April 28, 2009

Versions, Variations, Renditions Oh My!

On a couple of recent Digital Asset Management consulting projects a few clients asked me how they would distinguish different uses of the same image in a DAM system.

How do I relate my Camera RAW image asset to my Hi-res RGB JPG? How do I relate my main image to another image that is of the same subject but at a slightly different angle?

While most Digital Asset Management systems will have some form of version control, the ability to characterize and relate these different "versions" of the same image is less typical and is something that should be considered in researching or selecting any DAM system.

Below I will explain what the difference is between Versions, Variations, and Renditions and where each of these different relationships might be used in your DAM image workflow.


Version management is your edit trail. Rather than constantly performing a save as and renaming your files, most DAM system have a check-in check-out system that automatically versions and stores your documents. You would want to version your image when making edits that would be considered "permanent" i.e. removing dust, scratches, red-eye etc.

Original Image 

Main Image - Retouched and color corrected version


Slight differences in an image such as focus, lighting, angle, or composition could be considered variations on an image. Variation image many times are a subset of a larger set of outtakes that could be used online or in a publication, but would not be considered the "main" image. 

Main Image Variation 1

Main Image Variation 2


A single image may be saved multiple times for various uses. Resolution changes and color space changes will require a new file to be saved, but it is of the same image. These different formats of the same image would be considered renditions. You could have the RAW rendition, the black and white rendition, the cropped rendition, the 72 dpi PNG rendition.

Main Image - Black and White Rendition

Main Image - Lo-Res Rendition

Main Image - Cropped Rendition 


If the Digital Asset Management system you are looking at does not have distinct ways of supporting the relationships above it could make for messy searching and confusion on when to use which asset. Ideally you want to run a search and find the main image and depending on your access controls have access to the different renditions and variations of that image.

Bonus points to those DAM systems that have out of the box solutions for managing other related images and outtakes to the main image!

Posted at 10:34 pm by Ivan Mironchuk

Drupal Association Organization Member

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