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Thread: Photography log/database setup

  1. #1
    Large Format Curious
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Los Angeles & Norway
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    Photography log/database setup

    Hi,

    perhaps rather an unsual inquiry. I've always kept notes on every picture I take, starting with my first MF camera back in the 80's. Subject, aperture, shutter, lens, filters, emulsion, meter reading, development (for B&W) along with any additional relevant notes from the shoot. I even included a field for thumbnails of the best shots for quick preview.

    I used to be pretty good at keeping it up to date and current (a long time ago), and kept it in a searchable database on my (now long gone) computer. In the old days, I used one Post-it note per roll for notes, mostly. Then I entered the info into the computer when I got home, and updated it when I got the film back from processing (or processed it myself).

    I've moved most of my legacy archive over to FileMaker Pro on Mac OS X about a decade ago, but am not yet through everything, and FileMaker is rather expensive (>$500 for the current version, mine is version 11 and soon won't run anymore).

    The last few years I've been simply jotting my shoot notes down on my phone, however that makes it difficult to go back and use them actively to learn, improve, and search for specific shots. Nor is it very structured, making it a huge endeavor to transfer the data over to FileMaker since everything has to be massaged and tweaked into rows and columns. Now that I'm shooting more 4x5, it brings me back to the fact that my current system badly needs an upgrade.

    So for my question.

    While I've been looking for alternatives to FileMaker Pro and thinking through how I log info and shoot, my ideal solution would be to have my database hosted online somehow and connect to it from my phone (which I would be using anyway to log each shot), so that I would actually be adding info directly into the database from the shoot itself, instead of logging it manually (paper or phone, either way) and then having to manually massage the data once more and enter it into the database (which due to the time involved, happens less and less often and takes more and more time). This way I could set up all the fields/data that are important to me in a logical order and just fly through them after each shot and be done.

    Any suggestions as to how I could do this? Are there off the shelf databases that I could configure to transfer my legacy archive into, then expand and access from anywhere online via my phone or laptop to enter new log data as it happens?

    Would I need a custom app, or special software, or are there existing solutions I could tweak to do what I want?

    I suppose I could also just stop taking notes, but I find them invaluable for learning, and when I started selling pictures some years ago, being able to pull up various subjects and data was a huge bonus.

    I'm pretty tech savvy, but am no programmer.

    Looking forward to any suggestions or ideas. Maybe someone has already done this.

  2. #2
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Jun 2015
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    New Jersey was NYC
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    453

    Re: Photography log/database setup

    Might Windows Excel spreadsheet program work for you? They convert Filemaker to Excel.
    https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C...67.cKr7-q4tv7E

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Posts
    4,335

    Re: Photography log/database setup

    Quote Originally Posted by 6x6TLL View Post
    While I've been looking for alternatives to FileMaker Pro and thinking through how I log info and shoot

    You may consider AnalogExif freeware: https://sourceforge.net/projects/analogexif/

    As information is stored in the image itself you share that information with the image, you will never loss the separated information, you may explore/browse the images/information with AnalogExif or with any File explorer.

    You may use Windows/etc to also search files by EXIF tags, by introducing (IIIRC) tags:yourtag in the search bar, perhaps it depends on the OS, but there is a way.




    Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    103

    Re: Photography log/database setup

    Suggest trying a spreadsheet app on your phone. Google Sheets would probably be the easiest to try: free, and meets your desire for hosting the database online with instant sync between entry and database. Excel is the by-default standard format for spreadsheets and (non-complex) databases, so if you can export your Filemaker data into an Excel format, or get Excel to read the Filemaker files, then you can get it into other programs such as Google Sheets. You will generally encounter some format incompatibilities when export/importing things between programs. If you have a mostly static data set without a lot of customizations or macros, these can usually be overcome.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    30

    Re: Photography log/database setup

    I have been moving some of my old databases from Filemaker as well.

    I now use a database program called Tap Forms, as it works on both my Mac and on my iPhone, and it is easy to keep the data in sync. It is not as powerful as Filemaker, but for cataloging notes it should work fine.

    https://www.tapforms.com

    To move my old Filemaker databases, I simply export the individual tables as .csv files and then import them into Tap Forms.

    Tap Forms is a relatively inexpensive program, but I find it to be very useful. The developer of the software is very active and keeps adding functionality to the app. He is also a friendly guy who has helped me out on several occasions when I couldn't figure something out.

    There is also a user forum on the website for the software that has been very useful to me. Jumping back and forth from Microsoft Access to Filemaker and then to a new platform sometimes leaves you scratching your head on how to accomplish something. Usually someone else has encountered whatever issue you are having, and the answer can be found in the forum.

    You can sync your database on your iPhone to your Mac using iCloud. I do it locally at the house, mostly because I use dropbox rather than Apple's alternative. I do keep my Tap Forms databases on dropbox, so that I can use multiple computers with them. I have a Mac in my upstairs hobby room that I use to record darkroom notes on, so it is handy to be able to access the database from different computers.

    My wife had used Filemaker Bento for her dog rescue group, and one of Tap Form's original selling points was that it would import the Bento databases after Filemaker ceased selling and supporting Bento. That is how I found the program. It is not a true relational database, but it has enough functionality with look up tables to work for what I need it for. I use it for photo notes, darkroom notes, home maintenance records, health care records, auto maintenance records and a whole lot of other things. You can create multiple databases that are accessible from the main menu. You can also password protect databases that have sensitive information in them.

    Good luck finding a solution that works for you. I only use mac computers at home, so there are not too many database choices. I did not want to build a custom SQL database, nor did any of the other mac databases that have come and gone interest me. I have noticed that most mac database programs that are introduced, fade away quickly. This one has been going strong, and hopefully will continue to do so.

  6. #6
    jp's Avatar
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    May 2009
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    Maine
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    5,221

    Re: Photography log/database setup

    Quote Originally Posted by reddesert View Post
    Suggest trying a spreadsheet app on your phone. Google Sheets would probably be the easiest to try: free, and meets your desire for hosting the database online with instant sync between entry and database. Excel is the by-default standard format for spreadsheets and (non-complex) databases, so if you can export your Filemaker data into an Excel format, or get Excel to read the Filemaker files, then you can get it into other programs such as Google Sheets. You will generally encounter some format incompatibilities when export/importing things between programs. If you have a mostly static data set without a lot of customizations or macros, these can usually be overcome.
    You can design web based forms which let you populate the sheet as well. Tools menu and create form. Then you will have a form menu for editing and managing the forms. Forms can have the useful user interface options that we are accustomed to.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Atlanta, GA
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    637

    Re: Photography log/database setup

    You could export your FM Pro data to a NoSQL database like MongoDB hosted on a cloud platform (AWS etc.) and use a web interface to access the information from any connected device.

  8. #8
    Large Format Curious
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Los Angeles & Norway
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    Re: Photography log/database setup

    Thanks for the suggestions so far. I've tried using a spreadsheet and didn't like it. Never use a spreadsheet to do the work of a database (and vice versa). Google sheets is probably amazing, but I don't want Google tracking my every move and hoovering up all my data. That's a discussion for another thread.

    AnalogEXIF looks interesting, but I don't scan every shot, nowhere near, only the keepers.

    So far it sounds as if either tapforms or a cloud hosted SQL database would be the best solution. I have my own server and could potentially host it myself.

    Any other suggestions?

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    The Highlands of Scotland
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    240

    Re: Photography log/database setup

    I'm watching this thread with interest.

    One thing that occurred to me with the discussions around "cloud" services was the need to be online to update or query the database.

    How would you cope when you were outside cell-phone/wi-fi coverage? You would need to record details during the taking phase and find a way to synchronise the datasets once a connection was restored.

    Mike

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Re: Photography log/database setup

    I wrote an app that was used for geotracking and this was a common challenge. We cached data for upload when connectivity was available. It was a very data intensive app and we queued many MB of data.

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