A Really Good Photo Library Program?

Does anyone know one?

As I might have mentioned, I TAKE A LOT OF PHOTOS. In addition, I’m also something of a pack rat with electronic images that I find “interesting.” Having an iPad and an iPhone have only made it easier to save “interesting” photos and harder to keep them sorted.

In this case, “interesting” means:

  • Anything from NASA
  • Anything related to astronomy
  • Anything related to space exploration
  • Anything related to airplanes
  • Anything related to my extended family
  • Great pictures from my far-flung friends
  • Great action shots from my favorite sports teams
  • Great looking travel photographs (@BEAUTIFULPICS on Twitter, for example)
  • Any cartoon or joke or meme that can make me snort
  • Anything I might want as a reference later, for example, something that might relate to a blog post entry I’m pondering
  • Interesting charts & graphs for topics that interest me
  • Interesting news photos or political photos, particularly about causes I’m passionate about
  • Iconic topical or historical pictures that I might want to use in a snarky or smartass fashion later
  • Just about anything else that tickles my fancy at the moment and I think that I might want to share, use, or repost later

I understand how difficult it is to get a computer program that can “recognize” what a photo’s subject is. If I could write that algorithm I would be a very rich man, as in “Zuckerberg” rich. That may be what I want, but it’s not what I’m asking for here.

I know that there are programs like Picasa that want to organize and file photos for you — not at all what I’m looking for. I’ve been forced to deal with programs like this, and I truly hate how they take your photos away from you, manipulate them, and “do what’s best for you.” My photos are my raw data, my unrefined ore, and the clay from which I create my visual art. I don’t want any program altering it, moving it, or manipulating it without my complete control at any point I wish. Programs that “help” by taking control away from me are an anathema.

No, what I would like to start with is a program that can quickly scan through my tens and hundreds of thousand of pictures and collect some key data, building a database out of that data. File name, file location, file date, file size, image resolution, and image size to start. Maybe a couple other basic things that I’m forgetting off the top of my head. Then, if the files have EXIF data included, probably things like exposure time, f-stop setting, and so on. If the files are georeferenced, snag that data as well.

Rule #1 for this program — never, ever change the original file. Never. Ever.

Once all that data is in the database, I want a quick and easy way to flip through the pictures and add tags. Build a library of tags with people’s names, places, subjects, and so on. Make tagging intuitive and offer tools which I control to tag multiple files. For example, if there are 200 pictures in a directory labeled “5th Anniversary – Las Vegas,” how about quickly tagging all of them with the tags “5th Anniversary” and “Las Vegas”? Then go through them to tag individual ones with additional tags such as “Paris,” “Ronnie,” “Rio,” “The Strip,”, or whatever.

Allow for a fair number of tags for each photo, say maybe, a dozen per photo.

Put in functions or modes that allow image files to be sorted and re-filed under my complete control in a directory and subdirectory structure which I can define and change as I need. For example, if I dump 3,000 pictures from a long vacation off of memory cards and onto the computer, make it easy for me to look at them en masse and pick this batch of 30 or 40 and put them in a subdirectory, then this next batch, then the next…

Never, ever change a file — but have tools for sorting and organizing, with the database updating file names and file locations as it happens.

Now I’ve got a huge database of file information and a huge hard disk full of the original, untouched, unmodified photo and image files. Without touching or changing any of those original files, give me tools to play with the database information.

Let me query for all photos with a certain person in it, or Joey Chan, or Lucky Puppy, or Oreo, or one of my kids, or a friend from school or the hanger. Let me do more complex queries, with date range limits, or using “AND,” “OR,” or “NOT” delimiters. For example, all pictures with the tag “family” AND “Vermont” but NOT “birthday”, between 2001 and 2007.

Once I get that subset identified in the database (remember, we’re never ever touching the original files except possibly to sort and organize), let me copy it to a temporary directory or some working directory where I can manipulate, edit, or modify the file copies to my little heart’s desire, while the original files remain untouched.

The one exception to the “never touch” rule, maybe, would be a “show me duplicate files” command. Show me files that might be identical, duplicates, and allow me to decide if they really are and what to do about it.

Now, is that too much to ask?

As I said, the tough part would be in the tagging and identifying what’s in each image. I suspect the data gathering of file information, the file sorting and organization functions, the de-duplicating function, and the database manipulation and queries would all be straightforward.

I know of individual programs that do all of those functions, especially for files in general, but I don’t know of a single program that does all of those things. In particular, I don’t know of any program that does all of those things and is optimized for photos and images.

And, as I said with Picasa and its ilk, the programs that I do know for photo and image handling that have some of these functions don’t have any way of letting me control them and protecting my original files as I need.

So there’s my wish-list rant of the day. I would just about kill for a really good program that did what I wanted and did it well. I’m not asking for it to be freeware or shareware. I would be more than willing to pay a decent price for a really exceptional program.

Any suggestions?

Anyone else thinking, “Damn, that would be a fantastic program, I would love to have a copy of that myself! When your write it, Paul, I’ll be your first customer!”

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Filed under Computers, Photography

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