When it comes to working as a photographer, storing and organizing thousands of photos on your PC can get out of hand. The lack of storage space, struggling to find assets, and drowning in picture duplicates are only the tip of the file management challenges iceberg.
If you tried different ways to manage your asset library but haven’t found an effective system, this post is for you. It will cover the benefits of using digital asset management tools for photographers, as well as a few helpful file organization tips.
What is Digital Asset Management?
If you are new to DAM, it might be helpful to define some basic concepts.
Digital asset management is a range of strategies and tools team managers and creators use to organize, navigate, and share digital files (photos, audio, video, and documents).
There are different approaches to organizing data — such as on-premise solutions and cloud-based tools.
Recently, a growing number of teams are migrating from local storages to cloud tools since they have a higher storage capacity, are easy to access, and reduce the risk of data loss.
Benefits of Digital Asset Management For Photographers
Photographers and photo agency managers have to deal with large volumes of visual data. Making sense of these files is challenging — that’s why teams need a toolset for storing, searching, editing, and sharing files with colleagues and clients.
A digital asset management platform is an intelligent way to address the challenges of managing visual assets — here are the top benefits of integrating such a tool into your workflows:
- No risk of file loss. Most DAM tools support data backup allowing creators to easily retrieve files they deleted by accident. In case your entire file library got erased due to a security attack, a system shut-down, or another type of accident, digital asset management platforms allow restoring every asset in the storage.
- Facilitated communication. Digital asset management tools bring teams together by allowing them to edit and approve of assets, as well as to leave comments on a specific part of a video or a photo.
- Efficient collaboration with freelancers. DAM platforms offer photographers a secure way to exchange files with third-party contributors without compromising the security of the entire storage. Some digital asset management tools support link-based asset sharing, others offer an “Inbox” feature — a set of collaborator-specific folders.
- Improved client communication. Digital asset management helps bring order and organization to exchanging photos and videos with clients. Flexible access and privacy settings help creators ensure that a client gets full ownership of photoshoot assets only after the team’s work is paid, protecting themselves from ghosting.
- High level of asset security. Digital asset management platforms make use of cutting-edge technology (file encryption, multi-factor authentication, etc. ) to build an impenetrable wall between the asset library and third-party intruders.
7 Applications of DAM in a Photographer’s Workflow
There’s a common misconception that digital asset management tools lack flexibility and it’s not easy to seamlessly integrate them into your or your team’s day-to-day work. A wide range of features contributes to a high versatility of DAM platforms. Here is how a DAM platform smoothly fits into the main activities of a photography business.
1. Easy-to-access library of inspiration files for brainstorming and ideation
Coming up with creative photoshoot ideas is what sets good photographers apart from mediocre ones. That’s why creative teams spend a ton of time making mood boards and gathering inspiration files.
During brainstorming, having quick hands-on access to your inspiration library is highly helpful. That’s where DAM comes in handy by allowing creators to create an easy to follow file hierarchy for inspiration assets.
You can use a top-down navigation approach: [Project Name] Inspiration -> Location Inspiration -> Beach photos.
Also, you can find a file horizontally, using keyword-based asset search. By typing “beach” in the search bar, a photographer will quickly see all shots that match the description.
2. Working with post-production files
Shooting in RAW is a standard practice in photography — however, few file management tools support viewing a picture in RAW. The good news is, creator-facing DAM tools allow photographers to view shots straight from the camera, without having to save them in a different format.
You can also check out Laura Pearman article on photography trends to know more about latest trends in style and aesthetic.
Moreover, top-tier DAM tools support basic RAW editing, allowing creators to make a few quick touch-ups without living the file library tab.
3. Improving the efficiency of editing
Retouching photos and editing videos is a tedious and time-consuming process. Although DAM tools do not spare creators the need to carefully brush a picture pixel-by-pixel, they do make post-production workflows more efficient.
A photographer can choose a digital asset management platform with built-in Adobe Creative Cloud integrations. This way, you can to quickly import media files to Photoshop or Adobe Premiere Pro.
4. Sharing feedback with the team
Reviewing and approving of assets takes a lot of time if you use standard communication tools like messengers and task managers. Unfortunately, most of these platforms aren’t well-suited to photographers’ needs forcing creators to adapt and deal with redundant features.
Switching to a digital asset management platform provides photographers with an infrastructure for sharing feedback and edits. Here’s how DAM platforms optimize feedback circles:
- Version control. DAM tools help creators track edits and compare different file versions side-by-side to not miss out on the most subtle changes.
- Point-based commenting. Team managers can attach a comment to a specific fragment of a photo or put a time stamp on a video to make sure creators understand what exactly should be fixed.
- Intuitive asset review system. Team managers can evaluate the quality of photos creators make using a star-based assessment system — it’s a quick way to rate a large batch of assets.
5. Sharing work with a client
Finding an efficient way to exchange photos and video clips with a client is a game-changer for many creative teams. For one thing, it helps photographers build a reputation as reliable professionals. Other than that, streamlining work sharing cuts feedback loops and helps complete projects faster.
How does DAM revolutionize work sharing? There are multiple ways for photographers to use digital asset management tools when exchanging photos with clients or partners:
- Creating a custom website where a client can access all photoshoot materials and share feedback.
- Using link-based sharing to send a specific file to a client during a discussion.
- Creating an inbox (a separate folder) to exchange a batch of files with clients and partners.
6. Onboarding new creators
If new photographers, video editors, or creators are about to join the team, as a manager, you want to make sure they have access to the most relevant versions of all assets. Digital asset management platforms offer new teammates instant access to the file library and immerse them into best practices from Day 1.
A freshly onboarded teammate will be able to:
- Quickly find needed assets using the search or navigating the folder tree.
- Have contextualized information about each file thanks to the metadata editor.
- See how the feedback loop is structured.
- Use the files colleagues upload as a reference when making or editing photos for future projects.
7. Connecting your asset library with the tools the team uses
Digital asset management platforms are not standalone solutions — they can be integrated with other tools photographers rely on to stay productive. Although the number and nature of integrations depend on the DAM vendor you choose, most top-tier tools can connect to:
- G Suite and Google Drive, helping photographers to quickly embed files into presentations, forms, or documents.
- Slack — creative teams can keep track of asset changes without having to visit the file library.
- Adobe Creative Cloud integrations streamline the process of editing shots in Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and other CC solutions.
- Zapier — if a DAM tool is integrated with Zapier, it gives photographers a lot more freedom, allowing them to build custom integrations between the file library and hundreds of other apps.
4 Best Digital Asset Management Practices For Photographers
A DAM platform is a powerful weapon for transforming and modernizing data management. However, making the most out of the system is up to you.
Once you choose a reliable DAM vendor, make sure to follow these tips to leverage the full power of digital asset management.
1. Create consistent asset naming conventions
Although DAM helps build easy-to-navigate file libraries and facilitates file search, handling large file directories will be easier if there’s an underlying logic to how you name each picture.
Here are a few ways for photographers to structure their storage:
- Sorting the library by date — adding a date in MM/DD/YYYY format to each uploaded file.
- Organizing assets by projects — creating a specific folder for each client a company works with.
- Storing assets based on people responsible — creating folders and subfolders for each creator on the team.
You can either stick to some of these popular naming conventions or brainstorm your own. Don’t forget to share naming practices with teammates so that everyone can follow them when uploading new files.
2. Use keywords and metadata to the fullest
It’s common among photographers to not leverage the power of built-in metadata editors to the fullest. The default set of fields DAM vendors offer contains basic information about a file (upload date, author, location the shot was taken at, copyright expiry date).
If your team needs a more detailed description (a type of camera and lens used to take a picture, tools used for retouching, etc), make sure to add custom fields.
To streamline the process of filling in metadata tags and make them easy-to-navigate, team managers should create a controlled vocabulary — the words teammates can use to fill in metadata fields.
Whenever possible, add a drop-down list to a metadata field to save the team time from filling the description in manually.
3. Document data management workflows
Even if you work on your own at the moment, chances are, you will be hiring or collaborating with other creators in the future. To them, using DAM for the first time might be confusing. That’s why photographers should think one step ahead and document their asset management workflows.
Once you welcome a teammate on board, sharing these guidelines will spare you a lot of redundant questions and save a newcomer a lot of time.
4. Make full use of dashboards and analytics
Digital asset management is an excellent looking glass that allows team leaders to see how productive creators are. If you are running a team of photographers, consider using dashboards and custom reports to see who on the team uploads the most assets, who oversees most edits, and makes the most helpful suggestions. This way, you can identify the key players in most workflows and allocate tasks within the team more efficiently.
Also, seeing the bigger picture in file management can give photo agency managers insights as to what types of projects they mostly work with and improve client acquisition.
To streamline activity monitoring, you can either integrate DAM with Slack or Trello or get auto-generated reports on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis via email.
If you feel overwhelmed when navigating your file library, it’s time to look for new ways to handle your photo and video storage. Digital asset management platforms, for one, are a powerful way to streamline file storage, management, and sharing.
These tools offer creators all the tools necessary to keep track of copyright licenses, comment on each other’s work, and send photos to a client.
The digital asset market is on the rise — there are a lot of vendors to consider. Take your time to choose a platform that directly meets the needs of a photography team. Once you and your team get used to using DAM, you’ll quickly notice how much faster and easier-to-keep track of your daily work has become.