IrfanView mascot

This post tells  how to sort and tag your photos with Irfanview, a great freeware application.

Here are some of IrfanView’s best features:


  • reads Raw files
  • edits IPTC information
  • offers basic photo editing tools, plus special effects and borders
  • creates .ico (favicon) files
  • handles batch operations
  • exports photos by ftp and email

This post explains step-by-step how I use Irfanview in my photo processing.  If you would like to follow along, download Irfanview and make sure to install the plugin package, because you will need that for IPTC editing.  Although IrfanView performs many photo editing functions, you may want to use another photo editor instead.  To set up that external editor to work in conjunction with IrfanView, in the IrfanView “Options” menu, select “Miscellaneous” and then under the “Set external editors” section, put the path to your chosen graphic editing application, (for example, Photoshop) in the #1 window, by navigating to that application with the “browser” button.

Briefly, these are the steps in my photo processing procedure, using IrfanView:

  1. Download pictures from my camera to a folder on my computer, then, disconnect the camera.
  2. With Irfanview, view each picture and delete the ones I don’t want to keep.
  3. Edit the keepers, either with IrfanView or an external editor.
  4. Write IPTC information to the photos using IrfanView.
  5. Export the photos for safe keeping to an external hard disk or a web server.

Now that you’ve had a preview of the major steps, here are the details:

1.  Download pictures from your camera to a folder on your computer, then, disconnect the camera:

IrfanView works on the photos in a particular folder, which you designate.  Make sure that you do not choose the folder on the camera, because when you delete photos IrfanView would in that case delete your original photos on the camera. Instead, set up a working folder on your computer. Here’s how I do that:  Create a new folder to receive the photos from your camera.  Name it and place it wherever you choose.  In the Pictures library is a good place.  Then, click on “Computer” in the Start menu, and in the window that opens find the folder of your camera.  It will probably bear a short name for your camera.  Double click on that folder icon, and then double click on the DCIM folder (stands for “Digital Camera Images”).  There may be one more folder below that to open.  Finally, you will see the icons for all the pictures on the camera.  Hold down the control key and press the “A” key, which selects all those photos.  Drag and drop the whole lot into the new folder you created.  Now you have a full working folder for your photo processing.  Disconnect your camera to safeguard your original photos.

2.  With IrfanView, view each picture and delete the ones you don’t want to keep.

Open Irfanview.  Click on the icon of the yellow folder in the top left corner of IrfanView’s window.  This opens a file browser.  Navigate in that browser until you reach the working folder you created.  Click on that folder to highlight it and then click on the “open” button.

Now you will be looking at thumbnail images of all the photos in the folder.  Double click on the first icon (top, left in the window). You are now looking at the full view of the first picture in the folder.  If you choose to keep this photo, edit it (e.g., crop, sharpen, color or exposure correct it, etc.) using either IrfanView’s editing commands under the “Image” menu, or by opening the photo in the external editor you designated in the options>miscellaneous>set external editor step.  You can most easily open that external editor by holding down the shift key and pressing the “E” key.

When you have finished editing your keeper photo, save it (in its current place, not another folder) and then proceed to viewing the next photo in the working folder by pressing the right arrow on your keyboard or by clicking on the right arrow at the top of the Irfanview window.

If you do not want to keep a photo you are viewing, press the delete key on your keyboard, or click on the “x” at the top of the IrfanView window.  Note:  When you delete a photo it will not disappear in the full view unless you have tweaked a setting in the options menu. Here’s the tweak:  Under “Options” select Properties/Settings and then File Handling.  In the File Handling window check the little box beside the words “Jump to the next file after deleting/moving”.  Then click the “OK” button to save that setting.

When you have finished viewing the last photo in the folder and try to view the next one, IrfanView notifies you that you have reached the end of the folder and asks whether you want to work in another folder.  Choose instead “use current folder”.  This will return you to the view of the first photo in your working folder.

3.  Write IPTC information to your keeper photos, using IrfanView.

At this point, you are looking at the full-window view of the first photo in your working folder.  Now, press the “T” key.  This brings up a new window showing thumbnails of all the photos in the folder.

You are now ready to write IPTC information to a batch of photos in your working folder. Entering IPTC information is tedious, but very worthwhile.  It will help press agencies find your photos, and it will enter valuable tags into the meta-data of your photo files, so that they will retain that information.  This insures that the tags will be visible for searches on your local computer and on whatever hosting server is equipped with search capabilities.

To save time in IPTC editing, write to a whole batch of photos at once. Here’s how to do that:

When you are looking at the thumbnails of your photos, select a continuous series of them by clicking on the first thumbnail in the series, holding down the Shift key, and then clicking on the last thumbnail in the series.  Or, to select a discontinuous batch, hold down the Control key and then click on the thumbnails you want included in the batch.

Now that you have selected the thumbnails for a batch operation, right click on any thumbnail in the batch and then select “JPG lossless operations” and then “Set IPTC data to selected files”.  This opens the IPTC editor.  You may want to fill in copyright information to protect the photographer’s rights.  If you fill in the caption window and upload the photo later to a photo sharing site, like Flickr, that caption will show as a title for the photo.  Fill in the headline window if you want to suggest to a press agency a title for an article that would accompany the photo.

To tag the photo click on the “Tags” tab in the IPTC editor.  Enter a tag and then press the “Enter” button.  Enter another tag on that new line, then press the “Enter” button.  Keep entering new tags, each on its own line.  Do not include multiple words within quotes.  Do not separate tags by commas or semicolons.  The Enter button is the way IrfanView separates tags.  Any words entered on a given line will be recognized as belonging together.

Continue to enter IPTC information using the tabs in the editor.  Of these remaining tabs, for your purposes you may need to use only the “Origin” tab. You will probably want to indicate where the photo was taken.  If your camera reports GPS, you might want to enter the GPS coordinates in the “sublocation” window under the “Origin” tab.

When you have finished entering all the IPTC info you desire, click on the “Write” button.  This will save your IPTC entries to all the files which were included in your batch.

Next you may wish to write IPTC information to a particular photo instead of a batch.  For instance, maybe may you want to enter a tag for a person who appears in one photo, but no others.  To write IPTC information to a particular photo, open that photo in the full view mode and under the “Image” menu select “Information” and then click on the “IPTC info” button.  This opens the IPTC editor to operate on just that one photo.  When you have finished your IPTC entries, click on the “Write” button.  This writes to just that particular photo.

4.  Export the photos for safe keeping to an external hard disk or a web server.

Now that you have perfected your keeper shots and tagged them with IPTC information they are ready for storage.  I upload mine to Flickr, where I can continue to catalogue them by using Flickr’s many collection and set organization tools.  When you upload photos already tagged with IPTC information to Flickr, Flickr retains that information.  An IPTC headline becomes a Flickr photo title.  An IPTC caption becomes a Flickr photo description.  IPTC tags become Flickr tags.  Very handy!

If you want to FTP your photos to a web server, in the thumbnails view select the photos you wish to send, right click on any thumbnail in the batch, select “Transfer selected files by FTP” and then fill in the FTP information to complete the connection.  You can email one photo or a batch by again selecting the batch in thumbnails view and then right clicking by any photo in the batch and selecting “send selected files by email.”  If you use a web-based email service, like Gmail, this command will not work without some tinkering.  It requires a designated email application on your computer.

In closing, a note to Photoshop users:  You may wonder why I didn’t write about how to edit IPTC information using Photoshop, or Photoshop’s sub-program, Bridge.  I didn’t because I tend to report on free programs, and Photoshop is costly!  Also, I find that for viewing and sorting photos IrfanView is faster than Photoshop.  I love Photoshop for photo adjustments, but IrfanView has become my favorite program for viewing, sorting, and tagging.

And, a final note to IrfanView newbies:  Do learn the keyboard commands.  They make a fast application even faster to use!

2 thoughts on “How to Sort and Tag Your Photos with Irfanview”

  1. wonderful!
    I am not a photographer.
    I am a mechanical engineer age 63 who is so lazy I am driven to find ever easier ways to store and retrieve data. Photographs are an integral part of that data.
    Total search-ability is how I locate stuff. Call it brute force if you wish.
    But I believe in letting computers do what they were designed for.
    Thanks to your helpful step-by-step, I will be adding key words, phrases, and paragraphs to the metadata of photograhs.

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