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Photoshop Album 2 (Adobe)


Photoshop Album 2 is the first cataloging software I used for my digital photo collection. It was affordable, and the interface was immediately intuitive. My wife had no troubles understanding the workflow within the program, even without reading the manual.

The most commonly used functions were very easy to access (such as searching for combinations of categories). The ability to select an image and open up a copy in an editor was implemented very well, saving one from the easy mistake of editing an original without realizing it.

PSA2 also had incorporated a large amount of feature integration outside of basic catalog management. One could perform red-eye reduction, resizing, web galleries, email support and even 3D gallery walkthroughs. I must admit that I was one of those who didn't like to see these features in the program. I knew that it would only come at the expense of fast and clean, photo catalog functionality. The program looked like it was headed to the do everything that the average snapshot photographer was interested in, without having to buy a photo editor. Since I already have Photoshop CS, I would rather see the catalog program focus entirely on doing an excellent job of cataloging only, rather than an average job of everything.



As my catalog grew over 10,000 photos, I began to notice that the browsing through the catalog was becoming sluggish (on a 2.5GHz Athlon XP w/ 768MB RAM). This sluggishness was already annoying, and I quickly realized that it was only going to get worse. As it is nearly impossible to change to different catalog software at a later date, the Photoshop Album road was already looking like a dead end.

Closed format:

Since Adobe Photoshop Album provides no real scripting capabilities, nor the ability to export the database into an open format, it is very difficult to change to another catalog program at a later date. Fortunately, Photoshop Album 2 databases are stored as a Microsoft Access database, and someone has decoded the record format. This means that it is still possible to extricate all of your hard work (in category tagging) from a Photoshop Album 2 database. But, it would be a simple matter for Adobe to make the database format even more difficult to decode in later versions. Therefore, sticking with the program is a dangerous plan (especially if you value the ability to walk away with all of your hard work in tagging).

Photoshop Album 3 and Product Roadmap

UPDATE: The latest version, Photoshop Album 3.0 Starter Edition, was eventually released in July 2005, and can be downloaded here.

As I highly respect Adobe for a number of their professional products, I figured that it would only be a matter of time before they released a "professional" version of their catalog software (also know as a digital asset management program). I expected to soon see an Adobe Photoshop Album 3 or a more advanced standalone product offering.

Unfortunately, Adobe confused and frustrated a large number of users by integrating and improving upon Photoshop Album 2 (PSA2)'s features into Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 (PSE3). PSE3 is the limited-feature version of Photoshop CS (PSCS), the industry-standard photo editing package.

While this integration was good news to most amateurs and hobbyists, it was a bad sign for those who had already purchased Photoshop CS. Photoshop Album appeared to be dead. Future versions were integrated within their successful photo editor (PSE3). Many of the features that we wanted in PSA2 had been rolled into PSE3's Organizer.

For those of us who purchased PSCS and PSA2, we had to make the choice: Do we buy Photoshop Elements 3 for it's organizer's functionality (and waste 90% of the program's feature set), or do we go elsewhere.

Thankfully, Adobe eventually released a follow-on version to their free standalone product: Photoshop Album 3 Starter Edition. So, they have now provided some means for users of PSA to get additional updates, but it is no longer a paid-for standalone product and likely has an uncertain future.

Adobe Lightroom

More importantly, Adobe has recently (late 2006) released a formidable standalone catalog program as a free public beta: Adobe Lightroom. While it may not be complete enough for full-time deployment, it is definitely worth checking out. Note that it is also cross-platform (Mac and PC).

Transition to other software

As shown on the IMatch page, there is a handy tool called PSATool which allows one to extract the tagging data from a Photoshop Album database. This works for version 2, but for those who are using Photoshop Album 1, a free download of Photoshop Album 2 SE (Starter Edition) from the Adobe site will allow you to convert first.

Photoshop Album 2.0 and RAW File Format Support

It seems that there has been some confusion regarding whether or not Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 supports camera RAW formats. The following post by Jim Lewis details his findings.

Lots of misinformation has been posted in a thread that I began, beginning with my mis-abeling it as Photoshop Album 2.1. But the thread has revealed some things a number of people don't know, including those on the Adobe Forum, so let me summarize what otehrs have shown me and I have learned here.

  1. Photoshop Album 2.0 (and 2.01) can catalog RAW files and open them in Photoshop.
  2. To be able to use this feature, you must have one of the supported cameras, listed here:
    Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 and Camera RAW compatibility
    This was current as of 2.0. Other cameras may be supported with 2.01
  3. To get Photoshop Album to recognize RAW imagines, you cannot use the "Search Hard Drive" option. Instead, use "File~Get Photos" then "From Files and Folders". Point at the parent directory that contains your RAW images, or select multiple images from one drive. (All of my RAW files are kept on a separate drive, so I selected the entire drive.) If appropriate, click the "Get Photos from Subfolders" dialogue.
  4. Photoshop Album will catalogue all your RAW files, and you can then subdivide them into catalogs.
  5. Right clicking will open a dialogue which allows you to open Photoshop, which will default to Adobve Camera Raw.


Adobe Photoshop Elements 3

In addition to taking Adobe Photoshop Album 2's functionality and improving upon it in Photoshop Elements 3, they have added a critical feature: the writing of the keyword tags into IPTC data. This effectively allows one an escape route from the product in the future if they later decide to use another tool.

NOTE: As pointed out by one of our readers, the IPTC writeback functionality in PSE3 is not without its limitations. Please read James' comments below (04/07/2006).

In all honesty, Photoshop Elements 3 will be the perfect tool for a very large majority of hobby photographers, as it is a great integration of two important functionalities: photo organization and photo editing. The photo editing suite is very thorough, and Adobe is probably the only company that will be able to offer a successful integration of these two areas. There are obvious benefits to integrating the two: most importantly is the handling of multiple versions of the same photo from a versioning / stack standpoint. PSE3 has handled this very well with the concept of image stacks.

My biggest concern, however, is about performance. Weak performance was the achilles heel of Photoshop Album 2, and some reports on the internet indicate that Photoshop Elements 3 still has the same serious limitations with large databases (eg. > 10,000 photos). The other big limitation is the lack of scripting. Scripting can make up for missing features never conceived by the software vendor, or ones that didn't make it into the current release. As Adobe rarely ever issues incremental releases more than once in a year, you are pretty much left with whatever you bought. Areas where scripting can be extremely useful include managing versions, creating custom web photo galleries, automating your workflow with to-edits, etc.


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
2009-07-05john olds
 I backed up album 2 on dvd's. Is there a way place all of this into a working system on a new computer with 64 bit vista? Thanks
 You might want to consider trying to import your album catalog into a newer version of Adobe Photoshop Elements Organizer.
 Hi, have a pc with photoshop album 3 where the hard drive is attempting to crash. How can I export all the collections to a new pc (also with PSA3)? Thanks for any help.
 I have Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition 3.2. I have tried to burn to CD but it will not work. I keep getting the prompt to insert a blank CD. However, my CD drive already has a blank CD inside. What is wrong?
2007-04-26Joy Brown
 Thank you for letting me know that Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition 3 does not let one copy photos on to CDs. It would be nice if they let the customer know that in their materials... Anyway, if I were to purchase an Adobe upgrade, such as the Elements 3 version, would it automatically transfer my photos when I purchased that new program?
 Yes, Photoshop Elements 3 should be able to import your Photoshop Album catalog. Good luck!
2007-04-24Joy Brown
 I am soooo frustrated with Adobe Photoshop Starter Edition 3.0 in the fact that I cannot for the life of me figure out how to simply save my photos to a CD. Can you PLEASE tell me how to do something as simple as that. There doesn't seem to be a function that says simply SAVE AS or SEND TO.

 It is my understanding that Photoshop Album Start Edition 3 does not provide a burn-to-CD option. This is only in Photoshop Elements 3 (the non-free version). You may be able to do the same thing by creating a folder on your desktop, then dragging all of the photos that you want to burn from your Photoshop Album window to this folder (this should copy the files to your hard drive). Then, when you insert a blank CD into your drive, Windows XP should ask you if you want to open the CD Writing Wizard. Otherwise, simply drag your new folder onto the CD drive icon and then click on Write these files to CD.
 Hi, I have my own horror story with Adobe Photoshop Album, although some may have been of my own doing. I recently had to reinstall my OS. I saved all my files on an external hard drive, but could not figure out for the life of me how to save the PSA tagging that I had so laboriously done over the past 2 years. So I now have Elements CS, can't find my Album CD to reinstall, and I am wondering if I should move on to another platform. I don't want to buy a combined version of APSE and APSA as it is bundled now, but I am still not sure which way to go. Oh, and I am somewhat suspicious of the PSA--often it could not find the source photo when I KNOW it had not been moved or deleted. That was more than a little troubling, but I never knew who/what the culprit was.

Like another writer, I am quickly amassing digital images, although I don't think I have even 5000 yet. So, I guess I will have to do some reasearch. But, given my recent "loss" of organized photos, which of these programs is transferrable when I do back up my hard drive and want to save all my hard work? I would be appreciative of some advice and sorting out things by someone much more knowlegeable than I. Thanks for a great site.
 Sorry to hear about the loss in tagging -- that is terrible. Often the people in the Adobe forums might have suggestions in helping you recover/relink the catalog if it wasn't truly deleted. One of the most important safeguards that you can do with your documents & photos stored on your computer is to make sure that they are all on a different drive than your OS. If you ever have a corrupted boot drive (by installing a bad application, etc.), it isn't too much of a hassle to reformat the boot drive and reinstall the applications. But in doing so, you don't want to have to worry about all of the data files used by the applications. In your example, the catalog data might have been stored inside the Program Files directory for Photoshop Album, which would be located on your boot drive. It is extremely important that one always migrate your documents / database files off the boot drive. As many people only have a single hard drive, this is not always an option, but for those who do, it is a must.

I am in the midst of writing an article on how to safeguard your entire system so that you are much less likely to run into losses that could wipe out a lot of effort in tagging photos, etc. I'll post it soon.

In the meantime, I would recommend that you consider the other applications listed in my photo catalog software page. Some have far better user interfaces than others, so I can't really recommend a specific one unless I knew what your needs were and tolerance level for difficult interfaces. In any case, nearly all of these programs are transferrable when migrating to a new drive, but you have to be careful about how you configure the options (i.e. where is the database stored) and how well it lets you relocate the photo file links if you happened to change the drive for the photos later.
2006-05-26Miroslaw Lawczys

What do you think about Adobe Lightroom (in beta now) as a pro replacement for PSE4 and its cataloging ability. I provided a feedback on Lightroom forums requesting a clean upgrade path from Album to Lightroom including, of course, importing all the hierarchical tags metadata, captures, collection data etc. I believe that any serious company needs to take care of its existing customer base first, providing appropriate upgrade paths, before adding new features. Otherwise how can we be sure that Bridge, Lightroom and other applications will not become a dead end after couple of years?
 I have been keenly interested in Adobe's Lightroom development. Adobe Photoshop Album was always targeted to the mass consumer, and it wasn't particularly well suited to the pro market. Hence many of us dropped out after PSA (as a standalone product) was dead-ended. As the PC version is not yet available, I haven't been able to test it out, but it does look very promising.

However, what you say about the roadmap for catalog importing (from PSE4) is somewhat disappointing -- I agree that providing an upgrade path to an existing loyal customer base is very important. But I don't completely share your concern about the dead-ending of many of these applications -- most new developments now realize that it is no longer acceptable to use a closed database format in combination with no metadata writing of keywords. Careful photographers will never use an application that doesn't allow a proper export path. These days nearly all of them do have some means of export, so even if the application itself is no longer supported, you can theoretically jump into the next application within a few hours of massaging the export - import process.
 how can I download ADOBE PHOTO ALBUM 3.0 ?
 There is no Adobe Photoshop Album 3 at this stage. It appears to have been replaced by the organizer in Adobe Photoshop Elements 4. (also version 3)
2006-04-07James David Walley
In addition to taking Adobe Photoshop Album 2's functionality and improving upon it in Photoshop Elements 3, they have added a critical feature: the writing of the keyword tags into IPTC data. This effectively allows one an escape route from the product in the future if they later decide to use another tool.

I would add a big caveat here: although Photoshop Elements 3 offers a "write tag info to files" command, it does NOT write them into the IPTC Keywords section. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure where it writes them, but I couldn't get anything other than Photoshop Elements 3 to recognize the embedded keywords, not even Adobe Bridge!

This has, apparently, been remedied in Photoshop Elements 4, which writes the keywords where other programs can find them. However, there are still three problems with this:
  • It only writes what it considers keywords -- of which star ratings don't count. So, if you've generated 1- to 5-star ratings in Elements, you're going to have to add those manually.
  • When it writes the tag info, it sometimes erases other data already in the metadata. For example my name in the "creator" field got wiped every time.
  • Last, and worst, it won't write tags to .DNG files. Since that's becoming a de-facto standard for camera originals (ironically thanks in no small part to Adobe itself!), that is a severe problem. It will write to jpegs and the sidecar .XMP files for camera raw files such as .NEF but, if you've converted several thousand raw files to .DNGs, you're out of luck.
 Excellent post, James! Not having used PSE3 much (I migrated to different application), I was not aware of its IPTC shortcomings. I will update the page to reflect your comments. Thanks!
2005-04-03Dianne Arnold

I have been reading on your site all afternoon and can't believe how much I've learned!! I'm at the point where I must develop a more disciplined workflow (cataloging/file naming/keywording, etc) and your "tutorials" have been extremely helpful. Do you have a side-by-side comparison of iMatch and iView Media Pro on the site or would you be able to comment briefly? I'm down to those two (I think).

I have thousands of digital images and am taking multiple thousands a year now (as I get more into photography). Also, I do a lot of genealogy work, so have many scanned images. Then, of course, there are the "shoeboxes" of film prints/negatives from the old days - prior to 1999 when I started digital. I'm not making a living from photography, but I want to have a professional digital image management system -- to me that's critical for being able to continue doing both (photography and genealogy) and enjoying them.


Thanks for the nice comments!

Given your situation, having a decent catalog program will be an absolute necessity. You will also want to consider the scalability of each application (especially with regards to performance -- some appear to have been written with performance as an afterthought). I have not used iView Media Pro enough at this stage to provide an accurate comparison, but it seems regarded well enough that it warrants another try.


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