There are a number of one-stop software solutions for image management. Pick one of these tools, and you can skip right along to the end of this chapter ; you'll have a pretty good picture management system.
Several companies make programs that act as big photographic organizers. Apple's iPhoto, Adobe's Photoshop Album, Corel's Paint Shop Photo Album, ACDSee, and Google's Picasa are some of the heavy- hitters in the market. These programs allow users to organize and find their photos, print images, order things like books and mugs with photos on them, and create archives.
Figure 6.16. iPhoto is a browser and simple editing package that comes installed on every Mac sold, and has basic cataloging abilities. (Photos by Reed Hoffmann)
Best of all, these packages are relatively simple to useinsert a media card into a card reader (or plug in the camerabut you remember that it's faster and less of a battery drain to use a reader, right?). The pictures load into the program, organized by dateif you've configured the software to do this. They don't all do it automatically.
So, if these programs can do so much (and at such a low cost; several of them are free), why would anyone use anything else? Why is it that the pros usually avoid these programs?
The chief problem with these photo organizers is that they're too simple, taking several important choices out of the hands of the end user. And once you move your photos into these programs, it's hard to get them out again because they become part of a library that's organized on your hard drive in a way that makes sense to the program but might not be clear to the photographer.
Figure 6.17. Many programs, such as iPhoto, have their own system of keeping track of photos, and it isn't always easy to find where they've hidden your pictures. (Photo by Reed Hoffmann)
The first big problem has to do with the organization of files. These programs are designed to put pictures in a hard-drive folder structure that makes sense to the program, not to the person using it. As a result, your photos can be stored several layers of folders deep, using a cryptic naming system, along with files used for things like displaying slideshows or making archives. Any photos you want to locate in your library have to be accessed via the interface of the program. No poking around in your files to find the picture you took in front of the Pyramids.
This sounds like a great time savings, but really it can slow down a photographer with lots of pictures. Let's say that you traveled to France in May of 2004 and took beautiful shots of the Eiffel Tower. If you've got your files neatly organized on your hard drive, you simply open the folder called something like 052004_Paris_Trip to find your shots. If you used one of the all-in-one packages, those pictures would be impossible to find on your hard drive. Instead you'd need to open the program and hope that you remembered to make a galley of the images. Or you'd have to do a search for all photos taken in May 2004. Want to move your pictures to a newer computer or a larger hard drive? If you don't copy over the folders from an all-in-one program exactly the way the program requires, you might have to re-index all your shots.
Another big issue crops up the moment you start to use these programs, during file downloading. Not being designed for the professional photographer, these applications often skip right over the crucial file naming and IPTC captioning step. IPTC captioning is an important way to add data to your photographs, making it easy to find them later. With an all-in-one program, at most you'll only be able to add a trivial bit of metadata, like a keyword. And you probably won't be able to search by important details, such as camera model, timestamp, exposure information, or any of the data in a photo's IPTC or EXIF information.
There aren't many issues with archiving with all-in-one programs, since most give you the ability to burn CDs and DVDs from your photos at the click of a button. What's more, you simply need to copy the program's main folder full of images to an external hard drive to backup the whole thing.
Where these programs do really excel though is in their photo-sharing capabilities. These programs usually offer you the option of ordering books, prints, and sometimes things like calendars or mugs, or creating them yourself; allow for the creation of CD and DVD slideshows; and enable you to send pictures via email or publish them to a Web site.
Many pro photographers keep an all-in-one program in their arsenal just for its photo-sharing capabilities. It's entirely common for a photographer to load a shoot's worth of images into a program like iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop Album just to order a hardcover photo book, or to create a slideshow.