I have 53,990 digital photographs on my computer that I have taken for vacation, for business, and for just the hell of it.  Or, I have downloaded them from stock photo sites or other legal spots on the web. The shots are scattered in different folders throughout my disk drives.  Finding a specific image when I want to illustrate a web page or include a visual clue in an email has long been a challenge.

Over the years I have used a lot of different systems to store my photographs in places that I’d know to find at later.  I’ve created sub-folders with dates and topics and themes.  Unfortunately, these storage spaces are scattered over different drives in folders called My Pictures, Images, Old Images, and more.  In fact, most of my client folders themselves have dated and tagged sub-folders, and I cannot quickly explain the division among the top-level folders of “Clients”, “Clients Old”, and “Clients Traditional”.

Finding a photograph of a specific person or scene that I know I have taken can involve a lot of searching. Did I file it by the project or by the date? And, has it become “old” or “traditional”?

Then, when I find the photograph, it’s usually the wrong size. Or, maybe there’s a stray person in it who needs to be cropped out.

Until last November, my experience with photo indexing and retrieving tools had all been negative.  Sporadically I downloaded several trial products and freeware solutions, but nothing both located all of my pictures and let me find them easily.

Years ago I gave up on free or low-cost photo editing software.  Nothing let me do enough fixing of flawed pictures, and I broke down and bought the industry-standard — and expensive — Photoshop program.

I thought there was nothing in the market that was both effective and reasonably priced to help with day-to-day photographic workflow.

I am happy to report that I am now wrong both about organization software and editing programs.  I stumbled across Adobe Lightroom 3 last fall.  It was recommended by John Ater, the professional photographer whose GroupOn photo shoot session I enjoyed.  John said that he, a professional, used Lightroom to organize his photos and he said he did 95% of all of his photo correction using Lightroom alone.

Lightroom works for me, too.  I use it to store, find, resize, and edit most of pictures I touch in my personal and professional lives. It does a great job of finding images computer-wide by their file/sub-folder/folder name and it also searches successfully by the tags I have started to add to my graphics.  Once I have found the image I want, I can crop and fix the coloring or lighting.  Then I can change the image’s size, and post it to Facebook, Flickr, or save it in another folder for uploading to a site.

That’s all I need to do 95+% of the time.

Adobe released Lightroom 4 earlier this year. They’ve added features like better video handling, and they’ve cut the price in half.

Lightroom 4 now costs only $149, a fraction of the $699 for Photoshop. Plus, it does the organization of photo collections that Photoshop doesn’t do.

I am switching my recommendation for personal and web photographers.  Check out Lightroom.

I think Lightroom is the best reasonably priced program that will keep you on top of your pictures.  And, like most Adobe products, you can try it for free for 30 days.