Where does “the truth” live?

This post is adapted from The DAM Book 3.0. In this post, I outline the structural approaches for media management and how they are changing in the cloud/mobile era.  

Back in the early digital photography days, there was a debate about where the authoritative version of a file’s metadata should live. People who liked file browsers would say “the truth should be in the file.” People like me who advocated for database management would say “the truth should be in the database.”

The argument here was how to store and manage metadata, and especially how to handle changes and conflicts between different versions of image metadata. This is a fundamental DAM architecture question.

For a number of years, the argument was largely settled – the only way to effectively manage large collections required the use of a catalog database to be the source of truth. This still holds true for most of my readers. But there’s a new paradigm for managing metadata/versions/collaboration, and eventually it’s going to be the best way forward.

The truth can also live in the cloud. And that’s the way that app-managed library software is being designed. It’s what we see with Lightroom CC, Google Photos, and Apple Photos. Because the cloud is connected to all versions of a collection, it can resolve differences between them and keep different instances synchronized. Typically, it does this by letting the most recent change “win,” and propagating those to the other versions.

Allowing a cloud-based application to synchronize versions and resolve conflicts is really the only way to provide access across multiple devices, or multiple users and keep everything unified.

The truth in the cloud is also the paradigm for enterprise cloud DAM like Widen and Bynder. It’s fast becoming the preferred method to allow distributed collaboration, even for people in the same office.

But there’s a rub, at least for now.

Cloud-based applications will not work for some people – at least not yet. The library may be so large that it’s too costly to store it in the cloud. Or you may not have enough bandwidth to upload and download everything in a reasonable time frame. Or storing stuff on other people’s computers may make you uncomfortable. Some of these problems will be solved by the march of technology and some may never be solved.At the moment, it’s often best to take a hybrid approach where the ultimate source of truth lives in a private archive that is stored on hardware in your own possession. Files can be pushed to the cloud component to be used for distribution and collaboration.

As you decide which system best suits your needs, understanding where “the truth” lives is an essential component for creating distributed access to your collection.

The DAM Book 3.0 Index

We’ve created an index for The DAM Book 3.0. While this was not terribly necessary for electronic versions of the book, it’s quite helpful for the print version (at the printer now – expected delivery before the end of July).I’ve never personally created an index before, so this was a learning experience for me. It ended up being a tremendous amount of work – maybe 50 hours of combing through the book, making entries, organizing information and then reorganizing it.

If you have already bought the PDF, you’ll soon get an announcement of the update along with a download link. If you don’t have a copy of the book, the index will give you a very good idea of the breadth and depth of the content it includes.

Here’s a PDF of the Index. You can click the top right to see it full screen, or download it onto your computer.

Download (PDF, 4.12MB)

Embedded photos as platforms for information or commerce

This post is adapted from The DAM Book 3.0. In that book, I describe the ways that connectivity is changing the way we use visual images. In this post, I outline how embedded media can enable new kinds of connections between people, ideas and commerce. 

As connected images become more essential for communication and engagement, image embedding creates a new opportunity to gather and disseminate information. A traditional web page uses images packaged up as JPEGs and sent out as freestanding files. But images can also be displayed using embedding techniques. Embedded images (like embedded videos), reside on a third party server and are displayed in a frame or window on another site’s web page.Embedded media offers a direct connection from the server, through the web page or application all the way to the end user. This can provide a two-way flow of information, as well as the ability to customize the embedded media to suit the needs of the end user with updates, custom advertising or other messaging.

Let’s call these embedded objects, because they are actually more complicated than freestanding images. A YouTube video embedded on a web page is an example of an embedded object. The web page draws a box and asks the YouTube media server to fill that box with a video stream.

There is a live link which runs through the webpage, between the viewer’s device and the YouTube server. Because there is a link between YouTube and the viewer, there is a two-way
flow of data back and forth. This allows YouTube to gather all kinds of information, and it allows YouTube to also push out customized information through the window.

The media server can know who sees an image, how they got there, what they are interested in, who they interact with, what other sites they go to, what they search on and more. And the media server can present customized information to the end viewers based on what it knows about them. Remember, these windows are basically open pipelines that serve up the media on-demand.

Once only for video, now for still images too
Of course, the practice outlined above has been part of the business model for video services for a long time. Videos on web pages have historically been hosted by third-party servers, and we have been accustomed to YouTube ads for a decade. But it’s relatively new for still images, which could always be easily and cheaply added to web pages as JPEGs. The most significant marker for change was the introduction of free embedding by Getty Images.

When the stock photography giant decided to make vast numbers of images available for free embedding, it signaled that embedded objects were going to be an important part of its strategy moving forward. Getty has opened up millions of individual pipelines through blogs and other web pages, with the ability to collect and serve information in service of new business strategies.

The use case for images as platforms for two-way communication should be favorable moving forward. Mobile devices increasingly rely on photos instead of text headlines, and methods for connectivity are improving. In the last few years, we’ve seen several companies hang their business models on embedded image objects.

At this writing, Getty has gotten the most traction in such a service, but others are trying. Retailers are using embedded images as mini storefronts, and mission-driven organizations can use them to spread their messages in a viral manner.

What can you do with Embedded objects?
There are several valuable things you an do with embedded objet that are much harder or impossible with standard JPEGs.
• You can add a level of copyright protection that disables right-click saving.
• You can enable deep zoom features that are managed by the server.
• You can add purchase buttons or “more info” links directly onto the image.
• You can update the image when something changes (e.g. product updates.)

Okay, I’m interested – now what?
Making use of embedded media for still photos is an emerging capability. Several companies have taken a run at it, but none has fully cracked the code yet (and even Getty has not publicly disclosed how they intend to monetize the technology).  SmartFrame is offering this embedding as a service that bolts on to your DAM. The thing I like about their business model is that it works in service of the image owner, not the middleman like Getty and YouTube do.

SmartFrame can help you with security, sharing, tracking and monetizing.

And the International Image Interoperability Framework is also building around this concept. (“Come for the deep zoom, stay for the great metadata interchange.”) I’ll have more on this project in another post.

I’m keeping close watch on this capability, and I’ll report as more information comes in. I first wrote about this topic in 2013 in this post.

 

Digitizing Your Photos Webinar posted

Last fall, I did a presentation at B&H on using your camera as a scanner, based on my book Digitizing Your Photos. The webinar proved a pretty detailed overview of the camera scanning process for prints, slides and negatives. For those unfamiliar with the process, or for people who have been struggling to get high quality scans, there is a lot of good information in here.

Maine Media Workshops

I just finished leading my first Maine Media Workshop. It was a week -long intensive workshop that focused on total collection management using Lightroom. Each of my students brought in a large body of work, from 10,000 images up to 400,000. We focused on the processes that would help them preserve, organize and curate the photos.We had a great dinner Thursday night at Skip’s house. 

First a quick shout out to the class – Charlotte,  Gary, George, Nancy  and Skip. They were an outstanding group to spend a week with: passionate about their photos, eager to learn all they could, and patiently allowing me to spend individual time with each person in the class. They were also a delight to spend a week with – interesting, funny and kind.

I’d also like to thank my teaching assistant Sophie Schwartz  and Alyson who both helped to keep things running smoothly.

The Maine Media Workshop (MMW) provides a great environment for focusing on an area like collection management. It’s a no-frills camp setting on the outskirts of picturesque Rockport/Camden. The total immersion approach allows the class to push through barriers and make substantial progress.I hope I’ll be back again next year.

True to its new name, there was a lot more at the MMW than photography. The roster of classes included a number of ones on video production, podcasting and writing.  The end of week slideshow included some very nice work done by the different groups.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done workshops, and it was very gratifying. Now that we have two new books out, we are actively working to get some future workshops lined up. If you are interested in taking a workshop, we have a place for you to tell us what you’re interested in on this page.

 

The DAM Book 3.0 released

It is with great pleasure that we can announce the release of the full digital version of The DAM Book 3.0. In the nine years since the last version was published, our use of visual media has become marked by increasing connectivity – between images, people, data, applications and web services. The new book helps you understand this connectivity and how to evaluate which tools are right for you.

The change in covers between TDB2 and TDB3 help to illustrate the differences between the versions. In 2009, it was fine to think about collection management as “a big ball of my stuff.” In our connected world, that’s not enough. Your image collection will connect to other people, images, services, applications, ideas and information. You will also probably have additional satellite collections on other devices or services. And, yes, like Tinkertoys, these connections often plug into each other in standardized ways. 


In the new book, I’ve laid out the elements of the connected media ecosystem. We’re seeing connection and integration in  all aspects of the way we make and use images. Connectivity is often born into an image at the moment of capture, and increases as your images move through the lifecycle. Almost everything that hosts or touches your images has some type of connection.

The new world of cloud and mobile workflow are impacting every part of the way we manage and make use of images. File formats, storage, backup and metadata are evolving to incorporate these new capabilities. I’ve rewritten the book from the ground-up so that connectivity is built in to each topic.

Of course, connectivity is not the only change that has come to digital media over the last nine years. The use and importance of photography has expanded dramatically, and anyone who wants to understand how visual media works can find important context in this book.

The DAM Book 3.0 Release 2

Dateline – Athens, Georgia – We’ve released the next set of chapters for The DAM Book 3.0, adding 325 more pages to the initial Chapter 1 release, for a total of 363 pages. These chapters cover some of the most fundamental and important parts of image management.
Chapters released today include:

  • Image Objects and File Formats – a discussion of the evolution of digital images and the formats used to embody them.
  • How Metadata Works – A deep dive into the nuts and bolts of modern metadata.
  • Using Metadata – a guide to the effective use of metadata to achieve goals that are important to you.
  • Logical Structure – discussion of the different types of file systems that we now use (computer, mobile, cloud, NAS) and a file and folder strategy for each of these.
  • Digital Storage Hardware – a comprehensive look at the current storage options for your digital media.
  • Backup, Restoration and Verification – preservation of your archive requires you to think of these processes as part of a unified system.

Anyone who has purchased the pre-release copy should have gotten an email with instructions for downloading the new version. And if you have not ordered yet, you can still get in on the 10% pre-release discount. The discount runs until the release of the final version, scheduled for the end of April.

Huge thanks to the DAM Useful production team for their Herculean effort in getting this release out on time. Elinore Wrigley of Me Jayne Design Cape Town, South Africa, Dominique le Roux of Moonshine Media, Vientiane, Laos and Bobbi Kittner of Kittner Design, Takoma Park, Maryland did another outstanding job.

Special thanks to Josie Krogh and Steve Thomas for letting us set up an Athens, GA field office for the final push.

The DAM Book 3.0 now available for pre-order!

We are pleased to announce that The DAM Book 3.0 is now available for pre-order! As with our previous books, you can pre-order the book for at a discount.

Here are the details:

  • Electronic book:  Regular price $34.95
  • Pre-order discount price:  $31.46
  • All pre-orders will get an advance copy of Chapter 1, Visually Speaking at the time of purchase.
  • We will deliver at least 7 of the additional 11 chapters by March 31st, 2018.
  • Additional chapters will deliver in April 2018.
(Click for larger view)

Print Copies
Print copies will be available over the summer. Your purchase of an electronic copy can be applied to a print copy, once it’s available.
More Info: Click The DAM Book 3.0 product page here.

Upcoming Appearances

I’ve got a number of appearances scheduled for the coming months. Here’s a list, followed by a link to an interview I did with Photofocus.

APPO Raleigh, NC March 21-24
I’ll be giving a general session at the Association of Professional Photo Organizers on the use of Artificial Intelligence in asset management, as well as a breakout session on using your camera as a scanner.
APPO is an organization for people who help (mostly) private individuals scan, tag, preserve and make use of their photographic legacies. More info here. 


Palm Springs Photo Festival
I’m thrilled to be headed back to Palm Springs for the 2018 festival. I’ll be doing two programs. The first is Wednesday, May 9th program on scanning with your camera and the second is What’s new in DAM program on May 10th. More Info here.


Maine Media Workshops
I’ll be giving a week-long workshop on managing your mage collection with Lightroom the week of June 10th. I’ve never taught here, but I’m really excited to give it a whirl. I know a number of people who have had life-changing experiences at the workshop. More info here. 


Available now! – Web Interview on PhotoFocus
I had a really enjoyable hour speaking with Rich Harrington, Tim Grey and Kevin Ames about getting organized. The interview has been archived and you can find it here. 

Using Google Cloud Vision for OCR

Editor’s Note: This post combines a couple threads I’ve been writing about. I’ll provide some real-world methods for converting visible text to searchable metadata as discussed in Digitizing Your Photos. In the course of this, I’ll also be fleshing out real-world workflow for Computational Tagging as discussed in The DAM Book 3 Sneak Peeks.

In the book Digitizing Your Photos, I made the case for digitizing textual documents as part of any scanning project. This includes newspaper clippings, invitations, yearbooks and other memorabilia. These items can provide important context for your image archive and the people and events that are pictured.

Ideally, you’ll want to change the visible text into searchable metadata. Instead of typing it out, you can use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to automate the process. OCR is one of the earliest Machine Learning technologies, and it’s common to find in scanners, fax machines and in PDF software. But there have not been easy ways to automatically convert OCR text to searchable image metadata.

In Digitizing Your Photos,  I show how you can manually run images through Machine Learning services and convert any text in the image into metadata through cut-and-paste. And I promised to post new methods for automating this process as I found them. Here’s the first entry in that series.

The Any Vision Lightroom Plugin
I’ve been testing a Lightroom plugin that automates the process of reading visible text in an image and pasting it into a metadata field. Any Vision from developer John Ellis uses Google’s Cloud Vision service to tag your images for several types of information, including visible text. You can tell Any Vision where you want the text to be written, choosing between one of four fields. as shown below.

Here is part of the Any Vision interface, with only OCR selected. As you can see, you have the ability to target any found text to either the Caption, Headline, Title or Source filed. I have opted to use the Headline field myself, since I don’t use it for anything else. 

Results
Here are my findings, in brief:

  • Text that appears in real-life photos (as opposed to copies of textual documents) might be readable, but the results seem a lot less useful.
  • Google does a very good job reading text on many typewritten or typeset documents. If you have scanned clippings or a scrapbook, yearbook or other typeset documents, standard fonts seem to be translated reasonably well.
  • Google mostly did a poor job of organizing columns of text. It simply read across the columns as though they were one long line of non-sensical text. Microsoft Cognitive Services does a better job, but I’m not aware of an easy way to bring this into image metadata.
  • Handwriting is typically ignored.
  • For some reason, the translate function did not work for me. I was scanning some Danish newspapers and the text was transcribed but not translated. I will test this further.

Examples
(Click on images to see a larger version)

Let’s start with an image that shows why I’m targeting the Headline field rather than the caption field. This image by Paul H. J. Krogh already has a caption, and adding a bunch of junk to it would not be helping anybody.
You can also see that the sign in the background is partially recognized, but lettering in red is not seen and player numbers are ignored even though they are easily readable.

In the example below, from my mother’s Hollins College yearbook, you can see that the text is read straight across, creating a bit of nonsense. However, since the text is searchable, this would still make it easy to find individual names or unbroken phrases in a search of the archive.
You can also see that the handwriting on the page is not picked up at all.

In the next example, you can see that Google was able to see the boxes of text, changes of font and use of underline to hep parse text more  properly. 

And in this last example you can see that Google is having a terrible time with the gothic font in this certificate, only picking out a small fraction of letters properly. 

The Bottom Line
If you have a collection of scanned articles or other scanned textual documents in Lightroom, this is a great way to make visible text searchable. While Google is not the best OCR, thanks to Any Vision, it’s the easiest way I know of to add the text to image metadata automatically.

AnyVision is pretty geeky to install and use, but the developer has laid out very clear instructions for getting it up and running and for signing up for your Google Cloud Vision account. Read all about it here.

Cost
Google’s Cloud Vision is very inexpensive – it’s priced at $.0015/per image (which works out to $1.50 for 1000 images.) Google will currently give you a $300 credit when you create an account, so you can test this very thoroughly before you run up much of a bill.

Watch for another upcoming post where I outline some of the other  uses of Any Vision‘s tagging tools.

 

 

DIGITAL ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS