I am looking around for a photo management solution. I understand that some photo managers store tags in the photo themselves whilst some use an application specific database. I also understand that some managers overwrite the original image when editing and some do not.

However I have not been able to find a comparison sheet concisely summarizing the tagging and editing methods used by different programs. Therefore I would be very grateful if people could comment on photo management software they are familiar with, specifically in terms of how a) tags (in database or in photo) and b) edits (destructive or non-destructive) are implemented.

e.g. Program A, tags in metadata, edits destructive; Program B, tags in database, edits non-destructive, etc

Please also mention any noteworthy non-standard quirks in implementation (e.g. I have heard that Windows photo gallery does geotagging in a non-standard way).

Feel free to comment on any photo management software you are familiar with. However, I am particlarly interested in the following: iPhoto, Windows Photo Gallery, Picasa, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Lightroom, ACDSee, Corel Aftershot Pro

  • 1
    Your question, as it stands, is very broad. Broad questions are difficult to answer on our forum with any kind of meaningful objectivity. It would be best if you broke up your question into smaller questions that are as specific as possible. Each of your "secondary" questions should really be asked independently. I would also drop the explicit list of programs, and simply ask about tagging in general, with a note requesting details about any potentially unique features that certain programs may offer.
    – jrista
    Sep 9, 2012 at 17:44
  • Post has been made shorter and more to the point. Secondary questions have been dropped. I want to retain the mentioning of programs I am explicitly interested in but that part has been rephrased to encourage response related to any program, which would also be useful.
    – osm
    Sep 10, 2012 at 1:44

2 Answers 2


I've used iPhoto, Picasa, Adobe Bridge, and Lightroom, I can't speak on the others.

By far my favourite and most useful program to use is Lightroom. I have used it since Lightroom 1.3 and have upgraded each level to Lightroom 4. It's basically a cross between Adobe Bridge and Photoshop with the ease of use of iPhoto and Picasa.

Especially with Lightroom 4, it's never been easier to import, organise, tag, geotag, and edit photos. Geotagging is as simple as selecting images and clicking on a map. On import, you can have it automatically add copyright data, convert to digital negative format, add auto filters, and backup. Like iPhoto, Aperture, and Picasa, it is non-destructive editing. This means it "edits" the photos in the program only and you "save" the image by exporting it to an image file.

On the Mac, you can purchase via the Mac App Store for $150. I would assume it's the same price on Windows and you can buy through Adobe.

You can give it a spin with a free 30-day trial here.

One frustration I had with Picasa (from 4 years ago mind you) was that it tended to distort colour and contrast on export. I was never satisfied that it was exporting it the way I had edited it. Things may have changed.

A frustration with iPhoto is that it imports everything into it's own iPhoto database, making it tough to go and get them in Finder. Lightroom allows you to store them anywhere.

  • Thank you very much for your input. I will definitely be trialling Lightroom, especially since the version bought from Adobe has a cross-platform license.
    – osm
    Sep 10, 2012 at 11:26
  • You addressed edit handling but not tag handling. Could you please comment on how tagging is handled in the software you are familiar with? I know that in Picasa, general tags and geotags are stored in metadata whilst people tags are not. If tags are stored in database rather than metadata, is there an option to embed into metadata upon export? If they are stored in metadata, is there an option to strip metadata upon export/publishing?
    – osm
    Sep 10, 2012 at 11:34
  • 1
    Unfortunately, I have only used Lightroom for tags. All tags and geotags are saved directly into the metadata. You can choose to strip metadata on export, but default is to include all tags and other metadata. Editing tags is done by selecting the photo(s) and typing them in the tags field on the right-hand panel. It's a really simple system, it couldn't be easier.
    – ntmw
    Sep 10, 2012 at 11:38

I have just found a useful site that provides a comparison of how tags and other metadata are handled in across a range of popular applications


Its basically what I was looking for (re tagging methods), although it is a bit dated (seems to have been written in 2010) and hence is not based on most recent versions of the software, and also does not compare how edits are handled in different applications.

  • This doesn't seem to be available any longer. "Happy Digital Photos is now off-line." Oct 21, 2013 at 0:41

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