You snap a great shot of your kid's soccer goal, look at it for two seconds on your camera's view screen, and congratulate yourself for your photographic skill.
And then what?
And then, if you're like many people, you lose track of it in your computer.
That's the unfortunate downside of digital photography: The snapshots essentially get lost because you don't have a reliable way to keep track of them.
Even if you take the time to rename image files and sort your photos into carefully labeled folders on your computer, you may not have a workable, long-term solution to finding your favorite shots a week or six months or five years later.
You need specialized photo organization software. If you don't use it, your digital photos will likely be lost in a mess of folders.
Here are the reasons you should use photo-organization software, and what it can do for you.
-- Your homegrown system will break. The ease of digital photography -- the ability to capture images at virtually no cost -- means many of us are accumulating massive photo collections. And they just keep growing. Your own organizational scheme may seem to work now, but as time passes -- and your collection expands into the thousands of photos -- it is likely to become unwieldy.
-- You will save time. Photo organizers essentially do the organizing for you, behind the scenes, whenever you transfer photos to your computer. You don't have to worry about file names and folder names. Instead, the software provides easy, intuitive ways to scan your photo collection, with images automatically sorted by date.
-- You should not be the only one with access to your photos. Photo collections should be accessible to family members, not just the person who cobbles together an idiosyncratic system for storing them. With a photo organizer, your photo collection can be easily viewed by others.
-- You will have useful options for sorting photos. By tagging your photos with labels like "birthday," "Atlantic City," or by people's names, you can easily find the photos you want. I've been tagging photos for a couple of years now, and if I want to see every photo with a certain combo of friends or family members -- my daughter, say, with my brother -- I can click a couple of buttons to see all of those photos within a few seconds.
-- You will be more creative. From printed photo books to musical slide shows to greeting cards, digital photography has spawned lots of ways to be creative with your images. Photo organizers typically make it easy to do all of these things, either through features integrated into the software or else by providing seamless connections with Web-based services.
-- You will have an easier time sharing photos. Digital photography is often about sharing your photos, and photo organizers make that easier, too. They do this by providing tools for common tasks, such as reducing a photo's file size for sending in an e-mail or uploading photos to an online service to share via the Web. By letting you perform these tasks with a minimum of hassles, you're a lot more likely to share your images.
So get organized.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS . . .
Which image management software you choose may depend on what kind of person you are. Some options:
Perfect for: a) anyone familiar with, and a fan of, Adobe Photoshop, and b) control freaks who feel the need to tweak every photo.