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Photo management software

We test 12 programs that store and share your digital pictures.
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So-called “Kodak moments” aren’t what they used to be. They used to be quite rare. These days, thanks to the ubiquity of digital cameras, you can capture as many of these digital treasures as you can store. At a rate of dozens, hundreds or even thousands per month. Shifting the focus from "Did you get it?" to, “Where do you put them?” and “How do you find the best ones when you want them?”

That’s where photo management software comes in. 

CHOICE put 12 photo management packages priced from $0 to $135 to the test to see how well they help sort out the digital clutter. We looked primarily at how easy they are to use – as you’ll spend most of your time using them to organise your collections – but also considered features offered, such as image editing and online sharing.

For more information on digital storage see Storage as part of Computers and accessories.

Models tested

  • ACDSee Photo Manager 12
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 9
  • Apple iPhoto
  • ArcSoft Media Impression 2
  • Corel PaintShop Photo Express 2010
  • Google Picasa
  • PhotoLightning
  • Serif Album Plus X4
  • Sony Photo Go
  • Wondershare Photo Collage Studio 4.2
  • Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 6
  • Yorba Shotwell
  • Zoner Photo Studio 12 Home
  • Microsoft Windows Live Photo Gallery

How we test

Photo management is largely about ease of use – the more photos you have, the harder it can be to maintain your picture albums, so good software should make managing your photos a breeze. We look at the initial setup of each program, its inbuilt help information including wizards, how easy it is to organise images, and tools for sharing. As computers allow for easy image editing, most photo management packages also come with basic editing functionality. We test this too, performing common functions like cropping, resizing, and red eye removal.

For each package we import a collection of standard images that a typical user may have, including landscape, family happy snaps and portraits (with red eye and without). We split these into three separate collections and then: 

  • Rename the collections.
  • Batch change the keyword/tag of each collection.
  • Crop two images to 1600 x 1200 pixels.
  • Resize an image to 1024 x 768 pixels.
  • Use red eye reduction on a test image.
  • Rotate an image 90 degrees clockwise.
  • Batch auto-correct the test collection of images
  • Apply a batch image filter (black and white) to the whole collection.

Mac and Linux

Although the test focused on photo management packages for Windows, we wanted to see how well Apple and Linux offerings compare too, so we included Apple’s iPhoto (Mac) and Yorba’s Shotwell (Linux).
While iPhoto comes as part of the $69 iLife Suite or by itself for $17 from the online Mac App Store, it is also free with any Mac and therefore dominates this category on the Mac platform.
For Linux, while there a range of open-source packages to choose from, we included Yorba’s Shotwell digital photo organiser as it comes bundled with Ubuntu 10.10 and Fedora 14, two of the most popular versions of Linux.

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