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Best photo organizing software: Sort, tag and categorize your images

The best photo organizing software
(Image credit: Getty / iStock)

Whether you're an amateur, enthusiast or professional photographer, you need photo organizing software to help you stay on top of your image library. Even a simple afternoon photography session, whether it's in a studio or out and about, can produce hundreds of images. By organizing your photos, you'll be able to quickly find exactly what you want (which will dramatically speed things up if you want to  create a photo book or do some photo editing, for example). 

A good piece of photo organizing software will let you categorize images by location, date, and even individual people in each image, with some offering smart tools for tagging similar images or those taken in the same place or at the same time. (Once you've organized your photos, 

We spent more than 160 hours testing 10 photo organizing programs, paying particular attention to customizable organizing features, ease of use and editing abilities. We wanted to know which programs were the best at categorizing and helping you sift through images. 

Since sharing is important, we also looked for software that allows you to create and share slideshows, albums and edited photos directly to social media. 

Our best pick for photo organizing software, based on our testing, is ACDSee 20 Pro due to its exceptional organizing features and sharing capabilities. You can choose between several different sorting methods, which helps you find one that fits your style best. While the categorizing side of the software is simple and easy to use, the editing side is more complicated, but it will allow you to enhance your photos using both basic and advanced tools. to

1. ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2019: Best overall

ACDSee 20

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2019

Easy to use and powerful, ACDSee is our top choice overall

Compatible with: Windows | Hard disk space: 2GB | RAM needed: 2GB | Min resolution: 1024x768

Organizing features are really easy to use
You can search for and delete duplicate files
Helpful user forum
You must pay to use the online gallery
Not Mac compatible
Editing features take some practice to use

ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2019 allows you to organize your photos in a variety of ways, such as using keyword tags or color labels.

You can also give your photos number ratings so you can easily sift through your best images. The organizational interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. The program allows you to regulate your photo collection by viewing and editing metadata, and it can search for and delete duplicate images.

It supports 86 different file formats, making it highly likely that your specific projects are supported and compatible. The most common files – RAW, JPG, TIFF and PSD – are on the list. You can also directly import images from cameras, scanners and flash drives.

The 54 included filters, making it easy to give your photos an artistic feel. You can also perform basic edits, including red-eye removal, cropping, resizing and color adjustments. This program does a really good job of keeping your photo's image quality high after making an edit. The batch processing feature saves time by making the same edits to multiple images at once.

You can create slideshows using your favorite photos and share your photo and video projects to Facebook and Flickr. While ACDSee Systems does offer an online photo gallery, you must pay to use it. There are a few basic printing templates to help you create the projects you want.

2. Smart Pix Manager: Best value

Smart Pix Manager

Smart Pix Manager

Versatile with features like slide shows, Smart Pix Manager offers good value for money

Compatible with: Windows | Download file size: 3.9MB

You can create slideshows
You can organize photos in a variety of ways
Extensive range of print templates.
Not as easy to use as some others
Cannot post directly to Facebook or Flickr
It doesn’t support all image file types

While this program isn't the easiest to use, it does offer all the organizational features you could want at a lower price.

In addition to helping you arrange your photos, this program also organizes videos and music. If you need help using the program, the wizard can walk you through various functions.

This software allows you to directly import images from flash drives, cameras and scanners. The program isn't compatible with as many file types as some other photo organizing software, but it does support 22 different file types. Compatible image files include RAW, JPEG, PSD, PNG and TIFF.

A few basic editing tools are available with this program. This includes the ability to resize, crop and rotate photos as well as the ability to remove red eye, sharpen and make color enhancements. Its batch-processing capabilities can save time by making the same edits to multiple photos at once.

When you are done perfecting your images, this program can help you create slideshows with your images. It won’t let you post directly to any social media sites, but you can email them to family and friends. Smart Pix Manager has one of the widest selections of printable templates, including larger-than-life 10-foot prints.

CyberLink PhotoDirector 10 Ultra

With a face-recognition tool and great editing features, this is a good video editor too

Compatible with: Windows, MacOS | Hard disk space: 2GB | RAM needed: 4GB | Min resolution: 1024x768

Face-recognition tool can help you sort images by person
Photos maintain good image quality after the program makes edits
Mac compatible
Cannot organize photos by calendar date
Limited file compatibility
Can only check for duplicate files when importing new photos

This program isn't the most intuitive to use, but it isn't overly complicated either. You can organize your photos by keywords, color labels, star ratings and categories; however, you cannot organize them by calendar date.

The metadata is fully viewable and editable so you can remember what setting your camera used to capture your favorite photos. You can choose how frequently the backup manager reminds you to save your photos, which offers up some peace of mind.

This program has a wide range of basic and advanced editing tools and allow you to work in layers. One of the nicest features allows you to import video files and turn selected stills into photos. This feature combined with the face swap tool can also help you get the perfect photo by exchange a blinking or frowning video still for an open-eyed or smiling expression. There are 42 effects filters and other auto editing capabilities to help you quickly enhance your photos.

You can pull images directly from flash drives, cameras and scanners without leaving the interface. While it does support RAW, JPG, TIFF and PNG files, this program does not support PDF, PSD or GIF files, which could be a deal-breaker depending on the contents of your image collection. You can also create slideshows in this program, complete with music and transitions. When you are done working on your images, you can upload them directly to Facebook or Flickr.

4. Corel PaintShop Pro: Best editing tools

PaintShop Pro

Corel PaintShop Pro

PaintShop Pro is a good organizing tool, and a great editing one too

Compatible with: Windows | Hard disk space: 1GB | RAM needed: 2GB | Min resolution: 1280x768

The content aware-fill tool works beautifully
Cannot search for and remove duplicate images

PaintShop Pro has organizing capabilities, but where this software actually shines is with its editing tools.

Like the other photo organizers, it separates photos by keywords, calendar dates, categories and allows you to rate your photos and search by how much you like them. You can also access a backup manager and view your photos' EXIF and IPTC metadata to see what setting your camera was on when you took a shot. However, the software cannot search for and remove duplicate images, so you will have to do this manually, which can take a lot of time. This interface is very user friendly but packs the necessary tools to satisfy more experienced users.

Paint Shop Pro has some of the best editing tools like content-aware fill, which removes unwanted objects from your images and fills in the space believably. We were really impressed when we tested this feature. Sometimes we had to try it a couple times, but when it took effect you couldn't tell that the item you had removed was ever there to begin with. There are paint brushes and pencil tools as well as a blemish remover and healing tools so that nothing distracts from your portraits and photos.

5. Zoner Photo Studio: Easiest to use

Zoner Photo Studio

Zoner Photo Studio

Zoner offers a good software that's easy for beginners

Compatible with: Windows | Hard disk space: 300MB | RAM needed: 2GB | Min resolution: 1280x800

The interface is very easy to navigate
You must pay a subscription to use this software

Zone Photo Studio is a terrific program that offers plenty of organizing tools. You'll find the interface separated into four different tabs: Manager, Develop, Editor and Create.

We found that this organization clearly labeled the various tools, making it so you can find what you want fast. Organizing photos takes place in the Manager Tab. You can give your images star ratings, keywords, calendar dates, titles, locations and color labels. You can even add a specific GPS location to your photos to see where you've been on a map and to search your images by location. With all of these searchable options, it will be easy for you to organize your photos in the way that makes the most sense to you.

You can import photos into Zoner Photo Studio directly from your phone, camera or Facebook account, so getting images is a snap. The biggest downside we found is that this software must be purchased with a subscription of either $4.99 a month or $49.00 a year. There is also a decent amount of editing tools, giving you the ability to adjust the hue, brightness and contrast of your images to put them to their best advantage. The 35 included filters can help you add style to your images with just a few clicks.

Why trust us on photo organizing software? 

Our testers are experienced photographers and graphic designers who can recognize the most helpful features of organizing software. We performed the same edits in each program to see which ones had the best abilities. Some programs can make images pixelated, grainy or unfocused after applying edits. For this reason, programs that maintained excellent image quality after an edit ranked higher in our image quality score. 

We wanted to see how well each program's organizational features worked, so we loaded the same set of photos into each system and assigned them to different categories. Programs with more arranging options were rated higher, since they were likely to be helpful to a wide user audience.

The number of file formats that a program uses is also very important. We wanted to make sure that the highest-ranked programs were compatible with the most common image files. These include RAW, JPEG, PSD, PDF, TIFF, GIF and PNG. Programs that supported all of these files scored higher, while programs that didn't scored lower.

How much does photo organizing software cost?

The best photo organizing programs can run anywhere from $25 to $50, though some might use subscriptions and will need to be renewed monthly or yearly. Typically, programs that cost more will provide more advanced editing tools in addition to the organizing options, so you'll be able to get your favorite images looking exactly the way you envision and manage them in the way you want.

How we found the best photo organizing software

We have tested photo organizing software for the last 11 years. In our most recent test, we spent more than 160 hours evaluating the organizing and editing features of each of the 10 programs we tested. We tested organizing capabilities by importing the same set of photos to each software. We checked for the ability to tag photos with keywords, color labels, number or star ratings, locations, face tagging, categories and calendar dates. Programs that offered more of these options scored higher, while programs with fewer offerings scored lower. Programs that allow you to find your photos quickly scored higher. Programs that included keyword searches made this especially helpful and scored higher.

We chose software that allows you to view and edit metadata, which can help you keep track of what settings your camera used to capture a specific effect. We also wanted to make sure the editing abilities were up to snuff. The programs that offered the most common basic and advanced editing tools also scored higher, and programs that best performed these edits scored higher still.

Things to look for when choosing a photo organizing software

A few years ago, photo organizing software used to be really expensive, but now you can get a decent program for a reasonable price. The most basic photo organizers will cost as little as $25 and range to about $50. More professional versions will cost between $60 and $130 but they will also provide more tools for you to work with. Typically, as far as photo organizing goes, paying more will give you more advanced image editing tools, but will not give you more organizational tools. If you want a simple, basic organizer, you'll likely be happy getting an economical software, but if you want to be able to edit your photos you might want to consider spending a bit more. 

Photo organizing software should be easy to use and should provide you with several different organizing methods to choose from. Programs with search bars are incredibly helpful when finding a photo by its filename or keyword tags. You should also look for a program that comes with an online backup manager. That way your photos will be protected in case something happens to your computer. If you want to keep a clean photo collection, find a program that allows you to find and delete duplicate photos.

File Types
Choose an organizing software that is compatible with the same image files that you most frequently work with. Some of the most common image files include JPEG, TIFF, GIF and PNG. More-advanced image file types, such as RAW and PSD, allow you to make more controlled and advanced edits to your images.

Editing Tools
Editing tools can help you make your photos pop. When uploading large numbers of photos, the batch processing tool enables you to enhance all of your images at once. For example, if your photos all turned out dark, you can choose to have the program brighten all of them. If you plan on using your organizing software to make advanced edits, make sure it works in layers, saving versions as you go, as this allows you to make changes while protecting the original image.

Making slideshows can be a big reason to buy photo organizing software, but not all programs are built alike. Some simply cycle through your photos, while others allow you to add animated transitions, effects and music. If you want to make more elaborate slideshows, look for a program that offers more than just the basics. Online galleries are a great place to back up your photos. Keep in mind that some programs come with a limited amount of online space and will require you to pay for more if you use it up.

Basic photography tips 

  • Getting your lighting and camera settings right will reduce the amount of time you need to spend editing your photos.
  • Try to get as close to your subject matter as possible while still being in focus. This will give more detail to your photos.
  • Direct sunlight casts heavy shadows on your subject matter. Counteract it by shooting in the golden hours just after sunrise and just before sunset when lighting isn’t as harsh.
  • If you must shoot on a sunny midday, use your flash, light boxes, reflector panels, and natural shading to balance out the lighting.
  • Understand shutter speeds so you can take the pictures you want. For instance, when shooting fast-moving subjects, like at a sports game, you’ll want shutter speeds of over 1/500th, otherwise you’ll only get blurry images.
  • To make landscape photography more dynamic, try to include a foreground, middle ground and background. This adds depth to your images.
  • When taking family photos or individual portraits, try to make your subjects comfortable with jokes and conversation. This will help them loosen up so you can get genuine smiles and body language.
  • The only way to get better is to gain experience. Go out into the world and try new things. Experiment with aperture sizes, lenses and camera settings.
  • Never over-edit your photos. Making too many edits only makes your photos look amateurish and off. A simple trick is to walk away from the photo you're editing and then come back 10 minutes later. You’ll have a fresh set of eyes to see what needs to be edited or to evaluate whether your editing went too far.
  • Always keep a copy of the original image. You’ll be much happier if you ever realize that you don’t like your edits after all.
  • Jump online and read photography blogs, attend local photography classes, do anything you can to learn more tricks and tips from professionals.
  • You’ve probably noticed that photography equipment is very expensive. You don’t need everything at once. Most photographers gain their equipment one piece at a time. Just go bit by bit and you’ll eventually have everything you need.

ProductPriceOverall RatingOrganizing OptionsImportingEditing ToolsSharingSupport OptionsOrganization Ease of UseOrganize by KeywordOrganize by Calendar DateMetadataRate Your PhotosBackup ManagerOrganize by CategoryCheck for Duplicate FilesSupported Image File FormatsRemovable MediaDigital CamerasScannerImage QualitySpecial Effect FiltersBatch EditingAdjust Date TakenBlack & White ConversionConvert to SepiaColor AdjustmentRed Eye RemovalEditable TextRotateZoomCroppingResizeCreate Slideshows/VideoFacebookFlickrEmailOnline Photo GalleriesPrinting TemplatesTutorialsFAQsUser ForumKnowledgebasePhone SupportEmail SupportWindows 10Windows 8Windows 7Windows VistaMac OS XMac OS 10.8
ACDSee 20View Deal5/5101098.58.3100%8695%54$---
Zoner Photo Studio XView Deal4.5/59.810107.3995%5995%38-----
PaintShop Pro X9View Deal4.5/58.510107.31095%-80100%99-----
Smart Pix Manager 12View Deal4/59.38.394.3980%2295%3------
ThumbsPlus 10View Deal4/59.38.3104.37.880%1390%23-----
PicaJet 2.6.5View Deal4/
PhotoDirector 8 UltraView Deal4/57.36.810101090%--32100%42-
IMatch 5View Deal4/596.88.34.3975%119-90%9-------
PixFilerView Deal3/57.36.825.83.390%-280%None---------------
JetPhoto Studio 5View Deal3/55.56.865.84.580%--590%None----------