Best photo management software?
August 26, 2005 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose some photography management software.

I know there may be some overlap between this question and others, but hopefully mine is unique enough. I'm looking for software to manage my photos, subject to the following criteria:
  • I take hundreds of photos per month
  • I keep the camera raw files and JPG versions around
  • Any database used should be human readable (i.e. XML) so if the program goes away in 10 years I can still do something about it
  • Support for tags or labels (like flickr or picasa)
  • Can perform basic manipulation: white balance, gamma, saturation, brightness, crop/resize, and export to JPG
  • Optional: Able to spit out pretty web galleries
  • Optional: Command line interface
Preferred platform is Linux, although I know I'd be asking too much to stick to that, so Windows is acceptable.

Currently, I just have a directory structure, organized by year and month and "event" title. But I'd like more flexibility, a prettier interface, and most importantly, a speedy workflow, without giving up the control I currently have by doing everything by hand. I absolutely do not want to get tied into a proprietary database, and I'd prefer that the program not even save copies of my photos anywhere. Just leave them where they are but maintain metadata somewhere that I can access.

Am I asking too much? :)
posted by knave to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I want such a program too. Being a software developer as well, sometimes I get tempted to write it. My biggest desire is a program that can sort my existing files as well. I have various filing schemes, including



and many others. I want to flatten everything to one system, and organize with a tag-like program like flickr.
posted by clord at 8:56 AM on August 26, 2005

I've mentioned it before, because it really impressed/intimidated me, Imatch.

Things from your list it can do:
* Any database used should be human readable (i.e. XML) so if the program goes away in 10 years I can still do something about it
* Can perform basic manipulation: white balance, gamma, saturation, brightness, crop/resize, and export to JPG
* Support for tags or labels (like flickr or picasa)
* Optional: Able to spit out pretty web galleries

It's well designed, in terms of being able export the data, batch processing, and complex searching.

No command line. I don't know what would be considered a proprietary DB. It has it's own, but from what I understand it's designed within certain standards, so it's somewhat portable. The only copies of photos it makes automatically are cache copies for faster viewing, but you can set the cache copy size to minimize the footprint of your overall database.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 10:02 AM on August 26, 2005

You might take a look at Bibble. I've not used it, and it seems slanted more towards manipulation than organizing, but I've heard good things. Alas, it is not free.

But they actually make a Linux version, which I found quite surprising. (Note: flickr supports IPTC data, which can be used for titles and descriptions of photos, and Bibble Pro has IPTC support, but I don't think IPTC really supports keywords, per se).

They have a trial version, so you could find out if it's worth your time. Great RAW support in Bibble.
posted by teece at 10:02 AM on August 26, 2005

Thanks for the recommendations so far. Jack, being free is not a criterion. Imatch looks nifty!
posted by knave at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2005

Err, sorry, it was teece that was remorseful about the software costing money. Anyway thanks, keep 'em coming. :-)
posted by knave at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2005

I use Photoshop Elements 3, which pretty much combined all the organization tools of Photoshop Album with the image editing of Elements. I have several thousand images and it works well for me. I know it supports raw files, though I haven't used that functionality myself. It doesn't have to move the files anywhere, so you could just leave them in your existing directory structure. As far as the database goes, I don't think it's XML and is probably something proprietary so that's something of a downside and maybe a deal killer for you. However, it does have support for tags/labels and those can be exported to the IPTC keyword metadata in the file. Since those can be read by Flickr and probably other programs as well, that's enough reassurance for me that I won't lose my metadata even if I switch programs in the future. Since the organizer is now part of Photoshop elements, it comes with basic image manipulation and then some. Definitely all of the things you listed. Finally, it can do web galleries although I don't think they're that pretty. It may be possible to customize them more though, I haven't really tried.
posted by shinji_ikari at 10:40 AM on August 26, 2005

Keywords appears to be an IPTC standard field, according to this PDF from the IPTC.

I know nothing about them, but there's also Fotostation, and iView MediaPro 2.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:33 PM on August 26, 2005

What about Fspot?
posted by GeneticFreek at 4:21 PM on August 26, 2005

I have spent a lot of time researching the various photo management programs out there and have compiled a list of all the popular options:

Comparison of Photo Catalog Software

While there are many options, there are a few stand-outs if you are fairly serious with your photography.

Outside of the big-named companies, there are a couple smaller operations that have produced very capable programs. Examples of these are IMatch and idImager.

Make sure you look carefully at what export options are provided (so that you can walk away with all of your hard efforts in tagging photos should you decide to change application someday), in addition to the potential for scripting. For those who do a lot of editing work, I think you should also pay special attention to the issue of versioning.

There are some very wildly different approaches to user interface, flexibility and capability. All applications have a trial period, so it is worth giving your top three choices a serious trial first. Make sure that you use up all of the trial period so that you truly understand how the program is meant to operate.

Good luck!
posted by impulse at 12:18 AM on January 9, 2006

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