Image Database and
Cataloging Software Applications
Creating "catalogs" or image databases of your images is a
great way to keep track of where all your images are stored. There are numerous
applications that can make the task of creating an image catalog or database
less work — generating thumbnails, automatically extracting information
etc), and noting where it's located — but only a few work in a cross
Nearly all applications can be divided into the "browser" or
"cataloging" software camps. How are they different?
Browsers allow you to quickly see the images in a specific
folder, as well as provide a way
to see the metadata embedded within the file, and often modify or add to
that information. Cataloging applications note the path to a particular image
asset, generate a thumbnail (or sometimes a thumbnail and a larger "preview"
image), and extract the embedded metadata into their own database. They allow
you to search across multiple folders, drives and even removeable media,
even if the image is not currently accessible, or was moved by another application.
Unless they employ some level of caching information, browsers only show
you what is there now. If the image is moved; the application not only won't
be able to tell you where it is now, but may not even know it was ever there.
Which application is right for you? That's hard to say without
knowing what it is that you need to do. Choosing an image database product
is like buying a car. Some go fast, some hold a lot of stuff, each have their
own perks and quirks. One way is to outline the features you need and then
check the various offerings to be sure that the application will do all that
With that methond in mind you might find the Comparative
Matrix for Evaluating Image Databases useful.
Use this PDF (compatible with Acrobat version
5 or later) as an aid in your comparison of some of the programs mentioned
below. This blank worksheet
contains several columns where you can make notes on over 170
common features you can expect to find in many top-level image database
software applications. A modifiable spreadsheet version
is available to members of the Controlled Vocabulary
Discussion Forum in the File Archives. If you are interested in
collaborating on a revised version of this document, please contact
For another perspective on what to look for see the Catalogs
vs Stock Management article by James Cook on the Hindsight website.
If you are looking for a large set of keywords that can be
used with a number of the applications below, take a look at the Controlled
Vocabulary Keyword Catalog (CVKC) which now works with a dozen of the
top image browsers, and cataloging applications.
Available only for the Windows platform for many years, they have recently
released a Mac OS X version of their image management program.
AtomicView: A multimedia data manager with the ability to add metadata
to many video formats. Primarly Mac OS X based, with a Windows version
in the works. Their networked version can be used to organize your
media locally or remotely.
- Apple Aperture: Available for the Mac OS only. Read the Controlled
Vocabulary Review of Aperture for details.
- Canto Culumus Media
Management software: Mac and Windows solution for media management.
Note, as Cumulus is designed to catalog more than just images, you
need to make sure that you properly modify or set-up the catalog before
importing images, or else you will only get a small number of fields
read from the files.
Portfolio: Mac and Windows solution for media management, see Mark
Anderson's Portfolio FAQ for over 300 articles on aspects of
Portfolio which you won't find in the manual or in Extensis' Knowledge
Base. Extensis also offers their own Portfolio
Forums for users. Be sure to use the "Wizard" when you create
new catalogs. If you don't designate a catalog as being for images,
you'll only see the metadata from a very small number of fields.
A cross platform solution for managing images from FotoWare.
- HindSight Software's
StockView: A Cross Platform Stock Image Management System.
Media is a cross-platform media manager/cataloging application.
It was recently acquired by Phase One in 2010. This program was previously
known as iView
before being acquired by Microsoft in 2006. Check out the Controlled
Vocabulary Review of iView. The iView site still has links
and scripts. The iView
User's Forum is now locked but still may have answers to specific
questions. Reviews of Expression Media are available from Shutterbug,
Great Pictures, PC
Advisor, and Bright
A cross platform solution from Adobe which integrates a Raw image processor
with full metadata read and write capabilities. A wide variety of proprietary
Raw digital camera formats are supported, as well as PSD (you must have
the Maximize Compatibilty feature turned on), TIFF, JPEG and a number
of video formats (only in version 3).
- NSCS (Boyd Norton)
- Thumbsplus Windows
only media manager
Metadata Annotation Software
The following applications are designed to add embedded metadata
to your image files. Metadata is often described as "information about
information" though a better description is that it's
structured information about resources. Several of the following applications
functions as well as the capability to create web galleries, but their
strength is in
the speed at which you can add descriptive metadata to a single file, or
as part of a batch action.
Windows only digital camera file and metadata processor for all Canon
formats including RAW files. The pro version can handle most major
file formats (TIFF, JPEG, PNG, JPEG 2000, GIF, BMP, Photoshop PSD and
Paint Shop Pro, including RAW conversion for Canon, Nikon, Pentax,
and Olympus cameras) together with EXIF shooting data and IPTC data associated
with images. BreezeBrowser Pro also supports the linked viewing of
images from Canon and Nikon cameras allowing the raw and JPEG images
to be viewed, renamed, copied and deleted as a pair. IPTC Core compatible
since version 1.5.
- Bridge: What started out as the file browser for Adobe Photoshop has
grown into a cross platform cached browser that reads and writes metadata
for a wide variety of image file formats, as well as PDF, video and other
digital files. The latest version for use with Creative Suite 5 has support
for both IPTC Core and IPTC Extenssion metadata schemas.
Info Toolkit: Mac and Windows compatible, this legacy IPTC utility
can read and insert metadata into JPEG and TIF files images one
at a time, or as a batch process. It's unique integrated hierarchical
makes adding keywords to your images a simple task. For more information,
read the Controlled Vocabulary review of IIT on this site.
- Irfanview is
free Windows only image viewer, capable of adding legacy IPTC metadata
to single images
part of a batch action. Can also be used to batch rename images as well.
It is very quick to load and is great for making screen captures.
- METAmachine from HindSight
Software is a "metadata browser" that allows you to read
and write IPTC Core metadata and PLUS Licensing info to DNG, TIFF, PSD
and JPEG files.
- Photo Mechanic (from
Camera Bits), Mac and Windows program for reading and writing IPTC Core
metadata from a wide variety of Raw digital camera files, PSD, TIFF,
JPEG and even some video formats. Check out the Controlled
Online Image Database
The following applications are designed to allow online searching
of your image files. Some will require advanced computer, HTML or programming
skills to install, while others are available as services. The capabilities
of each vary considerably, so you will want to invest some time to investigate
whether they meet your specific needs.
Photo Gallery is an open source (SourceForge) application that
has many integrated web picture gallery features. It is a script written
in PHP and uses GD or ImageMagick for an image library with a MySQL
backend. It can import legacy IPTC embedded images and make them searchable
- LicenseStream is an online service provider that can read image files
embedded with IPTC Core, or legacy IPTC metadata and make them searchable
online — as well as giving the owner the ability to license those images.
- Lightboxphoto is
a commercial software application that runs on Linux/Apache, using MySQL
and PHP. It is available in three configurations that allow a photographer
or image distributor to search, display and sell their work online.
- Menalto's Gallery is
a free, open source, photo management system that includes automatic
thumbnail creation, image resizing, rotation, ordering,
captioning, and more.
- NetPublish is an add-on to the Extensis Portfolio product which lets
you turn your Portfolio catalogs into searchable websites,
without extensive knowledge of HTML. Wizard-like interfaces allow you
to build sites that include image search, lightboxes,
batch-download capabilities. Note, you will need a web host that has
or allows you to install the Portweb extensions, or access to your own
- PhotoShelter is
an online service provider that can upload/import image files with IPTC
Core, or legacy IPTC metadata and make them searchable online — as well
providing for online "portfolio-style" presentation, and both image licensing
and print fulfillment.
- SearchLynx is
a customizable web image gallery application and more from HindSight
software. With SearchLynx you can create lightboxes for clients, and
even add or modify image metadata via a web browser.
The following are specialty applications that may be of
use to those who are interested in expanding their image databases.
- BabelPix™ is
a java-based, multi-platform utility that can batch-translate the contents
of the IPTC keyword field to foreign languages. It operates under Windows
98/ME/Win2K/XP, Mac OS X (PowerPC and Universal Binary) and Linux platforms.
- ExifTool from
Phil Harvey is a command line Perl utility for reading and writing photo
- ExifToolGUI is
a Graphical User Interface version of ExifTool created by Bogdan Hrastnik
for reading and writing photo metadata on the Windows platform. Instructions
for use can be downloaded as a ZIP file at http://u88.n24.queensu.ca/~bogdan/etgui_manual.zip
- Jeffrey's Online
Exif (and metadata) viewer: a web-accessible version of ExifTool
for reading metadata in image files.
*DISCLAIMER: The decision to download any of the programs mentioned on
this site is up to you; we can not be responsible for the use, functionality,
appearance, or management of the actual applications so your mileage may
vary, please backup your system and only work on copies of files until you
are assured of proper performance. Contact the appropriate authorities with
any questions. If you feel that your favorite program is not listed, please
send details (including name of program, URL for demo download and why you
think it's best) to the
updated: December 15, 2010