I recently went on a 2 week holiday and I took about 3,000 photos (I'm a sucker for taking photos in bursts of 3 or so to catch motion) I'm looking for some software that will let me sift through these images in full screen and mark the ones that I want to keep.

Being able to tag them and specify a folder that they go in by tag would also be useful.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a software package that will allow me to do this?

EDIT: I'd prefer free open source software or at least software that is quite cheap.

EDIT To answer comments

OS of Choice is Windows

Cheap is less than £30 UK ($45?)

  • 4
    I use Picasa (which is free), it lets you go through in full and star keepers. Lightroom and Aperture seem to be the most popular alternatives. A good starting point might be to take a look at: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/8/…
    – forsvarir
    Dec 7, 2011 at 13:54
  • Check out the free Daminion photo management software. Dec 7, 2011 at 14:58
  • 2
    define "quite cheap". I consider Lightroom and Bibble to be in that category, at only a few hundred dollars each, you may not.
    – jwenting
    Dec 8, 2011 at 5:58
  • 1
    Personally 'a few hundred dollars each' is not what I'd define as quite cheap! If someone asked me to recommend something and used 'quiote cheap' as a description I'd guess they were looking at a maximum of under a hundred dollars.
    – user7226
    Dec 8, 2011 at 13:27
  • 2
    Adobe Lightroom 4 can be easily found for around $100 these days. It is now realistic to consider this cheap. Lightroom 3 could easily be found for well under $100USD as well.
    – dpollitt
    Mar 19, 2013 at 16:43

8 Answers 8


I used Picasa from Google for quite a while before deciding to move to Lightroom.

  • It's free.
  • Good tagging options
  • Decent editing options (but really only for basic editing)
  • Given the possible/likely progression to Lightroom later on, is there an easy way to 'switch' when the time comes? e.g. can you export the library to Lr but keep tags, edits, ratings, whatever? Mar 19, 2013 at 0:59

I don't like filling my library and hard disk with thumbnails and library data for tons of images that failed. So I use my own Image View Plus More (free to download) to sift through my RAW images before importing to Lightroom, because Lightroom is just too slow with imports, thumbnail generation etc. Imgview+ works directly on the compactflash card.

If I shoot a concert I take like 800 images in 2-3 hours and need to trim those down to 50-100. If I am on a trip I come home with 3000 images, and often it is like 10-20 of the same scene with different settings and angles and viewpoints, so I open the raws in imgview and use the "showlist", "RAW, load thumbnail" (key 'p'), and "categorisation" (shortcut key 'k') mechanics.

As a viewer, the program can be set (in preferences) to load the jpeg out of the raw, which makes it very fast. It buffers the entire raw in memory for raw development and thumbnail extraction, and reads the raw using turbojpeglib, straight from the buffered memory (in Imgview 3, not version 2 which would work from the drive). So you can quickly view next and previous images with page up/down or the mousewheel. When you save a "showlist", it saves the list of photos you have in the photo viewing reel, as well as their "category", which you can name as you like. See screenshot. After sifting through all the raws you can select, remove (from showlist) or delete from disk selected categories. You assign categories on keys 0-9.

I tend to just use the "good" category, and then delete all cat. 0 in the end. Then I can import into Lightroom, or select all cat. 1 and "copy all to a new folder" ("copy originals" or as jpegs if I just want a quick and dirty raw development without tweaking and without Lightroom - I could be travelling and without my lightroom computer).

For comparing similar shots I use the "buffers" mechanics, where I can assign images to hotkeys 1-9, and quickly swap between them, or use side by side comparison crtl+shift+h or ctrl+shift+v (buffer 1 and 2 gets merged horizontal or vertical alignment, with a preset width/color of separator line).


Categorisation filtering

Side-by-side comparison:


  • Do you have a link to the free download? Mar 19, 2013 at 15:41
  • sequoiagrove.dk/visions It has imgview2.8 (32bit) and imgview 3 (64bit). If you need imgview3 (32bit) let me know, then I have to set up a MSsetup project for 32bit. If you wait 30 mins to DL the 64bit version, I will have updated it to feature the standard unsharp mask for sharpening instead of using 4 hardcoded filters. Mar 19, 2013 at 16:30
  • 2.8 download link is broken.
    – Peter pete
    Mar 19, 2013 at 21:27
  • not anymore :) remember to reload the page (refresh the cache) Mar 19, 2013 at 21:33
  • Out of curiosity as it's free is the source code available? Mar 20, 2013 at 14:10

I use Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits, It is the fastest photo selection tool I have found. You can download a trial version useable for 1 month.

I use it for wadding through wedding photos and sports images.

Files load almost instantly (on a 2gb MacBook)

Once you have culled the unwanted images you can edit the metadata to include tags, these are then serchable in finder/windows search. you can then move these into a folder you want.


I use Zoner Photo Studio, free download, it allows me to scroll through all my pictures in full screen and choose which ones to keep. Pretty useful given that I shoot all my pics in RAW, it comes with a manager to transfer to specific folder etc. But I only use it to view my pics from my memory card on a decent laptop and I must admit I can scroll through them very quickly. Then I import them to Lightroom. Even though I have the option of editing on the Zoner editor, I don't use it. Therefore, I would rather not comment or rate it because it would not be fair. For my demands, this piece of software earns a 5 Star, given it's free, why don't you give it a try - there is no harm. But there is also a paid version, which I haven't tried -because as I said, the free version satisfies my needs.


I use FastPictureViewer 64 to sift through my images after shooting. It lets me scroll using my mouse fast and add star ratings with 1-5 number keys. I can delete jpg and raw with one keystroke as well. Since the application displays using accelerated video hardware, it's really fast. You can set up keystrokes to save to folders, etc.

Helps me cull images off the card before I do the import. Since the images then have star ratings, it helps the next processing steps.

Not free, but there are trials available.

  • "FastPictureViewer Home Basic Edition (which supports JPEG and Microsoft HD Photo) is available free of charge for personal, non-profit or educational uses (freeware license)." fastpictureviewer.com/faq/#license It is color managed, so I use it as a jpeg viewer. Aug 4, 2017 at 9:24

I don't know of any software specifically for doing this but my suggestion is to do it 'by hand' with whatever tools are available as finding and assessing a management tool can take a very long time and many of them work only in certain ways that may be incompatible with how you like to do things.

I use Windows so when I've been in a similar situation what I've done first is copy all the files to a new directory. Then using file explorere and viewing thumbnails I've deleted any obviously bad ones. Then using Windows Photo Gallery I've gone through the photos and deleted ones I don't like or that are a touch blurry. Keep deleting until you've got a reasonable number of photos. For 3000 raw images I'd expect to get at least 30 and maybe as many as 90 or 100. Just choose a number to aim for and keep deleting until you're there.

Once you've got a manageable number of photos you can subdivide by category or whatever but the key point is to be ruthless in getting rid of originals that aren't absolutely superb in the first place.

  • 3,000 images and you expect to keep 30? I take on average 1,000 at a wedding and will get at least 200 good ones. Dec 7, 2011 at 15:01
  • @Graeme: Depends on how ruthless you're being (see last paragraph), and where you fall on the tradeoff between "technically great" and "capturing the moment". (Or maybe your weddings are better-lit than mine. ;) )
    – Michael H.
    Dec 7, 2011 at 16:05
  • ha, that remains to be seen. Dec 7, 2011 at 16:56
  • I mostly do erotica so a 'superb' rate of one in a hundred is good for me. I'm not talking about a technically accurate photo thats well lit, in focus, etc but one that stands out from the crowd and shouts 'look at me!'
    – user7226
    Dec 8, 2011 at 13:23

I am using an old version of ACDSee, version 3.0.

It allows you to go through the photos quickly (it prebuffers the next and previous photo, so the switching is instant) using the keyboard or mouse wheel. Photos can be deleted to recyle bin by pressing Del. These functions make it easy to decide which photo to keep.

Furthermore, you can switch to thumbnail mode using Enter, select some photos, switch back to view mode and compare only those photos.


I have the same problem and I never get down to wading through all those shots, no matter what the software is. So here's my current strategy: I use Wallpaper Slideshow Pro to have my windows desktop cycle through all those shots and when I see one, I note down the picture number on a list (yes, old school paper and pencil, but I've asked the developer to add a feature that speaks to that need). That list is slowly but surely getting longer and at one point, I think I will sit down and at least work on those selected shots.

I know this is not exactly what you are trying to do, but at least it's a fun way to handle all those shots that you otherwise never look at unless you sit down and wade through them, as you say.

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