The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers 2nd edition

Reviewed by Major Keary

The DAM Book has the sub-title, A Digital Photography Ecosystem: Process < Edit < Archive.It is not about digital photography per se, but deals with managing the data lifecycle of digital images: cataloguing, naming files, filing methodology, storage, backups, work-flow, and hardware considerations. Even though aimed at a professional audience The DAM Book is also a valuable resource for anyone who holds, is responsible for, or has an interest in, a large collection of images, whether as digital files or hard-copy (prints, negatives, and transparencies) that should be insured against loss by making a digital archive. The book does not discuss open source solutions, but the open source illuminati should not write it off on that account; developers interested in digital asset management will find the comprehensive and in-depth discussions an invaluable resource for laying down program specifications.

Digital photography has brought with it a variety of potential problems, such as proliferation. It has reduced, or even done away with, the cost of making and distributing images, which encourages the photographer to keep on 'shooting'. The falling cost of memory and storage, and the availability of fast data transfer facilities, compound the problem. Another issue is changing technology: will an image created in 2009 be readable in 2019? Formats are sure to change; for example, what would one do with a MET file? In 1996 Presentation Manager Metafile was "a complex format mainly consisting of aliased calls to Presentation Manager supporting libraries [and which is] difficult to support outside of that [OS/2] environment" [Encyclopedia of Graphics File Formats 2/e, which lists over ninety formats (many of them no longer in use) and twenty-four file extensions associated with flavours of the Atari ST graphics format]. The DAM Book discusses the problem of changing formats and how to provide for such a contingency.

Another issue is the life span of current hardware and storage media. Quite apart from natural decay, particular storage media can go out of fashion. Will there still be hardware that enables current CDs be read in 2019? As a matter of interest, the Australian National Archives maintains equipment that will read any known format (punched media, tapes of various kind, 8" floppies, and even hard-sectored 5" floppies). The author discusses hardware issues and future-proofing image archives in depth. There is a very good coverage of RAID.

I can't think of any issue or foreseeable future-problem not covered by the author. He discusses current software in the context of work-flow and describes filing/cataloguing methodology in detail. If you are mystified by metadata schema, parametric image editing, image ingestion, or how to tag images with GPS data, this is the resource you need. Its focus is on practical rather than theoretical issues, but the author does not use that as an excuse to gloss over the technical stuff. He is an exceptional technical communicator, and the publishers have produced an exceptionally well-designed book.

Peter Krogh: The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers 2nd edition
ISBN 978-0-596-52357-2
Published by O'Reilly, 476 pp., RRP AU$ 105.00

Distributed in Australia by Woodslane:


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