I would like to manage my photos such that they all get uploaded to an always-on server. That server then renames the files based on date the image was taken, and files away the images in a folder based on the date the image was taken.

Thereafter, I would like to be able to browse through those images via a software, and then 1. make occasional edits - which edits should be written to the original file, and 2. add tags - which tags should be written to the image in IPTC tags.

I have used Aperture for many years. I really like Aperture but there are many issues using Aperture: all changes to photos should only be made through one computer, and it is not being updated any longer by Apple. So now, I do not want to get tied to a specific software for image management. Hence the desire for all information to be captured in image tags and caption. For albums, I can always make albums by adding suitable tags to image files and then making a smart folder using those tags or ideally in this elusive software that I am seeking :).

So, the question is what software is good for this photo management situation. As of now the best option I have found is Picasa. Although I am yet to confirm if Picasa writes everything back to the files.

Just for reference:

Few years ago there was a post on this site asking the same question, but I am unable to comment for want to reputation points... I think there may be new solutions in the market to do what I want to do and what the author of this post that I linked to wanted to achieve. (A good library-less photo manager for Mac?)

  • I have read online that Lightroom can be used in a manner that all edits and tags are written to the files and that Lightroom reads from folders. So minimal library maintained by Lightroom. Any insights on that would be greatly appreciated also - because I believe that Lightroom is good at everything else - image management, and edits etc. – jim70 May 30 '15 at 19:30

All modern and mature photo management programs stores information in their own library files. And this is not bad, because after indexing your terabytes of photos you can quickly find the right photos almost instantly.

Another question is whether they support writing this information into image metadata. For Mac OS a good choise and replacement for Apperture would be migration to Lightroom, cause it allows mapping your catalog info back to metadata (Metadata > Save Metadata to File)

Please note that IPTC-NAA is the outdated specification with a lot of limitations, and XMP was designed as a replacement for IPTC-NAA. It supported by broader file formats, allows to store very large text fields, can be extended by own metadata specifications, and supports more standard XMP fields. Plus updating XMP is much faster than IPTC-NAA and finally Lightroom supports XMP very well.

  • Thank you for your answer. A few quick questions and I will start messing with Lightroom. 1) Is it possible to have Lightroom always write info to XMP file. Not sure if XMP is stored within the image file - perhaps not. 2) I also need to figure out as to whether Lightroom can handle a situation wherein my wife deletes some files and moves some files within folders - as her way of managing the images. I am sure she does not want to mess with Lightroom. 3) How to access library meaningfully via remote access to images on a home Mac server - firing Lightroom likely not possible remotely. Thanks! – jim70 Jun 2 '15 at 17:50
  • 1) yes 2) yes. You can have Lightroom check for changes in the folders it watches. Deletes files will be removed from the database, moved files will usually be found again. – Andreas Huppert Jun 3 '15 at 19:17
  • Ok that is awesome. So I will be using Lightroom then. Thanks for sharing! – jim70 Jun 5 '15 at 11:26

Aftershot Pro can be set to keep everything in XMP files in the same folder as the picture, and you can use it without a database.

  • Thanks for sharing. Does Aftershot Pro also write IPTC information into the JPG file? I went to their website but could not glean this information readily. – jim70 Jun 1 '15 at 1:54
  • If you create the JPG from a RAW file, then you can set the IPTC metadata in Aftershot and export them to the JPG. If you only have a JPG as original file, this original is not touched IIRC. So you would have to export a copy. – Andreas Huppert Jun 1 '15 at 7:11
  • Thanks Andreas. I compared Aftershot Pro and Lightroom - am leaning towards Lightroom. I have some questions related to Lightroom for my use - posting them in a comment to the answer by @Murat. – jim70 Jun 2 '15 at 17:47

If you are shooting RAW files, edits are never written back to the original. So that specification only applies to other formats such as JPEG or TIFF.

As for management software, the closest might be Adobe Bridge. It does use cache files but it reads data from the images or XMP sidecar files and not a central catalog for most of its settings.

Remember that some things MUST be saved to a proprietary file, such as settings that affect multiple images, searches, albums/libraries, slideshows, and so on. There are also metadata details like flags or tags which are not standardized, and saved scripts or other image processing tools that aren't specific to one image.

Don't expect to be able to tag files and use those as album information, that's not how it works. Even the Labels feature in OS X Yosemite isn't really designed for this (for example, what order are the pictures in?)

Finally, there is no standardized way to retain reversion ability without saving the same file multiple times. So, let's say you crop a photo. Either the cropping data is saved in a format that is proprietary to one editor (or software publisher), you save two versions of the photo, or you simply save the cropped photo and lose the ability to undo or reset the crop later.

  • Got it. And thanks for patiently explaining the details. I am thinking I will try and use Lightroom - just will have to unlearn whatever I know in Aperture and learn Lightroom. – jim70 Jun 2 '15 at 17:51
  • "If you are shooting RAW files, edits are never written back to the original." Except when it is. Many raw editors will allow one to append the metadata associated with editing steps to the original file, rather than a separate sidecar file. While the original sensor data is not altered, the original raw file with all that it contains, is. How can I save metadata changes to master photos in Lightroom? – Michael C Jan 8 '19 at 13:54

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