Getting Photos Organized with ACDSee DAM Software - Best DAM software

As soon as you begin using a camera with any regularity, you need to find a way of labeling photos and putting them in order. If you don’t, it could soon take hours to locate a given picture among all your folders, hard drives, and devices. ACDSee DAM software sets you on the right path from the beginning.

Organizing images with ACDSee DAM software
Cataloging photos used to involve writing on them directly or typing out captions on sticky labels. Many people didn’t bother, but digital photography made record-keeping easier. Original photo by Brett Jordan.

By investing in good DAM software at the earliest opportunity, you won’t get into a position where you have a huge backlog of digital pictures to organize.

By investing in good DAM software at the earliest opportunity, you won’t get into a position where you have a huge backlog of digital pictures to organize. In this article, I’ll introduce you to ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020, which offers a great set of features without breaking the bank.

More reasons for needing DAM

There are many
reasons you might want to locate specific photos among your collection. For me,
writing these articles is one of them. A set of photos illustrating a theme
might be scattered far and wide in my collection.

That’s where ACDSee’s Image Basket is so useful. You can work on
pictures from all over the place as if they were in one folder.

ACDSee Image Basket
Ten photos from different folders collected in an ACDSee Image Basket. Note that I’m trying out a Lomo filter here using the experimental tools of View Mode.

Perhaps for you, it’ll be a photo book or a website that causes you to search for photos. Or you might be looking for portraits of friends and family. ACDSee DAM software includes excellent Face Detection technology. Once you’ve identified someone a few times, the software does a good job of finding other pictures of the same person. Or, if it’s not sure, it will ask you to confirm ID.

ACDSee DAM software - face detection technology - face recognition technology
A quick demo of Face Detection technology, albeit using an artwork. With photographic portraits, the software learns facial features and starts to identify friends and family automatically.

A legitimate reason to label photos and get them in order is for posterity. One day, your photos may interest future generations of your family or even local historians. How many prints exist from the last century where the identity of the subjects and location is lost? I find that a shame.

The importance of DAM software
Countless prints of places and people from the last century have become anonymous with time. Photo by Suzy Hazelwood.

ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020: A solution

There are some serious pieces of DAM software on the market. By far the best known is Adobe Lightroom, which happens to be a strong raw editor, too. Other examples include iMatch and FotoStation. But all these products come at a price.

Dam software choices - Lightroom
The familiar interface of Adobe Lightroom on a MacBook. Photo by energepic.

ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020 is remarkable for several reasons.

It offers a lightning-fast browser, multiple ways to search your pictures, easy tagging and keywording of images, and a good set of editing tools for rendered files.

What’s not to like? You get all that for about a third of the price or less of many rivals.

Manage Mode

In Photo Studio Home and other ACDSee DAM software, Manage mode is where you make a lot of things happen. It’s an HQ for your photography. So, what can you do there?

Folders and catalog panes – finding pictures

The folder system
of your OS is accessible through the left-hand Folders pane in Manage Mode. And
that’s handy because you’re already familiar with it.

As long as your image folders are well named, it’s an easy task to find
what you’re looking for. Alternatively, you can use the adjacent Catalog tab to
filter photos by a wide variety of attributes.

The Folder pane in ACDSee DAM software
The Folders pane in Manage mode. You only get to preview the images inside if they’re not in subfolders, but you can easily switch to Photos mode to see all content.

Manage Mode drop-downs

There are six drop-down menus exclusive to Manage mode: Import, Batch, Create, Slideshow, Send, and Editors. Importing files is easy. At this stage, you can rename files, add metadata, and divide file types into subfolders, among other things.

Creating a contact sheet in ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020
Building a contact sheet of flower photos via the Create drop-down in Manage Mode.

ACDSee links up seamlessly with other software too, which is what the “Editors” drop-down is for. Simply add any other programs you’re likely to use and you’ll be good to go. You can flick between them as you can with Lightroom and Photoshop or Photoshop and ACR.

Properties pane – organizing, categorizing

You can add metadata and keywords in Manage, View, or Edit mode of ACDSee. That’s what the Properties pane on the right is for.

As a stock photographer, keywords are a necessity for me. They help potential buyers find my pictures if I’m lucky. I add any words I think are relevant to the image.

At the very least, you should batch-add keywords to photos from the same shoot.

Map view in ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020 - adding geodata
You can add geographical information to the IPTC data of your images by placing them on the Google map in Manage mode and hitting “Reverse Geocode.”

Import keywords

A welcome improvement in the 2020 version of ACDSee is the ability to import sets of keywords. It’s hugely time-consuming to create a keyword list from scratch, but now you can import lists from the Internet or elsewhere. You can also export lists so that you can move them from one piece of software to another.

Keyword lists help you to be thorough in your keywording instead of relying on random ideas. They also save you from repeatedly typing the same words.

Adding keywords in ACDSee DAM software
Keywording in View mode using the foundation list linked in this article. You can adapt and grow your list as required.

You can import Foundation List version 2.0.1 into ACDSee. You’ll need to build on it, but it gives you a useful structure and a good head start.

Keywords are stored in the ACDSee database and can be applied to all file types. Note the “Embed ACDSee Metadata” tool does not write keywords to the IPTC keyword data field. I recommend copying and pasting keywords to this field if you want them to be visible elsewhere.

adding keywords in ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020
Here, I’ve pasted keywords from the Organize tab into the IPTC data field of the Metadata tab. This ensures visibility elsewhere. Of course, you could enter words directly into this field, but then you forfeit the rigor of using a hierarchical keyword list.

Photos Mode, View Mode

ACDSee automatically catalogs the images as you browse. You can catalog folders you haven’t browsed, too, which might be useful if you’re adding lots of pictures in one hit. This is possible in Manage mode or Photos mode.

Photos mode lets you rifle through folders of images according to their date. It even gives you a fair chance of finding pictures with no keywords or tags of any kind. This is a good way of seeing all the photos on your drive in a short space of time.

Finding images in Photos Mode -  ACDSee DAM software
Flying through images by date in Photos mode. This was the day the “Tour de Normandie” cycle race began a stage in Vernon a few years back.

For browsing photos individually, View mode is the place to be. It’s
incredibly fast, and it gives you a big preview of each photo. This is also a
good place to grade, categorize, and keyword your photos.

I’ll give you a complete workflow to use below, so you can catalog photos like a pro!

Edit Mode

ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020 offers a solid set of editing tools for photographers of all levels. Of course, there are things omitted at this price point that advanced photographers may miss. Here are three absentees, along with their workarounds:

  • No layers or adjustment brush as such, but you can perform localized edits using gradient tools or a regular brush tool. These come with blending modes, so you get quite a lot of control over the result without the sophistication or confusion of layers.
  • No raw editing. You can open most types of raw files without any say in their processing. Don’t forget you can link ACDSee to a raw processor if you need that extra control. That may also solve the problem of other missing features (e.g. perspective tool).
  • No 16-bit support, so you have to save any files you edit in 8-bit color. If you bring 16-bit archival files into Photo Studio Home 2020 and want to preserve their color depth, you must use “save as” to create new 8-bit files with all your edits.

One niggle and some good points

On my PC, the Clone tool in this software and the version before it refuses to work. I get a black screen. That’s odd since I don’t see the same thing with ACDSee Ultimate.

There’s lots to like about the editing tools in Photo Studio Home 2020. You get all the control over color and tone you’re likely to need, including the basic version of ACDSee’s esteemed Light EQ™ tool. This lets you adjust shadow, mid-tone, and highlight areas of an image separately.

I like some of the little touches in ACDSee, such as the way right-clicking resets the default value of any tool. There are creative features here, too, like Color LUTs, Special Effects, and a fun Tilt-Shift tool.

ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020 - tilt-shift tool
The Tilt-Shift tool works well with high-angle views, but you can try it out on all sorts of photos to alter their “bokeh.”

Workflow suggestion

Although this is a sponsored post, I’m a regular user of ACDSee software. I use it to organize pictures and I edit a lot of TIFFs and JPEGs in it. Below is a Photo Studio Home 2020 workflow that takes you from importing photos to saving the finished articles.

Importing photos and naming folders

1. Import your photos. You can open the Import dialog box in Manage Mode or have it open automatically by selecting the software in Windows Autoplay.

2. Choose a destination for your photos in the Import dialog box. An example might be “Pictures” in Windows. Name a “single subfolder” using the following naming convention: yymmdd-location (e.g. 200531-Paris-France).

3. Locate your imported folder of photos via the Folders tab in Manage Mode. Using the above naming convention, the latest folders are at the bottom of the folder list by default.

4. Double-click the first thumbnail in your newly imported image folder. This will open the image in View Mode while allowing access to other images in the folder. You’re ready to start grading and cataloging your pictures.

Assessing and grading photos

5. Make sure the Properties pane is open alongside your photos.

6. Decide on rejects by tagging all keepers with the checkbox in the Organize pane (top left). At this point, tag all photos you will or might keep for whatever reason. Important: do not reject raw files on the basis of poor sharpness in View Mode, since you are probably looking at an enlarged view of the embedded JPEG. Check the technical quality of raw files later in Edit Mode.

7. Flick back to Manage Mode and click on View > Filter By > Untagged. Delete your rejects. Or, just filter them out by selecting “Tagged” if you don’t like deleting stuff.

8. Back in View Mode, you can now rate your images. Ratings go from one to five. Rather than rate photos on a whim, I suggest writing down the meaning of each rating at the outset so you have a reference point. For instance:

  • 1 – poor photo with sentimental value.
  • 2 – adequate record photo, average family snap.
  • 3 – fairly strong photo with visual interest, worth showing to friends.
  • 4 – approaching your best, worthy of inclusion in portfolios.
  • 5 – your very best, potential competition winner.

Tracking workflow

9. In Edit Mode, use color labels to indicate where in the workflow images are. Again, I have suggestions:

  • Red – to delete. Once you get raw files into Edit Mode, you can assess their technical quality better at 100%. You might yet want to delete some of them or downgrade their rating.
  • Yellow – editing in progress. Still more work to be done on color and tone or retouching. Perhaps other possibilities to explore or versions to create.
  • Green – editing over. Nothing more to be done with this picture. Ready to use.
  • Blue – to print. You can return the status to green once it’s printed.
  • Purple – uploaded to a specific photo website, stock library, etc. You can use the blue label for this as well if you don’t tend to print photos.
  • No Color Label – nothing done since the initial assessments.

10. Photos that need work (those with yellow labels or no color labels using the above system) can be finished in Edit mode. Apply edits ranging from basic color and tone to special effects and LUTs. When you’re done editing, change the color label so you know you’ve worked on it or finished it.

Categories and keywords

11. Give your finished photos categories and keywords. If you’ve imported a set of keywords, you can go through the list top-to-bottom and apply any that suit the image. ACDSee comes with quick keyword lists built-in, which may be enough, depending on how thorough you want to be.

12. Copy and paste keywords from the Organize > Keywords field into Metadata > IPTC > Keywords. Write a caption in the Description field of IPTC. Hit “Enter” or none of this will save. This makes the data universally visible outside of ACDSee.

Naming files

I haven’t spoken of file naming above, since you might want to do that at the beginning or end.

Each photo needs a unique name. You can do it on import if you like. However, if you later delete photos, you might leave irritating gaps in your number sequence (file names invariably include numbers).

A way around this is to forget consecutive numbers and use date and time instead. This works as long as you don’t shoot multiple frames per second, which would create duplicates.

ACDSee Photo Studio Home 2020 - file naming
Photo libraries always had their own file-naming conventions. In the digital age, including subject names in the file name makes your photos SEO-friendly.

I always rename files after I’ve selected, converted, and edited them. That’s when I do most of my admin. Raw files keep their original names because I rarely revisit them.

I recommend using a sequential number and place, or subject names in your files (e.g. 0001-Eiffel-Tower-Paris). This can often be done quickly using ACDSee’s Batch Rename tool. The number should obviously be unique in every image.

Get started

Photo Studio Home 2020 is nothing if not versatile. Seasoned photographers who want extras like raw editing or layers can hook it up to other editors and still benefit from the superb DAM tools.

For beginners or photographers who only shoot JPEGs, this feature-laden software might be all they need. Why not get your photos sorted now?

ACDSee is a paid dPS partner.

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