Looking for a better way to caption and organize family photos? Choosing image management software is a key step to getting organized.

Do you have the right tools to add names, dates, and places to
family gathering photographs or complex documents like wills? Read on if you’re looking for a better way.

My good friend and fellow genealogist Judy Webster has started the new year with some resolutions about organizing her research using a “source-based incremental fix,” rather than a giant do-over approach. Makes sense to me!

One of her steps is choosing image management software to better organize her family photos. This is an essential step, and one that I cover in more detail in my e-book, Cataloging Family Photographs & Records. Being able to insert searchable information inside digital photographs is incredibly helpful.
So let’s take a look in this blog post at some of the software options.

Image management software features:

  • Create high-resolution master scans
  • Edit photos to resize, crop, and alter master digital files
  • Make changes to many photos with a batch edit
  • Add information to digital images using metadata
  • Search for images and retrieve them using keywords
  • Use special functions, such as creating albums, employing facial recognition or adding GPS linking

Adobe Photoshop is the leader in this category, but it’s extremely expensive and complex to use. It also has a lot of sophisticated features geared to graphic designers that genealogists will probably never need or learn to use. So an alternative to Photoshop is a good idea.
Fortunately there are several lower-cost image management applications available that are easier to use.

Alternatives to Photoshop include:

  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018  ($69) – think of it as Photoshop Lite. Has powerful image editing capabilities, including GPS and facial recognition; easier to use than Photoshop but still has a learning curve. Many free tutorials available. Also has scanning feature. Mac or Windows. A 30-day demo is available for download by clicking here. Tip: Adobe releases a new version of Photoshop Elements every year, usually with only small changes between versions. The current version of the software is 2018. Earlier versions are available for sale online at big discounts.
Choosing Image Management Software sassy jane genealogy

GPS mapping feature in Photoshop Elements

  • IRFanView (free for non-commercial use) – image viewer, editor, organizer and converter program for Windows.
  • GIMP (free) – open-source app that stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program; clean interface and easy to use for viewing, converting, and cataloging. Windows. 4 million users. CNet review here.
  • XnView (free) – app provides image browsing, viewing, cataloging, and converting. Windows. 2.5 million users. CNet review here.

For Macintosh OS X users, besides Photoshop Elements also consider:

  • GraphicConverter ($40) – Excellent all-round image editing program for viewing, converting, and adding metadata to 80 image file formats; stable, reliable, and much simpler alternative to Photoshop with a long track record. Mac only. CNet review here.
  • Choosing Image Management Software sassy jane genealogyAcorn ($30) – “The Image Editor for Humans” has a simple and elegant interface with tools for viewing, converting, and adding metadata, text, shapes, and effects. Mac only. CNet review here.

For more alternatives, visit:


My recommendation for choosing image management software for large or complex family photo collections is Photoshop Elements. It’s worth the investment in time and money.

For smaller collections, download and try free demos of some of the programs listed here until you find one that makes sense to you.

For information on choosing a portable scanner, click here.