Using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
We've taken a lot of photos over the years, and still shoot a decent bit: vacations, activities, around the house, Scouts -- all sorts of things. One of the things I most love about shooting digitally is that -- with the right tools -- it's very easy to store, sort, cross-reference, and organize photos.
Finding some software to help with this organization task is difficult, however. I think a variety of features are needed: good tagging capability isn't enough, I also want a strong backup tool, for example. Adobe's been doing a good job of this for a while: first with Photoshop Album (superceded by the organizer in Elements), then the Organizer in Photoshop Elements (still good, by the way), and now with Photoshop Lightroom (a more powerful, heavier-duty tool). Recommended!
Lightroom really does a great job from the start, when importing from your camera: it helps you make a backup during import, lets you apply keywords en-masse, and specify a unique file-naming convention -- amongst a variety of other things.
Adding keywords ("waterfall," "Connecticut," "family") to photos often isn't enough for me, so I group them into Collections ("Vacation in NH, 2007," "Troop 29 Bottle & Can Drive, 2007") to help make finding certain photos easier in the future. Collections, keywords, camera metadata, folders, and a Find tool all make it easy to find any well-classified photo.
There are a variety of ways to sort and flag photos. (I use a quick "yes/no" round by flagging photos, then am more thorough with stars on the "yes" photos. "No" photos are deleted.) Making quick edits to a single photo or a group of photos just takes a moment in the Library module. For more in-depth edits -- including super-easy red-eye removal and spot retouching -- I dive into the Develop module. Applying the same edits to multiple files is as easy as can be with the Sync buttons.
There are three other pieces to Lightroom, too: the Web, Print, and Slideshow modules. The Web and Slideshow modules are easy ways to create fairly standard presentations. I've used the Slideshow module a few times for little projects. I've never used the Web module to generate a gallery. I've played with the Print module a little, but I honestly don't print many photos any more.
Backups are handled well, too: you're regularly prompted to backup your Catalog, and doing a full-on backup only takes a few clicks and is comprehensive. And don't forget, Lightroom helps you backup on import, too.
If you need a tool to help categorize and backup photos, there's no better choice than Lightroom! (Ok, so that claim is a little unsubstantiated in this review -- I didn't compare to any other current products -- but I'm always disappointed in the incomplete solution other manufacturers offer. Thanks for getting it right, Adobe!)