Use of Catalogs

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
Jim B (MSP) Forum Pro • Posts: 10,760
Re: Use of Catalogs

dj_paige wrote:

Jim B (MSP) wrote:

dj_paige wrote:

astevens54 wrote:

I've avoided using catalogs for a long time. My understanding is that all a catalog is, is basically a file with metadata for your pictures and where they are located. I understand the benefits. What are the disadvantages of using catalogs? Thanks in advance.

I'm not going to play the game of only talking the disadvantages of catalogs; I'm going to talk about both advantages and disadvantages.

So first, I want to modify your "understanding" for completeness. A catalog is indeed a "file with metadata", but its more than that ... it is a database with metadata. Because it is a database, you get certain advantages. Databases allow you to search more quickly, and also allow you to organize your photos in ways that would not be possible without a database. So for example, if you have folders for different families of people, for example a folder for the Smith family, and a folder for the Jones family, and then you have a photo of Hanna Smith and Mary Jones, which folder do you put it in? With a database, you can assign the photo to both the Smith family and the Jones family, not possible without a database (unless you want to duplicate the photo, not recommended). And of course, there are zillions of other cases. Plus you can search along many hierarchies, such as date, family, geographic location, photo content, etc. and you can search by MANY hierarchies (e.g. I want to find all photos of churches in Italy taken in 2018) and I can search across multiple folders easily (e.g. I want to find all photos taken in New York State which probably are scattered across dozens of folders).

The disadvantages of databases/catalogs is that it is another layer of tools that you have to learn and use. For some types of photo collections, catalogs are not needed (for example, if your photos are birds categorized by genus and species, and you don't have any other photos) then you probably can do everything you need with folders. If you just photograph weddings, all you need is a folder (with possible subfolders) by the name of the wedding.

Nicely summarized.

For those of us with over 150,000 photos in a catalog, of subjects ranging from a macro of an ant to a super moon, from grand kids to grand parents, taken all over the world - a catalog is critical to finding a photo.

I think the number of photos is somewhat irrelevant here, it's the content that determines if a catalog would be helpful or not. If the content is just birds, or just weddings, in other words, "one-dimensional" content, I don't see catalogs helping much. When, as in your case, you have widely varying content, and a photo can be in two or more "dimensions", I think catalogs are very helpful.

I know a number of birders with 10s of thousands of bird photos who will disagree. In addition to the species, there is the sex, age, location, time of year, environment, etc that they want to keep track of. They use a catalog.

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