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Have you ever found yourself looking for an image, searching through your computer, and then checking all of your memory cards, hoping you could locate it? I know I’ve been there, desperately searching for a pet portrait I shot for a client that she requested in print after the dog passed away. And it got me wondering, what’s the best photo management software for professional photographers?
It’s estimated that humans will take over one and a half trillion photos this year! No wonder it feels like we’re drowning in digital images. So, finding a way to manage, organize, and store all of those photos we take is a major priority.
Plus, since we all have so many images, we need a way to quickly and easily find them when we need them. No more searching through memory cards one by one. It’s time to let your photo management software do the work for you.
In this article, we’ll show you our picks for the best photo management software for professional photographers. You’ll discover:
- benefits of organizing your photos;
- things to consider when shopping for photo management software;
- an overview of the different photo organizing software available;
- and a few other things to take into consideration before you decide which software to buy.
Table of contents
- Why should you organize your photos?
- Things to consider when shopping for photo management software
- 1. Adobe Bridge
- 2. Adobe Lightroom Classic
- 3. ACDSee
- 4. CyberLink PhotoDirector
- 5. FastStone
- 6. digiKam Photo Manager
- 🏆 Final Verdict: Best Photo Management Software for Professional Photographers
Why should you organize your photos?
Organizing your photos just makes sense. It makes you more efficient, cleans up your workflow, and makes it easy for you to find specific images. Additionally, some of the software can locate and eliminate duplicate files and clear up space on your computer.
Things to consider when shopping for photo management software
First, there are two main types of photo management software: 1) programs that are designed only to store and manage image files and 2) programs that organize images and also have image editing functionality.
This review includes both types of software, and we’ll let you know if the program includes image editing but our reviews will focus on the photo management aspect. Don’t worry, though, we’ve also reviewed the best photo editing software for professional photographers!
The best photo management software will have features that meet your specific needs. And, those needs may vary from one photographer to the next. However, here are the features that everyone should look for:
- An image search feature
- Importing and exporting in many file formats, including JPG, TIF, PNG, etc
- Support for RAW files
- Creating folders and subfolders
- The ability to tag and label images
- Resizing images
We evaluated the software based on the following:
- Key Features: What are the standout features of the software? Is there a feature you can’t get anywhere else? Does it have all of the features we listed above?
- Functionality: Does this software do all the things I need it to do? What’s missing and is it something I can live without?
- Ease of use: How difficult will it be to learn this new program?
- Product Reviews and Customer Service: How do current users rate the software?
- Price: How much does it cost? Is it a good value compared to other software on the market?
Additionally, all of the programs below will work on either macOS or Windows PC unless otherwise stated.
And with that, here are the reviews!
|1. Adobe Bridge||FREE||–||Read Review|
|2. Adobe Lightroom Classic||$9.99/mo||7 days||Read Review|
|3. ACDSee||$59.99 and up||30 days||Read Review|
|4. CyberLink PhotoDirector||$14.99/mo or $99.99||30 days||Read Review|
|5. FastStone||FREE/$34.95||30 days||Read Review|
|6. digiKam Photo Manager||FREE||–||Read Review|
1. Adobe Bridge
If you’re already using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop to edit your images and are looking to add a photo organizer to your workflow, Bridge is the perfect solution for you. Bridge lets you preview, edit, and organize multiple images at once. It gives you easy access to the metadata for adding tags and labels for easy searching.
And, since it’s part of the Adobe suite of products, it works seamlessly to allow you to open your images in Camera Raw or Photoshop for editing.
- Adobe Portfolio lets you build PDF contact sheets of your images.
- If you sell your images as stock photography, you can publish directly from Bridge to Adobe Stock.
- Photo Downloader allows you to import photos and rename them or convert them to DNG on import.
Bridge is included with any of the Adobe Creative Suite plans, but even if you aren’t an Adobe subscriber, you can download and use Bridge absolutely free.
(We aren’t sure how long Adobe will offer this free download, so take advantage of it while you can!)
Adobe Bridge Advantages
– Tons of organizational tools and powerful search features
– Batch renaming and exporting with multiple size and scale options
– Compatible with many kinds of non-image digital assets (AI, HTML, PDF, INDD, and more)
Adobe Bridge Disadvantages
– Software can run slowly until all images are cached
– Requires additional software for editing
Adobe Bridge is the perfect photo organizing solution for professional photographers who are already using the Adobe Creative Suite for editing and need to add photo management software. That said, it’s a free and powerful program that anyone can use to organize images – with or without the rest of the Adobe Suite.
2. Adobe Lightroom Classic
Lightroom is an image catalog, raw processor, and photo editor all-in-one. If you’re the type of photographer who simply uses an editor to enhance, color-correct, and crop, then a program like Lightroom might be the only software you need.
Adobe offers two versions of Lightroom — CC and Classic. Both are included with their $9.99/month Photography Plan, but there are slight differences. Lightroom CC is a trimmed-down version of the software and it stores all of your photos on the cloud. The Classic version is more robust and requires you to store all of your images on your computer.
We recommend Lightroom Classic over the cloud-based CC version because it has a lot more tools for organizing your photos and you won’t have to pay the required fee for online storage.
Since Lightroom Classic is both an editor and a file manager, you have a ton of importing options that you don’t get from some of the non-editor programs. For example, you have the option to apply presets to a batch of images while they’re importing, which could really speed up your workflow.
- The face detection feature finds images by recognizing people in your images.
- Use tools like ratings, keywords, and flags to automatically sort images into Smart Collections
- Supports tethering
- The ability to create customized contact sheets to share with clients
Individual plans start at $9.99/mo, Try before you buy with a Free 7-day Trial
Adobe Lightroom Classic Advantages
– All-in-one solution for photo management and editing
– Batch keywords on import for easy searching later
Adobe Lightroom Classic Disadvantages
– Import process is tedious but necessary, especially for first-time users with a large collection of images
– Subscription-based cost model is a deal-breaker for some users
Lightroom Classic has been the gold standard for 15 years, and for good reason. That is, as long as you’ve got the patience for importing images and don’t mind Adobe’s subscription pricing. Lightroom is a top-notch photo manager and image editor in one, fully capable of standing up to the workflow of a professional photographer.
ACDSee is another all-in-one that features a surprisingly powerful layers-based photo editing program combined with a feature-rich digital asset manager.
Photo Studio, ACDSee’s digital asset management tool, has customizable categories, facial recognition, batch renaming and processing, keyword list imports, customizable keyboard shortcuts, location data & geotagging, supports multiple file formats, and much more.
- ACDSee Mobile Sync quickly and easily lets you transfer photos and video from your iOS or Android mobile device directly to the ACDSee Photo Studio
- Photos can be quickly accessed via the software without importing them first
- You have the ability to import and apply Photoshop plugins to your images
Plans start at $59.99, Try before you buy with a Free 30-day trial
– It’s not necessary to import files
– Lots of free tutorials and workshops for beginners
– Mac and PC versions are slightly different. For example, the Mac version lacks facial recognition
– ACDSee’s interface can be overwhelming
ACDSee may not have the name recognition that its competition has, but the software has been around since the mid-90s, and has some very loyal long-time users. It’s a great solution for those who have very large photo collections, creative teams, or marketing departments who need quick access to their photo libraries.
4. CyberLink PhotoDirector
CyberLink PhotoDirector began as an alternative to Lightroom but has evolved into an all-in-one photo organizing program with more advanced photo editing functions than you’d get with Lightroom. It includes features like AI sky replacement, masking, AI filters, layers-based editing, and liquify-style editing tools, to name a few.
But, we’re here to focus on asset management, so how does it stack up? PhotoDirector is a fantastic piece of software. It would be ideal for beginners. It’s extremely user-friendly while also being fast and powerful. However, it’s not without a few shortcomings. As of now, only nine of the most popular image formats are supported. That said, RAW formats are supported and there are a lot more options for importing video files.
As far as organizing images, you can add keywords, tags, star ratings, color labels, and categories, just like you can with Lightroom.
As a bonus for subscribing, you are given access to use over 4,000,000 stock photos from Shutterstock and Getty Images and can search for them directly from within the software. For those who do a lot of composites, sky replacements, and such, this could be a big advantage.
- Facial recognition powered by AI to help categorize and locate photos
- Features that rival Lightroom at a significantly lower cost
- Lots of support for video files
Subscribe for $14.99/month or $54.99/year. Or buy outright for $99.99. Try before you buy with a Free 30-day trial.
CyberLink PhotoDirector Advantages
– Supports tethered shooting for Canon and Nikon
– Subscription includes access to stock photography from Shutterstock and Getty Images
CyberLink PhotoDirector Disadvantages
– No geotagging
– Slow to support Raw files for brand new camera bodies
CyberLink PhotoDirector is a great option for beginners who are looking for a low-cost, all-in-one option that is simple to use and includes support for both photos and videos.
FastStone is a no-nonsense photo organizing and image viewing program that can do basic edits. If you’re the photographer who doesn’t do much more than crop, resize, and maybe add a watermark to your images but you desperately need to get organized — this is the program for you.
It’s not as flashy as the other programs we’ve reviewed here, but it’s lightning-fast. It includes file tagging, batch processing & renaming, and the ability to print contact sheets. But, you won’t find things like face detection or geotagging here.
The FastStone platform includes four sub-products that are used to complete various tasks. They can each be purchased separately based on your needs:
- Image Viewer: this is the main photo management program. It includes features like red-eye removal, resizing, color adjustments, batch processing, and creating slideshows.
- Screen Capture: a screen capture tool for taking screenshots, including scrolling web pages and recording screen activities.
- MaxView: an extremely fast image viewer that can view images in all major formats, including Zip and RAR files. It can also rotate, resize, and print.
- PhotoResizer: Lets you convert, rename, crop, and rotate your photos as well as add watermarks in batch mode.
- Organize, move, arrange, and manage your files with drag and drop support
- Compatibility with virtually any file format available
- Lots of tools for metadata editing
- Red-eye removal
Image Viewer is free for home use, $34.95 for commercial
Photo Resizer $19.95
Try before you buy with a Free 30-day trial
FastStone Image Viewer Advantages
– Extremely fast
– Tons of viewing and searching options
FastStone Image Viewer Disadvantages
– Windows PC only
– Very basic editing tools
If you’re looking for free photo management software and you already have a photo editor or you don’t need anything more than basic editing, this is a good, bare-bones option.
6. digiKam Photo Manager
If you have a huge library of 100,000 or more images to organize, look no further than digiKam Photo Manager. This program is different than the others on our list in that it’s an open-source program — meaning if you’re so inclined, you can view the software’s source code. It’s also got the ability to do some basic image editing.
As far as image organization goes, you can manage photos by saving them in albums, which are sorted by name and date. You can add tags to make images easy to find later. You can also add star ratings, flags, labels, and colors. Geotagging, batch processing & renaming, and the ability to edit metadata are other important features.
- The “Similarity” feature helps locate images that are duplicates or similar
- Face detection and recognition can detect both human and animal faces
- Support for RAW files includes the latest camera models
digiKam is open source and 100% free to download and use
FastStone Image Viewer Advantages
– Open-Source program with a large community is updated regularly with a lot of support
– Powerful search capability
FastStone Image Viewer Disadvantages
– Complicated interface for beginners
– Basic photo editing
This software is best for photographers who have massive photo libraries to organize, but who are also tech-minded and interested in open-source software.
🏆 Final Verdict: Best Photo Management Software for Professional Photographers
The best photo organization software for one photographer may not be the best one for another. It really depends on how large your photo library is, what kind of file types you’re working with, and the level of editing you do.
Taking into account everything above, here’s our pick for the best photo editing software for professional photographers:
If you’re a professional photographer who already has an editing workflow in place but wants to add a photo management solution — especially if you use Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, then Adobe Bridge is the perfect solution for you. They work seamlessly together. What’s more, this program is absolutely free!
Runner Up: If you’re a photographer who is looking for an all-in-one solution that you can use for organizing and cataloging your photos and also for doing most of your photo editing, you can’t go wrong with the gold standard Adobe Lightroom Classic.