General discussion

In search of program that will help me organize my photos

For more than several years I have taken pictures with my iPhone and also my camera. Periodically I transfer those pictures to the hard drive on my computer. I now have many thousands of pictures from all over the world, family and friends, spanning four years or so. Unfortunately at some rare times, I did not delete the original pictures on my phone or camera upon copying them to the hard drive so there are some duplicates. Even worse, I simply imported each group of pictures into a separate file folder labeled with the date of the group import. Each specific picture then had the import date and a number as the picture name. Some pictures are fuzzy and should be thrown out. The above presents a number of challenges:...

-- Is there a software program that will detect duplicate pictures even though the label is different?

-- Is there a software program that will easily allow me to view the pictures quickly one by one so that I can label them accordingly?

-- What is the best system for labeling photographs? I would think the label might include date, person, scenario, ?? or do file folders appropriately labeled also come into the picture? And what would the label for the pictures and file folders look like?

Help would be greatly appreciated.

--Submitted by Max W.

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A great photo manager

The best photo manager I have used in the past 40 years (and still use every day) is Faststone Imageviewer (it's still free I think but is worth the price if not) ... It's far more intuitive and less intrusive than Picasa ...

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I did it my way... Sorry Frankie...

I organize my photos on a hard drive into major folders with just the year. Then a subfolder using the naming convention of yyyymmdd_[description], such as 20170824_boxkar. Boxkar is a band name whose show I attended and photographed. You can be as verbose in the description as you want. To me the date is the important part.
I have over 300k photos going back over 14 years, with multiple cameras and file naming conventions.
My problem was that my old work flow sucked. I shoot raw, so I would load those photos onto one of my computers. I'd then go through the photos in Picasa and do basic clean up. I'd then export them to full sized jpgs. Since Picasa didn't do noise reduction, I'd run the jpgs through a separate noise reduction program. Now I have three sets of the same images. Then I would resize them to 1600x1200 (4th set) and post to my website. If I had the time, rarely, I would copy the original raw images to an external drive to put on my master drive. This was a mess.
I ended up manually going through about ten drives, finding all the original or highest quality versions I could, and consolidated them onto one drive.
Now I use Lightroom and I love it. I can import all my photos onto Lightroom to work on. They still reside in windows folders, so that is nice.
And make multiple backups. The case for one of my backup drives failed, and I had to remove the drive and put it into a new enclosure to recover all the backups.

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cumulus is great

I use Cumulus to organize my photos. It allows filing a photo in multiple categories. for example, I have a picture of my daughter at the Chartres cathedral in France. I can file it under all pictures in France (or Paris or whatever), under People>Family>Roxanne (subcategories) and Architecture>Cathedrals>Chartres. And I can modify those categories and add to them at any time. I can create special categories for a presentation. This makes it extremely easy to find relevant photos. I'm an architect. sometimes on a project I want to find examples of doorways. I can create a new category and go through many photographs popping them into that category (and they keep all their old categories). very handy.
Unfortunately, Cumulus discontinued their single user license, so now it costs a fortune. Another company, Cocoon, started a clone that is more reasonably priced. I haven't bought it and tried it yet.

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Consider Lightroom

If you want to do some adjustments as well to your images, Lightroom is pretty much king when it comes to organization management of images.

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Organizing photos

How you do this depends on how you think and whether you will follow thru.

Long ago, when I first went digital with my photos (in 2004), I thought about this a lot. As an engineer, my thought process is quite different from, say, an artist, or someone who wants to organize by location or topic, etc. I came up with something that works well for me, but you have to evaluate it based on you!

I organize chronologically based on "Time Taken" (not time modified or edited, etc.) Of course, scanned in images don't carry that data in their files, so they don't fit this mold unless you can edit their EXIF data.

I have a top-level folder I call "Photos". Under that, I have a set of folders each of which is named simply by the year. Under each of those, I create folders labelled by the date (formatted yyyy-mm--dd, all digits) and, usually, followed by "--topic name". Example: "2017-08-25--Family picnic". If it's a trip, I might add something like "thru 2017-09-01--Visit the beach". Additional sublevels go below. To keep them in chronological order, I precede the subfolder names with "a--", "b--", etc. to force the correct sorting order.

Next, I create (at a level appropriate for the particular event or target) a folder titled "Originals"--I copy all originals into that folder and never edit them. Some software, such as Zoner Photo Studio which I use, can maintain that history for you. When I edit my photos, I use one of a number of programs which can change the date back to Time Taken so they continue to show up that way, but I append "-r1" to the modified file's name so I know it's been edited. I also append "-rot" to signify a simple 90 degree rotation without other editing.

Hope these thoughts are useful. Good luck.

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I do pretty much the same thing ...

... but then I also have a technology focus. The most important point, I think, is "Keep the originals." Then there is a difference between images with and without EXIF data (photos from current digital cameras or scanned legacy material - slides, negatives or prints.) Most of the time I don't bother to keep the EXIF information around in edited images.

Alternatively, there is lots of image archive software, which will be perfect for many people, but I haven't been tempted - most of it is too "intrusive" for my liking - you can't store things the way you like anymore, you have to follow the rules of that software. Some of this comes with cameras and your whole system gets infinitely more complicated as soon as you use multiple cameras (or phones) from different suppliers.

One such "intrusive" image management systems is ACDsee - once upon a time it was a simple image viewer, which I licensed and made my regular image browser. Later versions lost the ability to just page through a pile of pictures quickly and added more and more image database management features - so I lost interest. For most peopel that want just a simple image browser theclosest thing probably still is your old trusty IrfanView (although Irfan has also fallen victim to "featuritis" in the meantime ...)

Then, from time to time I need something to find "similar" but not bitwise identical images. The program I like best for this task is called VisiPics ( - it is donationware by a guy who needed something and sat down to write it himself - often a good starting point. For a while the guy seemed to be too busy earning a living to get back to this gem of a software solution, but it seems that he found a bit of time once again to even consider a version 2 ... (There are lots of great ideas that he would still need to implement, but even as it stands, the current version is hugely useful.)

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Lightroom is by far the best

I went through the same dilemma. Most software scans and reorganizes your pictures. you don't want this. You will never be able to fined anything. Lightroom is a sophisticated data base which leaves everything where it is but enables you to organize and find thee using the database. Essentially it appears as if they are reorganized but they are not, it simply organizes the links. Besides which it has a superb photo editor, essentially, a simper version of Photoshop. Not just highly recommended, but after I deleted all of the free ones,i decided this is the only one.

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I have used ACDSee for years, and still think it is the best. Their image editing is just what I need. Their batch rename is perfect.

I do not use all their other products ( I just use their simple ACDSee.

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My story

Here's my story. I've been cataloging photos for many years. I have about 50,000 now. I started using software that was designed for organizing, or for editing photos and cataloging too. But I got bit.

The program that bit me was Adobe Photoshop Elements. Otherwise a decent couple of programs that work together it failed me in the cataloging feature. The problem is so many programs like that keep their own database of "tags." If a photo is moved to a different folder on my computer the database doesn't know where it went and any tags associated with that photo are now not attached to the photo. Worse yet I didn't realize that the Elements database had to be backed up. I had a disk problem, fortunately with a good backup of my photos, but the Elements database containing all of the tags for my photos was gone. Literally hundreds of hours of tagging was lost.

I tried a lot of programs after that. What I wanted was for the tags to be stored in the photo .jpg file, not in some detached database. It didn't take too long to learn that the Windows 7 Windows Explorer had the best tagging tools I could find. So for the past 8 years or so I've used nothing but Windows Explorer to tag and filter my photos.

Unfortunately Microsoft, in all their wisdom, completely threw Windows Explorer out the window in Windows 8/10 and the replacement is horrible relative to the Windows 7 features. The new File Explorer is simply unusable for me. Hence I keep my big fast desktop running Windows 7.

So my warning to the OP is seek a program that alters the tags in the .jpg file rather than keeping a detached database.

How cool is it to be able to email a photo to a relative or friend and have data go with it in the file. I have completed over 5,000 hours of family tree work. Every photo on my computer has the name of every person in the photo, left-to-right, labeled. I also include other data as well. The space allocated to tags is large. Comments and titles can also be included in the file.

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Software and regimes for cataloguing files

Like several other responders, I think that Adobe Lightroom is king (and cross-platform for Windows, Mac and IOS) - but it does require a monthly subscription, so it works out quite expensive over the year; on the other hand you always have the latest version. I store all my originals in nested folders under a master catalogue, best called originals or something like that. These are the full sized original images. I use keywords to categorise all the pictures, again using a series of categories and nested sub-categories - e.g. France/Paris/Louvre so a search can either look for all shots in France or pin it down to shots in the Louvre. You can search several categories simultaneously and choose whether the subject needs to fit some or all of them. One thing Lightroom does'nt do is search or delete duplicates. For this you need other software - the better quality ones compare files by the visual content rather than just name or size etc. I have a Mac and use Photosweeper 3 - good value at $10 (, but there are others around for various platforms. Another disadvantage of Lightroom is that it uses a database, which can become corrupted - also you need to import them into Lightroom before you can work on them, which takes time. However if the worst comes to it, if you use the right settings most of your editing and keyword information is stored with the picture so can be reimported with most of your work intact. And of course you should back up the database. Finally, Lightroom does not recognise changes made by other programmes, so if you move files with a different software (such as Finder or Explorer), you will have to help Lightroom find them again. I recommend Adobe Bridge (free and designed to complement Lightroom and Photoshop) as a simple but powerful browser; it recognises edits and keywords made in Lightroom.

Recently other cross-platform programmes have entered the market. One in particular stands out, and you purchase it outright, rather than a subscription - you can try it for free. It features the best features of both Bridge and Lightroom and is continually improving. Its called On1 PhotoRaw (snappy name!) and also allows you to edit pictures using layers, which is arguably the best Photoshop feature as well. Highly recommended!

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What you can do with the images after processing

As others have said, a backup is essential. That's why the master folder is called "Originals". I then export the processed images from Lightroom or On1 to another set of folders with the same directory structure. These have any adjustments from processing "locked in" so that all other programmes e.g Word, can use them. The "originals" folder and subfolders are regularly backed up as well so that I have 2 copies of the originals plus a "working" directory of all the processed files, which may include boosting contrast, brightening shadows etc. As for importing from the iPhone, well you can import these images into the same folder structure using Lightroom import. Sometimes if the iPhone plays hard to view I import using iPhotos but export straight into the other folder structure and then delete the version stored in iPhotos.

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Organising your Photo Collection.

Most of the posts so far deal with finding the duplicates but none seem to offer a solution to actually filing the photographs once you have tidied up which photographs you are going to keep.
I use as very powerful and easy to use system using FREE web based software.
If you ave a web server on your own computer even better, if not you can use one of many available web hosting services, free or paid - choice is yours.
The software is called Coppermine Photo Gallery
With this software you only need once copy of a photograph on your computer, however you can create several photo albums and that one photo can appear in all of them.
I file my photographs chronologically using a folder structure of year/month/album name.
So for instance - lets say I visited "Alton Towers" on 26 August 2017, My collection of photographs would be filed under 2017/08/alton_towers.
Now here comes the powerful part. In those photographs I may have pictures of various people - lets say adam, barry, charlie, david and so on.
By tagging those pictures with the names of who is in an individual picture, the coppermine software is able to display seperate albums named - adam / barry / charlie / david and so on and takes the picture from the one in the chronological folder. Similarly you would also create an album "Alton Towers" so now you can search for a photo by date, person or location.
There is lots more you can do, the best option is to visit the above site and take a look

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Get an old copy of Picassa 3

Get an old copy of Picassa 3. Google replaced it with their program which is horrible. Try this link to get it:

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Adobe Lightroom is the boss!

For serious photographers that shoot RAW, Adobe Lightroom is the beast! It has all the tools you will need to organize and edit your photos, but you still have to put in some effort to plan your photo library, as nothing is going to work well if you just dump everything into one location and forget it. Adobe has lots of tutorials to guide you through this process, and many professional photographers have blogs about this process as well. You can edit photos on a laptop while travelling, and later move those to your desktop computer at home, without losing any of the data associated with your work. Adobe offers a subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop at a reasonable price. Why people trust free software for their photography after spending thousands of dollars on equipment is beyond comprehension.

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Copy and Paste .... Don't Import

Relying on poor software to move your photos for you has to be the biggest cause of the lack of organization and duplicate files.

I would just copy and paste the photos from the camera card to the hard drive of the computer. That is into your "Photos" or "Pictures" folder.

If you don't already have such a folder,then I would create one. Then create sub-folders for the purpose of organization.

An example :

~ Photos/Photos_2017/8_Photos_August_2017/

That is where you would paste all of your photos taken in August of 2017. If the photos were taken,for example,on a vacation to Hawaii in August of 2017,then ~ Photos/Photos_2017/8_Photos_August_2017/Vacation_in_Hawaii_2017/ would be another sub-folder,where you could paste those photos.

If your computer doesn't have a card reader,there is a Vivitar 52-in-One USB 2.0 card reader with SD,XD,Memeory Stick,Compact Flash etc. on the market. Transcend makes a good USB 3.0 card reader but it doesn't have as many slots for the less popular camera cards.

If the photos are important,I would also back them up,maybe to an archival grade optical disk or whatever else you prefer.

Personally,I use a few different Linux operating systems,and for copying photos,I use Solus Linux with the Nautilus file manager which always copies the photos without error.

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glad you use Linux

But there are times when import is preferred.

Recently I had a flashdrive that somehow lost it's MBR and was a bit corrupted. It was my keychain flashdrive, must have gotten hit hard or near some magnetic field. As you probably know, linux doesn't need file endings to determine the program to run for opening a file. I had to run fsck.fat program across the entire flashdrive, which puts all the recovered files to an "FSCK000*.REC" naming method with a one up number after each one. I was however able to "import" thumbnails of all image files in the folder of these *.REC files using gThumb and that made it possible to quickly determine which were the image files and which weren't. This is after Testdisk in GParted failed to run on the flashdrive. Quite the time saver. So, import does have some good uses.

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Question about filename

why this:
~ Photos/Photos_2017/8_Photos_August_2017/
instead of this:
~ Photos/Photos_2017/8/

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It's really simple

I've seen this same question come up several times before. I can see why people ask; I've worked on computers where the person's photos were scattered all around, and with the same photos here & there. I would blame various software; the kind that "wants to do everything for you". It may be pre-loaded bloatware or it may be your camera's software, or any kind of picture "helpers".
But first, look at it this way; if you load your photos onto your computer the same way every time, your photos should at least be all in the same location or folder, and seeing as all photos are numbered, the should be in order. But that doesn't always work, so do it the easy way- I have a folder named "Photos". It's for all the photos I've taken in my whole life. Inside, there is a folder for every year. In those folders, there are folders with the date they were taken. If I took 48 pictures at my Aunt Tillie's birthday party today I would name the folder 08-27-17 Aunt Tillie's BD. So everytime you transfer photos from your camera, wherever they load to, drag that folder to the 2017 folder, date it, and give it a short simple title so you'll know what it is. It does take a tiny bit of effort, but it works. Which is more than those "let us do it all for you" methods. Drag it and date it. Done. Simple.

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Another good free tool for duplicate images

Hi, I have just tried the free duplicate photo finder as mentioned in this thread. What I realized was that it shows a lot many advertisements and spammy links.
I then searched for another tool. Duplicate Photo finder from ashisoft's official website. Its free and was able to track my photos which were scattered in my drive and helped me remove those. It also works for edited and cropped images which looks the same. You can give it a try.

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Indexing/sorting photos

Dear Max,

This is not a single program, more some encouragement and a little slowly-developed advice.

I empathise, but I'm sceptical about your chances of finding a single program that does everything - so am offering some partial advice which I've evolved over many years. You should adapt it to do whatever YOU need as there is no perfect solution.

My key is to make maximum use of the filename - it will not easily get separated nor corrupted unless you do it yourself. You can sort easily using all sorts of programs, starting with Windows Explorer.
If you establish a consistent filename routine it will help whatever other programs you apply for specific tasks.

I'll come back to the actual means of editing the filenames a bit later.

Don't lightly erase or modify the serial number put on the file by the camera - you can cut it down to say a 5-digit version deleting leading zeroes etc, but if it's in there somewhere you can search through the whole hard drive if you need to find other copies of a file.

I use the filename a bit like a simple chain of Tags such as are put onto MP3 (and other?) files, but for your photos punctuate the tags simply by a space.

Start with the key date in yymmdd format; with luck all the copies of your pic will have some remnant of the originally attached date. Try to avoid modifying that key date even if you modify the file or some of the copies later. The date is a vital part of the basic file identity. Having that date at the beginning of the filename will give you consistent sorting; if you use the yyddmm system, or a mixed version, the sorting will be less logical.

Next add a shortish identifying text string - making this the description or name of the file, by its content or event. You can concatenate several words by capitalising the first letters so that there are no spaces - say: BabyMarysChristening, or MonacoGrandPrix. If you prefer, you could have more than one description tag, separated by spaces.
If the same descriptor applies to a whole group of files - say the same event - you can manually add a simple serial number to the concatenated descriptor, to get MonacoGrandPrix01 for one file and MonacoGrandPrix02 and MonacoGrandPrix03 for the next two different shots. That approach can ease the editing process if you've stored a block of image files under a single subfolder heading.

The third vital tag is the (possibly stripped-down) original file number put on by the camera.

So far, we now have a filename with three elements:

020526 MonacoGrandPrix03 00742.jpg

You now need a way of tagging any different versions of the basic shot which you or others have created or are about to create, such as editing the shot by cropping and/or altering the brightness or contrast.
You can devise one of your own, or consider the simple system I have evolved:
Each time I create an edited version I put a letter suffix on the original serial number, simply to differentiate it from the original. This gives me:

020526 MonacoGrandPrix03 00742.jpg - unedited file

020526 MonacoGrandPrix03 00742a.jpg - say, an extract (cropped)piece of a small part of the original

020526 MonacoGrandPrix03 00742b.jpg - say, a different cropped version, which might well become the one I use as the source for other edits

020526 MonacoGrandPrix03 00742bc.jpg - where the c denotes a further change, perhaps with enhanced contrast

There are many changes you might make, and if you want to be rigorous and always use the same suffix letter for the same operation, it gives you lots of work, manually editing the filenames. I don't give myself that problem, and simply add a new suffix letter each time I make a change. That allows differentiation, and then I can view the image to see what it was.

One other edit function which may be worth including in the filename is if you create a lower-res version of the filer of a block of files to ease sending it/them of files by email; if you never do this, skip the next few words.
If a file has been processed by an image editor program, as you save the reduced file add "30%" or whatever linear reduction you used, as a final part of the filename. It can then be safely saved alongside the non-reduced file.
So we now have:

020526 MonacoGrandPrix03 00742bc 30%.jpg
as well as
020526 MonacoGrandPrix03 00742bc.jpg

Other notes

Editing filenames:

Your current experience - saving files in subfolders with Subject- or Event-names is a good way to contain the filename editing process; you can leave them like that to collate things.

I have found it safest to have thumbnails of the files visible as I edit the filename - the visual check is a powerful way of stopping yourself - making errors is not difficult when working with just a string of filenames using WE.
I expect the best-known image management programs allow easy filename editing - I have relied on Paintshop Pro for many years.


Remember that WE, and other programs you may use to organise your files, may have quirks or limitations in the way they sort - eg: some only sort using a limited number of characters, perhaps the first 8;
- WE in W7 does not always export a block of files to, say a USB stick, in the order in which they started. However a program called Project_CopyInOrder.aspx
from a website:
solved that problem for me.

Files with incomplete or absent dates or other data:

If you have scanned or old image files which therefore have no auto-date, just estimate or guess the date, or at least the year, so at least you have a consistent filename. If you want to indicate that the date may later need editing, include a "q" after the uncertain or incomplete data - don't use a "?" as it is not usually permitted by the operating system.

For items with no auto-serial-number, reserve a block of higher-value serial numbers, ideally which don't cover the numbers your past/current cameras have used, and allocate them as needed. Again, add a trailng "q" or other simple marker as a reminder.

Regards, Chris

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Finding duplicate files (photos or other and delete/move)...

If you haven't already, I highly recommend Piriform's CCleaner (Crap Cleaner).
It is mainly a crud cleaner of lingering temp files and registry cleaner, BUT is also has number of useful features such as a duplicate finder that can find files on content (so it can find identical files, even if the file name happens to be different, or can can find files with same file names but with different content and not tag for deletion/removal). Also has a feature for wiping of free spaces, uninstall of apps, easy control of startup apps, etc. or

When you install, make sure to get the FREE version for DESKTOP - and do not install any of the (sometimes offered) freebies so use "custom install". Small, very nimble program. Have used for over 10 years and never let me down.

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Duplicate Files

if the file name is the same, Duplicate Files Deleter will help you.

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Great Ideas but still I have a question

What I have with the joy that is now Windows 10 and their picture programs is picture scattered over several different locations that are duplicates. (One Drive, Cloud, Dropbox, External hard drives and the PC hard drive itself.) I want to be able to pool ALL these images, eliminate duplicates and start fresh knowing everything is in one spot with out 3 or 4 of the same picture and folder. What is the best program to do this? I am thinking I want to dump all my picture into an external hard drive and start from there.

Thanks in advance

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mine for each task:

In my opinion the best for each task, all free:

Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder: great interface that saved me countless hours on a similar issue as the OP.

Picasa 3 for tagging, which you can still download.

Geosetter for batch renaming (seriously), and of course geotagging if you need to do that on old ones.

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My one spot

Two years ago I had the same issue. Stuff everywhere - CDs, flashdrives and various cloud sites. Many duplicates. I am not sure I even remember all the places I have uploaded to over the years.

I use Forever products. I first put all my photos in the PC based software Historian. It has a duplicate finder already and great editing and organizing tools. Then I upload to their permanent cloud storage and my backup plan. The plan works well for my needs.

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One click to open and organize thousands of photos on Mac

If you are a Mac user, then definitely you should use WidsMob Viewer software. You can view photos in different folders all over your Mac by opening one picture only. Moreover, it offers multiple viewing modes and editing features for organizing Mac pictures easily. Well, you can open this link ( to get more details or just free download WidsMob Viewer for a try.

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No Best Photo Organizing App

I do not think there is a best or better when it comes to asset management software. You simply want what solves the particular problem you have, for me, I find that DBGallery is able to meet my photo needs and it is quite easy to use.

My motto is, what works for you is the best until you can find another better than that,

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I think I have your solution!

There definitely is a photo organization tool that should fit your needs - ImageRanger (

Is there a software program that will detect duplicate pictures even though the label is different?
ImageRanger can do this

-- Is there a software program that will easily allow me to view the pictures quickly one by one so that I can label them accordingly?
ImageRanger does this too, in fact you can view thousands simultaneously, it indexes and caches too for super fast browsing

-- What is the best system for labeling photographs? I would think the label might include date, person, scenario, ?? or do file folders appropriately labeled also come into the picture? And what would the label for the pictures and file folders look like?
ImageRanger has a great tagging system, you can use whatever keywords you like to help separate and manage your files

Hope this was helpful!

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Folder structure AND Tagging in combination

I think the best way is to go two different ways in combination.

1: well-designed folder structure
2: tagging your photos

The folder structure will allow you to fast access your photos. Fast access to one "event" for example. But you will not have the abbility to search or filter in your photo collections.

The abbility for searching or filtering will you get with the tagging of your photos. And in example of windows you will get this abbility with inbuilt operating system functions. How to tag photos can be found in many posts (example: The problem with that is that it is very time consuming, but here too there are appropriate tools to help you in tagging (example:

I do not think that one way or the other is the right one. I think the combination of both ways brings the best results.

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Search tag?

I entered tags for 2 jpg's in 1 folder using the "groovy" method you posted. No problem. Then I tried using Cortana search in W10 to locate the 2 tagged pictures - using the same values that I used in the tags. Did not find the pictures. What's wrong?

I did find the pics with Explorer Search.

Post was last edited on January 24, 2019 6:16 AM PST

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