A new photo management feature turns jobsite photos into jobsite data that is searchable in a content management system.

While smart phones with great cameras make site documentation a cinch, it can be a challenge to manage thousands of construction photos. A new photo management feature in an enterprise content-management software update addresses the problem by turning photos into mineable data assets.

The management feature allows users to tag and categorize photos by site number, employee number and user-defined tag names.

"Companies turn to consumer tools, like [Google's] Picasa, for photo management, but these are not set up for enterprise work. I've tried for the life of me to share my Picasa collection with my wife, and I still can't figure it out," says Josh Wright, product manager with Viewpoint Construction Software, Portland, Ore. His company purchased Construction Imaging early last year.

Wright says that without a coherent filing and tagging system, construction companies end up with countless photos with no categorization tags attached to them. Construction Imaging, a web-based document management system, has been used to file and categorize scanned documents for years. Now, the software brings these features to photos.

The program guides user definitions by popularly used tag rubrics. For example, if a user tags a photo with "Elec," the tool's pop-up box will supply the tag "electrical" instead.

The program displays photos in thumbnails, so they load faster. It also features a sidebar panel where photos can be grouped by specific jobs or locations.

File size can be an issue when uploading photos from new phones. High-quality cameras can shoot 8-megapixel photos, making files bigger than necessary. IT administrators can "enforce size management," auto-resizing photos to shrink file size whenever photos are uploaded, says Wright, adding, "No one needs a 20-megabyte [file] of a piece of pipe sticking out of the ground."

Users can connect the photos to projects on Viewpoint's V6 or other databases.

"We require that contractors enter the project number but want to keep the process very simple," says Wright. He says the company is looking to integrate video management and mobile capabilities in future updates.