DAM Software: Expression Media 2

I didn’t know I needed any DAM software. I really didn’t. Maybe I should have caught on due to my twenty five THOUSAND mostly unsorted digital pictures. I’ve briefly monkeyed around, and looked around, to see what people are using to sort their pictures. At the moment I’m using Microsoft Expression Media 2, formerly IView Media Pro. Due to Jonathan’s prompting, I’ve just taken a quick look at Adobe Lightroom (the beta of version 2), and have decided to stick with EM2.

Professionals need Digital Asset Management software. I’m not a professional. My largest desire is to move some of the… less desirable images onto DVD+/-Rs to free up hard drive space, as well as to make backups of all my photos so that I can do anything resembling touchups. Windows Live Photo Gallery, as much as I enjoy using it to tag my pictures on import, is pretty useless in this regard.

If you want a good offline story, you’re pretty much stuck with DAM. There are a variety, and I randomly started with Expression Media — I got an excellent deal on it, so it made sense. I imported my pictures in version 1, and was frustrated when all the tags I had so painfully created in Windows Photo Gallery on XP, and then Vista, and then later Windows Live Photo Gallery, weren’t imported. SO I WROTE A SCRIPT. Expression Media, while not having the nicest developer experience, still provides a script-friendly API.
Set app = CreateObject("ExpressionMedia.Application")
Set tagx = CreateObject("XMPTagExtractor.TagExtractor")
For Each mediaItem In app.ActiveCatalog.Selection
tags = tagx.GetTags(mediaItem.Path)
mediaItem.Annotations.Keywords = Left(tags, Len(tags) - 1)

Admittedly, I had to write a COM wrapper for the Vista-provided XMP library, but still. I was able to extract my information, and get it into Expression Media.

In the last week, while at work, I’ve gone through and added hierarchical keywords to almost all of my 25,000 files. The depth varies — in some pictures, I have every person tagged appropriately. In others, well, I identify where the picture was taken. Take what you can get. For the first time, however, I feel like I’m catching up with my four-year-old backlog. I still have to back everything up, but I have most of the pictures adequately keyworded such that I can find them again.

There are elements I really like about what I’ve figured out in Expression Media 2. I do appreciate that I filed a bug on my keywords not being imported, and it turned out that they didn’t handle one of Windows XP Photo Gallery’s tag mechanisms — and should be fixed in the next service pack. I can now round trip all my keywords in and out of the target files. I’ll be moving my pictures off my hard drive shortly, and look forward to using the fast sorting mechanisms to identify pictures I want to spend more time on.

However, there are a couple of items that I wish were just a bit more accessible — any photo editing needs to be done elsewhere. There are tools present, but it’s not worth my time to try to figure out how to use them, so I just load the pictures externally. The most painful place where this is necessary is in rotating photos. I still need to find a good workflow to correct pictures I didn’t take in a default landscape orientation.

Adobe Lightroom handles that portion of the task far better than Expression Media 2 does — all the editing tools are immediately available. Unfortunately, it’s slow as hell and a memory hog, but I’ll go into that on another occasion.

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