Lightroom & Digital Asset Management (DAM) Software options/alternatives

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by barry13, Aug 4, 2015.

  1. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California

    I'm currently using XnView-MP (currently on Windows), and am wondering what other DAMs are out there with similar or better features. (I'm already aware of LightRoom, but would rather avoid it.)

    XnViewer may be more of a viewer than a full DAM. That said, things XnView/XnView-MP does well (for me) include:

    1. MP reportedly can share a single DB (database of star ratings, color tags, categories, & keywords) across multiple PCs. I haven't actually tested this yet though, but it is very important to me going forward.

    2. very fast browsing/viewing my image folders with ORF and/or JPEG, PNG, etc. files.

    3. categorization is fairly customizable

    4. MP separates the thumbnail cache from the rest of the DB. This is important to me.

    5. quickly launching an external editor such as RawTherapee for editing

    6. cross-platform (Win, Linux, OSX).

    Things XnView/XnView-MP doesn't do well (for me) include:

    a. multiple filtering refinements
    e.g. I cannot select 5-star rated images AND additionally filter by tags, categories, or keywords. Nor can I filter by more than one category at once.
    This is my main annoyance with XnView/MP.
    (I realize LR is probably (very?) good at this)

    b. when filtering, all you see is a bunch of images (thumbnails); you cannot browse by folder, etc. within the filtered result set. Also annoying, but if (a) were improved, this would be much less of an issue.

    c. no B&W preview. Other viewers such as Imagine can show a B&W ('greyscale') version in an instant, with a single keypress.
    Instead, one is forced to either convert images (batch available), or use an external program (such as RawTherapee; B&W takes multiple mouse selections in RT).

    d. crashes occasionally. annoying, but no data has been lost so far.

    XnView-MP is still developed, but afaict by a single developer; progress is somewhat slow (last release was about 8 months ago). I'm not confident he will be adding the above features anytime soon, if ever.

    XnView/MP does not index any attributes from the EXIF tags or file metadata, so it cannot search files by date/time, lens, camera body, etc. In fact, if you don't provide any tags, star labels, or categories to your images, they are not searchable, only browseable.
    I realize LightRoom is far ahead in this aspect, and I do consider it desirable.

    My other requirements & comments:

    Needs to be FAST browsing & searching. (XnView is currently fast on my PC, with 25k+ images, although most do not have any tags currently.)

    Shared DB capabilities required. Must be officially supported feature, not a 'hack'.
    To me, this can mean the images and/or DB are on a (reliable) NAS or fileserver. Either way, the images will be in a single place; I do not need to manage images spread across multiple computers, but I do need to be able to view & search my images from multiple client devices.
    e.g. view images and search by star ratings, color tags, keywords, etc. from my PC workstation, PC laptop or Surface Pro (and ideally from iOS and Android). Also, be able to delete images, and add/change ratings from same.
    XnView-MP supposedly can do this (does not index EXIF or other metadata though).

    RAW (ORF) support -- at least thumbnails and viewing required.
    XnView uses the embedded JPEG image, which is OK, but it means I have to open the image in an external program for full resolution.

    Cross-Platform: Windows & Linux at least; I would also like Android & iOS, including the DB, long-term.

    Open-source preferred but not critical (XnView is not open-source).

    Low-cost (XnView is free for personal use and cheap for commercial use).

    Adding content should be straightforward. Currently, I copy files into my /photos folders with a different program; when I point XnView at the new folders it automatically starts creating thumbnails, and I can immediately start tagging, rating, etc.
    I do not want to be forced to import images from the camera or SD card using the DAM.

    IPTC tagging -- XnView does this, and seems to do it quite well.
    The only problem is I no longer keep many JPEGs, and ORF files have no editable IPTC tags, but that is common with RAW files and DMG is a whole other can of worms.

    Stability/reliability -- Since I can't tag my ORFs, it's critical that the database be reliable and stable (resistant to corruption, auto-backups, ...). This becomes even more critical if sharing a DB across multiple client devices. XnView (MP) seems to pretty stable (uses SQLite with some sort of transaction log and/or lock files), but it doesn't seem to have any auto-backup options for the DB. I realize I'm personally responsible for complete backups, but I do want the DAM to at least keep a couple copies of the DB locally; see how FireFox manages local bookmarks for a good example of this.

    Allow search refinements, e.g. multiple categories, color tags, star ratings, and keywords at once. Preferably, also allow search on other metadata (EXIF, date/time, etc.) as well.
    One way to do this would be with a documented DB Schema and/or API (Optional); would create possibility for me to use my own search engine (I'd probably use Sphinx + PHP/Perl) for refinements, but I'd be limited to a web-based interface if I were to build a search layer myself (speed, viewing issues for ORFs in web browsers, etc.)

    Editing: I don't care about editing in the DAM; I'm happy enough with RT externally (and there are other decent RAW editors as well).

    DNG support: optional but would be nice to have, with IPTC or XMP or similar tagging.

    DB import/export options: optional; Unless there is a common format (DNG, or ORF with IPTC sidecar files??), this may be a pipedream.

    Lightweight. I'm fine with putting everything on my NAS, but I'd prefer not to have to run a full DB (PostGreSQL, MySQL, etc.) on a dedicated server for this. If necessary, MySQL would be my choice, but an embedded DB such as SQLite or MySQL embedded is preferred as it doesn't require a full server.

    Alternatives I've looked into a bit:

    digiKam - "Be careful as digiKam is not as stable under Windows" according to developers.
    May be able to do shared DB. Not sure about other features; seems to try to be an all-in one importer/DAM/editor. Open-source, free, and seems to have a good community. Not really sure if it's what I'm looking for or not.

    darktable - no Windows version. Shared DB may be possible (SQLite) but does not seem to be widely used or documented. 'Competes' with LightRoom (RAW developer + DAM). free + open-source.

    Shotwell - Linux-only. Focused on being a DAM, but not designed for shared database. - has multiple versions, including multi-user servers for 'teams'. The server can be used with a 'Home' server license ($99 for 1 user, or $149 for 2 users). Licensing is per 'concurrent connection', so should be OK for 1 user with PC, laptop, (windows) tablet as long as you remember to exit the app when not using it.
    Server process/daemon apparently needs to be left running on a Windows box, so my NAS server wouldn't work, but my workstation should be OK (as I leave it running anyways).
    Seems promising; will have to check out the UI and features.
    Note: Standalone (single user, single device) version is free.

    Capture One (Phase One) - not sure about shared DB. fairly expensive ($299 single user with 2 devices)

    IDimager Photo Supreme - has a 'server edition' ($199 per concurrent user); Needs PostGreSQL (free) OR MS SQL Server (usually not free but there are some exceptions). Either way, a Server process/daemon needs to be left running somewhere (not on my NAS).
    Seems promising; will have to check out the UI and features.

    FotoStation (fotoware) - $149 per license for 'standard' (includes 30 days tech support (only)). 'Pro' and 'Client' license options also; no prices listed.
    A separate multi-user 'Index Manager' (database) product is available, but pricing unclear. Targeted at enterprise businesses for document search, not just photos.

    Photo Mechanic - no database or search (at all, afaict) yet; see next 2 posts below. Pricing with search unknown; currently $150 without.

    Faststone Image Viewer - no IPTC or XMP keywords; no shared DB afaict. free.
    Irfanview - IPTC with "metadata" plugin only; no shared DB afaict. free for non-commercial use
    ACDSee - no shared DB in Pro or Ultimate. $60-150
    LightRoom - no support for shared database. Expensive ($120/year min for CC).

    Picasa (Google) - Not designed for shared local database apparently. Is anyone still using this? iirc, it had nice search features.

    Misc web-based -- I find web based systems very unattractive for viewing/browsing performance reasons. Handling RAW files in web browsers unlikely.

    ThumbsPlus (Cerious Software) - $100 Pro; $160 'Home Network' license. Can use a MySQL/Maria/MS SQL/PostgreSQL database. Hard to find full list of features on their website.

    DBGallery - Enterprise targeted. licensing: (per user, including support) $300 purchase + $60/year, OR $15/mo subscription. Has shared DB (MySQL) and interesting search options. Windows only, plus Web server capability.

    Canto Cumulus - Enterprise targeted. Web-based.

    Extensis Portfolio - $2200 for 3 users. Web-based (only).


    Any suggestions or comments/discussions are welcome. I will try to keep updating the information above, as I have not found any good resource online which tracks all of these apps on one page.

    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  2. maritan

    maritan Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 30, 2014
    I haven't looked into this in any detail, but people rave about Photo Mechanic. I'm not sure how many of your criteria it would match, but worth a look. I think at $150, it's on the expensive side for sure, but its feature set is supposed to be top notch.
  3. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    @maritan@maritan, re Photo Mechanic... Thanks, I wasn't familiar with this. The good news is they say they're working on an 'add-on' catalog with an SQL database and capability for 'complex queries'. The bad news is that add-on doesn't exist yet.

    As they don't seem to currently have a database (at all? -- so no searching currently?? odd), it's hard to say whether this will work across multiple client computers.
    Anyways, I'll keep an eye on it to see what they release.

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  4. gsk3

    gsk3 Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 29, 2012
    Photo Mechanic is a splendid product that solves a very different problem than what you seem to need solving. Caveat is I haven't used it in a decade, but it doesn't look like it's changed much, which makes sense given the lightning focus on being good at one thing.

    Basically you use PM to rapidly import images from your card and rapidly tag them. It dumps them in a folder structure of your choice. Then you use some other tool (a DAM) to index that folder and create a searchable database.

    PM is most useful in a news environment, although if I used it for my personal images since leaving the newsroom I would likely have a much better-tagged collection. It's just hard to over-estimate how much easier PM makes tagging images, and therefore how much more likely to tag you will be.
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  5. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Also, I'd like to be able to do LR style 'collections' as well... Right now I'm using some color labels as a very poor substitute, but you only get 5 and it's totally not the same thing as a virtual collection or saved multi-attribute search or whatever.

    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  6. Fri13

    Fri13 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 30, 2014
    Just the digiKam. Get easily photos out, tag, rate and done. For editing I use then GIMP or Snapseed for corrections.

    Supports well NAS and thumbnail caching for removable devices etc.
    Can handle without problems libraries with 2 million photos and so on.
    You get all face detection, face recognition, fuzzy searches, replication etc. All those were in digiKam years before Adobe users even heard those.

    Oh and of course I use Windows version too.
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  7. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    @Fri13@Fri13, do you share a digikam DB across multiple computers?

  8. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    OK... I just installed digiIKam 3.5.0 on my Linux (Fedora 19) laptop...
    (3.5.0 is 2 years old, so the rest of this post may be out-of-date)

    1. during initial configuration, digiKam says the DB must be local, NOT on a network (e.g. NFS or SMB) share

    2. other than that issue, the interface is very nice.
    I will try indexing my photo library and doing some more advanced searches. If that works out, I will upgrade Fedora and digiKam to a recent version and see if I can figure out how to share a DB.

  9. palombasso

    palombasso Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 31, 2014
    Haven't tried and it might have sync problems, but even if the program doesn't support shared dB maybe replicating the dB files through something like a Dropbox shared folder might work.

    Just remember to have a different local backup solution to avoid possible corruption or other problems
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  10. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    I upgraded digiKam (and Fedora) to current versions (digiKam 4.12); it does now have an 'MySQL' database option for the datastore, with a warning "be careful, this is still in experimental stage".
    Anyways, I'm planning on giving it a go; I have a lot of experience with MySQL servers, and I can set it up on my workstation.

    I will need to figure out how to get both the windows and linux systems to think the images are in the same locations; that can supposedly be done by mapping all folders within a specific folder, which is easy on Linux and doable on recent versions of Windows.

  11. AL904

    AL904 Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 29, 2012
    Jacksonville Beach, Florida
    Allen Forrest
    I received an email from Alien Skin Software yesterday about their "40% Last Days of Summer sale" that included the following:

    It looks like they may be expanding into Adobe's territory.
  12. fsuscotphoto

    fsuscotphoto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2013
    St. Cloud, FL
  13. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
  14. Tominthevan

    Tominthevan New to Mu-43

    Dec 21, 2014
    Ottawa, ON
    Tom Moore
    One asset management tool not on your list is iMatch from I'm not sure how well it meets your criteria (e.g. shared database). I used it for many years prior to deciding to use LR. When I was using it, it was a product designed, built and supported by a single developer who was quite dedicated to improving the product and issuing updates. As I was not running a business, being dependent on iMatch wasn't a big problem for me, but perhaps someone running a business would not want to be dependent on the work of a single person. On the other hand iMatch has been around for at least 10 years, so that says something about risk, I think.

    When I was using it, iMatch had quite powerful and flexible organizational tools but had no (and no plans for) photo editing tools. It did work reasonably well with Photoshop. It did have a very active user community with lots of useful community sourced add-on tools (scripts).
  15. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    FYIs, I'm using Digikam on Windows now, and pretty satisfied. I'll try to write more about it later.

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  16. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    I've posted a review of DigiKam as a DAM at

  17. Whtrbt7

    Whtrbt7 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 7, 2014
    So I'm requesting help on this thread since I'm getting slammed by my current workflow and DAM strategy. I'm currently sitting on about 1.6M RAWs inside of multiple Aperture libraries on OSX and I want to be able to use a DAM to quickly browse and organize RAWs, DxO sidecar files (DOP), and Completed JPGs. Anyone have a suggestion on what to use or how to handle all photos from a centralized database that is fairly fast? I have files divided in different Aperture libraries right now since it was the cleanest way to have complete libraries with at least the RAWs with their respective completed JPGs correctly associated. I can live without retaining the DOP sidecars but I just want to load one single database with all images referenced so I can adjust meta and organize photos efficiently.
  18. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    @Whtrbt7@Whtrbt7, DigiKam can group files (e.g. RAW and JPEG) but it currently is a manual operation. If you don't group them, both will be displayed individually.
    I'm not sure what it would do with DOP files, but my guess is that they would be completely ignored.

    DigiKam is free, so I would say give it a try.

  19. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Just to clarify, you have 1.6 million raw files in multiple libraries? :hmmm:

  20. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    I’ve used Canto Cumulus and use Extensis Portfolio but for more than just photo files, and still use an old version of Extensis that is no longer available. Both companies used to make desktop versions that were great for personal or small business use. However it wasn’t until Lightroom that anything came along that was a great DAM for various bitmap and photo files.

    DAM is one of the reasons so many people use Lightroom – the cost of Lightroom even if only using the DAM part of it, is an extremely outstanding product. As Barry’s research has demonstrated.

    For a while longer it seems as if the best choices are the expensive Canto or Extensis services or Lightroom. I’ve read some post about some Aperture users that found a great option for using Lightroom to import their previous libraries. However for DxO DOP files …

    BTW – your organization starts with your hard disk folders/directory structure, no matter which DAM you use.
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