Spencer Harris

Spencer Harris - Photo Systems Admin

According to Spencer, the ability to view a digital asset management system at both the macro and micro levels are key to a company’s long-term success with any DAM implementation.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I have been involved in the art of digital asset management since 2007 with my own photography company, which today focuses on high-end, luxury wedding clients. I also currently work as the Photo System Administrator for Men’s Wearhouse, which I have been involved with digital asset management since 2012.

With my own company I am responsible for ingesting, rating, adjusting, distributing, and displaying of assets. My imagery is not only displayed to my clients, but also to their wedding guests on the wedding day, on my website, and at trade shows. Annually I generate an average of 15,000 assets.

At Men’s Wearhouse I started working at the store level in management in 2007 while going through school studying Business Management and Photography. At the beginning of 2012 I was able to move from the store level up into the corporate office and work in their photo studio. In the beginning I was responsible for working with a local developer to custom build an automated database for tracking the photography processes for the company. The project has involved the development of storage and retention policies on the companies local server. Today, not only do I provide support for the database, but am in the process of creating Scope of Work documents outlining features for our 2.0 version.

At the begging of 2014 we started working with Industrial Color’s GlobalEdit, which is a web based rating, approval, and soft proofing website to allow for our marketing department to view, rate, approve/reject, and make retouching markup notes on assets and to communicate those decisions throughout the creative team. Part of using GlobalEdit has evolved to using the site, for the time being, as a final resting place for our FRA (Final Retouched Assets) files and to share them with other departments within the organization that need to leverage the assets for different purposes.

Some of the features of GlobalEdit we have begun to use more of through the use of our automated database is their metadata panel, which we have custom made to align with the data we want to see/use. We have also used their various permissions features to limit visibility of assets depending on user types and roles. In addition to the permissions we are able to set the level of access users have to un-retouched versions of assets to only allow for a download of a low-res version that has a watermark on the asset. This is done to ensure that un-retouched versions done accidentally get sent out into live production.

In 2014 we generated approximately 80,000 digital photographs, which had to be run through our database along with proof quality previews generated for use on the web with GlobalEdit.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

When I explain this work to others I tell them that I am responsible and oversee the process of organizing, distributing, and storing of the companies digital assets, which commonly is photography and creative designs. Depending on their response I might provide a little bit more information about my responsibilities such as metadata, key wording, and working with our contracted developer to maintain the system and develop new features or processes to make our workflow easier and more efficient.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned the most about DAM by simply learning by doing. My knowledge expanded as I would come across situations where our processes or systems were not working efficiently or effectively. As time has gone on I have also spent time reading and learning from others. I recommend the following sources in addition to the DAM Guru:

DAM Foundation
Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos by Elizabeth Keathley
DAM Survival Guide: Digital Asset Management Initiative Planning by David Diamond
The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers by Peter Krogh
The Accidental Taxonomist by Heather Hedden.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

When looking at and understanding DAM you have to have the ability to look at the system(s) and solution(s) at both a Macro and Micro level. You need to step back and understand the big picture of how the hardware and software will work together, who and how the users will use/access the solution, and what are the various security and redundancy measures that need to be put in place. The more micro level is to understand how different user groups use different features and aspects of the solution. What will be their pain points and is there a way, either through system customization or user training to make the system easier and more intuitive to use.

It also becomes important to have patience and good communication skills to share your thoughts and ideas about processes to all users. The patience part comes in great when trying to train new users on how to maximize their time using the solution. There can and will be a lot of redundancy in the training.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?


What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Getting the decision makers of the organization to see the true needs of additional support staff to effectively manage the system and the number of assets we are generating annually.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I would like to have a better understanding other software solutions. What features/bells & whistles do the different vendors offer. What are the processes and solutions that other companies are using. This insight would help me to understand what things are possible with regards to customization and setup that I can use to make my system more efficient and intuitive.

This interview originally appeared on DAM Guru on Mon, 27 Apr 2015. For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.

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