Organizing Digital Images
March 7, 2004 9:48 PM   Subscribe

Sorting digital images. I went digital a year and a half ago and I still haven't figured out a way to sort my pictures that really works for me (by which I mean edit, in the sense of going through and picking out the keepers and organizing them by merit, subject, whatever). Before I went digital I used to just get cheap 4x6 prints of everything on every roll and had a very efficient system for sorting through, editing and organizing them, is there anything software-wise which makes this intuitive and easy, or should I just start printing? I find moving images around in folders really counter-intuitive for this purpose. Any suggestions?
posted by biscotti to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is something I've struggled with for years. I keep cooking up new naming conventions and workflows and always wind up with a tangle of images. I eventually settled on a date based heirarchy using cam2pc for renaming and then Irfanview (freeware) to drag the keepers into the right folder. Irfanview is also my default image viewer and I can't say enough good stuff about it.

But you said you don't like shuffling folders. So you need a database type application that will let you assign categories, keywords or what have you. There are a bunch, the popular ACDSee and ThumbsPlus will both do what you want, but I've found them resource intensive and overkill for my needs.

Adobe Photoshop Album has a real sweet tag based system it uses to sort photos and also has a timeline to browse by date. IMatch is similar with a little steeper learning curve, and not as intuitive, but with a little more depth. I'd go with PSAlbum or IMatch with a tilt towards IMatch.

BTW, I believe all the programs I mentioned with the exception of the free IrfanView run about fifty bucks. They should have free trials so in the end, my best advice would be to try a few and pick one you like.
posted by cedar at 10:23 PM on March 7, 2004

I second the nod for IMatch. Gone are the days when I shuffle through my folders/CD's/DVD's looking for a certain image--IMatch's database and search features makes finding them a snap.

One caveat is that IMatch can be a bit unwieldy and over-featured at times.
posted by DaShiv at 11:11 PM on March 7, 2004

i use acdsee. it does seem ludicrously system intensive for what it does, but it works.
posted by juv3nal at 12:08 AM on March 8, 2004

I also like Adobe Photosop Album (the newest release) quite a lot.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:11 AM on March 8, 2004

I've been struggling with this issue myself lately. There's a pretty good new article in PCMag that reviews a number of leading photo management systems, including several mentioned above. I tried iMatch and found the learning curve to be just too steep, so I'm currently using the free, less-full-featured version of Photoshop Album, and am pretty happy with it (will probably pony up the $50 at some point for the full version).

That said, I tend to think the real challenge (as biscotti and cedar both imply) is in one's head, and not one's tools. The best software in the world doesn't really help in those moments when one's thinking, "OK, now how the hell do I categorize this picture??" Or staring at a half-dozen very similar shots, trying to decide which is the best, the keeper, out of the bunch.
posted by Kat Allison at 5:34 AM on March 8, 2004

This is what I do: Each year has its' own folder. I group photos by day in folder named YYYYMMDD - Activity [rename activity]. The files inside also get their date plus a name: YYYYMMDD.XX - where XX is a running number and xxx is the extension. This way I get a sequential list, and I can easily see what the image contains. Very anal, but it works for me. As said, find your own way, and go. I have been scanning all of my roll film and naming them YYYYMMDD.XX.QQ - where .XX is the day's roll and .QQ is the frame number. Again, works for me.

I use ThumbsPlus [I don't work for them], and while there is more to it than I need, the fact that I can add keywords to images, I can use the batch function, and I use the simple editing tools [rotate, etc] before sending them to photoshop. Thumbs actually has its own small database, and you can create virtual galleries which link to the images [which is handy for all sorts of things - like a print queue], you can add all sorts of metadata to it. 2 years from now you might not remember people's names or which camera the shot came from....very handy.
posted by plemeljr at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks guys, I'm looking into the suggestions, very helpful.

However! While I really appreciate the help with finding a way to organize my images in a database (I'm liking the way iMatch works), I still have the (bigger) problem of finding a way to edit them easily (it looks like you can configure iMatch so that you can use big thumbnails for side-by-side comparisons, mind you), not "edit" as in "use Photoshop to add horns" but "edit" as in "go through a shoot numerous times to find the keepers". I normally like to do a few different passes through any shoot, sorting into different groups like "definitely keep", "possibles", etc. and I normally like to do a-b comparisons side-by side, does anyone who's used iMatch or another system do this sort of thing, and is it easier in one than another?
posted by biscotti at 8:43 AM on March 8, 2004

I keep my photos in a YYYY.MM.DD directory structure and archive to cd often
I use ifranview to copy and paste the "keepers" to a working directory but alwasy keep a raw "straight off the camera" archive of the whole "roll"

I've been playing around with Picassa lately and I like it more than Photoshop album so far. Picassa seems to do what you're looking for biscotti, it has a nice slideshow feature and a bunch of different thumbnail-viewing options.

Unfortunately I've never played with iMatch and have only limited knowledge of Photoshop Album, but I do think Picassa's worth a look if you haven't tried it.
posted by soplerfo at 9:02 AM on March 8, 2004

Hey Biscotti: here's some software designed to assist with editing, and with shooting raw: Phase 1's "C1 LE". It's focus is on processing images captured 'raw', but it has a very nice build in workflow that should allow you to tag keepers and nuke the bad ones.

I actually ended up going with Breezebrowser which has a bit less workflow built in but meets my needs pretty well.
posted by daver at 9:32 AM on March 8, 2004

I just bought the full version of PhotoShop Album and I love it. I think they struck a good balance between "letting the user know what's going on" and "hiding the nastiness behind the scenes".

It's got great functionality for multi-faceted organization, and I've finally got my 10,000+ photos under control.
posted by oissubke at 10:36 AM on March 8, 2004

I'll second (third?) Photoshop Album. The free version should be sufficient for most needs all it lacks are templates for printing various things and creating various other things. For printing I recommend Qimage, it is amazing the quality of greatly enlarged digital images printed with that versus with Photoshop's built in image resizing.
posted by Grod at 12:02 PM on March 8, 2004

Another vote for ACDSee. The Classic version is cheaper and isn't nearly as muscle-bound as the more full-featured versions, and works admirably.
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:07 AM on March 9, 2004

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