Want to catalogue your photos without spending a bundle?  Then this CyberKenBlog post is for you.

What’s cataloguing?  Organizing and labeling photos for safe keeping and easy retrieval.  Let’s say  you have a couple thousand photos and you have a vague recollection of one that you took a few years ago which showed a certain person or scene.  Now you want to lay hands on it.  But how to find it in that huge collection?  Well, if you didn’t label, or as the accepted lingo goes, tag that photo with some key words, your search will be difficult.  However, if you took the trouble to tag the photo, or at least put it in a folder with other photos of like kind, then your search will be much easier.  Cataloguing software does the tagging and grouping. There are some terrific cataloguing programs on the market, perhaps the best known, Adobe’s Lightroom.  But, as you may have already discovered, these programs cost a lot, often a couple hundred dollars or more.

Here’s a much cheaper way to get the job done:  Get a $25/yr. account at Flickr.com, download and install the free photo viewer, IrfanView, and finally, download and install the free Flickr backup program, Bulkr.  Here’s how these three tools can be used together to create backup for your entire photo collection and a speedy retrieval system for particular photos:

  1. Tag each of your photos with IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council)information, using IrfanView, an open source program written by the brilliant and generous young Austrian, Irfan Skiljan, pictured at the right. irfan_skiljan_0
  2. Upload your photos to Flickr.com.
  3. Back up your Flickr.com collection by running Bulkr, which downloads your Flickr pictures to your local computer (or better for protection against a disk crash, an external hard disk attached to your computer).

That’s all there is to it!  Why did I recommend these particular tools?

  • IrfanView is free, very speedy, easy to use, opens even RAW photos, reads and writes to numerous graphic formats, and most importantly for the purpose of cataloguing, reads and writes IPTC information.
  • Flickr is a huge photographers’ social network with numerous organizing and sharing tools.  An annual membership entitles you to unlimited uploads, and a file size limit of 10 MB–very generous indeed! Because Flickr is one of the older photo social networks there are many free third party applications and plugins to use in conjunction with it;  to whit:
  • Bulkr, a fast, free synchronization program to clone your Flickr photo stream.  Flickr has many security measures in place to protect your treasure of photos “in the cloud.”  However, should the Flickr server fail and erase your treasure, it’s nice to have a second copy on your own local disk.

You will find that when you enter IPTC information into photos and upload them to Flickr the tags are retained as Flickr tags and the captions are retained as Flickr image titles.  Therefore, labeling and grouping tasks are largely accomplished as soon as you upload.  You can, of course, add whatever other tags you may wish at the Flickr interface.  But remember that the only information which sticks with photos is the IPTC data. If you tag photos other than by the IPTC method and then you move your photos off the server where you tagged them, the information will almost certainly be lost.  That’s good reason to get in the habit of entering IPTC data routinely as you process your images.

Finally, you will want to know just how to use IrfanView for editing  IPTC data.  Here are the specifics:

  1. Make sure you have installed the plugin package for IrfanView.
  2. Open a .jpeg image with IrfanView.
  3. Under the Image menu, click on the IPTC info button.
  4. Enter information in whatever fields you wish, but be sure to fill in the caption and keywords windows.
  5. When you have finished entering information, click on the “Write” button.  This records the information in the metadata level of the file.
    Upload your image.

Now, you may be thinking:  Yikes, do I have to go through this process for every single photo I upload?  No!  You can write IPTC information for a whole batch of .jpeg files at once.  Here’s how:

  1. Press the “t” key when you are in a folder of .jpeg files.  This will bring up thumbnail images of all the .jpegs in that folder.
  2. Highlight all the thumbnails of the images you want to edit for IPTC info.
  3. Then, right click on one of the highlighted thumbnails, and then in the drop-down menu which appears select “JPG lossless operations”, and finally, “Set IPTC data to selected files.”  This brings up the same set of tabs that you viewed before. But this time when you click on the Write button you will write the information to every one of the highlighted images.  If later you want to add more tags to a single photo you can do that by going to the Image>information menu as previously explained.

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