Getting photos from the camera to the computer is relatively simple. Most of the time it’s accomplished either via some piece of software transferring the photos from the camera to the computer for you, or via you transferring them manually from within Windows Explorer. Either way, getting them onto the computer is the first hurdle, but it’s the following set of steps that people end up skipping some portion of.
In addition to the backups I maintain of my photos, I’m also religious aboutwhat I do with the photos as soon as they come off the camera. Immediately after copying them to the computer, I create folders and move the pictures into them based on the date they were taken. I maintain a folder for each year, then one for each yyyy_mm_dd. After copying them into the appropriate folders, I create an RAR file using WinRAR (similar to WinZip) then size them down to a maximum width and/or height of 1280 pixels – enough for a good 8×10 printed photo.
I then copy the folders to my file server and catalog them with ACDSee. ACDsee offers unparalled flexibility for “tagging”, searching (both AND and OR searches) based on tags, printing, editing, and any other number of features found in different photo management packages. A couple of the features that set ACDSee apart from the competition are speed, ease of use, and sheer number of features. Additionally, your categorizing work is all exportable to standard XML files if you decide at a later date you’d prefer to part ways with ACDSee.
Picasa, freely available (as opposed to ACDSee – a commercial product) widely popularized since being purchased by Google offers a flashy interface, but about 1/10th of the options of ACDSee and additional bugs that are tough to deal with. Many users swear by Picasa, and given it’s pretty interface and straightforward functionality that’s easy to understand. Slightly advanced features however, such as importing photos with tags, or burning discs tend to show Picasa’s weaker side.
Subsequent photos with tags imports result in duplicated tags (labels as they’re referred to in Picasa). While seemingly minor, image importing hundreds or thousands of photos with hundreds of tags. Importing gets messy quick.
Burning photos to CD/DVD results in a wasted CD/DVD each time I’ve tried it on any of three different PC’s. Attempting to view the timeline over a remote desktop connection is a guaranteed application lockup as well.
A solid alternative for the photo editing functionality is Faststone’s Image Viewer. A slick (and free for personal use) image viewer/editor that cleanly handles red-eye fixing, PNG files with full transparency support, and a plethora of file types that knows only one weakness, it doesn’t support the tagging of photos. Unfortunately, that takes it out of the running for any real photo management task. As soon as tagging becomes available however, it’ll be a pressing alternative to ACDSee.
Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition is another leader in the free photo management space. It’s categorizing features are solid, and given that it’s written by the same talented developers that produced Adobe Photoshop, you know it’s roots in graphic editing are deep. The problem with it? It’s slow…extremely slow. Compared to ACDSee it’s like switching between a brand new PC and one from 6 years ago.
While there are other photo tagging software applications available, and many are free, I’ve not found any with enough speed or flexibility to compete with Picasa or ACDSee. If free is a must, then I’d recommend Picasa. If you want the real ace however, then break out your credit card and order ACDSee today.