How to organize my photo library?
March 9, 2015 4:21 PM   Subscribe

What is the best option for a photo management program that doesn't touch the originals and lets me create "albums" or "events" from various folders of photos on my computer.

I'm in the process of scanning my family's photo collection in batches. Because of the disorganized state of these 30 years of photos, there are often times where part of one event are in one scanning batch and another part of it are in another scanning batch. That is, if there's an event like "Sam's First Birthday," some of the photos can be in Scan Batch #1, some can be in Scan Batch #5, with one straggler in Scan Batch #10.

I want:

  • To keep the scans sorted on my hard drive by scan date. (So my hard drive will have folders for Scan Batch #1, Scan Batch #2, etc.).
  • To be able to sort the scans by date and event. (So I can click on a "Sam's First Birthday" album and see the photos of that event pulled from the various folders)

    I've never used one, but my understanding is that a program like iphoto or aperture can do this. Is that correct?

    My concerns:

  • I want the originals to remain untouched. Not moved, no tags added to the actual file, etc.
  • I worry about using a proprietary program that the company could stop supporting or that I'll be stuck using forever because the data can't be migrated.

  • Which program would work best for my needs? I have a mac, so am open to mac-only suggestions too.
    posted by Nickel to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
    Perhaps Mylio? I worked on it for two years, and scenarios like yours are pretty much exactly what we had in mind as we designed it. The whole idea was that you should be able to install Mylio, organize your photos, uninstall Mylio, and still be better off than when you started. Edits are nondestructive, and it can catalog your photos where they exist without needing to copy or move them on import.
    posted by Mars Saxman at 5:16 PM on March 9, 2015

    You can try out the new apple iphotos program. Otherwise, Lightroom. Non-destructive edits, tags, folder hierachy.
    posted by stratastar at 5:57 PM on March 9, 2015

    I'd say Lightroom, or, open-source, Darktable.
    posted by supercres at 6:29 PM on March 9, 2015

    Probably totally overkill but CaptureOne is the professional iteration of what you're looking for and explicitly emphasizes keeping the originals intact. I'm sure LightRoom is the same.
    posted by phaedon at 6:57 PM on March 9, 2015

    Photo Mechanic!
    posted by Mac-Expert at 6:59 PM on March 9, 2015

    Yeah the nice thing about Lightroom is that you can just do this viewing with tags and smart albums.

    And while you can just use it with a structure you already have or add the folders to Lightroom after you add them to the physical location (you would just rescan the parent folder) you could also do it and import things with a naming and location scheme like you describe.

    So when you go to import session 9 you tell it, during the import, to put it in a destination folder and name it what you want - "ScanSession-009" if you like. You also apply whatever develop settings you might want (I use a lens distortion filter but perhaps you want to run a sharpen or who knows - it can be as simple or complicated as you like) and your keywords (scansession9, timmy, birthday) to apply to the whole import, as well as a metadata preset that can be as sparse (mine just fills out the IPTC copyright block) or complicated as you like. Including keywords, so you could have a metadata preset with "Family Scan Project" so that tag is applied to everything w/o needing to put it in the freeform box.

    All that said, there is a setting in Picassa to tell it to leave your files alone and just put stuff in sidecars, as I recall. It will leave your files where they are - I have used a workflow to let it recognize faces and then re-import that data into Lightroom for tags, so I know you can just point it at a directory.
    posted by phearlez at 7:58 PM on March 9, 2015

    The DAM programs (Aperture, Lightroom, iView, etc.) abstract photos away from their source folders to allow you to place virtual copies in an organizational scheme unrelated to the files in the Finder. The problem you describe is basically what those programs were invented to solve. The downside is that you can only see and access this organization in the DAM program itself. But few people mind this downside and this approach is by far the dominant and common way to manage a photo library. Forget Aperture because Apple has stopped developing it. Forget the new Photos app because its organizational features are shallow and inadequate. Lightroom is the obvious choice, not just because of the enormous amount of training, support, community and discussion around it. It is a mature product very well designed to manage a photo library.
    posted by conrad53 at 10:11 PM on March 9, 2015

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