My wife's computer has probably 100 GBs of photos--thousands upon thousands of photos. We've been using Windows Live Photo Gallery (Windows 7) and things have been pretty good. The features and capabilities are there. The problem is that, as the library has grown, WLPG insists on rescanning all photos in all directories. We're at the point where even working with the application takes 100% CPU on her dual core machine for 5-10 minutes.

I've looked at Picasa but I didn't like it because it stored tags and other metadata alongside the photographs in a Picasa-specific database file instead of embedding the tags and other kinds of metadata inside the photographs where they belong.

Does anyone know of any photo software, preferably Windows based that can handle tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of photos well and not suck the life out of a decent machine?

Ideally everything would always be in the photo library, because the point of having them their is for them to be accessible. If we have to "archive" them or move them somewhere else outside of the library, it kind of defeats the point of being able to tag them for quick retrieval.

I'm not opposed to paying $ for some good software, but I want to hear about your experiences before plunking down cash.


11 Answers 11


Unfortunately I had the exact opposite criteria as you :) I looked at every software I could which did NOT touch the files and stored the information in a central database. The one constant is that having a central database makes it much more efficient to perform searches and filter your images.

I do have hundreds of gigs of photos and the most efficient software to do this is Bibble Pro. They claim to be 20X faster than the competition and I measured at least 5X for most (not all, most softwares have perform well at least something) except for PicaJet FX which was close in speed.

PicaJet actually stores EXIF/IPTC edits in its database AND the files, so it may suit you. You can get a free evaluation copy. Read about PicaJet here.

Unfortunately I did not end up using Bibble Pro because it would not import my very large panoramas and PicaJet because it was destructive. I consider my files sacred :)

So, I finally went with Lightroom which is highly regarded. It is reasonably fast (still 5X slower than Bibble), supports non-destructive editing (so no need to duplicate storage to crop to different paper sizes!) and good support options and online resources. For about 280GB of images (44K) it starts instantly and finishes its 'refresh' (what the hell is it doing? I don't know) in less than 2 mins. Most simple (2-3 criteria) queries complete in under 1 min.

  • 3
    Agreed, for reasons of speed, a central database becomes essential with a large photo collection. But, and this is a big but, you must be very good about regularly backing up your database. In the Linux world Shotwell does a very good job.
    – labnut
    Mar 11 '11 at 6:25
  • I'm not opposed to a central database as well, but I want the tags embedded into the files so that if I change programs, the tags will still be there--like what I'm doing now. Photos are designed to have metadata embedded into them. Mar 11 '11 at 12:28
  • I do think that tags at least are stored in the image when you use Picasa. I don't have to do anything special to get them included when uploading to Flickr, and I can read them in Windows explorer. Picasa only stores editing history etc in sidecar files.
    – gerikson
    Mar 11 '11 at 12:59
  • I am one of the PicaJet developers. Check also out a brand new version of the PicaJet named Daminion. Some of our users use Daminion to handle 500k-800k image archive libraries. PostgreSQL version of Daminion even faster and can handle more than 1M assets per one shared catalog. Jan 21 '13 at 10:23
  • 1
    I agree with not touching the files. Aside from corruption concerns, I plan to eventually use the file SHA1 checksum for integrity checking and indexing, so the file cannot change. An original file is an original file, whether I tag it "vacation" or "skiing trip", so I don't want any of this stored in the file. You would not want to scribble notes on your negatives, would you?
    – Rolf
    Jun 17 '18 at 14:59

WLPG stores data in the image, and in a database.

High CPU usage may be a background process scanning images for faces. This can take quite some time (days). It's a low priority process, so (in theory) it won't slow down other applications; however, the elevated CPU usage will consume power (stay plugged in until it's finished).

If you edit an image, be aware that the original is hidden under AppData. If you don't remember this when you move to a new computer, you will lose all your original images.

To your original question, LightRoom is exceptional.

  • Do you know if there's a way to disable face scanning/detection (if there is such a thing) in WLPG? Mar 13 '11 at 2:27
  • 1
    I believe you can un-check 'find people' in the options panel.
    – Tristan
    Mar 13 '11 at 4:52
  • This actually solved the problem completely. Nonetheless, I am still looking to migrate to a more professional photo management solution. Mar 14 '11 at 12:19
  • Great. Glad to hear it. Don't forget that original images folder under AppData :)
    – Tristan
    Mar 14 '11 at 16:18

You need a cataloging software. I don't know a better one than Adobe Lightroom. It is an extremely powerful program used by amateurs and professionals alike. Allows you to tag photos, export, import, and do processing. A must program if you have 100s upon 1000s of photos.


Get Lightroom. While it does not store its metadata within the original image file per se, it does have the option of storing it in a .XMP "sidecar" file as well as in the central database. Ie. for each *.JPG, *.TIFF, *.somekindofRAW that has been imported into Lightroom, there is a corresponding *.XMP file in the same directory which holds metadata from Lightroom in XML format. Twice the number of files, but it works quite well.

  • 1
    If you use DNG format, the metatdata can be stored in the dng file instead of in an xmp sidecar.
    – cabbey
    Mar 12 '11 at 21:24
  • Maybe so; I don't use DNG myself. Personally, I consider Lightroom's method of not touching the original file a feature, not a bug :)
    – Staale S
    Mar 12 '11 at 23:08

ACDSee ( http://www.acdsee.com/ ) might get you where you need to go. I'm using this currently. It stores data in its own DB for speed, but also allows you to write the data to the EXIF/IPTC data of the source files.

Another alternative might be IMatch ( http://www.photools.com/ ).

One thing I wish that ACDSee could do is the face recognition that Picasa features. It's a huge help in getting images tagged quickly. I've found a couple of tools that allow you to use Picasa to tag the faces, then export that data into the image files themselves:


I can vouch for Lightroom being able to hold literally thousands of images, I had 45,000 images in one single catalog and it ran no problem. I have used it on both Mac and Windows with the same results. You do not need to move the images you can keep them in their original locations or allow Lightroom to move and manage your files.

The best thing is that there is a free 30 day trial and since it is non destructive assuming you don't delete any of the images. If you don't like it, nothing lost but a little time.

However the key is to give it a good go and look at tutorials as even after three years I am still learning tips and tricks.

  • +1 for pointing out the 30 day trial. That gives the OP the chance to try it themselves and build their own experiences before plunking down the cash.
    – cabbey
    Mar 12 '11 at 21:25

I have had good experience with Lightroom. I currently have 95000 photos in my library with no performance issues. On top of the organization tools it has the some of the best raw processing and great Photoshop integration.


Lightroom doesn't support PNG and GIF formats. I am a former Picasa customer, but sometimes ago I transferred my collection to PicaJet (mainly because it saves all the image annotations into IPTC). But a few months ago PicaJet v3 was released: http://daminion.net

The best things I liked in Daminion are:

  1. Automatically sync database info with xmp/iptc (including hierarchical tags).
  2. Catalogs are single SQLite databases with Relative links to the files. So I can store my catalog along with the images on a removable drive.
  3. True multi-user support

Some disadvantages:

  1. The only beta-version is available to download
  2. Multi-user feature supported by Daminion Server, but it's not released yet.
  • 2
    There is actually a plugin for LR3 that lets you manage any file type you want: johnrellis.com/lightroom/anyfile.htm
    – jrista
    Mar 18 '11 at 21:25
  • I followed your link to Daminion. Looks interesting, but their entire site avoids the question of pricing. The page on the server mentions that pricing can be seen at their store, but I can't find any link to their store. Mar 28 '11 at 15:21
  • Sorry, didn't see your reply till now. If you just add one to your cart, you can pretty much make the price whatever you want. They default to around 8 bucks. I figure its nice to give them something for the effort, but it doesn't cost much.
    – jrista
    Apr 13 '11 at 2:43
  • the pricing is available now: daminion.net/order Jan 23 '12 at 7:47

I'm a big believer in looking outside the box at the less obvious options, so this may not apply to you - but rather than having software based on your machine, have you thought about one of the web-based imaging systems?

There's a few around, that would allow you to create a private area (website if you like) that all your images could be uploaded to. Smugmug is one that springs to mind, and there's another system being launched in the UK later this year, which would easily handle what your asking.

The trade-off I guess, is a yearly cost but your removing the hassle of storing and backing up images, and gaining a backed up, fully searchable system? Also with Smugmug, you can send them a drive of images and they'll upload them for you, saves all the hassle of sending them over the web!

Just a thought, you may not want to go down that route, but its a decent alternative, and as Smugmug offers unlimited storage, your never going to fill the account!

  • Are you affiliated with this company? If so, please disclose this. (If not, my apologies.) Apr 12 '11 at 23:58
  • @neilfein. Nope, not affiliated with Smugmug in anyway, just used them in the past!
    – TIW
    Apr 20 '11 at 16:29

For managing larger collections, 25,000 - 250,000 photos, you just can't beat DBGallery (www.DBGallery.com). It's software I helped build over the past 5 years or so. There's no side car files. It stores the data directly in the file and also in it's database for speedy searches. It's tagging and search support is excellent, and has numerous other tools for organizing a larger collection. Runs on Windows as costs $50 for the personal version.

  • You posted a very similar answer to another old question. It's okay to post about your own software, but a) you must say so and b) it's really not cool if all of your posts are advertising and you have no interest in participating in the community otherwise.
    – mattdm
    Sep 6 '13 at 0:06
  • Thanks Mattdm. I've edited the post to mention my involvement. Just discovered this community and will participate where I can help.
    – travelster
    Sep 13 '13 at 12:48

You would like to manage your photos and edit them in the same software?I know of a good software called Cyberlink, it is like iPhoto, and it works on the Windows platform.

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