The term “image database software” is broad in scope. The spectrum ranges from simple (freeware) offers for private users and systems for photographers to professional corporate solutions with a wide range of functions. This article compares the various categories to help you find your way around in this complex environment and find the right type of image database software for your needs.
Digital photography has led to an enormous increase in data volumes. This in turn has increased the need for solutions that allow users to store and sort files in a structured way. In addition to private users, this particularly applies to photographers and service providers in creative fields. In addition, companies operating in all industries today often manage thousands of images, photos, logos, graphics, and drawings. All in all, there are three target groups for image database software:
- Private users
- Small companies or individual entrepreneurs such as photographers
- Mid-sized and large companies and their relevant departments (e.g. marketing, communication, sales, and product management)
In the following we point out which image database system is most suitable for these groups.
Private users and hobby photographers have several ways to manage their images. The simplest solution is the standard file system of operating systems like Microsoft Windows. Systems developed specifically for image management in the consumer sector offer a few more functions. There are two types of software: locally installable solutions and cloud software. Some of the programs are available (in their basic version) free of charge. Besides structured filing and administration, the tools often have display and editing functions. In some cases, features such as geo-tagging, automatic grouping and face recognition are also available. However, some professional options are lacking - such as management of image rights and convenient indexing.
This is where the professional range of systems for managing file formats such as JPG, TIF, RAW, PSD, and PNG begins. Image databases for small agencies and photographers usually contain functions such as indexing, full text search, rights management and where-used lists. In some cases, cross-company collaboration is also supported. This requires a user administration system including corresponding access rights and approvals.
A wide variety of image database software is available. These range from simple open source tools to expensive solutions requiring special expertise. There are also some systems specifically designed for photographers (e.g. Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Bridge). Both cloud and on-premise versions are available. They do have one thing in common: Most solutions have a strong focus on images. Other types of media files are rarely supported. This makes these systems suitable mainly for entrepreneurs who work primarily with images.
To sum up: When we refer to professional image database software for companies, we are typically talking about digital asset management (DAM).
Every DAM system contains an image database, but the range of functions clearly goes beyond merely organizing and archiving images. Particularly noteworthy, for example, are the extensive metadata and version management options. Preview functions with media playback eliminate the need to open individual files. In addition, there are a number of automations - such as for imports or for format and quality conversion. Usage rights and approval processes for assets can naturally also be mapped to prevent the incorrect use of files.
Last but not least, professional DAM software also has options for sharing assets. Companies can grant external partners such as agencies or photographers access to certain content to facilitate data exchange. In some cases, there is even an integrated task management function that allows a form of cross-company project management to be displayed in the DAM system.
In sum, one thing is certain: If you are looking for a professional image database software for your company and want to manage all your digital assets centrally, DAM systems are a must. By implementing DAM, you achieve not only extremely powerful image management including powerful search functions but also gain a significantly larger range of functions including workflows, automations, and collaboration functions. In addition, DAM software often permits media-neutral storage of digital assets. This enables you to output files via various communication channels (websites, shops, platforms, catalogs, etc.) without having to make any adjustments beforehand. These features result in significant process optimizations and cost savings.
Would you like to delve more deeply into the subject? If so, we recommend our detailed whitepaper entitled “Costs and savings potential in image management.”