Indexing pictures

Adphoto is an advertising photography
and digital imaging company. My parents established it 33 years ago.
It’s Good Stuff.

We’d like to develop the stock photography side of our business. For
that, we need the ability to search for images and give clients
thumbnails before pulling out the original images from our archives.
The Digital Asset Management for Photographers book recommended a hard-disk based archive, but I wanted to make something work without disrupting the office (or my spare time) too much. =)

Right now, we use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to keep track of CDs
and their contents. Our digital librarian is in charge of assigning
numbers to CDs and describing the contents of the CD using keywords
and phrases. When someone asks for stock shots with a certain keyword,
she searches her Excel file and then physically retrieves the CDs in
order to make thumbnails. Our previous digital librarian started
filing copies of pictures in a directory tree arranged by subject, but
this was not accompanied by metadata, and it was hard to keep up to
date.

Our librarian has been experimenting with iView Media Pro and
Extensis Portfolio. After some poking
around, I found out how to do offline indexing in Extensis Portfolio.
That would allow us to index thousands and thousands of CDs while
keeping thumbnails on the hard drive. iView also has this feature, so
we just need to play around with it and see which interface we like
best.

My Adphoto goals for the next two weeks (I have to go back to
Canada in two weeks!) are to:

  • Improve and document the workflow for digital images
  • Transfer the website to another host (must meet Luis Buenaventura)
  • Contract out the redesign of the website and the development of a Flash portfolio viewer
    (might be able to do the Flash portfolio viewer myself if I can find a good photoblog script)

Improving the workflow would include:

  • File and folder naming conventions to support quick indexing and retrieval
  • How to index images
  • How to retrieve images for comps
  • How to retrieve images for use

This will be fun. Hectic, but fun.

On Technorati: , , ,

Learning how to work with stock photos: Can you help me?

The advice these days is to include a large image in your blog post, somewhere “above the fold”, so that it can attract attention, visually break up the page, and make your blog post more interesting. That way, blog themes that use featured images can include that as the thumbnail, and magazine-style feed readers (I use Feedly) can make your posts look cool. The image should be relevant. If you’re using someone else’s image, observe copyright and attribution requirements.

There can never be too many cat pics on the Internet.I like cats, so I’m going to bend the rule about relevance and add a cat picture here.

If I want to learn more about visual language, stock photos and Creative Commons images might be good ways to do that. Less work than taking pictures of things myself, and more realistic than drawing.

One of the reasons I dislike stock photos is that they can feel fake. You know, the bunch of all-white (or, rarely, obviously diverse) business people who are way too excited about a meeting. See Corey Eridon’s post on 13 Hilarious Examples of Truly Awful Stock Photography. I don’t think the examples are awful, but you’ll recognize the clichés.

What does “good” look like? Of the blogs I read, which ones use images consistently, and what do I prefer?

Lifehacker uses images well, and it looks like they customize their photos or make original ones too. Dumb Little Man, Priceonomics, Wise Bread, Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, and Under30CEO include images with every post, although sometimes the images look a bit… stock-y. So I have role models.

What do I want to learn from using stock photos?

I want to be inspired by the way human emotions and situations can be translated into different contexts. I want to expand my collection of visual metaphors. I want to get the hang of matching ideas with comics (or making my own).

What’s getting in my way?

Thinking of the right keywords, and being happy with the search results. For example, let’s say that I want to express the concept, “being frustrated with search results.” Needle in a haystack? Frustrated person?

This is kinda what I mean. Sometimes it’s easier to draw than to search.

image

It’s this odd combination of too many choices, and yet not quite what I’m looking for – but I think that has more to do with skills I need to develop, ways I need to learn how to see and think.

image

 

How do you learn how to use images anyway? Most of the blog posts and web pages I’ve seen just harp on copyright, assuming you’ve got the sense to pick out images on your own. If I want to get better at this, I need to get better at brainstorming concrete images for abstract concepts, coming up with keywords for more efficient searching, piling up sheer exposure – stuffing lots of stock photos into my head until I build my “stock photo vocabulary,” or my visual vocabulary in general.

TIPS

I filtered through more than a hundred pages of Google search results related to how to choose stock photos. Here are the best resources I’ve come across so far:

WAYS I CAN LEARN

A. Write the post first, then look for images.

More topical and closer to my existing workflow, but can be frustrating because of my criteria. I don’t want fake-looking models or situations. I don’t want meaningless fluff or

On the plus side, if I spend half an hour searching for an image and still can’t find it, I probably have a better idea of what I want and how it’s different from what I’ve seen. Then I can draw it.

B. Browse for images first, then follow the inspiration to write posts (maybe with my outline).

Possibly fun, possibly a time-suck. Randomness is my friend. There’s always plenty to write about, so I’m not too worried about finding a topic – although I do want to make sure that each post is fleshed out enough so that it’s not just an excuse to share an image.

Have you taught yourself how to work with stock photos and blog posts? Can you help me figure out how to build my stock photo vocabulary?

Cat image based on this one by vita khorzhevska, Shutterstock
Stream of images based on this one by kangshutters, also Shutterstock

Update 2013-08-16: One of the ways I’m coming to terms with stock photos is to mix them up in some way – add speech bubbles, doodle, and so on. It’s fun. It turns it into a game. If you use stock photos on your blog, what do you do to stop making it look generic?