Build a stress-free workflow to import, rate, tag, and organize your digital photos!

Take Control of
Your Digital Photos

Second Edition
Jeff Carlson

This book gives photographers using Mac or Windows computers the information they need to build and maintain a digital photo workflow that makes it easy to import, rate, tag, and store photos to find them quickly and easily later. It helps you spend more time on the enjoyable aspects of photography—shooting and viewing your photos—and less on the mundane but essential task of managing all your photos.

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


Are you drowning in a sea of digital photos? Unable to find the shots you’re looking for, or to stay on top of managing all the photos you’re taking? Digital photography expert Jeff Carlson gives you a plan for tackling this problem, starting with preparing your camera ahead of time, then choosing the right app to manage your photos, judging and organizing your photos, and backing up your photos for safekeeping.

In this book—an expanded and updated version of Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac—Jeff extends his advice to cover both macOS and Windows (along with limited coverage of mobile platforms), and to address a broader range of photo management apps, including Apple Photos, Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, and Exposure X5.

Go deeper with Lightroom or Photos: This book discusses photo management with Adobe’s Lightroom and Apple’s Photos, but for much more detail on these apps, be sure to pick up Jeff’s book Take Control of Lightroom CC, or Take Control of Photos by Jason Snell.

Also available: A bundle of Take Control of Your Digital Photos and Take Control of Photos for just $20!

With this book, you’ll learn how to:

  • Get started with the minimum amount of work: Take advantage of software intelligence to do some of the categorizing work for you, and find out how you can accomplish some tasks even if you have little time.

  • Prep your camera: Learn four actions you can take before you head out the door that will make things easier after you return with new pictures.

  • Get your app together: Decide which app you’ll use to organize your digital photos, compare popular choices, and find out Jeff’s recommended application.

  • Import the right way: Learn how to assign valuable metadata to all images that come in during the import stage.

  • Pick winners and losers: Assign ratings to your photos, and remove or hide unwanted photos.

  • Apply keywords and metadata: Take a second pass on applying keywords to individual shots (after starting the process during import), learn how to apply geotags using GPS data from external devices (like an iPhone), and use facial recognition to collect shots of specific friends and family members.

  • Search with smart albums: Build smart albums whose contents change depending on criteria you’ve specified, allowing you to find photos more easily. While searching, learn how to remove duplicate photos.

  • Go mobile: Find the right online service for making your photos available on mobile devices, based on your needs and which desktop photo management app you use.

  • Protect your photos: Learn how to implement a backup strategy that will preserve all your data, not just your photos, and how to archive photos for the future.

“After 20 years of struggling to stay on top of family photos I now have an effective workflow, tagging strategy, and storage. I’m back in love with photography thanks to your eBook.” —Tony Stevenson

Jeff Carlson

About Jeff Carlson

Jeff Carlson is a contributing editor of TidBITS, a frequent contributor to Macworld and DPReview, and the author of best-selling books on the Mac, digital photography, and, in earlier incarnations, web design and Palm organizers. He consumes almost too much coffee. Almost.

When I wrote the first edition of this book, the number of photo apps available was relatively small and a few major players dominated the category. Today, many more programs let you organize and edit photos and they use a few different approaches. Also, the world of photo software continues to change in dramatic ways. Here’s how these changes are reflected in this edition:

  • A market shakeup has affected this book. I once excluded applications that simply read file directories instead of centrally managing a photo library, but now I’m not so rigid. In “Choose the Right Photo Management Application,” I added a new file-management criterion to account for the other methods.
  • Exposure X5 appears throughout the book as an example of this directory-focused approach.
  • Each new camera model produces larger image files, so I’ve added a completely new section to help you anticipate future storage needs, such as external hard disk drives and network devices.
  • Adobe has had a confusing approach to how it names its Lightroom photo applications since the company introduced a newer cloud-focused version. This year is no different. I’ve tried my best to be clear throughout, but here’s how it shakes out: Lightroom Classic CC is now just Lightroom Classic, and Lightroom CC is just Lightroom. So when I reference “Lightroom” by itself, I mean the newer application, not the legacy one.
  • Where possible, I’ve included information about mobile apps, such as Apple’s Photos for iOS and iPadOS and Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile (which runs on iOS, iPadOS, and Android devices). Although most of the book deals with working with photos on the desktop, more photos are shot and viewed using smartphones than with traditional cameras—including by photographers! A DSLR and an iPhone have different characteristics and specifications, but the intent and result is the same: making photos to capture moments.
  • To help deal with duplicate photos on iOS, I talk about the app Gemini Photos in “Remove Duplicate Photos.”
  • In “Take Advantage of Software Intelligence,” I’ve added the desktop and mobile versions of Lightroom.
  • As a counterpoint to “Go Mobile with Online Photo Services,” I’ve written a new sidebar that suggests options useful when you’re traveling and know you will not have internet access.
  • Mylio still has impressive organization and synchronization features, but its editing tools aren’t as good as I’d like and I never really clicked with the program. It’s no longer covered.
  • Also removed is Adobe Photoshop Elements, which ticks a lot of the feature boxes I find desirable, but it’s too cumbersome and slightly out of step with the rest of the applications mentioned here.


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