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Free software to organize your digital pictures

Photos_4If your digital photo collection looks like this, you are in need of a Digital Photo Collection makeover.

Using photo organization software, you can locate any picture by date, subject, or even by the name of the person in seconds.

Imagine trying to find a specific picture of the family's 1987 vacation to Disneyland. It'd be easy if that was the only picture you've ever taken in your entire lifetime. But this picture resides in a crammed file cabinet, along with thousands of others you've taken over the years. Once digitized, locating any picture is a breeze.

Once your pictures are on your computer, you will need to install photo organization software. Your digital camera or scanner may have bundled the software with your purchase. Some software, including Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition and Google's Picasa can be used for free.

I've used PhotoShop Elements for years, which combines the organizational software with powerful editing tools. Using its Tags and Collections feature, I can assign a tag to each individual picture. Once tagged, I can filter all of the pictures to just show me those that are tagged.

For example, I created a "Legoland 2007" tag, and applied it to all 357 pictures of our Legoland vacation. Whenever I want to view/locate these pictures, all I have to do is click on the Legoland 2007 tag, and immediately my 8,000 plus digital pictures are filtered to only show me these 357. Within these pictures, I could click on the tag I created for my 7-year-old, and instantly, the 357 pictures are filtered to show me only those of my 7-year-old.

I have created tags for vacations, individual family members, sporting events, and even one for pictures of Santa Claus. I have to be careful when showing these to my kids, because when I filter all my pictures to just show Santa Claus, it becomes obvious that his appearance changes every year.

Heritage Collector Suite is organizational software for digital images designed specifically for genealogists. It can import all of the pictures linked to your Legacy family file so you don't have to manually add them to a collection. It can even add Hot Spots to pictures as shown in the image below.

If you're still contemplating your New Year's resolutions, getting digitally organized is certainly an achievable goal.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post. offers wonderful photo searching capability. It is possible to add notes to the pictures, and to see ALL the notes for the pictures that fit on the screen. Then, it is also possible to search on any word you ever typed, whether it is in the title, note or caption. It also has categories and tags like Elements, but runs much more quickly. The thing I could never work out in Elements is to see all the notes I had typed. ACDSee's products have made me a happy genealogist. If anyone can tell me how to do this with Elements, I am all ears.


I recently purchased Heritage Collector and love it. It is easy for a beginner, but has so many advanced capabilities as well. I'm getting all of my digital pictures organized and saved. I've also scanned many FH documents and old pictures so I can make copies for all the relatives. The tech support is great too. I would highly recommend this software.

'Tagging' in Adobe Elements is proprietary, so if you want to view that work elsewhere you will not be able to. Likewise with Heritage Collector Suite. And if you ever decide to change software you will have to start all over again. Some information in Adobe Elements is IPTC-standard and will 'stick' such as captions and copyright notices but not the 'tags'.

Keywords entered in Picasa are viewable in other software, but that only works with jpg's.

If you would like more flexibility with your cataloging I would suggest IPTC, a standard for embedding information. I use MediaDex and have written about it here:

JL, PhotoShop Elements has a tool that allows you to export the tags to become a part of the meta-data, and therefore you wouldn't lose the data.

So it does! Apologies for my mis-information. I've used Adobe for years and I never knew it was there.

Would like to be able to use on an Apple Macintosh computer.

how do you recommend we do this?

thanking you for your assistance


Depending which program you're asking about: MediaDex is also Mac compatible, as well as being available in several languages. Of course, Adobe is also Mac-compatible. I assume you download the Mac version and carry on as usual.

MediaDex also has a Mac version as well as being available in several languages. Of course, Adobe is also Mac-compatible. I assume you download the Mac version and carry on as usual.

I'm looking for a photo program that will let you take two different pictures to see if they are the same person.younger and older Like a CSI type progam


One of the best programs for organizing and tracking pictures is Adobe Lightroom. This program provides not only the best organizing capabilities, but also it is an extremely powerful photo editing product.

We searched for years for a simple way to organize pictures. I looked at both the standard big database systems and the newer "picture manipulation" software. I finally gave up. What ever system is used, the originator must still enter the "tags' or identifying information. And with any new application, it takes time to learn it--and then there is the problem mentioned by others of porting to another application or machine (and possibly it's new operating system). Not to mention the additional space required by any competent database apppication.

When Microsoft came out with the ability to use much longer files names (Windows 2000 or NT--it was a long time ago) we just started a picture naming convention using the words in the file names as the tags. We use Year\Location\Event or main object\People. Thus: 2007utWardPicnicDaleAldenJennifer If ther is no event, just leave it blank. If no people just leave balnk. (Putting the location, in this case the state, in lower case makes it easier to read.)

Now, all of our photos can be sorted by name in Windows Explorer and they will be in numerical/alphabetical order. If you want to re-order some (i.e. if they don't line up as you like because of the alphabetizing) you can "fool" Windows by judicous use of a number, a space or an "x"

In addition to seeing your files in either Details or Thumbnail format, you can also use the Windows Explorer search function to find any selected search criteria such as all the pictures of Dale, or all of Utah, or all of Picnic.

This has worked great for our 3,000+ slides. And it was cheaper & faster than buying and learning a new program. And, unless somebody changes formats drastically, it should facilitate easy transfer to the next new gadget.

Dan Eliason

Sometimes I think we get to complicated.

I scan or import my pictures right to my Picture file in "my documents". I am getting better at this, and now put them into a file with a date or set up a new folder and put pictures uploaded right into the folders. I like to view pictures in thumbnails rather than the clasic file...which makes it easier to find the ones I want.

My only gripe is that Legacy doesn't add pictures when you save a file. They are always in a seperate file. This means that you have trouble finding pictures if you rename a master file in Legacy....

Haven't updated to Vista yet, but no need to get a new program until they are Vista compatable.

But thanks for new ideas.

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