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What is Image Management? A Quick Guide

Carlie Hill avatar

Carlie Hill

Director of Growth Marketing

8 min read

laptop screen with image library

Image management is the storage, organization, centralization, and distribution of digital images, assets, and graphics. Despite the name, image management can also over a lot more than just digital photos. Photo organizing software and other digital libraries are becoming increasingly effective at managing other digital assets, including videos, presentations, PDFs, design files, and more.

In this post, we’ll explain why proper image management is important for every company, and identify what to look for when searching for a solution. We'll cover:

The Importance of Image Management

Proper image management helps to solve a number of common pain points, such as image loss, effort duplication and productivity loss. More on these below:

  • Image Loss: When important images go missing because of improper storage and/or distribution processes, there's an ROI loss on those assets.
  • Effort Duplication: If access to assets is limited or confusing, team members may end up recreating the same images again and again, wasting time that could be spent being productive on other projects or tasks.
  • Productivity Loss: When team members have to resend the same photos or assets to others, there's a loss of productivity due to wasted time.

What is an Image Management System?

An image management system is an end-to-end solution for the storage, organization, centralization and distribution of digital images, videos and graphics. These systems help companies deal with images and other digital assets in an efficient way, increasing ROI and productivity. As a baseline, an effective image management solution should enable these four key features:

Organizing: The solution should centralize and organize digital assets in a single, easy-to-access library where they can be easily found by everyone that needs the images.

Searching: The solutions should ensure digital assets are easily discoverable through advanced search capabilities, such as keywords, attributes, categories and other metadata. The time saved retrieving assets from using an image management system really adds up!

Downloading: An image management system should make it easy and simple to download digital assets, in the file format and resolution you need (for example, it should be able to transform a JPG into a PNG).

Sharing: When teams collaborate on large projects, sending files over email becomes a problem. An image management system should streamline this, allowing users to share large files by sending a link to an online gallery or a downloadable zip file.

Benefits of an Image Management System

The benefits of an effective image management solution are vast for pretty much any industry. In our recent DAM Trends Report, organizations using a DAM solution reported experiencing:

  • Better organization and discoverability (72%),
  • Improved brand consistency (35%), and
  • Faster time to market (33%).

In addition to these benefits, using an image management system helps to improve image retrieval time and sharing—both aspects that require time and effort. When retrieval and sharing times are reduced significantly, projects can be completed in a more timely manner.

The Annual DAM Trends Report

Learn about the benefits that come from implementing the right digital asset management and how to get started.

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Enterprise Image Management

While the features of any image management solution can be beneficial, managing images for a large department - or an entire organization - requires advanced systems, workflows and processes.

There are a number of other features that an advanced image management system, such as a digital asset management solution, can offer to help manage your images at a corporate level. Corporate image management adds additional layers of customization and security that enable you to open your images up to a wider pool of people. Some key features include:

Additional Permission Groups: User roles are incredibly important when dealing with corporate image management. In addition to a set of default user roles, a corporate image management system will allow you to fully customize what each user group can access and which actions they can perform (such as download, share, etc.) This ensures users will only access images that are relevant to their department or job function.

Watermarks: Typically, watermarks are used to protect content and to claim ownership of an asset. Without watermarks, valuable digital assets can be susceptible to content theft or unauthorized use. A corporate image management solution will enable you to add watermarks for specific users and categories - or a combination of both!

Advanced Search Capabilities: Sophisticated search capabilities like auto-tagging, filtering, transcription and custom attributes can help a larger group of users find the assets they need faster.

Custom Sharing Options: A corporate image management system will provide additional ways to share assets. Here are two examples of advanced sharing options:

  • Web Galleries can be used to share and access curated assets. Users have the ability to manage access to these galleries, using passwords and expiry dates. These galleries can be shared via email or an automatically generated URL, making them easily accessible to fellow team members.
  • Branded Portals can be used to share collections of assets while staying on brand. Users have the ability to fully customize portals with their preferred highlight colour, header photo and logo. In addition, these portals can be shared via a customizable URL, providing another way to maintain their brand identity, while sharing assets with external users or the public.

Types of Image Management Tools

As the number of digital assets being produced by companies continues to grow exponentially, it’s not a matter of if you need an image management solution - it’s which one to implement. It’s important that whatever system you choose can scale as your organization grows, and can help alleviate the major pain points like image loss, effort duplication, and productivity loss. The right solution will help achieve brand consistency across the organization, will help everyone do their jobs better, and overall, just make everyone’s lives a little easier.

Depending on specific user and organizational needs, there are a few types of image management software available:

Below, we cover each in more depth.

Tier One: Digital Asset Management (DAM) Software

A digital asset management solution is one of the more advanced image management software options on the market. In addition to managing photos, DAMs can also manage and preview videos, design files, 3D files, documents, and more. This type of platform allows for both manually-added and AI-generated keywords and offers advanced search filters that enable users to find the images they need faster. DAM offers multiple sharing options, and advanced user permissions for actions and category-level projects. DAM is a comprehensive solution for medium and large teams, especially those with large media assets to manage, and those working remotely. 79% of DAM users shared that they were satisfied with their current solution.

Best for: Medium and large organizations looking to manage an entire suite of photos and/or other high-value media assets.


  • Sophisticated permission settings
  • Advanced search capabilities
  • Enhanced sharing options


  • Requires additional administrations
  • Can be more costly depending on the vendor

Example: MediaValet


Tier Two: File Management Software

Document or file management software is exactly what it sounds like—a platform that focuses on managing more than just photos, but also documents. Document management software can have limited image management capabilities, as its main purpose is document collaboration, rather than media assets. In addition to the file name, it also allows users to search for images using limited, embedded metadata. File management software has some additional permission capabilities that make it a great solution for smaller teams. Not sure if you need Dropbox or a DAM? Find out here.

Best for: Small-to-medium businesses that have a limited number of photos, and require document management and collaboration.


  • Strong document management features
  • Layered permission options
  • Team sharing capabilities


  • Limited asset previews
  • Limited metadata for media files

Example: DropBox


Tier Three: Professional Photography Software

As a relatively specialized option, professional photography software has capabilities tailored specifically for photographers and videographers, such as editing, categorizing and exporting multiple photos at a faster rate. While the metadata functionality is more limited than a DAM, it allows users to edit labels, keywords and ratings to ensure better organization and search functionality. It also typically connects seamlessly with common image editing tools like Adobe Creative Cloud.

Best For: Small businesses or individuals looking to manage and edit professional photography.


  • Bulk photo exporting and workflows
  • In-app photo editing
  • Customizable user interface


  • Limited metadata
  • Photographer-specific feature sets

Example: Adobe Bridge

Adobe Bridge

Tier Four: Online Image Galleries

An online image gallery is the most basic digital tool for managing images, with capabilities for storing photo and video files. Typically, a photo gallery belongs to an individual but can be shared easily with others via a link. Most libraries have AI-generated metadata tags and facial recognition for easy search capability, along with basic photo editing capabilities.

Best For: Very small businesses or individuals looking to keep photos in one centralized location.


  • Simple to use
  • Cloud accessibility at a low price point
  • Often syncs directly with phone library


  • Very limited permission options
  • Limited metadata
  • Limited sharing options

Example: Google Photos

Google Photos

Is DAM the right fit?

If you’re running a medium or large team and struggling to manage your images (or other brand assets) it’s time to consider using a DAM solution. Not only does DAM immediately improve team workflows and asset ROI, but it also scales with your organization and encourages growth. For a quick and easy way to evaluate your need for a DAM, take our DAM Need Assessment Quiz

MediaValet is a leader in cloud-based digital asset management that helps organizations manage, organize and share their digital assets, improving productivity and increasing ROI.

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