The best photo organizing software can whip your workflow into shape in no time, and here's why. It’s all very well snapping away thousands of photos and tucking them away on a hard disk because “you’ll use them one day”, but months or even years later and it can become hard to know where those photos now are. Don’t spend hours scrolling through miscellaneous folders trying to find a family photo, or that one killer shot that a client is requesting – let the best photo organizing software organizing software do it all for you.
Faster cameras and high capacity memory cards have made it easier than ever to shoot and store hundreds of photos on our computers. Fortunately, photo organization software has also advanced hugely. As well as providing an easy to use interface, displaying photo thumbnails and allowing for key search terms or ratings to filter out results, the best photo organizing software will actually scan your photos automatically for key features.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to power our image editing software and the same is true for photo organization, too. So many of the main programs now enable users to search through their library using terms like like “tree” or “birthday” to return appropriate results without ever having actually keyworded or organized photos. Some also allow you to take things further by editing in-house too.
Whether you’re looking for a photo organizing software to tidy up and get a handle on your professional workflow, or you just something to keep on top of the many phone snaps you take of family and friends, there’s something for everyone – and at each price point. Keep reading to find your best photo organizing software in 2022.
How we test the best photo organizing software
When we choose which products should go into our software buying guides, we pick those which we think will be important for our readers and in the market as a whole. When it comes to photo organization, we take into account special features, pricing and availability, and ease of use, as well as integration with other software.
We're making our way through full reviews of each individual piece of software here, but where a full review doesn't yet exist, you can be sure that one of our expert team members has used the software before as part of their everyday workflow.
For more, visit how we test and review on Digital Camera World (opens in new tab).
Best photo organizing software in 2022(opens in new tab)
Not only is Adobe Lightroom Classic a fantastic non-destructive image editor capable of batch processing images with ease, but it has a top-notch image editing organization function that stands up to professional workflows.
When you plug in external devices or memory cards, you’ll be greeted with a suite of importing options. You can add and tweak keywords, create and place photos in Collections or Smart Collections, and apply Develop presets to files during the import process for a faster image editing workflow. It even gives the option to avoid importing suspected duplicates in order to keep the software running efficiently.
Unfortunately, without this import process, viewing photos on the storage device can’t be done like other organizers on this list. Still though, once the user buys into this method of working Lightroom Classic becomes fantastically powerful and excellent for both managing photos and editing them alike. Sort images into Collections to keep photos of specific subjects in one place, or create Smart Collections to have Lightroom Classic automatically add images to each Collection based on rules set by the user (such as specific keywords, ratings, or flags).
Note that Lightroom (not Classic) is the web version. It has advantages of its own, but more limited organizing tools and you have to pay extra for the non-optional online storage. SeeAdobe Lightroom vs Lightroom Classic (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
Images taken with iPhones or iPads live in the Apple Photos app. From here you can search for, edit, and share images online. Fortunately, Apple has done a great job at making it simple to find photos and videos here. Apple Photos collates images into year, month, and day order, to make finding photos and videos faster. Intelligent curation using on-device machine learning removes clutter by choosing what it considers the best shots from a series of similar images, which clears up the interface and makes it easier to select photos.
Apple Photos scans photos intelligently to showcase images where main subjects are in better focus for enhanced previews. There are also some good basic editing tools which now expand to videos as well. And of course, it’s compatible with raw files too (for those using iPhones and iPads with A9 chips or later). You can even search for places, people, and events thanks to the intelligent search suggestions.(opens in new tab)
Google has equipped the Photos app with some Artificially Intelligent (AI) gears and automatic photo and video backup to autonomize the photo (and video) organization process. Images can be viewed on any device, whether using the app or the weblink to your photos. They’re also automatically organized and available for searching based on myriad filters including GPS location and who’s in a photo. The AI allows searches for a range of subjects such as dogs, cats, cars, planes etc, or even events such as birthdays and weddings.
Thanks to simple folder management it’s easy to share photos and albums with friends and family. You can also order prints and photobooks right from the app and get them delivered straight to your door. Basic editing functions help to enhance colors or levels too, aimed at casual users or those with limited image editing knowledge. It’s also possible to use Google Photos as a plug-in for various image editing software programs to publish images straight to Google Photos.(opens in new tab)
Adobe Bridge is similar to Lightroom Classic but without the complex editing suite attached onto it. Actually, for file viewing and organization it could be argued that Bridge is much easier to use since it has easy access to EXIF data views so it works brilliantly for content creatives, like Art Directors, who need this information without any of the extra editing features.
The navigation layout is superb with the views being split into six different categories, with more to boot. Essentials mode displays the directory, files contained in the selected folder, and a full read-out of EXIF data. If you’re building a brand or working on a specific project with multiple photos and other files, you can synchronize design styles and assets across devices using Creative Cloud Libraries.
For those used to the Lightroom Classic layout, the filmstrip view may be the simplest way to navigate and organize photos. A useful Output tab puts power in the user’s hands by offering tools to create contact sheets in a variety of paper size formats. It includes options for displaying grids and margins, adding headers and footers, or even applying watermarks to protect intellectual property.
It’s not just about organizing photos either. Adobe Bridge is suitable for working on a wide range of file types, from 3D textures to InDesign documents and almost any other file format you can make with Adobe software, within reason.(opens in new tab)
Designed to provide a more visual interactive display of the images on your device, Elements Organizer automatically organizes photos and videos by date and a variety of other ways, too. To start, the software scans all photos for faces and location tags for automatic categorization and then further filters using intelligent topics such as sunrises, parties, animals, and more.
Manual organization involves picking your favourites, creating albums and folders, and the option to filter with multiple search terms, e.g. “puppy” and “outside” to return more accurate results. Basic editing is possible too and the software is optimised for touchscreen devices as well as desktop-based computers.(opens in new tab)
A powerful image editing program, ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2022 is also an excellent digital asset management and photo editing software. Users can organize their photos using keywords, by date, using categories, via location, colour labels, and even EXIF data built right into the files themselves.
Photos can be imported to ACDSee Photo Studio Pro but files already stored on your storage device can also be accessed via the software (unlike Lightroom Classic which requires import before organizing). Flagship features also include facial recognition and detection, batch renaming, keyword list imports, and customizable keyboard shortcuts to make it quicker to find what you’re looking for.(opens in new tab)
The key to PaintShop Pro 2022’s organizational success is in its ability to utilize scripts. By recording a series of photo edits into a script, you can apply the same edits to other photos without having to redo all the hard work, saving time and effort. The same can be done by batch processing, for example, if you need to add a watermark or resize shots for better file management.
You can quickly access photos using the Manage tab at the top of the window and search for files using the file directory pane on the left-hand side, scoot through thumbnail views in the center or search through metadata and EXIF information on the right-hand side, including options to filter based on ratings, labels, and keywords.(opens in new tab)
CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 is a fantastic piece of photo organization and image editing software for beginners, competitively priced and one of the cheapest paid-for options on this list. The user interface is simple making it easy to navigate for new users. Import photos or folders directly from external devices and organize them with categories, tags, and keywords.
Unfortunately, CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 can only import nine different image file formats, but does include up-to-date raw file support and, rather strangely, can import many more video file formats, though export options are limited. However, for the low cost and simple layout it’s a great option for those who want to get started organizing their photos and videos.(opens in new tab)
Compatible with a wide array of image files, and even reads raw files. It’s a no-nonsense photo organizing and viewing program that’s also capable of processing basic edits as well. Excellent viewing options for organizing files. When other image organizing apps crash or are slow to load, this is the software we boot up. That’s because it’s blisteringly fast and has excellent fullscreen or minimized viewing, with fly-out menus on all four sides to do things like view the film strip and folder structure, display EXIF data, reach navigation options, and offer up a suite of editing tools.
In the Browser view you can easily see file directories on the left-hand pane and make swift changes to photo and folder storage locations. A helpful preview box below gives a thumbnail view of the image selected and any folder that’s clicked on will show its contents on the right-hand side for quick review. Of course, you can just do this with Windows’ own File Explorer but FastStone Image Viewer is much more helpful for displaying photos, with multiple view options, extra easy-to-reach metadata display, and simple editing functions built-in.
One ever-helpful option is the Compare Selected Images view which displays up to four photos next to each other to help image editors choose their favorite whilst organizing. Sadly it’s only available on Windows systems, but it can be installed to Mac devices via Bootcamp or run on a Virtual Machine if needed.(opens in new tab)
XNView functions like a browser by displaying opened images in separate tabs across the top of the app window, which might feel a little clumsy for some users. It has some basic editing functions like crop, color, and tone adjustment, too.
File directories are displayed in the left-hand pane, allowing users to switch between folders and storage devices with the same ease you would expect from File Explorer or Finder. In that same pane it also includes Favorites and Categories Filter tabs to help maintain and search for the appropriate photos.
XnView MP supports over 500 photo file formats and includes multipage and animated stills formats as well such as GIF, TIFF, APNG, and ICO. When saving though, it can export to approximately 70 different file formats.
Keyboard shortcuts can be utilized to quickly rate images for categorization later. The MP version contains all the XNView Classic features plus a few more and is optimized for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems on both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems – making it accessible to almost everyone with a computer.
Many features can be operated with the scroll wheel/trackpad scroll gesture too, which makes it faster to switch between options and images but for those not used to this you can accidentally rate or change some photo options which feels like an oversight.
How to organize your images
Having the best photo organizing software is all well and good, but you need to use it in the right way to get the most from it. Here are three tips to help you get the most out of your photo organizer software.
1. Get your naming convention right
Ideally, you'd all give each of our photos a distinct and unique name. But in practice, there just isn't enough time in the day, so it's best to come up with a clear and consistent naming convention to help you keep track of them. It's basically a question of finding a system that works for you.
For example, you might give all of the photos from a particular shoot the same name and date and then a number, such as Stonehenge-2017-07-29-1, Stonehenge-2017-07-29-2 etc. However, if you don't have a good memory for when different shoots took place at the same location, you might want to add some context, such like Stonehenge-festival-sunrise-2017-07-29-1, or Stonehenge-clothing-ad-2018-01-12-1.
That might seem like a lot of typing, but most photo organizer software makes it easy to batch-name a group of images in this way.
2. Get creative with tags
However thoughtfully you group your photos in folders, there'll be times when you're searching for specific categories of image that don't fit in that folder structure. So it's a worthwhile time investment to add as many tags as you can. This will be enormously helpful in finding images in future.
This process is quite similar adding hashtags on social media platforms like Instagram, or in a stock photo library. The main difference is that you're adding tags that you, rather than others, would be likely to search for.
Include everything from descriptive words ('nature', 'outdoors', 'snow' etc) to those relating to the image's mood ('happy', 'gloomy', 'peaceful') to technical aspects ('bokeh', '50mm', 'macro'). Again, this sounds like a lot of work, but photo organizer software can help to automate this process.
3. Use folders and sub-folders
Even if every one of your photos has a uniquely identifiable name, that's only the beginning of organizing them. It's also important to store your images in folders, and folders within those folders, so you can keep track of everything as time goes on.
How exactly you divide your images up will depend on your own needs. For example, some people will be more interested in grouping shots by date, and others by style (eg, portrait versus landscape, or high ISO versus low ISO). There is no 'right' answer here, it's purely about what is going to work for you.
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