Tips & Best Practices for Building & Maintaining an Image Database

Tips & Best Practices for Building & Maintaining an Image Database

Companies that need to manage hundreds to thousands of images need a clear, consistent process for both storing images and locating relevant images when they’re needed. Otherwise, team members spend valuable time trying to track down misplaced images, sorting through dozens of folders stored on their computers or in cloud storage solutions.

If your folder storage solution displays thumbnails, that can help a little, but thumbnails don’t always tell the whole story. Does the image include a watermark? Does it include the final product placement? Is it the most recently approved version? These questions and more often mean it’s necessary to open several image files to view them in full before you’ve found the precise image you’re searching for. In other words, it’s a confusing, time-consuming, and frustrating process – but it doesn’t have to be that way. By leveraging a digital asset management solution like MerlinOne, you can build a sophisticated, user-friendly image database that makes it easy to store images and add metadata, making your image library fully searchable in seconds, rather than hours or days.

Download our white paper, Metadata: Making digital objects searchable, to learn how a DAM solution provides a far more efficient solution than the folder-based approach you’re used to.

Ready to learn more about how to build and maintain a searchable, user-friendly image database? Read on for valuable tips and best practices for creating a highly functional image database to replace your outdated folder system.

Choose the Right DAM for Your Needs

Camera Lens surrounded by images

The first and most important step in building and maintaining an image database is to choose the right tool for the job. A digital asset management solution allows you to organize, edit, and share images and other digital assets in a centralized hub – a database – that’s packed with other useful features to make your images easily searchable. A robust DAM solution like MerlinOne provides built-in tools for automated workflows, user permissions and access controls, and lightning-fast searching to help your team quickly locate the images they need, whenever they need them.

Thanks to versioning, MerlinOne ensures that your team has access to the most recent, approved versions of images and other assets, avoiding mishaps like accidentally publishing a less-than-perfect product photo or an outdated version of your company’s logo. Plus, MerlinOne offers advanced, sophisticated features including image recognition tagging, facial recognition, and more to streamline the process of adding new images to your library while maintaining the user-friendly searchability your team relies on.

Keep Cross-Platform Accessibility in Mind

Whatever solution you implement, cross-platform compatibility should be a top consideration. Today’s highly distributed teams are working on myriad devices – including mobile devices – and various operating systems, but they all need access to the image database.

Folder systems, as you’ve probably already learned the hard way, may be accessible on various devices, but it’s far more difficult to search file folders from your smartphone than it is to search on a desktop or laptop. So, keep it accessible by implementing a solution that offers the same lightning-fast, user-friendly searchability on any device.

Use Consistent File Naming Conventions

Three women on bench looking at wall of colorful images

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to talk about the individual image files. Whether you’re using a folder-based organization system or a sophisticated database, consistent file naming conventions are a must. Think about it: If some of your image files are named beginning with the date first, followed by the subject or photographer/creator, and others are named beginning with the subject first, you could have a single set of related images scattered throughout a folder – even across multiple folders – rather than in one place.

Your image file names should meet three important criteria:

  • Unique
  • Descriptive
  • Consistent

Accomplishing this typically requires creating a set of written file naming rules that every member of your team must follow when adding new images to your database or DAM. File names should follow a consistent format such as: Date-Photographer’s Initials-Subject. There are even rules to apply to how dates are formatted in file names. For example, an image named with a date in this format: YYYY-MM-DD won’t appear in the same place as images named with a date in this format: YYMMDD.

There are tons of variations to consider and possible data to incorporate into image file names, such as:

  • Date
  • Photographer identifier (initials, last name, etc.)
  • Client’s name
  • Campaign name
  • Product name
  • Camera identifier
  • Location
  • Version
  • Size

You don’t need to include all of these elements in your image file names. In fact, it would get mighty confusing if you did. So, choose a few elements that make sense for your image library and your needs. Keep in mind that much of this data can be included as image metadata, so the main consideration when establishing image file naming conventions is consistency.

Apply Consistent Metadata Rules


Speaking of metadata, let’s talk about how metadata makes your image library searchable in a database – and how to use it effectively. There are three main types of metadata: structural, administrative, and descriptive, all of which consist of information that describes an image or other asset. Metadata tagging rules should be consistent, specifying the type of information included for each image and the specific format for entering that information.

Metadata is the backbone of a DAM, making it possible for users to search for the images they need, rather than spend hours finding the images they need. That’s why it’s important to think about what types of information and terms your DAM users will associate with images when establishing consistent metadata rules. Metadata includes a variety of information such as:

  • Captions
  • Keywords
  • Date an image was created
  • Date an image was added to the DAM
  • Location the image was taken
  • Camera manufacturer, model, and serial number
  • Exposure information
  • Photographer’s name
  • Editor’s name
  • People or subjects the image contains
  • Client or campaign name
  • Version
  • Usage rights information
  • And more

Some metadata is generated from a camera’s files or from metadata embedded in a scanned image file, and users may manually input other metadata tags. With a DAM like MerlinOne, Automated Metadata Enhancement (AME) analyzes images and automatically adds metadata such as keywords, colors, and even a memorability ranking, drastically reducing the time required for users to input metadata when adding images to your DAM. When it comes to metadata, the more, consistent metadata for each image, the better. To learn more about Metadata best practices and how the use of Metadata can streamline your business, download our white paper below.

MerlinOne CTA Learn how to elevate your DAM through effective Metadata

Leverage Version Control

Camera on ledge in focus

Version control is an important feature to look for in any DAM or image database solution. With version control, you can avoid embarrassing (and possibly costly) mishaps such as:

  • Distributing a brochure or asset with the company’s old logo
  • Posting a less-than-flattering photo of your CEO
  • Using photos featuring product names that have since been changed (due to copyright or other issues)

Often, images go through several rounds of editing and multiple approval steps, such as a legal review, before they can be released into the wild. Version control ensures that your team has access to only the most recent, approved iterations of images. At the same time, certain team members (such as creatives) who are working on images have access to all iterations, allowing them to revert back to a previous version that contained a certain feature they liked or determine when a specific change was implemented. In simple terms, version control prevents your team from releasing non-approved images for public consumption and from using rights-managed images for uses that you don’t have the rights for, avoiding costly fees and copyright infringement hassles.

When you follow these tips and best practices, you’ll build a highly functional, user-friendly image database, enabling your team to quickly and easily find the images they need when they need them, in seconds, rather than hours. Plus, you’ll avoid the time-consuming and costly process of re-creating images that already exist because your team can’t locate them.

Implementing robust DAM solution like MerlinOne is the easiest way to build and maintain an image database. Download our white paper, Questions You Should Always Consider Before Choosing a DAM, for more valuable tips on choosing the right DAM solution for your image management needs.

MerlinOne CTA Things to Consider as you think about a DAM White Paper Download

Ready to get started with a user-friendly image database? Schedule a demo today to learn more about how MerlinOne can transform your image management process with an easy-to-use, customizable digital asset management solution.

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