Managing Image Data

The growth of research image collection across the sciences, coupled with increasingly powerful instruments and devices for image capture, have created challenges and new opportunities for managing images across the research data lifecycle. Images can be collected in a number of different ways, such as in-house scanning or photography, digital creation, or purchased from outside sources.

Just like any data gathering process, for collection methods to be successful, researchers should make a plan for:

  • collecting images
  • capturing images
  • analyzing images
  • storing images

Read more about image management.

Preferred file formats for image data

  • Moving images: MOV, MPEG, AVI, MXF
  • Still images: TIFF, JPEG 2000, PDF, PNG, GIF, BMP

Research Imaging Resources


    OMERO client-server software for visualization, management and analysis of biological microscope images. From the microscope to publication, OMERO handles all your images in a secure central repository.

    • View, organize, analyze and share your data from anywhere you have internet access
    • Work with your images from a desktop app (Windows, Mac or Linux), from the web or from 3rd party software
    • Over 140 image file formats supported using the Bio-Formats library, including all major microscope formats.

    Get started with OMERO


  • Adobe Bridge

    Adobe Bridge is free software for locally organizing images. Bridge is a powerful creative asset manager that lets you preview, organize, edit and publish multiple creative assets quickly and easily.

    • Edit metadata, add keywords, labels and ratings to assets, organize assets using collections
    • Find assets using powerful filters and advanced metadata search features

    Explore Adobe Software for Harvard affiliates


  • ImageJ

    ImageJ is a free open-source, Java-based image processing and display tool. It can read and write images in GIF, JPEG, BMP, PNG, PGM, FITS, ASCII and TIFF formats.

    • Editing capabilities include image enhancements including smoothing, sharpening, edge detection, median filtering and thresholding
    • Image manipulation including crop, scale, resize, rotate and flip
    • Analyses such as area measurement, mean brightness, standard deviation, min and max brightness and measurement of lengths and angles
    • A library of "plugins" allows additional capabilities to be added. Works on Windows, macOS, and Linux

    Download and Use ImageJ


  • Tropy

    Tropy is a free and open-source software that allows you to organize, manage and describe photographs of research materials. Tropy shortens the path from finding archival sources to writing about them.

    • Useful management tool for researchers who deal with a lot of images
    • Uses customizable metadata templates with multiple fields for different properties of the content of your photo. Enter information in a template for an individual photo or select multiple photos and add or edit information to them in bulk.

    Lean more and Download Tropy