Skip to Main Content

Image Resources: How to Manage Image Collections

Yale University's Arts Library Digital Services guide to digital image resources.


Using images for research without a management tool can lead to unwieldy and unorganized digital asset collections. To save time and optimize your organization, consider exploring an image management (sometimes called digital asset management) tools.

Image Management Tools

We recommend assessing the following features for any tool to make sure it is right for you:

  • price points or pay walls
  • file type compatibility
  • computer system compatibility
  • metadata / tagging options
  • grouping / organization options
  • storage capacity

Here are two possible image management tools to get you started:

Tropy is a free, open-source software for visual research material management.

Adobe BridgeCC
Adobe Bridge CC is a free digital asset management app.

Image Management Tips

Managing images (much like managing citations) will ease stress when recalling images you've found previously. However, these personal image collections for research can become large and unwieldy without practicing good, consistent image management. Along with incorporating an image management or digital asset management tool, we recommend the following practices:

Save images in consistent locations
Choose a standard location on your computer where you save images and determine how to layout your folder system before saving images. Image management tools can help you group items into multiple collections, but the source image needs to be in a stable location you can easily find when needed. It takes more time to file the image when you initially save it, but you'll save time long term.

Implement a standardized naming convention
Once you've established where you are saving your images, consider how you will name individual files to help with searches on your computer. While it can be lengthy, consider including the artist's name and a short version of the title in the file name. Determine what works best for you then adhere to your format when saving future images. An example for Ike Taiga's 18th century work, Moonlight Bamboo, from the Yale University Art Gallery might look like: Taiga.I_1758-60_Moonlight-Bamboo.jpg.

Backup your collection frequently and in multiple locations
After you know where and how you're saving your images on your computer, don't forget to regularly backup your image collection. It is recommended that these backups happen to multiple locations for increased safety. Typical backup locations include external hard drives and cloud platforms, but there are positives and negatives with each. 

  • Hard drives: 
    pro: another physical location, easy to copy-and-paste your collection or use standard backup options
    con: space limitations if not large enough, physical object could be damaged.
  • Cloud platforms: 
    pro: not reliant on a physical object, space is often easier to upgrade
    con: pay walls for more storage, no control over the storage (items have been known to be removed from cloud platforms without warning; relying on a service to provide the virtual space can be risky).

Arts Librarian

Profile Photo
Tess Colwell
Arts Librarian for Research Services, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library