4 Photo Managers Reviewed: Lightroom, ThumbsPlus, ACDSee, IdImage - Digital Asset Management

OK, so I've been a user of ThumbsPlus for years. Like all of the DAM's listed, it catalogues your images, lets you add keywords, do general editing and file management.

But Lightroom made me have a re-think of what I was using DAM for, how it fitted in my workflow and so on.

So, firstly, here's the things I want a DAM to do:

1) Access my file system directly - not have a separate import catalogue

2) Let me preview, rate and select files very quickly

3) Carry out batch processing for resizing in particular, but other things too

4) Let me post direct to my blog, to facebook, to my website for client albums

5) Create effective slideshows and/or export to external slideshow creator

And I need it to work in the context of a typical shoot being between 500 - 2,000 images and nearly a Terabyte of image store.

So, I've been having a bit of a look at all of the likely contenders are here's where I've got to. None of them do what I want, but some are closer than others.


OK, this is my long standing tool, so I'm very familiar with it. It does (1-File System), (3-Batches) very well. (2-Selection) is OK, but it doesn't support ranking. It doesn't do any kind of external posting.


Fails at the first and second hurdles completely for me. I really want to like Lightroom, I recognise that the whole "Develop" thing is great. But for me the tedious and clunky import and the really slow previews make this unusable for me.

If you don't get what I'm talking about, any of the other products you just open your file system and the catalogue is built while you watch - in seconds - then you can zap through previews at any size instantly.

Then finally there's the clunky export at the end.


I've been using today and I have to say I quite like it. It deals directly with the file system, lets me preview and rate files quickly either by tag or by rating - I've been able to customise it to use the same keystrokes as ThumbsPlus so my muscle-memory still works.

The batching doesn't quite do what I need - it has batch processes, but they don't offer the same flexibility and programmability of ThumbsPlus.

It does do some posting direct - so I can get to website and Flickr, but not to facebook.

I've yet to experiment fully with the slideshow, but it does have the option.

What I have liked in using it is (a) it's very quick, quick to preview at any size, quick to scan a folder, quick to move around in. I also like the develop module - not as sophisticated as LightRoom, but in particular some quick exposure fixes and cropping are all I really I want.


Not played with this so much yet, but it does handle (1-File System) and (2-Previews) well. Haven't explored (3-Batches) yet.

It does handle posting to FaceBook as well as other sites and websites. The facebook thing is a big plus

It also creates slideshows, but I've not investigated thoroughly yet.


At the moment, I'm really impressed by ACDSee, if it had Facebook posting and a slightly better batch resizing process then that would be it, no brainer.

Lightroom amazes me - just how crap the whole file management and previewing side is - it's just so horribly slow and grotty (and yes I've tried it on more than one machine). I can only assume that people who think its great have never used anything else.

IdImage I'm going to have a proper go with, because I may be missing stuff - I'll report back on that another time.

ThumbsPlus - much as I love it - it doesn't cut the mustard any more, the single exception being it's batch processing which is great - I have pre-programmed batches for building websites, CD's for clients, presentations and all sorts and at the moment I can't see a way of replicating that in any of the others.

file thumbsplus lightroom system facebook Simon Q. Walden, FilmPhotoAcademy.com, sqw, FilmPhoto, photography

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