A CIO’s Guide to Managing Corporate Image Archives

By Andrew Fingerman, CEO of PhotoShelter

Think the imagery your company produces or licenses for use is relegated to those in the creative or marketing departments? Think again. Photos (and videos) are a corporate asset, just like any other document, app or piece of code. In fact, given the rise of visual storytelling as a means of communicating a brand, selling products and even presenting to a Board of Directors, the relative importance of imagery to organizations of all sizes is only increasing.

If your organization doesn’t have a strategy for imagery management (often called digital asset management, or DAM for short), it’s high time to put it on the list of priorities. Not only will it reduce redundancies across hard drives and local networks where photos are scattered about and taking up space, but it plays a critical role for security and brand protection as well. The loss of an image means loss of revenue in procuring it (at best) and loss or accidental release of intellectual property (at worst). Having images spread across an enterprise on various hard drives also increases your chances of being exposed to litigation for improper usage–a phenomenon we’re seeing more and more frequently.

Cloud-based technology means creating a system to manage your image assets doesn’t have to be expensive or cumbersome. But how should you approach getting started? Well, it isn’t just about storing them in a secure, centralized location. When considering a system for your company, its four main purposes holistically are to archive, organize, distribute and manage rights.


Ensuring the longevity of your organization’s images is the foundation of building a successful image library. Peter Krogh, noted Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems expert, refers to this as the prime directive: don’t lose images. If you don’t have confidence that the images you store today will be there tomorrow, your corporate image archive is worthless.

Moving images into the cloud provides geographic redundancy, and is increasingly more cost-effective. Most widely deployed DAM systems still live in server/client environments. These costly investments also lack the software independence that SaaS (software as a service) provides.


The ability to quickly find a specific image within a growing archive creates value. After all, if you can’t find that iconic photo of Steve Jobs, then it might as well not exist. Creating an effective workflow for ingesting images into your corporate archive (which includes adding metadata such as captions, keywords and dates) eliminates reliance on a single gatekeeper.

Organization also means that your archive of everything is separated into a set of approved images. This is crucial for managing your company’s brand, particularly as your organization grows.


Time and time again, we see photo distribution as a major time suck for organizations. Imagine the inquiries from internal and external customers when your organization releases the next viral app or wins the World Series. Having an efficient means to distribute photos and track that distribution is a key feature of any successful image archive, which saves time and aids productivity.

But distribution isn’t limited to sending a gallery of images to the press. As evidenced by the massive growth and popularity of apps such as Instagram, daily photo distribution is the lifeblood for many brands. And the notion of turning a previously private archive into something more isn’t restricted to social media. Savvy organizations are looking to monetize their photo archives. For example, the University of Michigan turned their photo department cost center into a revenue generator when it started selling photos of their successful athletics. Companies that have systems in place like PhotoShelter Libris are able to quickly, safely and securely monetize their image assets.

Manage Rights

In an age of social media where images are freely shared, CIOs still need to have a plan in place when it comes down to managing image rights. The larger your organization, the greater chance it has of being exposed to liability. There are many instances of companies being sued for huge dollar amounts (here, here, here), and some of these instances could have been prevented with more rigorous rights tracking.

As companies rely on more distributed creative and marketing teams, the risk of a catastrophic PR event increases. Imagine a photographer with an enormous social media reach who is infringed by your company. In the past, there might be a lawsuit that gets a few paragraphs of coverage in your trade’s key publication. But nowadays, a single tweet by the photographer could give rise to a social media backlash that reaches millions of people. CIOs need to help their organizations accurately track restrictive and expiring rights of photos within their archive. Investing in an image management system can help ensure rights management.

It’s a Visual World

In the past, worrying about an image archive was something only media companies dealt with. Photos were only touched by graphic designers. Today, visual communication is a key component of how a company does business and it’s unlikely that this dynamic will change anytime soon. Every organization has a trove of images, but not every organization has the wherewithal to proactively plan for managing it. Cloud-based DAMs can be much more affordable than you think, and it’s worth getting ahead of the curve now rather than paying later.

CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight offers thought leadership and best practices in the IT security and management industry while providing expert recommendations on software solutions for IT leaders. It is the trusted resource for security professionals who need network monitoring technology and solutions to maintain regulatory compliance for their teams and organizations.

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