Digital Asset Management with digiKam

Although digiKam is first and foremost a photo management application, you can put it to other practical uses. For example, digiKam offers all the features you need to manage your digital assets (like photos, scanned images, audio files, and videos), which makes it a capable digital asset management (or DAM) tool. There are, of course, dedicated DAM applications out there, but most of them are overkill for individual users and small businesses. And if you already have digiKam on your machine, why bother installing, configuring, and learning yet another application? Digital asset management usually includes tasks related to importing, renaming, processing, and managing files. So this article covers several digiKam’s tools that can help you to perform these and other DAM-relates tasks.

Adding and Processing Assets

Let’s start from the very beginning. Before you can actually do anything with your digital assets, you have to add them to digiKam, and the application provides several handy import tools tucked under the Import menu.

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digiKam does a good job of automatically recognizing connected cameras, card readers, and USB storage devices, so as soon as you connect a device to your machine, you can import files using the appropriate command in the Import menu.

If you already have assets on your hard disk, you can use appropriate commands to import individual items or entire directories into digiKam. In addition to that, you can use the Import from Facebook and Import from SmugMug commands to fetch photos from these popular web services.

The Import dialog box offers a few clever features that allow you to configure the import operation. In the File Renaming Options section, you can define a custom rule which renames all incoming assets on the fly. For example, you can rename imported photos using their date and time info pulled from EXIF metadata.

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Alternatively, you can rename assets after they have been imported into digiKam, and the application provides a powerful file renaming feature that lets you rename multiple items in one go. For example, you can add the camera model to the renaming rule, so each file name contains information about the camera it comes from. Using the Date&Time option, you can define a renaming rule that includes date and time data. This way you can add, for example, a date stamp to the file name, so you can quickly see when the specific item was created or added to digiKam. The Date&Time option can pull date and time from the EXIF info, which works with photos. If the EXIF info is not available or unsupported, you can specify the required data manually.

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By the way, renaming is not the only bulk action supported by digiKam. In fact, the application comes with a powerful batch tool which can be used to perform an action or a series of actions on selected items. For example, it lets you convert the newly imported RAW files to JPEG, resize the converted images, and watermark them.

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digiKam also features tagging functionality that makes it possible to tag assets, and you can create and assign an unlimited number of tags to an item. Better yet, you can also create sub-tags for more granular tagging.

Color labels is another useful feature for efficient asset management. It allows you to assign a color to an asset using one of nine color labels. Each color label has a keyboard shortcut assigned to it, which makes the process of applying color codes to assets more efficient.

The Picks tool is perfect for triaging assets, and it works similar to color labels: you can assign one of three picks — Pending, Accepted, or Rejected — to any asset in digiKam via the dedicated command or using the default shortcuts.

How exactly you choose to use color labels and picks depends on your specific workflow. For instance, if you submit your assets to agencies or stock photo sites, the Picks feature can help you to keep tabs on the status of each submitted asset. Color Labels can come in useful in several situations, too. For example, you can use color labels to sort incoming assets by relevance. Color labels can also be used to specify the privacy level for each asset, with the red labels assigned to private items, yellow for items that can be shared with your colleagues, and green for public assets. In short, with a bit of creative thinking, you can turn Color Labels and Picks into a powerful and flexible tool for keeping tabs on your assets.

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Besides excellent tagging and rating capabilities, digiKam provides a few creature comforts that make it easier to manage the metadata of your digital assets. For example, digiKam offers the template feature that lets your create copyright templates and apply them to multiple items.

Searching and Filtering Assets

Managing hundreds, or even thousands of digital asset items requires robust searching and filtering capabilities. So let’s take a look at what digiKam has to offer.

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To quickly find or filter files, you can use the search field and filtering options in the dedicated right sidebar. Enter the search term you want and digiKam automatically finds items with file names, comments, or tags matching the specified criteria. You can limit the search to specific file types; for example, you can search only RAW, JPEG, audio or video files. And the rating filter lets you view items that match specified star rating criteria.

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The Filters right sidebar offers plenty of options for creating complex filtering rules. But if you need to quickly filter assets by one or two criteria, the Labels left sidebar is the way to go. But what’t the difference between the Filters and Labels sidebar? While filtering rules created in the Filters sidebar are applied to the currently selected album, filters in the Labels sidebar are applied globally. This means that when you activate, for example, the orange color label filter, it displays matching assets in all albums.

There is one important thing you should keep in mind, though. While the quick search and filtering features can help you to find the assets you want with a minimum of effort, the results they return largely depend on the quality and completeness of the metadata of each asset. This is also true for digiKam’s more advanced search features, so to be able to use them to their full potential, you should tag and rate your assets and add as much information as possible.

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Besides the quick search and filtering tools, digiKam offers more advanced search features accessible via the left sidebar. Here you’ll find a variety of search options, including the Calendar, Timeline, Fuzzy Searches, and Map Searches.

The Calendar section, for example, lets you quickly find items for a specific year, month, and date.

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The Timeline section offers another way to locate and view items for a specific period of time. All items here are presented as a bar chart, and you can view files for a specific period by clicking on the related bar.

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To make your search more precise, you can use the Advanced Search interface, where you can specify a wide range of search criteria. You can, for example, search for photos with specific exposure, aperture value, ISO settings, white balance, etc. Once you’re satisfied with the result, you can save the search for later use.

The Fuzzy Searches section offers several different ways to find the items you want.

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The Sketch module, for example, allows you to draw a rough sketch of the image you need, and digiKam returns assets that look like your drawing. This feature is a bit hit and miss, but it can be useful when you need to find an asset by its main subject.

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If your collection of assets contains geotagged photos, you can use the Map Searches sidebar to find photos taken in a specific location. This feature is straightforward in use. When you select an area on the map, all assets in the selection appear in the main pane. digiKam supports both Marble, OpenStreetMap, and Google Maps, so you can use the map service you like for viewing the found assets in the Map Searches sidebar.

Export and Sharing

When it comes to publishing and sharing assets, digiKam offers a wide range of options: from creating static HTML photo galleries, to uploading assets to popular photo sharing services like Flickr, Picasaweb, SmugMug, and many others.

In addition to photo sharing web services, digiKam supports popular self-hosted photo sharing applications like Gallery and Piwigo. digiKam also allows you to push assets to remote servers, and the application supports popular cloud storage platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive. Using the DLNAExport plugin you can even stream media to DLNA-compatible devices.

digiKamWebUi

Being a strictly desktop application, digiKam doesn’t provide a way to publish the entire asset library on the web. The digiKamWebUi software fills this void by adding a web interface which allows you to view and manage images in digiKam albums using a browser.

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digiKamWebUi’s interface is divided into three columns. The Albums column to the left shows a list of all albums in digiKam, and you can switch to a specific album by clicking on its name. When processing the digiKam library, digiKamWebUi parses tags found in photos and lists them in the Tags column to the right. Clicking on a tag shows all photos containing the tag. The middle column shows thumbnails of photos in the currently selected album or photos containing a specific tag.

You can view a larger version of a photo by clicking on its thumbnail. Commands under each photo can be used to perform common operations, such as delete, rotate, and rate the photo. The Edit command allows you to edit the photo’s name, assign tags, and move the photo to a different album.

That was a brief overview of digiKam’s features and tools that can be used for working with digital assets. And, of course, there is much more to the application beyond the covered functionality.

Tech writer covering Linux and open source software

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Posted in Photography, Scribbles
3 comments on “Digital Asset Management with digiKam
  1. Rob says:

    Hi! Thanks for your great blog and book. Can I ask, what theme for Digikam are you using in this post. I’d love to use it too! Thanks!

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