Storing Images in a Database vs File System
Due to their size, storing images in a database can present significant challenges. Accordingly, images are often stored in a file system. The alternative is storing image files in the database as “Blobs”, but this consumes huge amounts of memory and impacts database performance. So instead of using inefficient Blobs, the database just has a field that points to the file. This is how Tracker Ten handles image storage – image copies are stored on your file system, and pointers to the files are stored in the database. Storing images in SQL and other popular database systems generally works the same way.
Storing Images in Database Pros and Cons
Microsoft did a study to determine if it was worth storing image files directly in a database. They found that images smaller then 256K in size for fine to store in a database, otherwise it was far more efficient to store the files in disk storage, and have the database point to these files. In fact, for larger files, it can take 10 times as long to retrieve an image from a database, then directly from a filesystem. Further, it is typically more expensive to store large images directly in a database, then in a file. Since most cameras now a days take pictures in the mega pixels in size, storing images in files makes far more sense then storing them directly in a database.
However, there is one big drawback in storing pictures on your local file system instead of directly in the database. Backing up your data becomes trickier. Not only do you need to make a copy of your database file, you also need to make a copy of all of your database images. In Tracker Ten this isn’t a huge issue as all of your images are saved in your document’s directory, and they can be easily backed up to an external hard drive if needed. A final con is that images on your filesystem are not password protected like database files. If you want to restrict other people who use your computer from viewing your image files, you need to store them in your personal Windows account, as Tracker Ten does not encrypt image files when they are saved to your computer.
Digital Camera Pictures Upload
Getting pictures from your digital camera to your database is not very difficult. Typically, you just need to plug your camera into your computer via the USB port. Your camera should be recognized as another drive. If you look at the contents of the drive you will see all of your images. Getting the images from your camera to Tracker Ten is as easy as dragging the files from the camera directory into the image area of Tracker Ten. Alternatively, you can use the browse functions in Tracker Ten to select the images from you Camera and import them into your database.
Digital Camera with Raw File Format
Many photographers prefer to shoot in a “raw format”. This format is not directly recognized by your computer as an image. However, these files contain more data, allowing you to perform operations like zooming with greater detail. You can also make more tonal adjustments and you can adjust the white balance of images. While you can not directly drag and drop raw files to Tracker Ten, you can setup the user defined fields to point to the raw image files on your computer. When you made all of your final image adjustments, using your Camera software you can save the images to JPEG format, which you can import directly into the image area of Tracker Ten. Just keep in mind that camera manufactures often use distortion correction when creating JPEGs, so you may also want to keep the original Raw file, if you want to do additional enhancements.
Access database images
When you are ready to view files that you have saved in your database, you just need to navigate to the appropriate record, and you will see the images on the Images tab. If you want to get to the original file, you can always find it on your computer in your “my documents” directory (it will be stored in the App Data area). The name of the file will be beginning with the record id for the record you are viewing.
Tracker Ten can also automatically resize images to thumbnails for quick viewing, and the software features built in reports that allow you to add images from your database directly onto report pages. This feature is great for generating catalogs and other related materials. Finally, all versions of Tracker Ten also have a photo Album View, where images in your database are displayed on screen in a digital photo Album. Images in the Album are automatically sized to fit your screen display.
Storing Images with Meta Data in Database
One big advantage of storing images in a database like Tracker Ten is you can easily add meta data to your image files. While image files may already contain some meta data like aperture, shutter speed, focal depth and DPI, there may be various other tags that you need to store. Using a database like Tracker Ten you can include things like where the picture was taken, the names of the people in the picture, the type of picture (i.e., landscape, portrait etc.) and much more. If you just save files directly to your computer you can not as easily add this type of meta data. But if you store your images in a database, you can add any meta data you need, and the same will automatically handle all needed associations for you. You are also free to rename the record, and you don’t need to worry about things like sidecar files (i.e., files that store meta data separate from the original image file). And when you backup your data file and the corresponding image directory you can easily restore your information if you need too.