Why image management is essential (and how to do it right)

October 21, 2021 · 8 min read

Gone are the days of searching hours for an image in different file folders on your computer. Today, organizations with many pictures and graphics will use an image management solution to collect and organize their image files in one central location. 

Let's dive into image management and go over some best practices for marketing and design professionals to manage their image library like a boss.

What is image management?

Image management is a solution design that marketing teams use to centralize, organize, and distribute digital images. Image management is similar to digital asset management (DAM), except instead of dealing with a range of media assets, image management focuses on the lifecycle of digital image files and graphics.

An image management solution can be many different types of software, from image libraries like Google Photos and file management software like Dropbox or Google Drive to comprehensive content management systems. Regardless of the exact solution, most image management systems have similar features that allow organizations to automate different image management tasks like storing, sorting, and sharing images.

Image management encompasses all aspects of managing images and graphics, including:

  • Storing: At the very least, this type of solution will offer your organization a place to store all of your image files in a centralized location.

  • Organizing: Keeping images organized in labeled folders and with image tags is vital to maintaining a practical image library.

  • Searching: Many image management solutions include advanced search features that allow you to find the right images based on keywords, categories, and other metadata.

  • Downloading: The solution needs to make it easy for team members to download different images in the desired file format and resolution.

  • Sharing: Your software is only effective if it allows you to share images with team members and other stakeholders quickly and easily.

  • Archiving: When you no longer need to access images but don't want to delete them, you can archive them in your image management software.

5 image management best practices for design professionals

When you're managing graphic and image files, there are several things you need to keep in mind. To create and sustain an organized library of images, use these image management best practices:

1. Create clear workflows using your image management system.

Creating clear workflows for using your image management software will help everyone get used to using the system while maintaining consistency across teams. Some software may even offer features to help you automate workflows, saving a lot of time on recurring tasks.

For example, your workflow may include uploading only one image file size. This would mean the designer or marketer needs to resize the files for their needs in real-time on their own. This keeps the library free of too many duplicate images that can hog up the space. 

On the other hand, your workflow may include uploading three different file sizes for every image used for social media. This saves team members time from resizing the image themselves or asking a designer to do it for them. The key to keeping things running smoothly is ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to workflows.

2. Use consistent file naming conventions.

When it comes to individual image files, you need to use consistent file naming conventions. This is important for accessibility as it can be challenging to find images if you don't know what keywords to search for. Having file naming conventions makes it easy to find the right image.

There is no one right way to name image files. It depends on what's essential to your organization. For example, if you deal with editorial or event images, the date may be an essential piece of data for identifying an image. If you're working with different clients, the client or product name will need to appear in the file name.

You can use many identifiers to name image files, but you don't need to put every piece of information in the file name. Choose 2-3 essential identifiers, and decide what order these identifiers will appear in your file name. Ensure that the file naming conventions are documented so that everyone understands how to name a new file they're saving to the software.

3. Use consistent metadata rules.

In addition to using consistent naming conventions, you'll also want to make sure you're using consistent metadata rules. The advanced search feature on your image management software will use the metadata to deliver accurate search results. For this reason, you'll want to make sure that metadata is complete and consistent across your image files.

Metadata can include keywords, dates, locations, photographer's name, editor's name, version, and usage rights. Some of this information will be embedded in the camera files, while other information will need to be added manually (or automatically if your software has an auto-tagging feature).

Whatever you choose to include in the metadata, make sure you document the rules so everyone is on the same page. This will make it a lot easier for everyone on your team to find the files they're looking for quickly and easily.

Use access management to ensure that your creative teams, outside contractors, and other stakeholders can access images they need without having access to those they don't. This helps protect your image files from being misused or getting into the wrong hands.  

Managing access is also essential to digital rights management. It allows you to stay on top of image copyrights and license expiration. Overall, it will enable your business to avoid legal issues that might stem from unauthorized use.

5. Use version control to make sure all images and graphics are up-to-date.

Most graphics and images will go through several rounds of editing before they are ready to be published. These image files may also need to go through rounds of approval from managers or the legal team before they are considered ready to post. Version control helps ensure that all images and graphics being published publicly are up-to-date and approved.

Version control is a feature in online image management software that allows you to control which version of the image or graphic is available to access and download. This feature helps avoid mishaps like using an outdated logo, posting incomplete graphics, or sharing an unapproved image.

While version control helps keep team members from accessing older versions of an image, you can set permissions to give others access to previous versions. For example, designers, marketers, and other creatives may need to access older versions to see when changes were implemented or to revert to a previous version.

What to look for in online image management software 

As your organization produces more digital assets over time, you're going to need a way to store, organize, and share images in a centralized location. Some of the benefits of image management software include greater accessibility, improved productivity, and easier team member collaboration.

Not all online image management software is created equal. When searching for the ideal image management solution for your organization, make sure you choose a system that will scale with your company. While Google Photos may work for your personal photos, they may not be the best option for an extensive library of images.

You'll also want to consider what features the solution offers. Features like advanced search, user permissions, version control, watermarks, and custom sharing options are essential for organizations sharing images with people outside of the design team. In contrast, automation features may be important for large organizations with a high volume of new uploads each month.

Whether you choose an enterprise solution or an image management system fit for a smaller organization, you can rest assured that your company images and graphics are safely stored where you can easily access them. The key to finding the best software for you is understanding your needs and use cases and then finding a solution that best addresses these.

Use Air for image management

For some teams, traditional image management software just won't do. The high monthly fees and long-term contracts often don't work for small businesses or lean teams. Not to mention, more complex systems can take time to learn and get your whole team on board.

With Air, you get all the benefits of an image management system with none of the downsides. Air was designed with creative and marketing teams in mind, so it has all the image management features you need to keep your image and graphic files organized and easy to access.

With smart search, you can find the assets you're looking for in moments. This feature works a lot like a search engine, allowing you to use smart tags and image recognition to find the assets you need quickly and easily.

Air also offers many flexible workflow possibilities for organizations to work the way they want to. Your team can track changes using version control. You can also collaborate and approve images on the platform, ensuring all feedback is centralized and accessible to the whole team.

Get started with image management on Air today!

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