Recently, my collection of photos from the past years has jumped over the limit of 7 Gb. And it is starting to be increasingly difficult to maintain, or to search through, so I've decided to invest in some kind of photo management software.

The main considerations being,
- ability to tag people (well, tag in general)
- it having a simple (clean) interface
- it should not store metadata in images, but instead in separate files (for example, in a file in a folder where the images it relates to are stored)

Can anyone give me their experiences with their current choices, considering?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why you don't want to store metadata in images? Metadata is the best way to recover all your annotations in case of the database problems. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 25, 2013 at 13:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I laugh a bit simply because of the arbitrary 7GB limit. With a modern camera shooting RAW, I blow through 100GB in 6 hours. :) Granted, it's never too early to consider finding ways to organize your photos better and I'm sure your average file size is far smaller than mine. A quantity of photos would be helpful in understanding the scale though. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Nov 25, 2013 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


The closest app which satisfies that list of criteria is Microsoft Windows Photo Gallery. It is a free application which supports RAW files (providing the codec is installed.) Tagging can be done by location and built in face detection. While the metadata is not stored in a separate file it uses the (formerly Adobe specific) XMP metadata system, which makes the data accessible to other applications should you wish to switch later. I've used it on well over 1TB of images.

Google Picasa is also free and does face detection and tagging. But (last time I checked) it stores the data in a proprietary data file and that database is not stored with the images (so cannot be easily exported between machines).

Adobe Lightroom (and Adobe Bridge) store their metadata in a separate XMP file for each image but don't allow for automated face detection and tagging. While definitely not free you can get a 30 day trial to see if you think it's worth the money first.

Extensis Portfolio may also suit your needs although it looks to maintain its own private database so it depends on how important that is to you.

All these applications work on the Window 7 OS (tagged in the question.) There are other systems listed in What software is focused on reviewing and organizing images? but most don't meet your criteria to the same level as the ones included here.


Personally, I use Lightroom for most of my cataloging. Between the ability to handle RAW files, keyword tag and rate images, change EXIF information in bulk, create online galleries and edit images in a non-destructive manner, Lightroom is really a great value for the money and I've used it for maintaining catalogs with thousands of photos taking 100 gigabytes or more.

Cheap and/or free solutions can probably still do the job as well, but for ease of use and longevity of not growing out of it, Lightroom does a pretty spectacular job.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.