Use of Catalogs

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
Abbott Schindler Senior Member • Posts: 2,775
Re: Use of Catalogs

I think this discussion, while good, is missing an important aspect. I just read the entire thread, and it seems focused on managing image files and the metadata associated with them. The metadata can include what the camera embedded in the original files + metadata added by the user (keywords, descriptions, ratings, color tags, locations, etc.). BTW: filesystems (how macOS, Windows, Linux, etc. keep track of files) also can be used as basic catalogs, and the respective OSes have very nice search capabilities that can (at least on Macs) be augmented with third party software.

What I haven't noticed is the important "what else" catalogs store (unless you're using purely a cataloging application). If you're talking about an image processing application that includes a catalog ("DAM") like LR, Capture One, Apple Photos, etc., the catalog also includes metadata that describes the adjustments made to images. If you make several differently processed versions (aka virtual copies, variants, etc.) of an image, the catalog keeps track of the versions as well as the originals. Thus the catalog is really a database repository containing everything about your photos and what you've done with them.

This last part is really important, in part because each manufacturer's program uses its own proprietary catalog database (necessary because each application uses its own algorithms for processing adjustments). This isn't a problem as long as you stick with one program, but if you later change to a totally different one (LR to Capture One, or Apple Photos to LR, for example), your textual metadata will likely transfer, but adjustments and organizational constructs (smart folders, collections, etc.) may or may not transfer. There's nothing a user can do about this that I know of.

Also, while most DAM applications oare based on how the original files are organized on disk ("referenced" catalogs), some also offer the option to store image files into their own folder (in macOS it's called a "package"); these are "managed" catalogs.

So as you think about whether you want a DAM, keep in mind that some things in the catalog may not transfer to other programs. For example, I've organized my catalog to look exactly like my on-disk folder structure and avoided using in-catalog constructs that may not be interoperable with other DAMs I may use in the future.The exception is when I don't care if the the smart folder or whatever will transfer. While my approach may not fully use all capabilities of my preferred DAM, it ensures that as much of my catalog as possible can be transferred to other software in the future if needed.

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