5 Best Photo Management Software In 2023

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Photo Management Software: Every day, people all over the world take too many photos to count. About 95 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every day, and that doesn’t include all the photos that are sent to other services, taken with DSLRs, or never uploaded. If you love your smartphone or digital camera, you probably take hundreds of photos by yourself every year. If you’re a professional photographer, that number will grow even faster.

Because of this, many photographers end up with a lot of pictures but no good way to sort through them. Your computer’s operating system might have a very simple way to organize your photos, like the macOS Photos app, but with so many photos being made these days, it’s hard for a simple programme to keep up. What should a photographer do then?

After putting my own haphazardly organized photo collection through a series of tests, I’ve found that ACDSee Photo Studio is the best programme for managing photos, whether you have a few to sort through or thousands. It has a good set of filters and tags, is easy to use, and works well with tens of thousands of high-resolution images in a photo collection.

If you’re a casual photographer on a tight budget who wants a great photo manager, you might want to look at the free options I tested. They offer simpler ways to mark and sort your collection, but you can’t beat the price. The interfaces take some time to get used to and are not nearly as powerful as ACDSee, but they can still help you organize an unorganized “Photos” folder.

1. SmartPix Manager

SmartPix Manager
Even though SmartPix Manager has gone from version 12 to version 20, it doesn’t feel like much has changed since I last looked at it. The interface and process for importing are the same, and the performance seems about the same as well. It works with all versions of Windows, all the way back to Vista (even though nobody should be using Vista anymore).

When you first start up SmartPix, you have to import all of your pictures. This is a much slower way to do things than some of the other managers I looked at, but you can add keywords while importing. That wasn’t very helpful for me because I keep my pictures in folders for each month, but it might be for you if you keep things in a different way. I was able to get around it by choosing no keywords and checking the “Do not prompt me” box, but the initial import process is still quite slow on my computer, despite its tech specs.

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2. ThumbsPlus

Funny fact: the first time I ran ThumbsPlus, it crashed when it tried to load because my main drive didn’t have a volume label, which it seems to use to tell drives apart. I didn’t want to mess up my backup drive by accident, so I just called it “Local Disk” (which is the default name anyways).

ThumbsPlus seems to ignore the JPEG previews that are already in RAW files and insists on making a new thumbnail for each one, just like some of the other slow managers I looked at. This is a very slow process, but at least the user can load the programme while it scans. SmartPix doesn’t let you do that. This benefit doesn’t last long, though, because the rest of the show isn’t worth waiting for.

As a photo organizer, it doesn’t really compare to the other programmes I looked at that were more complete and well-made. It has basic flags and lets you add keywords to the metadata, but it doesn’t have star ratings or colour labels to help you choose the best images. There also seems to be a problem with importing basic EXIF data, as the organization names for some tags get messed up.

One surprising and unique thing about ThumbsPlus is that you can write Python scripts to do things with your images. I don’t see how this would help most photographers, but if you are also a programmer, you might enjoy writing scripts. If you don’t like this specific feature, you should look for a photo manager somewhere else.

3. Adobe Bridge CC

Adobe Bridge CC
Adobe Bridge CC is likely already on your computer if you use any Adobe Creative Cloud software. Even if you haven’t installed it, you may be able to use it through your Creative Cloud subscription, even if you don’t have it installed. It’s not a stand-alone programme, but it works with the rest of the Creative Cloud software suite to help you keep all your digital assets in one place.

Like ACDSee, it doesn’t require you to import your images before you can start working with them. This saves a lot of time. It also shares basic star ratings with other programmes. However, unless you’re using Adobe programmes, that seems to be the extent of its cross-program compatibility beyond IPTC standard tags.

If you use Lightroom Classic CC, your tagging system will move between the two, but when you make a change in Bridge, you’ll need to refresh your Lightroom catalogue with the new information from Bridge. Even if all you did was add a star rating, it’s annoying that this process deletes any changes you made to the image in Lightroom instead of syncing them.

It seems like Adobe really dropped the ball here in terms of interoperability, especially since they control the whole ecosystem. They could have made a great standardized system, but it seems like they didn’t want to bother. The bridge has some clear advantages in terms of speed and polish, but this annoying problem keeps it from being the best photo manager.

4. IMatch

After some really bad programmes, IMatch was a welcome change. I still needed to import all of my files into the database, but at least it told me how long it would take. The interface is simple but well-thought-out, and there are a lot more labels, tags, and star ratings than in any other programme I looked at.

Professional photographers who need to share work with their private clients can also find an interesting option on IMatch. If you install the IMatch Anywhere extension, you can look at your database (or parts of it) over the web. None of the other programmes I looked at had the same features, so photographers who work closely with clients may want to choose IMatch.

Overall, IMatch is a great choice if you need to manage a lot of files. Only in the categories of “ease of use” and “fast and responsive” does it fall a little short, and it’s definitely not for casual users. The built-in Lightroom catalogue importer will be helpful for professional photographers who want to switch from Lightroom to a more powerful organization system.

If you have more patience than I do or aren’t interested in ACDSee, IMatch is a great choice for a professional photographer with a large image collection. It’s the most expensive programme I looked $109.99 USD, and it’s only for Windows, but it might be just what you need.

5. MAGIX Photo Manager

MAGIX Photo Manager
MAGIX Photo Manager was one of the more difficult programmes to set up. The free 29-day trial version needs a serial key, which you can only get by making a MAGIX account. During the installation process, it asked me to install a bunch of other programmes, like a music-making programme and a system cleaner, that I had no interest in. I don’t know if these programmes come with the full version installer, but when a developer tries to get you to use someone else’s programmes during the installation process, that’s usually a red flag.

MAGIX took a long time to make thumbnails for each picture, and it seems to focus more on exporting pictures and making slideshows than on helping you manage your pictures. You can set basic star ratings, keywords, and categories, but the window for doing so is hidden by default. When you turn it on, it looks like an afterthought because it is so small. When you consider that MAGIX costs $49.99, you can see that there are better ways to manage your photos.

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