You can create Catalog sets and sub-sets and drag your selected images into those sets for quick grouping and ease of selecting later, should you wish.

Broadly speaking there are a huge number of options available to you, such as extracting metadata, creating slideshows, making PDF files, copying files to new locations and backing up your images, but what you cannot do is add metadata to the master image files.

Delivering the goods to clients

Creating cross-platform catalogues with Mac & PC PhaseOne Media Pro SE Browsers

In the folder containing your master PhaseOne Media Pro SE catalogue simply add the two folders containing PhaseOne Media Pro SE Browser applications for both Windows and Mac. Then you may add any other necessary company documentation and then the resulting folder can then be sent out on USB memory sticks or burnt on to DVD (ensuring that Mac and Windows compatibility is selected). This is both easy and efficient, allowing those clients with the requisite operating systems to view your entire catalogue.

Collecting files and copying to USB sticks or burning to DVD

PhaseOne Media Pro SE offers an easy way to get your high resolution files to a client. You can copy the selected images into a new folder by dragging thumbnails of the image files selected for clients, and any other necessary company documentation, to a specially created folder and then the result can then be sent out on USB memory sticks or burnt on to DVD (ensuring that Mac and Windows compatibility is selected). Alternatively PhaseOne Media Pro SE allows you to email images to clients direct from the program.

I must emphasise that this is purely the way that I do things - there will be plenty of users who have neither the time nor the interest in creating anything more complicated and will wonder why I am prevaricating.


Luckily, the PhaseOne Media Pro SE Manual (in PDF form) has sufficient information to cover most PhaseOne Media Pro SE users' requirements.

In my both original article reviewing Extensis Portfolio, published back in 2009 in the British Journal of Photography, and online up until late 2014, I heartily recommended an investment in Portfolio 8, saying that you certainly wouldn't regret it. Whilst I still stand by that recommendation, sadly today Extensis themselves feel unable to! It still works exceedingly well if one sets aside time and a suitably enabled computer to delve into its secrets - is still certainly better and has more value for money than most of its competitors - but is now no longer available from or supported by Extensis, although I daresay it can still be found at some outlets.

However, not withstanding that, any DAM program, such as PhaseOne Media Pro SE, that can do what Portfolio did, as a single-user version and for a reasonable price, will hopefully attract attention and work in a broadly similar fashion.

So at long last there is no valid excuse for failing to find misplaced images. The editor who now calls at 5:28pm will be impressed by the efficiency of your service and the Challenger tanks firing - and you can get home on time.

How Quickly Times Change

I was delighted to report on 21 October 2014 that both PhaseOne Media Pro and Extensis Portfolio 8.5 Standalone worked perfectly under Mac OS X 10.10.0 Yosemite, so there appeared to be no immediate issues on the OS compatibility front. Only a week later (28 October 2014) the next OS X update appeared to have finally killed off Extensis Portfolio 8.5.8 Standalone as it now failed to load, stating that it is incompatible with the new operating system - Mac OS X 10.10.1 Yosemite. Just a mere week had killed off a valiant old friend and the catalogues are now only useable on a Mac running OS X 10.5.8 Leopard which I dedicated to running this old software. One can't keeping looking backwards and talking about the good old days, however good they were so even this state of affairs will end when the Mac finally gives up the ghost.

However on a slightly more positive note, during some recent experimenting early in 2017 I discovered that Portfolio still works with Windows 10, so at least I can continue to send Portfolio catalogues out with Windows browsers in the knowledge that they still have a value.

My view, not necessarily shared by others, is that any cross-platform DAM program that can offer as much, if not more than Portfolio will do the job. The big problem is finding a software developer who can design and more importantly, support the program, supply it at a reasonable cost and above all - make themselves a profit. If a company with the stature of Extensis can't see a Standalone program being viable what hope have the plethora of other companies got?

I don't believe that programs such as Adobe Bridge or Adobe Lightroom are designed as DAM programs, brilliant though they are for adding metadata and outputting images. That certainly isn't their primary function.

So it seems as if finally photographer's apathy has won the day. We are almost back to the shoebox filing syndrome - "I know where I put it and what I've got - surely that's all that matters?" This doesn't allow other users to examine our databases of images, however they are presented, without an expert looking over their shoulders and adding guidance. Where has it all gone wrong?

If you are as concerned as I am about the dwindling availability of good, affordable standalone DAM programs, wine photographer Per Karlsson has an excellent blog discussing this very problem.

For me, PhaseOne Media Pro SE has now become my standard Digital Asset Management program and I encourage you to give it a try.

New Times; New Ideas but No Support

Well, how wrong can one be? Since writing the section above in spring 2018 I have just heard in early October 2018 that PhaseOne have pulled the plug on MediaPro SE. That means the beginning of another search for a DAM program that matches Portfolio or MediaPro is now under way.

Or are we, heaven forbid, merely returning to the Shoe Box Filing System or allowing the increasingly sophisticated operating systems - macOS 10.15 Catalina for example - to do the job for us? Watch this page for more updates.

New Times; old equipment and software

With the lack of good DAM software on the market at sensible prices I recommissioned my early 2009 iMac 24 inch Intel Core 2 Duo 2.93GHz in August 2020, installed Mac OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks along with both PhaseOne Media Pro SE and Extensis Portfolio 8.5.8 which run perfectly, albeit relatively slowly. allowing me to still make use all their advantages. Within reason clients are still able to read the catalogues created by both if they use the Windows read-only programs for both applications, so all is not lost - yet.

I am also running a trial program, Photo Mechanic Plus, which is touted as the next great DAM program. However it is very expensive, even at the special introduction price, and creates simply enormous catalogues. It's main advantage is that it creates catalogues extremely rapidly although it is nowhere near as customisable as either Media Pro or Portfolio. Of course this current state of affairs can't last for ever - even Macs die eventually!

As a footnote to this I have ceased my Photo Mechanic Plus trial and will not be continuing with it. It's far too expensive I believe and is creating 8-10Gb sized files of its catalogue which are unwieldy to say the least. However I did purchase Photo Mechanic 6 for a more modest price and while it's not too bad it's nowhere as easy to use as Portfolio and MediaPro.

The search is still on for a good cross-platform DAM program with ready-only browsers that clients can use...

Good(ish) News

Having failed to find any DAM software that really came close to Extensis Portfolio and PhaseOne Media Pro, I finally bit the bullet in May 2023 when my 2009 iMac 24 inch died and installed Parallels for Windows on my MacBook Pro (running macOS 13.4.1 Ventura), allowing me to use Windows 11 (ugh!) to install and run both Portfolio and MediaPro without any issues. So there is still some life left in these relatively ancient programs!


PhaseOne Media Pro SE

Whilst I feel that novices to PhaseOne Media Pro SE could be frightened by the apparent complexity and enormity of the task facing them, with time and a degree of effort they should have nothing to worry about.

Each image file should contain the following minimum items of information in order to a) allow it to be found using a keyword search and b) identify the source. PhaseOne Media Pro SE is able to extract that information from File Info and display it perfectly. However it is not able to embed edited metadata to JPEG or TIFF files in the same way that Portfolio was able, although I never really had much success with that approach anyway, preferring to update metadata in the image files using Adobe Bridge.

After your image files are correctly captioned and then catalogued, a foolproof method of allowing the widest possible range of your clients to search for and view the images is needed. This means producing a cross-platform USB memory stick or DVD containing your catalogue and suitable free browsers. Some DAM programs are designed purely to be used 'in-house' where the main program will be used to catalogue and then search the database - there are no free browsers available for distribution to your clients. Newspaper picture desks are the perfect area for these programs where editors can view, and if necessary, add IPTC data to files as they arrive.

Despite being no longer available Extensis Portfolio still comes the closest to doing what I want, namely cataloguing a large number of high resolution image files, extracting the IPTC or eXtensible Metadata Platform (XMP) information and allowing my clients and I to quickly and easily find the right image or series of images. Fittingly, Extensis saw Portfolio's main competitor as apathy - the photographer's inertia!

The catalogue produced by PhaseOne Media Pro SE is also cross-platform compatible.

What sort of files can it catalogue?

PhaseOne Media Pro SE is able to catalogue a vast range of file formats, producing thumbnails from not only the 'normal' TIF, JPG, EPS and Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Pentax and most other leading makes of RAW image files, but also an extensive range of additional file formats. Updates will also be made available for other cameras on an ad hoc basis.

This makes it so much more than just a mere 'image' management program. One can catalogue movie files, Quark files, InDesign, multi-page Acrobat, Word, Text, Rich Text, MP3, MPEG, Java, HTML, Excel and many more, although it is not always possible to produce a thumbnail from some of them. MP3 files, for example, simply don't contain any visual data, whilst Word documents are generally not worth thumbnailing, as the vast majority of documents are unreadable at that size so there would be no benefit. 

One is then able to assign Keywords to individual or selected groups of files, allowing their tracking and later retrieval - vital in the day-to-day running of a busy office where a large number of documents can be generated and then archived. Assigning keywords is not, though, the same as embedding them into the files that are being catalogued.

Setting up your first catalogue

After installation, the first step is to create a folder on your hard drive where you will store the catalogue and the associated files that are created. With Portfolio, the next stage was the most vital of the whole operation, yet surely the most tedious and under-documented part. If you got this wrong and discovered it early, you could tweak and hone your preferences until you were satisfied. If you left it too late you would have had to start from scratch or be prepared to do a great deal of spade work later, adding data to the catalogue. This step presupposes that you have been efficiently adding IPTC standard data to your files whilst working in them in Photoshop or its equivalent.

With PhaseOne Media Pro SE there is nothing to set up prior to cataloguing - it just extracts everything perfectly.

The next stage is to incorporate the files into your newly created catalogue file by clicking on the Add button and navigating to the image, group of images, folder or hard drive of your choice. You may at this stage select to incorporate all sub-folders; particularly useful if you are cataloguing a complete drive containing images in nested folders.

On completion, the screen will display the files you have added. Options are available to determine the way in which they are displayed; by file name for example. One has a choice of displaying certain text fields associated with each file. For example, you may wish, as I do, to display fields culled from the File Info in Photoshop, namely File Name, Headline, Description/Caption and Path to the original files. The first three will be an obvious choice for many, whilst the latter is purely for our internal reference. Special Instructions also carries our information about which scanner was used, where the original transparency is filed or where the master RAW files that were used to generate the files are archived. You will certainly have your own preferences for these fields.

Once PhaseOne Media Pro SE has catalogued your data the job does not stop there. You can add keywords to individually catalogued files or, by going to the Item menu, Edit Keywords, add, assign or remove keywords from selected files or groups of files. Similarly, you can update, replace or edit all the other data and altering almost any of the EXIF, XMP or IPTC data values in selected files. What you can’t do though, is embed any altered values back in the files. If you use Adobe Bridge to alter the metadata you can then synchronise your images with PhaseOne Media Pro SE later. Because I do all the hard work first in Bridge any shortcomings in the way that PhaseOne Media Pro SE works has no effect on my personal workflow, although others may not find it so ideal for them.

Ironically, with the advent of digital photography, finding all your images quickly and efficiently has never been harder. Similarly, within the modern digitally-focussed office, keeping track of all your documents, movies, fonts, sound clips and presentations can present a nightmare of gigantic proportions. These files are your digital assets - labelling, finding and using them quickly and efficiently is usually essential to your financial well-being.

Almost since its inception I have been in the forefront of the revolution to escape from what I term the 'Shoebox Filing System', commonly used, even today, by many photographers.

With an effective Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution and structured workflow you can, whether you are an individual photographer, a stock library manager, a designer or an office manager - indeed anyone who needs to keep track of their digital assets, use my skills to help you choose the right software for the task. I can set up and tailor the program to suit your specific needs, writing manuals if required and providing on-site training - all in easy-to-understand English. Email me by clicking this link to find out more.

Imagine the typical scenario -

The phone rings at 5:28pm at the end of a long and tiring day.

"Have you got any shots of Challenger tanks? Oh, they've gotta be firing with visible muzzle flashes! I need them in twenty minutes, OK?”

The bored voice abruptly hangs up, leaving you to scrabble around, fighting against the deadline in a frustrated attempt to identify the images which you know you shot last year, but just can't put your hands on now, some twelve months later. Or are you one of the clever ones? Do you turn to a Digital Asset Management program and effortlessly deliver the images by the end of the day to a satisfied client?

Digital Asset Management

Many photographers, designers, PR agencies and other users of digital images still lack a cohesive method of cataloguing their valuable data - the key to unlocking the resources that will earn an income or address a vital need, if only the shots could be identified.

Why is that, when programs that have been available for many years still fail to attract photographers? Two things - ignorance and apathy. Ignorance of anything outside the blinkered world of picture taking. Apathy and general laziness to do anything about it.

“It will take me too long to search for a program that will do the job.” say some.

“It’ll cost too much and be very slow to implement.” say others.

The old sweat blithely remarks, “Why bother? I know where everything is that I've ever shot.”

My aim is to dispel the myth that it either too expensive or too complicated.

The heart of the problem with managing digital image files lies in the almost universal failure to embed any identifying data in the image files at the Photoshop/Bridge/Lightroom/Aperture stage, or indeed prior to that at the shooting stage where the basic ownership and contact details can be entered on every file shot with a digital camera. This inevitably leads to a great deal of work later unless a proper workflow is implemented at the outset. Few of us have the luxury of starting the management of image files from scratch. There may be a legacy of scans produced from a variety of sources to any number of differing 'standards' from digital cameras, allied to the vain hope that tomorrow will be better than today to start working through them.

Having the best images in the world is no good if they can't be found - either by you or by a client. Correct, standardised, precise keywording and captioning is at the heart of this operation.

So far as I am aware, all Digital Asset Management (DAM) programs rely on a variation of one common theme - either their ability to extract International Press & Telecommunications Council (IPTC) file information from an image file that has been correctly tagged at the Photoshop stage or their ability to embed or tag those same files with IPTC information. The International Press & Telecommunications Council sets out guidelines to enable one to fill in the File Info menu in Photoshop - an area that worries so many photographers. Broadly speaking, one can either add all the correct File Info information in Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom or Aperture or add them later using a DAM program.

From a personal workflow perspective I find it easier to add all the information to the RAW files using Adobe Bridge before doing anything further with the images. On export from Adobe Lightroom, for example, all the metadata is output embedded in the files. If I need to change the metadata subsequently I still find that it is easier to do it using Adobe Bridge, rather than expect my DAM program to do it. The advantage to this method is that it requires less from the DAM program you choose.

Clearly, if a client receives an image file without caption information, at the very least they may irritated at the lack of professionalism and being unable to correctly identify the subject, whilst at worst the client will have no idea of the source of that image - you. This could lose valuable sales and possibly risk your future association with some clients. Without this information a conscientious client should take all reasonable efforts to track down the supplier otherwise they will not publish the shot. A less scrupulous client will publish and take its chances, pointing out in court, should you ever discover the offence, that the image had no identifying copyright indicators. Whilst this defence will not stop them being found guilty of copyright infringement, it will make you look guilty of sloppy business practice.

A large number of DAM programs are available and prices vary almost as widely as the way the programs manage the task. I have tried most of the programs with varying degrees of success - success for me I must emphasise. Individual working styles inevitably mean that no single program can be all things to all users.

However the sad fact of life today is that more and more software developers appear to be making DAM programs solely for large, well heeled corporations and picture libraries. The single users - probably the majority of users - are now being marginalised. Even Portfolio 8 Standalone, a program that I have championed for years throughout its many versions and still use, is sadly no longer my primary DAM solution, having been phased out by Extensis, leaving only Portfolio Server and Studio Edition (starting at around £3000/€3780) to fly the flag.

Now this may certainly be affordable for large companies, but it is certainly not for me or for most other users if I am to believe 'anecdotal evidence'. I am always suspicious when I go to check the price of software on a web site's store and find that there is only an invitation to contact the company to find out how they can help. There is often a further assumption that everything that I want to do will involve a Cloud at some stage - well it doesn't.

To add to my worries, in October 2014 I received the following email from Extensis Europe in response to my earlier query regarding the end of Portfolio 8.5 Standalone,

Dear Peter,

As you would imagine, the decision was made by our management based on actual sales. The simple fact is that whilst there may be ‘Anecdotal evidence’ of a large demand, the volume of sales of Portfolio Standalone simply did not make it a viable product anymore.

From a personal (not company) perspective, I’ve seen myself how the sales numbers of Portfolio have changed from when I joined the company 11 years ago and the amount we sold to Professional Photographers such as yourself, and how it has since declined. It’s maybe due to apathy or maybe a feeling that the basic DAM functions in image processing tools such as Aperture, Lightroom, Bridge etc. are ‘good enough’ in many people’s eyes, and so they couldn’t justify spending another £150-200 on a separate DAM. I don’t know if that’s the actual case, but all I can say is that I wasn’t surprised at the management decision as I can see how many licenses we were selling each month through 2013 and it wasn’t enough to make the product viable.

On that news of discontinuation we did a special offer to existing customers to discount our entry level Portfolio Server Studio by 75% (so around $600 instead of $2300) but that offer has now expired and customers will have to look at alternative solutions. There are certainly plenty out there, and we’re happy to suggest names, though without any recommendation as we’ve not used these other products in any meaningful way to be able to recommend any. Certainly any that I would suggest you should already be familiar with as I can see you commenting on a blog from Per Karlsson that lists the ones we’d normally suggest.

On your other comment about pricing, we only list pricing on the website for items that you can purchase through the website (via credit card). So you can see the price for our single user Suitcase Fusion Font Management, and entry level Universal Type Server Lite and Portfolio Studio options. All the Professional & Enterprise editions have additional add-ons and different choices that a customer needs to make and we like to therefore be directly talking with customers to ensure we meet their needs since it’s a minimum £3000+ purchase that customers will be taking time to decide upon therefore. We always outline the price when asked and feel it’s competitively priced in the ‘Server based’ DAM market, for what we offer.

This updated report still holds Portfolio 8 Standalone as my idea of what a good DAM program should be. You will find that Portfolio Server and Studio Editions are not fundamentally different, apart from wider ranging functionality and of course, price! With the notice of the end of Portfolio Standalone I started to hunt far and wide across the web in order to find a program that would do what wanted, which, I must emphasis, is not necessarily what other uses might want. In my view it had to be as functional as Portfolio but work faster and operate on the latest operating systems. I tried many, many DAM programs after wading through hundreds of sites extolling the virtues of a wide range of programs. Many I had to discount immediately as they were not capable of being run on a Mac. Eventually, after months of trials, I settled on PhaseOne Media Pro SE and my feeling is that it is quite a capable program - although still not in the league of Portfolio.

Certainly it is relatively cheap, on a par with Portfolio 8 Standalone, is made as a single user version in both Mac and Windows versions, has free read-only versions that can be distributed to clients and in two areas especially, it completely outclasses Portfolio; one with its speed of cataloging and two with its ability to integrate Camera RAW changes and metadata input from Adobe Bridge - making even RAW files fully keyword searchable.

Digital Asset Management (DAM)