Despite adopting digital cameras in the late 90′s, I managed to lose my pre-2003 library somewhere along the way (hence my quintuple backups, including online and offsite copies). That said, I have over 15,000 digital pictures in my iPhoto library, and average 300 or so new images per month, not to mention the videos stored along side them. At this point, the library is so large it’s right on the edge of being completely unusable.
Scrolling through images? Useless. Manually creating albums? If I don’t do it as I sync the camera, it never happens. Events? Nearly worthless. Browsing through photos on my Xbox? Actually impossible. About all I know is I DO have safe backups, and if I’m willing to scroll enough, the photos are all there to view, print, etc. Which I basically never do.
Further, the actual size of my library is now so big (125gb) I had to move it to a USB drive. And as cameras continue to improve, or as people adopt more DSLRs and video recording devices, collection sizes will grow out of manageable sizes.
And this is a problem that actually notably worsens every month.
So what’s to be done about it? Here’s what I propose:
1) Photo management tools must become capable of comprehending multiple file storage locations.
A user should be able to divvy up their collection across local, USB, and networked drives, and have clear comprehension of how to manage this. Maybe I keep my “recent” and “favorites” on the laptop, the “last year” on a USBdrive, and all the rest on a networked drive (or secondary USB drive, or both). Further, this must be implemented in such a way that a user can easily figure out where stuff is, in a non-technical fashion.
2) Photo tools must have independent, intelligent, automatic, redundant backup services
There are no files I have that are more important to me than my pictures. In fact, my photos become *more* important over time, and as the collections grow, *more* likely to have problems (data corruption, loss, etc). Backup should not be an afterthought, it should be a required element of the environment – plus it’s a great upsell opportunity for virtually all involved providers. On a related note, the management tools should effectively inventory my entire collection, and warn me if any given subset is at risk.
3) The introduction of new photo organization paradigms
While all the apps do effectively decent jobs at creating events, albums, albums within albums, folders, timelines, tags, favorites, and more, it’s simply not enough. Which makes sense, given that in all reality, this is a problem the photo world hasn’t really faced before for typical users. In the past, the only people with tens of thousands of photos were professional photographers, who never really need to manage or even access all of them simultaneously. The digital photo management world is only slightly more powerful than print photo albums and shoeboxes full of pictures. We need new concepts in how we’ll organize pictures (and incidentally, making users tag them, is not the answer). I’m personally still noodling on the concept, and have yet to come up with something – but I trust there are better data/knowledge management folks out there than myself.
4) Video must become a side-by-side feature to photo management
Whether it’s video capture built into a digital camera or a standalone device like a Flip, users are increasingly creating video libraries. And much like our photo libraries, the files are disorganized, not easily searchable, and have no strong mechanisms for organization beyond simple file/folder/date concepts. Since there’s a high likelihood of people creating even more videos in the future than they do today, this problem must be addressed in parallel to the photo one.
There it is, my “manifesto” for personal photo management software. Looking forward to seeing the future of iPhoto, Picasa, and other mainstream tools for what is clearly an impending mainstream problem!