I get asked pretty often what is the right software for organizing pictures. I usually answer with: it depends. It truly does depend. It depends on what you are are hoping to achieve. I tend to recommend free software first, depending how far the person has gone on the picture organization path. If specific commercial goals are in mind, then I recommend powerful commercial software that go beyond what a home user needs. So, what is the right software for organizing your pictures? Read on to find out how I think about this issue.
Determine where you are on the picture organization path
Most people who ask me about software, are really at the very beginning of organizing their pictures, namely they start with their folders. Well, everyone should start there. I usually ask how will they be searching for their pictures to determine if they really needs tags or just folders will be enough.
I already can sense that some of you reading this will immediately say, of course you need tags. However, it has been my experience that people, home users, rarely have the time and patience to actually add tags to the pictures they transfer from their camera to their computer.
So, if they tell me that they would really like to use tags, I ask them if they are able to put the time and dilligence required to add tags to their pictures. Yes, I know that they don’t have to add tags to everything, and that the tags can be pretty loose. But I also try to educate them that in order to make effective use of tags, there has to be some thought about how and when tags will be applied to the images.
If however, you would want to get into stock photography or any type of selling of images through image library web sites, you definitely need something else. And the something else is usually a software program that goes beyond just folders and tags. You need software that can write at a minimum IPTC image captions, copyright information, geolocation tags. The volume of pictures is also important in determining what software to choose. So, as you can see, it really depends on what you’re trying to do.
Recommended free software for organizing your pictures
If folders will be enough for you, at least for the beginning I always recommend FastStone Image Viewer as the start. This is a very fast and simple image viewer that also has basic image editing and a very easy interface. FastStone Image Viewer has an excellend picture importing feature that allows you to rename your pictures at transfer time according to many preset formulas (i.e. a regular expression like
If tags are really part of your goal, but only tags, then I recommend Picasa (Read my articles about organizing your pictures with Picasa). Picasa is probably the most popular program for organizing and editing pictures. When it comes to managing folders, tags and geotags, the Picasa interaface is by far the nicest to use. In addition, Picasa has great image editing capabilities and lots of really cool effects if you really have the time to play with them. So, if folders and tags are what you need, then give Picasa a try. It will do what you need and more.
If however you want to get into selling pictures, then you need to be able to write all the IPCT fields, because all the online image libraries require IPTC fields to be written in when you submit your pictures. Most online libraries require copyright information, image caption, image keywords, geolocation tags, category and maybe more, so you have to deliver the images with the metadata they need. For this reason, you need XnView because you can edit all the IPTC fields and it can produce XMP metadata as well along with IPTC. XnView is free for home use so this is a great advantage.
Recommended commercial software for organizing your pictures
If your living depends on the pictures you sell and in addition you need to edit your pictures a lot as well, then you need some professional software that will produce professional results. The software that always impresses me in the way it deals with RAW format pictures is Adobe Lightroom. The main drawback is that Lighroom is not cheap. It usually sells for $299 (Get $70 OFF on Adobe Lightroom 3.0) but it works amazingly well with the pixels themselves. In addition to processing pictures, Lightroom manages tags and all the IPTC fields that you need. It is an all around photo management tool.
If you situation is even more complicated because you travel and take pictures then you also need something different. You need an easy and fast way to download and tag your pictures…or in other words you Photo Mechanic. Photo Mechanic is specifically designed for importing lots of pictures, tagging them, renaming them, resizing them all when you import them. You can import and transform your pictures and place them in multiple locations at the same time. Photo Mechaninc also gives you access to all the IPTC fields. You only get limited photo editing tools. You can only resize and crop your pictures but no pixel changing.How to choose the right software for organizing your pictures
I get asked pretty often what is the right software for organizing pictures. I usually answer with: it depends. It truly does depend. It depends on what you are are hoping to achieve. I tend to recommend free software first, depending how far the person has gone on the picture organization path. If specific commercial goals are in mind, then I recommend powerful commercial software that go beyond what a home user needs. So, what is the right software for organizing your pictures? Read on to find out how I think about this issue.Start organizing now using detailed, step-by-step instructions and videos:
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