1. Extremely nice article/review of PM+, especially since I just upgraded. I used Lightroom for many many years before, without caring much about the database or catalogs, but after switching to PM and another workflow, I want to take it more seriously… I would like to just see some video tutorials on how to use PM+. I also have a question. Beacuse Photoshop is a big part of my workflow, can I also add my PSB files/folder to the catalog? Or will only the RAW files be added?

    • Carl Seibert says:

      Funny you should bring that up. Yes indeed, I am working, way too slowly, on a pair of videos. One will be a video version of this post – a review and something of a How-To for using PM+. With, hopefully, a couple of cool tips. The other will be search fundamentals for photographers. I’ll use Photo Mechanic Plus, but it won’t be specific to it. Of course, I have a whole playlist of videos applicable to the “regular” Photo Mechanic 6 side of PM+. metadatamatters.blog/youtube

      As for PSB files, I never thought about it. Just checked and no, Photo Mechanic does not appear to be able to display them. Lead developer Kirk Baker said recently in the Photo Mechanic forums that support for that format isn’t planned.

      So… make JPEG copies of your PSBs. Given that PSBs are huge by definition, space shouldn’t be a problem. PM+ will work fine with the JPEGs and you can hop with a right-click from search results to the folder where the originals live. The PSB should be right next to the JPEG. (Remember to turn on View> Unknown Files As Proxies so that you can see the PSBs as icons in the Photo Mechanic thumbnail grid.)

      Next, you’re going to -rightfully – wonder: Since Photo Mechanic can’t make short work out of making the JPEGs for you, how might you accomplish that? If you have PSBs, you must have Photoshop and if you have Photoshop, you have Bridge. If you multi-select files in Bridge, you can choose Tools > Photoshop > Batch from Bridge’s main menu. If you have an Action in Photoshop that will save out JPEGs, you’re set to go. It won’t be anywhere near as painless as making renditions in Photo Mechanic, but it will get the job done without too much strain. If the PSB has metadata, the JPEG will inherit it.

      I hope this helps.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Thank you.

        It’s almost like using the RAW + JPEG…

        Annoys me because that’s exactly why I used to go back to Bridge after culling and adding critical metadata/keywords to my files. Although it’s an easy process if you work with actions/droplets like you mentioned, but it takes extra time, time I could spend on something more productive.

  2. Doug says:

    Hi Carl,

    Thanks for this – very helpful.

    I’m intrigued by your comment about the number of catalogs you have. How many and what is the reason you would have less? I’ve got about 10 which largely mirror my folder system, but looking at dividing them up into Jobs and Personal to start with which makes some sense to me.


    • Carl Seibert says:

      I have eight. That happened in large part because I only gradually added more content to PM+ back when it was in beta. On the one hand, I can treat all eight catalogs as if they were one, or be pretty granular if I want to be, with no penalty. On the other hand, having so many catalogs means there are more occasions when picture needs to live in two of them. That can be a pain.

      If you have a well organized folder structure and your catalogs stay well defined, in other words if you are better organized then I am, go for it. I can’t recall if there’s even a limit to the number of catalogs the program can support. If there is, it’s an enormous number. The real limit would be when there are too many to view comfortably in the interface.

      • Graham says:

        I have approaching 3/4 million images catalogued. I keep my images in year folders, then subject matter sub-folders. I have a catalogue per year (about 18 of them), and a global catalogue which includes every year and image. Usually I can work within a single year catalogue, but if I want to make a collection which may span years, I create it in the global catalogue, so that images do not need to be contained in catalogues outside their year structure simply to create the collection I want. It may not work for everyone, but it works well for the way I work with my images.

        Really good article, with a lot of useful information, especially since Camera Bits does not yet have detailed help files which go into the kind of detail that you do. I look forward to the YouTube videos.


        • Carl Seibert says:

          Thanks for the note. Sorry about my slow reply. I just noticed a bunch of comments that I didn’t know were waiting for approval.

  3. Robert Wheeler says:

    In Lightroom, I have many keywords ordered into hierarchies. That makes it easy to search at different levels of detail. Can search for golden eagle or for eagles or for raptors or for birds. I have LR write these to metadata in sidecar files. When PM Plus scans folders to add images to a catalog, does it preserve keyword hierarchy?

    • Carl Seibert says:

      Keyword hierarchy is really only a thing while you are applying keywords. Once they are there and you’re searching, order and hierarchy no longer matter. Your search looks for keyword1 AND keyword2 AND so forth. An AND search knows nothing except whether or not all the search terms exist. Which is fine. I guess you could say that hierarchies stay hierarchal regardless.

      That said, Photo Mechanic, unless you tell it otherwise, will preserve anything in the Lightroom hierarchal keywords field as well as copying each node out as a separate keyword in the regular keywords fields. (This last in an instance when you have edited the metadata. Photo Mechanic’s developers are pretty maniacal about making sure we don’t lose any data. The copying is overkill if the two programs involved are PM and Lightroom, but it could save somebody’s bacon if a poorly written program was in the mix.)

  4. miked says:

    A very basic question, what are catalogs e.g. do they just contain the image metadata or are there thumbnails or other information?
    As far as I understand from your description they are fixed and can’t track files or folders when you move them but is it possible to simply rebuild the cataloge after moving files.
    In my workflow files come into monthly folders and hang around there for days, months or occasionally years before being moved into their final homes and at some stage in this process they gain metadata, normally basic metadata is added almost immediately but more information is often added over time.
    The various searches are likely to help with selecting images for particular additional metadata.
    Is there any reason for not putting all images (say a million) in one catalog and then having a range of sub catalogs as in your example the overall catalog would contain all people but the family catalog would just contain family and searching on that one might be quicker and easier.

    • Carl Seibert says:

      Yes, the catalog contains thumbnails. But if it is lost or destroyed, re-scanning will make new ones.

      Actually, I think you can move folders – as long as you use Photo Mechanic to do so – the catalog will be updated accordingly. I’m not totally positive about that since I’ve never done it. I’ll have to do an experiment.

      One way or another, though, there is nothing wrong with doing what you suggest, either in terms of a not-quite-so-permanent home for your collection or doing nested catalogs. I don’t know at what point you might see slower performance on a big catalog. I have too many and mine are pretty reasonable in size, so I only see “speedy”. But Camera Bits has tested ridiculously big catalogs successfully.

        • Carl Seibert says:

          Actually, no I haven’t done that experiment yet. I’ll and won’t have the chance this week. I’ll put a note in my calendar to try next week. Fingers crossed….

  5. Dan Dill says:

    This review/guide has enabled me to get my head around how PM+ can fit into my Photo Mechanic/Lightroom/Photoshop/Capture One workflow, and then to get up to speed with PM+.

    Camera Bits should include it with each install and in their advertising. Thank you very much for making such a thorough, helpful guide.

  6. What a great review! I have used PM 6 a little bit and I am excited to use PM 6+. I’m still confused about the difference between the function of a catalog and the function of a collection. My photos are largely unnamed with little metadata. I have business photos for my sewing tutorial business. I also have personal photos. I do have many named folders for the business. I want to go across my hard drives to gather a folder full of, say, jean photos. Some files are named, many are not. Do I create a catalog of jean photos? Then a catalog of dresses photos? Then a collection of jean hems, jean pockets, jean repairs, in addition to collections for dress hems, dress sleeves, dress pockets, etc.
    Thanks for your article and your great videos. You have a gift for clarity! I hope you can get me off to a solid start, if you have time for my question. Regards, Maripat

    • Carl Seibert says:

      Your situation is not uncommon. Going forward, of course, you can mark up your pictures with good captions and keywords and life in your business will be very much easier. At least as far as finding pictures is concerned 🙂

      Right now, you have a bunch of assets that are organized in folders and it’s not very likely that you have tons of time on your hands to add metadata to them. PM+ can handle that.

      A catalog is a database of a set of pictures. Whether you want just one for everything, one for business and one for personal work, or even a bunch of them is up to you. (Personally, I’d do one for business and one for personal, if indeed your pictures are divided in folders along those lines.)

      Collections are make-believe folders that hold pointers to pictures. Some programs call them albums or virtual folders. Note that collections belong to a certain catalog. You can’t make a collection that holds pictures from different catalogs. (I have a video on a work-around for this. But that’s another story.) Another way to think of a collection is to consider it just a list of photos. Call it and the photos in the list appear.

      So, make a catalog for, let’s say, your business pictures.

      PM+ will search for folder paths by default. A search for “button” should bring back the contents of any folder with “button” in its pathname.

      If you need to, you can call up all of the photos in a whole catalog by searching for two double quote marks. Like “”

      Now make a collection and add the relevant button-sewing pictures.

      The collection will be useful as is. You can call it up and have access to button pictures. But the clever thing to do is, while you have the button collection open, just select the images and add “buttons” and any other appropriate keywords, or even a bulk caption. Now, if you search for anything in those keywords, the return will be your button collection or a subset of it, as you desire.

      The beauty of that doing this takes almost no time and eventually, as you do collection after collection, you’ll have metadata-based access to your assets.

      Of course, when you have your collection open, you can always go to the important pictures and give them good individual captions. That takes some time. But if one day you need to find all of the pictures of a particular stitch, for example, you’ll be able pull them up regardless of whether they live in the buttons folder or the sleeves folder, or where ever. That’s the “what is it vs where is it” thing that I talk about all the time.

      I hope this helps.

  7. Blaine says:

    Thank you so much for the excellent overview and answers in these comments. I am like the previous poster in being new to the software and having a collection that largely doesn’t have good metadata yet, and wondering whether I needed to add all metadata before creating a catalog or whether I could create the catalog and continue to add metadata, rename and move files and folders, and such. It sounds like creating a catalog can help greatly with improving the metadata, and if all else fails after renaming or moving I can just rebuild the catalog.

    A previous poster asked about moving files … I believe in pm+ you can “find / locate” a directory that has gone missing. Can’t recall seeing that mentioned – apologies if it was.

    • Carl Seibert says:

      Yes, you can make a catalog any time. All your metadata is stored in the image file itself (or a sidecar, in the case of proprietary RAW formats). You can add metadata after an image is in a catalog or beforehand. You can move stuff that’s already been added to a catalog around as long as you do the moving within Photo Mechanic Plus. (Or rescan.) But in most workflows, assets are in their permanent homes before they are added to a catalog. Remember that in Photo Mechanic the catalog’s database is only for retrieving assets. It’s not like some programs where you have to add pictures to the database before you can do anything with them.

      At a quick scan I didn’t find that earlier post about finding files. But there is a function to update in a catalog the location of a directory. And there are all kinds of powerful ways to find files and navigate between the database and the directory structure.

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