About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

How I Use Photoshelter To Organise my Photo Library

How I Use Photoshelter To Organise my Photo Library

A while ago I talked about switching from PhotoShelter to PhotoDeck for image sales as the former didn’t properly support EU vat. However, since then I’ve gone back to using Photoshelter. I’m not using it for sales though. I’m using it to manage my ever growing library of images. It may seem like an odd choice, and while it’s not perfect, It’s actually working out reasonably well.

The problem that I wanted to solve is as follows: I want a place to store and find my finished images. When I’m generally finished with images or a shoot, I will export full resolution Jpegs of the finished photos from whatever software that I am working on, so that I have a flattened version of the image safely stored. The problem is that these add up after a while, and on top of new images, I have an archive of thousands of files, that need proper sorting. 

Over the years I’ve tried several solutions to try and get on top of this. I’ve tried using a dedicated Lightroom catalogue, but that just got messy. Most recently I’ve been using Mylio, but that has issues too. The key areas that I wanted in a solution were as follows:

  1. Allow me to access my collection anywhere.
  2. Allow me to work on sorting, keyboarding and captioning on multiple computers.
  3. Allow me to quickly get images for use in blog posts or other places.
  4. Allow me to let others search and use the library.

Photoshelter, despite being a web based application, actually works perfectly for this. For a start, it solves the biggest problem I have with Mylio. Because Mylio is an app, despite the fact that it syncs across devices, you still need to download, at the very minimum, previews of your images. Even on the lowest setting, when you have a large library this can take up hundreds of gigabytes. This means using it on a full laptop is a pain, and uses up a lot of space. 

The phone and tablet apps have the same problems. It has to download lots and lots of previews, and no matter how long I left it, it would only do so much in the background before timing out, and so it was nigh on impossible to keep it up to date when you have a large library.

Because Phtoshelter is mostly entirely web based it doesn’t have this problem. So long as you have an internet connection, you can access and work on your library at any time. It also has an unlimited storage option too, so you don’t have to worry about running out of space. The Photoshelter phone app doesn’t download lots of previews, and it loads content dynamically off the internet, so you don’t have to wait forever for it to upload. It’s ready to go as soon as you open it. 

Another feature that I’ve started to use is the ability to accept RAW files. While you can’t do edit them or anything like that, I now use it to archive my RAW files, so that they’re fully backed up off site. It also means that I can find and access a raw file should I really need it.

It has some pretty great metadata tools, including the ability to batch process metadata, including the ability to replace or append, which is something that is really missing from Lightroom (although there is a plugin to do this).

There is a desktop app for uploading, and so I uploaded my “Master-Sort” library from my computer, which is ironically named, as it still remains decidedly un-sorted. Once there, I’ve set about manually adding keywords and captions for images that don’t already have them, and moving them into subfolders and so on. But here’s where it gets interesting. There are some useful tools in Photoshelter for sending files. You can set up FTP with the service, and you can directly FTP to an FTP site. Because my Photodeck based sales site accepts FTP, so I can send images directly from one site to the other.

I can also assign access to users. I have people helping me with some of my projects, for picking images and posting to social media and so on. This lets me give them access to my archive, and they can download the resolutions that I specify, and they have the images, without some laborious process of me trying to find them on my computer and then opening them up in some piece of software to give the correct resolution and so on. They can use the front end of the service too, so I don’t have to give them access to the back end.

It’s not perfect of course. For one thing, the interface is a little dated and a bit clunky. It's very easy to move off an image when working on captioning and lose your edits if you’re not careful. The size that is shown to you in the web app is pretty small by today’s standards, and they seem a bit slow to update the service and add new features. It’s also expensive for the full unlimited account, but I think it’s worth it. If nothing else it means that I have a backup of all my pictures. I’m still uploading RAW projects to it, but when I’m finished, I’ll have all my images, finished and unedited in the one place, accessible from any computer, and easily searchable. At the moment, I can’t find any other solution that would let me do this in this way, with the ability to let others access my library too. If you know of anything, by all means, let me know.

If you want to try it out, then I have a referral link that you can use (and if you sign up they give me a discount on my subscription, and you get a credit too!)

If you like this post then you can see more of my work on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I also have a YouTube channel that you might like. You should also check out my other Photography Project: The Streets of Dublin. If you want to get regular updates, and notices of occasional special offers, and discounts from my store, then please sign up for the Newsletter.

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