In a digital age, it’s hard to do business without a library of images. Photos, illustrations, logos, graphics and other media files are fundamental to representing your brand and its values, especially when used online. For example:
Investing in studio photography helps to show off your products, while headshots can help you establish thought leaders and build up their brand. Offices, employees, projects and case studies may all be the subjects of an ever-growing collection of digital assets.
Almost any document, branding, webpage or social media account demands a ready supply of images. But that’s where the problems really begin. When image assets are spread across servers and individual computers, it’s hard to track down the files you need. And without centralised management of resources, access and sharing, it’s easy for files to get lost altogether.
If you’re struggling with the challenges of curating, storing and retrieving media assets, the chances are that you could benefit from an image management system. But what is image management, who uses it, and how can it help you?
What is image management ?
Image management software exists to solve the challenges of storing, organising and distributing images currently in-use and in your archive. Architected around a centralised storage space, an image management platform provides features that help people categorise, share and retrieve the images they need – even when they’re part of the biggest media libraries.
Image management software can be considered a specialised type of digital asset management (DAM) platform. Like a DAM, today’s image management solutions are typically built in the cloud, offering a large and secure storage space for libraries that might extend to hundreds of thousands – even millions – of assets.
On top of this centralised store, image management software offers multiple features to organise, simplify and accelerate the storage and later retrieval of image assets. For example, an image management platform may automatically extract image metadata – such as EXIF data from photos. This allows users to filter and search images by factors like the date or place they were shot.
Software often supports far richer metadata too, which might be added manually, or by AI routines that recognise faces, events or urban features . It’s also typical to find support for organising assets by team, project, product – or other logical themes.
What are the benefits of image management software?
This combination of rich data and centralised storage makes it far quicker and easier to find the right images. Rather than searching around various computers for, say, approved shots from the CMO’s photoshoot, they can be found in one repository. They might be organised under People > Marketing > CMO, or quickly found by searching for tags such as ‘CMO’, or the date of the shoot.
Image management software also saves time by making it easier for contributors and stakeholders to work collaboratively on assets. With cloud-based storage, files can be uploaded, modified and retrieved from anywhere. For example, if an agency commissions photographers to take worldwide location shots for a client, those shots can be uploaded directly into the image management platform. They can then be tweaked by the agency’s art team, then submitted to the client for approval – all through one platform.
Other features might further support distributed and collaborative working patterns. For example, version control and in-line commenting makes it easy for stakeholders to iterate images. And inbuilt support for approval and compliance processes helps ensure that nobody uses legacy, unfinished or poor quality images in a public-facing publication or channel.
Despite the freedom offered by cloud-based image management, it’s far from a free-for-all. Left unchecked, the client-agency-freelancer model often leads to improvised, ad-hoc file sharing arrangements. At their worst these centre on free and freemium platforms that do little to fully support collaborative working. They typically lack strong security, raising the risk that valuable imagery or other IP can leak out into the public domain. However, purpose-designed image management platforms typically offer strong security and user control features, helping teams limit access to only their staff, stakeholders and contributors.
Overall, image management software helps remove inefficiencies from all image creation, iteration, approval and storage processes. By simplifying storage and search, it prevents time lost to digging around for images – and slashes the cost of having to recreate assets that can’t be found. By securing the storage, archival and sharing of images, it protects valuable digital assets from theft or loss. And by enabling and accelerating distributed, multi-agency workflows, it reduces the time to market and helps teams deliver stronger results.
Who needs an image management platform?
Image management software delivers multiple benefits and a provable return on investment to teams and businesses in many industries. For creators and creative agencies, it can form the bedrock of collaborative working with clients and contributors. It can help to remove friction from workflows and ensure that teams are properly hooked up. Plus, it can cut the time and money lost to poor communication or disappearing assets, helping teams fully deliver on the brief.
Forty locations, 700 staff, one million assets: discover how Imagen helped NatureScot implement best practice digital asset management
Marketing teams and creatives reap all the same benefits, helping them accelerate their time to market and improve their return on expensive creative resources such as designers and photographers. And for global brands, image management software supports centralised control of key marketing assets. As such, it can play a key role in coordinating and providing materials to regional teams and their partners.
Often, image management is integrated with wider asset control in brand asset management platforms. Designed to support all digital assets in marketing workflows, brand asset management ensures that marketers retain control of their brand messaging. Powerful collaboration features get ideas into production more quickly, while strict version control helps ensure the quality of campaign materials.
Increasingly, all businesses find themselves working with imagery, and with a growing need to coordinate and control burgeoning libraries of image assets. Image management software helps them take control. It isn’t just nice-to-have software for image-intensive creative and marketing teams – it’s an essential and value-adding tool to cut confusion and drive efficiency in any organisation hoping to thrive in the digital world.
What is brand asset management, and why is image management essential to it? Discover more in our brand asset management explainer