won’t be any faster with conventional spinning disks.)
  • Use as few drives as possible – If you can easily get all your stuff on one single drive, do it. It’s much easier to backup and restore than an array of older drives. You don’t need to remember what is where.
  • Get a drive to make a “twin” onsite backup – Again, simpler is better, and big drives are your friend. This is what protects you against drive failure. Much easier to make, keep current, and restore from a local backup than a remote one.
  • You also need an offsite backup to protect against fire or theft – There are two main method to do this. You can get a second backup drive and keep it offsite. You can also use a cloud service to make a 3-2-1 compliant backup. I do both, but let’s handle them independently.
  • Backblaze cloud backup – Backblaze is a great cloud service that I depend on for my own work. The personal version of the service offers unlimited file backup for $60 a year. Uploaded files are encrypted for privacy. You can add external drives to the backup, and it happens automatically in the background. If you are a Photoshelter Pro customer, you can also use their service as your cloud backup. Unlimited storage is included with the Pro accounts.
  • Additional drive for offsite backup – An offsite backup drive provides excellent protection, and quick restoration in the event of a problem. Store it offsite – in general, someplace easy is better than someplace really secure. If you are worried about the data falling into the wrong hands, you can format the drive with encryption. Keeping an offsite drive updated can be difficult, and there are almost always gaps between what’s currently on your primary storage and what’s on the backup. This is why I currently favor Backblaze, especially for working files.
  • Avoid spanned drive devices (like RAID, multi-drive NAS, Drobo, etc.) unless:
    • You really need them for a particular reason. Most people don’t really need single storage volumes larger than 14TB.
    • You understand how to maintain them or have a good tech service to use. These are little computers running Linux, and in general require maintenance, monitoring and updates. I know many people who have experienced total failure of spanned disk devices.
  • If you outgrow the single-drive units, get an additional set – This is getting outside the scope of this post, but worth mentioning. If you can’t fit everything on one drive (say you have 20TB data), then I suggest getting an additional set of drives, rather than going to a RAID device. In most cases, it’s easier, cheaper and safer.

This advice is drawn from content published in The DAM Book 3.0. If you’ve got a larger or more complicated storage and backup job in front of you, you’ll find a lot more discussion over there.