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

Take Control of
Your Digital Photos

Third Edition
Jeff Carlson

This book gives you the information you 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—capturing and viewing your photos—and less on the mundane but essential task of managing all your photos. It also puts you in the best position to quickly find and edit your most promising photos.

All Take Control books are delivered in two ebook formats—PDF and EPUB—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, Jeff offers advice to cover both macOS and Windows (along with limited coverage of mobile platforms), and to address a broad range of photo management apps, including Apple Photos, Capture One, Lightroom Classic, Lightroom desktop, Excire Foto, Exposure X7, Mylio Photos, ON1 Photo Keyword AI, and ON1 Photo RAW.

Go deeper with Photos: For much more detail on the Photos app for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, be sure to pick up 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.
  • Manage your workflow: Choose the software and approach that best meets your needs for organizing your photos.
  • Import the right way: Learn how to assign valuable metadata to all images that come in during the import stage, saving lots of time and effort.
  • Pick winners and losers: Assign ratings to your photos, and remove or hide unwanted photos.
  • Remove duplicates: Use Lightroom Classic, Photos for macOS, or Gemini Photos for iOS/iPadOS to find and delete duplicate images.
  • Use AI/Machine Learning: Learn about AI/ML terminology, and use software tools like ON1 Photo Keyword AI and Excire Foto to apply keywords automatically.
  • Apply keywords and metadata: If needed, manually apply keywords to individual shots, learn how to apply geotags using location 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, even in images you add in the future.
  • Manage multiple libraries: Use Photos for macOS, Lightroom Classic, or Peakto to manage multiple photo libraries.
  • 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 DPReview, Macworld, and CreativePro, 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.

What’s New in the Third Edition

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. The second edition, released in 2019, included several changes to account for many more applications and approaches for managing photos. Now, this third edition incorporates a whole slew of updates due to how the field has expanded.

Oh, and have you heard of this new thing called AI? Although generative AI is getting all the press for creating photorealistic images out of a few lines of text, machine learning (ML) technologies are also being employed for organizing, such as auto-tagging images in a library or allowing searches based on ML-based recognized objects.

Here’s how these changes are reflected in this edition:

  • Workflow management: To help visualize the options you need to consider when choosing apps, I wrote an entirely new chapter, “Choose a Photo Management Workflow.”
  • Geotagging: I added “Geotag with Help from an App” to help you while you’re out making photos so location data gets added to images.
  • Machine learning for keywords: A lot of people get hung up applying keywords when organizing their photos. But now machine learning can help by generating them for you. I added the app ON1 Photo Keyword AI to the options in “Import Your Photos the Smart Way.” That turned out to be a tease for a larger discussion of using ML apps like ON1 Photo Keyword AI and Excire Foto to create keywords and other data in a new section called “Scan for Metadata.”
  • Photos scans for duplicates: The Photos for macOS app finally has a built-in way to scan for duplicates!
  • Added AI/ML explanations: All this talk of artificial intelligence and machine learning is no doubt making experts in those fields grind their teeth because people often use the terms incorrectly. I wrote a new sidebar to clear things up: “AI and ML Terminology.”
  • Memories changes: I updated the section “AI in Photos for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS” to account for new ways that Photos handles the Memories feature.
  • Managing multiple libraries: As we accumulate photos (and photo apps), it’s inevitable that they get scattered across various libraries. But we’re looking to take control of our photos, and some new technologies have arisen to help, so I’ve written an entirely new chapter: “Work with Multiple Photo Libraries.”

Other, more minor changes, including some deletions include:

  • Google Photos has changed how it works since the last edition, so “AI in Google Photos” has been updated.
  • In the last edition, I removed Mylio from the lineup for various reasons. Although I still can’t wholeheartedly endorse it, the new version ticks a lot of boxes. I explain why in the sidebar “Consider Mylio Photos.”
  • Apple broke or removed a Siri feature that let you perform searches by saying them for Photos for macOS. At some point the feature just…stopped working, so I’ve removed the explanation.
  • Thanks to new and better tools (namely Avalanche from CYME), I retired the chapter on migrating from iPhoto or Aperture to Lightroom Classic.
  • Read Me First
    • Updates and More
    • What’s New in the Third Edition
  • Introduction
  • Digital Photos Quick Start
  • Shoot Smart
    • Check and Set the Clock
    • Clear the Memory Card
    • Choose a Format
    • Geotag Your Photos
  • Choose a Photo Management Workflow
    • Integrated Catalog and Photo Editing
    • Photo Management and External Editors
    • A Keyword-First Workflow Option
    • Mobile Workflow Considerations
  • Choose the Right Photo-Management Application
    • Apple’s Photos for macOS
    • Photoshop Lightroom Classic
    • Photoshop Lightroom Desktop
    • Exposure X7
    • Jeff’s Recommended Applications
  • Import Your Photos the Smart Way
    • Apply Metadata at Import
    • Choose Where Files Will End Up
  • Judge Your Photos
    • Develop a Consistent Rating System
    • Cull Bad Photos
  • Assign Keywords and Other Metadata
    • Assign Metadata
    • Scan for Metadata
    • Apply Geotags
    • Use Facial Recognition
  • Find Your Photos Quickly
    • Locate Your Photos Using Search
    • Get Smart About Albums
    • Remove Duplicate Photos
  • Take Advantage of Software Intelligence
    • AI in Photos for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS
    • AI in Lightroom Desktop
    • AI in Google Photos
  • Go Mobile with Online Photo Services
    • Set Online Photo Goals
    • Choose an Online Service
  • Work with Multiple Photo Libraries
    • Open Other Libraries
    • Migrate Libraries
  • Back Up and Archive
    • Back Up Your Photos
    • Archive Photos for the Future
  • About This Book
    • Ebook Extras
    • About the Author
    • About the Publisher
  • Copyright and Fine Print

Jeff Carlson talks photo management on MacVoices

Posted by Joe Kissell on September 19, 2023

Jeff Carlson joined host Chuck Joiner on MacVoices to talk about Take Control of Your Digital Photos, Third Edition.

In part one, Jeff talks about managing vast numbers of digital photos and some of the apps that can help.

In part two, Jeff says more about photo management apps as well as individual strategies and workflows.


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