I have a recently bought a NAS and am in the process of transferring my photo collection onto it. I probably have over 300GB of pictures (many in various RAW formats). At the moment these are just organized in “old fashioned” file structures but I have am hoping to improve this to a some sort of cross referenced tagging system. So far though I am running into a few problems and any help would be appreciated. I have tried using the following software:

  • Windows photo gallery - and this appears to rapidly retrieve photos from the NAS based on chose tag words. The main down side that I have found so far is that the windows camera codec does not yet support my S95 RAW files and so they are not visible.
  • Picasa – this looks as though it might work well on a local drive (and certainly get good reviews) but I am finding it very slow when scanning the photo library on the NAS (even when left for a number of hours the scan in only approx. 5% complete!). I can live with a bit of a delay when using the NAS but this is unworkable - am I getting something wrong?
  • Various other photo viewers - Although they allow me to see my RAW files do not appear to support tagging and the development of a cross referenced library.

I am also considering looking at getting Lightroom but don’t want to shell out the money only to find it is as slow as Picasa.

Finally, my ideal would be to have different layers of tags so for example I could tag all my pictures from the “Lake District” but then also have the option of sub dividing within this category based on the valley etc. Without different levels of tagging I risk winding up with an unwieldy list of tag words. I do not know if this is possible/normal but if anyone has any points about what software packages support this arrangement that would also be appreciated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is very similar and may help you - photo.stackexchange.com/questions/14865/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can someone suggest a tag synonym of organization? I thought it was already decided in meta to use American english meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/146/… and meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/48/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the slowness in indexing your image that is stored in the NAS: if you're connecting to your NAS wirelessly (by WiFi), consider plugin to the router with ethernet cable, that will significantly increase the network performance when accessing NAS files; 2. If you're using the older Wireles G standard router, consider upgrade your router to wireless N standard. I used to have the same slowness when indexing files. I just connect my laptop (with a ethernet cable) to the router, instead of using WiFi connection. That boost the speed up to 10 times. try it. \$\endgroup\$
    – rvpals
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt — the tag has to exist first, and has to be more used than the synonym. I'd say, given the meta discussion, to just I ahead and start retagging. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 16:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ NAS is a computer term. It means "Network Attached Storage", and basically it's a dedicated black-box server which exports a filesystem over a standard network protocol. They vary from cheap home units to gigantic enterprise-class systems. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 5, 2012 at 0:33

3 Answers 3


Lightroom is the way to go. Download the trial and give it a try, though I do recommend reading a bit or watching a few videos first to get the most out of your trial.

Lightroom will let you do whatever you wish on the file system side, and then offer flexibility beyond it. This is important, because this NAS won't be your last, and in fact, you may have more than one eventually. Lightroom does not care where your images are, and even functions with them offline (though not as well).

By arranging things on your harddrive, you are providing information about your images that will be lost when your images are separated from your hardrive, such as posting onto Flickr. The info is useful to you...I do understand that. However, the fact that the image came from "2010/Christmas2010" will not transfer to your Flickr upload, so it is important that you leverage something else, in particular keywords and tags that can be embedded into the image.

You can arrange your photos however you wish on the hard drive (date, event, or one big directory if you wish) and then in Lightroom create collections, tags, keywords and even what are called 'smart collections' that dynamically add images. You can tag images with keywords that will write to EXIF/IPTC, and use Lightroom's filters and search to show you related images. However it can be a bit of a pain to constantly search and filter, so Lightroom offers Collections, which are 'virtual directories' that contain images you have assigned to them. Of course, these have no relation to the actual directories on your hard drive, which is nice...you no longer have to worry about this aspect of organizing. And finally, there are Smart Collections, or virtual directories that are dynamic and automatic, so for example, you can create a Smart Collection based on certain keywords. Every new image with that keyword will be automatically added to the Smart Collection.

I find it helpful to have my images in directories related to year, then by day that I took the image: (2010/2010-12-25), because I recall when I took photos. Lightroom does this for me with its import utility. I simply tell Lightroom how I want to import, and it does automatically every time. Then, I tag images with keywords, typically related to events or subjects. If I have a particular event or project, I will create a collection to make it easy to return to (vs searching or filtering the view). For some items I create smart collections that are dynamic, such as images of family members.

When I upload to Smugmug, all the tags and keywords stay with the image, and they are easy to find on Smugmug as well.

Give Lightroom a try.


For Linux users, I would recommend Digikam. http://www.digikam.org

  • works with NAS
  • Tag support is great.
  • Raw is supported. After having used it for a while, I'd say it is okay but not the best. (I don't like that I don't get instant preview.)

Take a look at our Daminion - the network-based photo organizing software.

Daminion benefits are:

  • True multi-user access unlike Lightroom (has the server version)
  • Supports NAS devices
  • Supports multi-level tag hierarchy
  • Can automatically write tags into XMP/IPTC/MWG metadata
  • Version control
  • Supports all Camera RAW formats, video, audio, vector, PDF and MS office formats
  • Can be used with Lightroom simultaneously: Daminion for multi-user access, LR for RAW adjustments. Thanks to XMP support both programs can easily exchange the information.
  • Easy and clean user interface with focus on file management

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