If you’re anything like us, the number of photos you take has probably multiplied since you got a digital camera or a smartphone with a decent built-in camera. We all take so many photos these days that organising them can be somewhat overwhelming; our busy lives leave little time for sorting everything into folders, weeding out the bad ones, sharing the good ones with our friends and family and even printing the best ones for displaying on your wall or in a frame.
Depending on how trigger happy you are, and how big your memory card is, you could have more than 1000 photos to sift through from different recent events. Identifying the keepers from the so-so snaps is an arduous task.
It's also not a great way to store your photos if you want to be able to show off some of the most memorable moments. A ready curated set of photos summarising the last year could also lend itself to becoming a personalised calendar or photo album – always a great gift for the grandparents.
To make this potentially mammoth task manageable, we’ve called on the services of some invaluable photo organising and editing software. Our aim here is to show you how to create a workflow that allows you to quickly and easily organise your photos, tagging them to make them easy to find in the future, as well as performing some quick fixes on photos that need a bit of attention.
Once you're in the habit of tagging and sorting photos, it will become second nature and you shouldn't end up with a bunch of unsorted photos languishing on a set of SD cards (or in your phone's internal storage).
You’ll find useful media organisers in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 and the free Google Picasa, but the editing tools in the latter are very basic. Nonetheless, it’s a good choice if you don't want to spend any money. We will also look at how to manually rename batches of folders and photos, along with applying crucial edits to bring your shots up to scratch.
For more rigorous editing options – and some slick organisational tools – we’ve chosen Cyberlink PhotoDirector 4 Ultra (see our review). It isn’t the cheapest image editor around, but we like it because many tools are geared towards organising and labelling your photo library. It's also a powerful image editor that can bring out the best in your portrait and landscape shots. Like Picasa, it's non-destructive, so photos stored on your hard disk aren't actually altered. It's a lot like Adobe's Lightroom, but a lot more affordable.
How to organise your photos with CyberLink PhotoDirector
1. Use PhotoDirector’s Import menu at the top to browse to a folder, select a specific photo or import shots directly from your camera. There’s a preview pane with thumbnails of everything selected. You can also have Windows automatically import your shots into PhotoDirector by clicking this option in the Autoplay menu.
2. Deselect any photos in a folder you don’t require. Images are automatically arranged by date, even within a folder, so you can select or deselect photos from a particular day with a single click. Once imported, you can delete unwanted images from the PhotoDirector folder without deleting them elsewhere.
3. To the right of the import screen are options to add copyright details, tags and other information to your photos. You can also rename your group of photos at this stage or apply an effect to all of them at once. This is ideal if you want to produce a black and white photo album, for example. Usefully, you can choose naming conventions for your batch imports.
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4. Once imported, images appear as scrollable thumbnails along the bottom of the screen. Click on an image to have it appear in the middle of the screen (or even on a second screen) where you can look at it properly and make any necessary adjustments. Right-click within an image and you can assign it a star rating or label.
5. A great feature is Tag Faces. This quickly analyses the photo library, asks you to name each person, then automatically recognises them thereafter. Now you can filter your library to show only shots of your mum or your brother George. You can assign star ratings to photos as you go, making it possible to filter your search results even more finely.
6. You might find it useful to give photos a coloured label, perhaps because they're interesting enough to show to friends, even if they're not the best quality. Alternatively you could use a colour for marking photos for editing later. This way you can quickly work through a whole photo album without getting bogged down in editing.
7. If you haven’t already done so, you can add tags such as location, extra people in the photo and any copyright restrictions by clicking on the Metadata tab at the top left. At the very bottom, you’ll see any tags that are already associated with the photo, plus a dropdown list of tags relating to other photos in the same batch.
8. Useful edits include boosting the contrast and adding HDR (high dynamic range) effects. To see the effect of such changes, click the two-pane layout view just below the main PhotoDirector editing screen. You can now see before and after versions of your photos. A reset button on the left lets you undo changes.
9. Once you’re happy with your images, you can share them directly from the app to your Flickr account. There’s also an Export option. Tagged and star-rated items now come into their own as you can automatically select and publish those. Be sure you’ve either watermarked or added copyright protection to your shots.