Black Friday! Cyber Monday! What’s a Hobbyist Photographer To Do?!

I spent quite a lot of time ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales this past month thinking about upgrading my current image editing software to newer versions, specifically Photoshop Elements, which is my go-to workhorse. The more I thought about it, I came to realize that the majority of my time is spent in PSE’s Organizer rather than the Editor itself.

After downloading the images from my camera, I tag them with location, people, event and anything else relevant in the Organizer. The images themselves are downloaded to folders by date in Window’s Pictures folder on my PC, which appears to be the default behavior for most programs, but the tags I add reside in PSE’s database. I can tell you from previous experience upgrading from PSE 11 to PSE 2018, which coincided with moving to a newer computer, it took me a couple of weeks to undo whatever “logic” PSE employed in porting the database and images to sub-sub-sub folders which made backing up a challenge. So, upgrading to a newer version was not something I considered lightly, especially since Adobe support for PSE is, well, nearly non-existent as it’s not one of their flagship programs, you understand.

In the end, Adobe nixed the choice for me by including their Sensei AI in PSE 2021 which pushed the hardware requirements so high that I’ll only have them on a yet-to-be-purchased computer. That won’t happen for a few years yet and by that time, the PSE requirements will likely have doubled and I’ll still be using 2018.

After asking a number of people both online and offline about their photography workflow, I received a lot of suggestions for editing programs, but much less for organizing images. Nearly everyone who did reply (and thank you for taking the time to do so) mentioned they create multiple folders with duplicate images on their computer in lieu of tagging, which seems to me like an eventual storage nightmare if you have thousands (and thousands) of images. Again, mine is an older computer (2 years old!) that has 500 GB of storage. Yes, I know that external storage is a possibility, but at this time I am collecting external drives like I used to collect CDs/DVDs. Doesn’t everyone back up their backups?

Win10 users have the built-in Photo app, but oddly, I don’t see any way to tag photos within that app. It is possible to tag photos individually and in groups via the Properties>Details tab in each folder on one’s hard drive (not in the app). That then allows you to search for that tag in Windows. I’ll need to explore further because I feel I might be missing something.

However, regardless of how I download images and in whichever program, there’s no correlation between the hundreds of tags I’ve added in PSE over the years. That would mean starting from scratch. *thud!* Fortunately, you can set up PSE2018’s Organizer to connect an external image editing program.

In spite of everything, I didn’t want to let the BF/CM sales go by entirely, although I have a number of image editing programs on my new-ish computer, including PSE2018 (often used), PSP2018 (rarely used), and Aftershot 3 (occasionally used). After looking at suggested apps: Topaz Labs, Luminar, Capture One, Darktable, and Affinity Photo among others, I went with Affinity Photo simply because I use their other software and am used to their UI and Personas. There’s a ton of online help, video tutorials and responsive forums. And, thankfully, I didn’t need to break the bank. Now I need to push it to see how well it will compress an image and retain image quality. That will be a future post.

I suspect there might be just one or two photographers reading this post and while I’ve made my choice for this year, I’d still love to know how you handle your images from camera to workspace and things you like or don’t like about your chosen method.


  1. I’ve been using Elements since PSE1. I refuse to update each time I get a new computer (which seems to be every 4 – 7 years), so I use the old one and just accept the various limitations. So far there haven’t been enough to make me want to update (I have tried one or two and haven’t liked them. My husband uses v.11 I think, and I have a copy of it but uninstalled it) . Currently I’m using v.6 (yes, that old!) on Windows 10. However, unlike you, I don’t use the Organiser because I find it a nightmare. I did use it for a while but I don’t like the way its file system is structured. I also never use tags (mostly because if the system ever crashes or something else untoward happens to the files, they aren’t saved), and I don’t allow PSE or Windows to put my images into any of default folders such as Pictures or Documents. Also, I no longer use the camera’s auto-program to get its contents onto my computer.

    What I do, instead, is create a parent folder for each category of media, on my 2nd (internal) hard drive (I have two hard drives on my pc, and my folders and files are on a separate one from the O.S. in case the latter crashes), then sub-divide it into child folders. One of those I gave the name of my camera. When I want to get them into the folder, I simply open my camera’s folder and click and drag them from that to the pc. I’ve 16Gb of RAM on my pc so it’s fairly painless.

    As for organising… Whenever I download from the camera (via the click and drag), I create a folder inside the camera-named one on the pc, named with the date of the download. Usually I’ve an idea, when I look for a photo, what season I took it, so it’s easy enough to narrow down a range to look in. But my way of searching for a photo is to narrow down the range by date or sub-folder and then use Boolean search in the pc’s internal search (top right of the parent folder’s window). Then I just do a visual search. Surprisingly, despite my vision problems, I can rapidly scan through images for things – often quite a large number (and, like you, I’ve thousands of images on on my pc. All backed up multiple times, as well, in case you’re wondering!)

    Boolean search works well (though sometimes it doesn’t understand putting phrases inside quotes) but the pc’s search setting have to be adjusted for it to search inside folders otherwise it won’t. Also choosing ‘Picture’ as the file type to search for is good, as well. It hones in on so many.

    Only thing it doesn’t do, of course, is show visual thumbnails of psd files. These have to be viewed inside the pse.

    No way would I make multiple copies of each image just for tagging or searching, that seems crazy to me. I do make some copies of different versions of images, so that I have a choice between them, but that’s for a different reason than organisation.

    I’ve been thinking of getting Affinity Photos, too, but not for organisation. However there are few things lacking in it that PSE does has (for instance, Affinity doesn’t have the highlight/shadow dropper tool inside the levels adjustment layer, which I use extensively in pse. And I’m not sure that the chequered background can be turned off in Affinity, for transparent pixels. I always change that in pse to a plain white otherwise it just dazzles me and gives me a migraine.)

  2. Well that was a first, Val! I saw your comment on my phone for a brief moment and then it disappeared; it was recovered from the Spam folder.

    Anyway, I guess I’m locked into a legacy program (I went from 6 to 11 to 2018) and really haven’t had any issues with PSE’s Organizer other than the mishap I mentioned of moving between computers. I use the internal backup in PSE as well as backing up the Pictures folder separately when I do backups. At some point I’ll invest in a large external drive, like 4TB, dedicated to photos just to avoid collecting multiple smaller external drives. Although there is some inherent danger of drive failure in that too. Always have them on more than one drive, I say. Lots of people I know use a cloud backup service, but I’m a little leery with that.

    Thanks for the detailed comment and the insights on your experience with Affinity Photo. I’m hoping to spend more time with it over the weekend and there’ll be a follow-up post at some point. đŸ™‚

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