30 Apr 2008

Cataloguing - Lightroom v iMatch

I mentioned recently that I was in the process of sorting many thousands of my older photographs and asked if anyone had any experience with the various cataloguing programs that are available. The idea being that the program I chose must be capable of exporting the keyword information to another program. Preferably in a format such as CSV (Comma Separated Values) which is used in everyday programs like Excel.
Several of you offered suggestions, thank you, and my good friend Ken Terry offered to 'test run' and compare two of the programs suggested – Adobe's Lightroom, and iMatch.
Lightroom seemed a bit over the top for me because I am only looking for a cataloguing system and Lightroom does a great deal more than that. IMatch on the other hand seemed ideal, a dedicated professional cataloguing program at around £40 looked like a really good buy.
Ken Terry, an IT expert, already had Lightroom and he downloaded the free sample version of iMatch. These are his conclusions. Ken does not claim they are exhaustive and admits they are very much a personal view…
Lightroom v iMatch
Both Lightroom and iMatch catalogue photos but do it in their own way.
Lightroom, by default, presents you with all the images in your catalogue, but you can narrow your selection down. This filtering is retained the next time you start Lightroom. You can import into the existing Lightroom folder schema or leave the images where they are and catalogue them in situ. You
can assign keywords and other data at the time of import, or just enter the data later on. You can type keywords in the metadata completely freely, or see what you have already defined. Lightroom has quite a lot of processing
for collection of images - slideshows, printing and saving for the web. It uses Adobe's CameraRaw plugin, so you can do quite a lot of photographic editing. You can export images and burn them to CD with their metadata. It won't however let you just export the metadata. There is however a Lightroom
SDK for writing export plugins.
http://timothyarmes.com/lrtransporter.php?sec=main has an export plugin that will allow you to visually select the metadata you want to export from images you have already selected in csv format.
iMatch achieves the same goals but in a completely different way. By default, the catalogue references folders. So clicking on a folder will display all the images that have been defined in the catalogue for that folder. You can then switch to a different view and display all images for certain keywords. Again you can define your own keywords, but they are held
in a type of dictionary. You define your keyword before you use it. This is good in certain respects because it stops you mis-spelling the same keyword and therefore you won't have variants of the same keyword. The disadvantage
is that it makes it slower to use. Selection by keywords can be done easily as well.
The GUI interface isn't as slick as that of Lightroom's, but it is
considerably cheaper. Again, you can export images with their metadata. If you want to do anything special there are scripts that you can run. If these scripts aren't written in Basic, they are very similar. The scripts supplied won't allow you to export the metadata for every image you have selected,
but you can change one of the sample scripts to achieve this. However, this requires a bit of programming knowledge and you need to know (or be able to figure out) how the data is stored in the metadata. The Lightroom plugin supplied by Timothy Armes allows you to just select metadata fields by
clicking on drop down menu items.
All in all, iMatch is potentially more powerful for cataloguing, but the interface is not so slick as Lightroom; it doesn't possess the same powerful photo editing software as Lightroom. There are swings and roundabouts to the way both export data. iMatch uses scripts which means
that if you want anything out of the ordinary, you have to write your own script, which is potentially easier than writing a new Lightroom plugin.
Lightroom has the plugin facility, which, if you can obtain one off the shelf, or as Freeware or Shareware, it will give you a visual interface to do what you want without programming.
Thank you Ken. I'm not sure I understand it all but it does seem to point towards the more simple to use Lightroom for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I must have missed your earlier question re cataloging pictures. I know that you have a 'large' collection so my imput must be taken with the idea in mind that I only have a few thousand imaage to work with....

I've had basic experiance with Vista's basic meta data tools, Adobe CS3 Bridge and Photoshop elements.

I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to do as far as exporting data ie is it IPTC, exif etc but do know you can download a plug in for CS3 Bridge here: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/exchange/index.cfm?event=extensionDetail&loc=en_us&extid=1201523
If you have CS3 that could be an option, if not CS3 is not cheap and looking at the page above it looks like you need CS3 in its bigger suite form?

Alwyn - South West Scotland
This may not be what you want but it might help a bit.