Digital Asset Management for Photos: Tips & Best Practices

Image of a camera and a laptop on a desk on MerlinOne's website

Photos are a staple in digital asset management. Whether you’re a photographer who needs to manage thousands of photos on the daily, a brand manager who needs to organize and access product photography, a journalist working with photos from the field, or a marketer who works with stock photos (and the rights management issues that come along with them), a DAM solution can solve your biggest photo management challenges.

Getting the most out of your DAM solution, however, means following some important tips and best practices, from choosing the right DAM software to begin with to creating consistent processes for adding new photos to your DAM, making smart use of metadata, and more. Here’s what you need to know to better manage your photos (and your other digital assets, too).

Use a DAM

Camera on ledge in focus

At this point, it may seem obvious, but your laptop’s folder-file hierarchy just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to organizing thousands of photos. Why? Well, you’re busy. You can’t possibly remember what you named that photo you took the other month on location, or who was in it, or when you took it…or for what client or campaign. And finding specific photos in your laptop’s folder-file hierarchy relies on – what else? – your memory.

Implementing a DAM (and following the other best practices in this post) means you’ll no longer need to rely on your memory (or your team’s memory) to find the photos you need, when you need them.

Use Consistent Naming Conventions

Part of the reason it’s so difficult to find the photos you’re looking for in the traditional folder-file setup is that you might not be using consistent naming conventions for your files. So, maybe you named that one photo using a location-based keyword, but all you could remember was the subject of the photo or the date it was taken. If you can’t remember the location, the odds of finding that photo without effort are slim to none.

On the other hand, if you always follow a consistent naming convention, such as MMDDYY-location-subject or MMDDYY-client-campaign, you’ll have an easier time finding the photos you need when you need them.

Make Metadata Work for You

Consistent file naming conventions aren’t all that goes into an efficiently running DAM system; metadata is what really kicks findability up a notch. That’s because you can’t possibly fit every tidbit of information you might search for in a photo’s file name.

Metadata allows you to attach keywords, data about the size and resolution of a photo, colors, the subject, client/campaign information, date the photo was taken, location, and even the camera model used to take the photo. Imagine how easy it would be to find photos when you can search for any one piece of information and narrow your results in seconds – that’s the beauty of a DAM.

Take Advantage of Version Control (and Permissions)

Photos are rarely used in their raw form; there’s a lot of editing that takes place behind the scenes that produces the glossy perfection we see in promotional materials and advertisements. If you throw all your photos in the same folder, or even separate them by “done” and “editing,” keeping tabs on the most recent (or finding the approved-for-use) version is no simple task.

With version control, however, you can quickly locate the most recent iteration of a photo or revert back to a previous version with ease. Add permissions to that mix, and you can prevent other users from accessing photos that aren’t fully edited and approved for use. Have photos commissioned specifically for a particular campaign? Permissions can ensure that only the appropriate team members can access those as well.

Manage Photo Rights

If you’re the copyright holder of a photo, attaching your name (such as last name and first initial) to a photo’s file name or full copyright information to a photo’s metadata provides a valuable layer of copyright protection. If you’re buying rights to use photos that others hold the copyright to, a DAM can help you manage that process, too.

For instance, you can use a DAM’s permissions features to restrict access to rights-managed photos, or grant access to photos licensed for certain campaigns only to users working on those campaigns. Some DAM solutions can even issue alerts to notify you of an impending license expiration so you can take the necessary steps to avoid copyright infringement hassles.

Implement Streamlined Workflows

If you need to convert photos to multiple formats, such as for distribution to different channels or for use in various types of marketing materials, a consistent workflow will help keep your team on task and on schedule. Workflows are crucial for any repeated process, from adding watermarks to photos to submitting edited photos for approval and beyond. Even better? Automated workflows that handle those types of tedious, time-consuming tasks for you.

If you manage a large volume of photos, there’s no question that a digital asset management solution will make your life easier, keep you on track, and improve your team’s productivity – so you can meet deadlines on time, every time. Implement these tips and best practices to get maximum value from your DAM solution.

Ready to eliminate the hassles of inefficient photo management practices? Schedule a demo with MerlinOne today to start reaping the benefits of streamlined workflows, centralized, comprehensive rights management, and complete visibility and control over all of your organization’s photo assets.

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