Photo organization with Windows Live Photo Gallery

27 February 2017

Tagging pictures with Windows Live Photo Gallery (pdf)

NOTE: All the steps to follow assume you’ve created jpg files from scanned photos on your computer, or are going to be re-naming and tagging newly imported photos that came from your camera or smart phone. The steps also assume you have Windows Live Photo Gallery installed, and that the photos you’re working with are in .jpg format.

1. Add your pictures to the program

1. Click the File tab

Photo Gallery File tab

2. Click Include folder

Photo Gallery Include Folder

3. If your pictures are in a location other than the default locations (Pictures, Public Pictures, Documents), click the Add button in the “Pictures Library Locations” dialog.

Photo Gallery Library Locations

4. Browse to the folder you want to add. Click the Include folder button. The new location will be added to the list of folders already included in the library.

2. After the pictures appear, set up the interface

1. Click the View tab
2. Click All details. Each thumbnail will now include text to the right showing the file name, the date taken, the file size, and the file width and height. There is also a “star” control that can be used to add and remove star ratings, and also an “Add caption” prompt.

Photo Gallery All Details

3. Click the Tag and Caption pane button. A vertical pane to the right of the main window pane appears, with the following sections:

People tags: Used to add faces to a face recognition database. These are separate people tags from the descriptive tags (see below)

Photo Gallery People tags

Geotag: This is populated from a place database. Places you have recently used will appear first as you type in the location information. When a match appears, you can select it.

Photo Gallery geotag

Caption: The text can be entered here, or it can be added using the “add a caption” field next to the thumbnail in the main pane.

Photo Gallery add caption

Descriptive tags: This is the section where a tag collection will be built up. Tags can be added and removed in this section.

Photo Gallery descriptive tags

Information: There are several editable fields here, such as the file name, date taken, rating, flag, and author. Use the horizontal bar to expand and collapse the section.

Photo Gallery information section

3. A Suggested Workflow

1. Rename the file if necessary. You can rename it in either the information section or by clicking on the existing file name to the right of the thumbnail. Whatever you type in either field becomes the name of the file in Windows Explorer. A suggested naming convention:

YYYY-MM-DD City State Subject
2017-02-23 Mazomanie WI Teddy on the bed

You can see the existing date by looking at the field below the file name next to the thumbnail in the main pane.

Photo Gallery Rename File

2. If you would like to use some of the photo editing tools, double-click the photo you’re working on.

  • Auto Adjust will adjust color, exposure, and straighten the photo if the program determines that the photo needs to be straightened.  There is a blue Undo arrow available at the top of the program if you don’t like the result. All of the adjustments can also be made individually by opening the corresponding separate tool. Even more control is available under the Fine tune button.
  • Try some of the Effects filters: black and white, sepia, cyan, and orange, yellow or red filters. To discard all of the edits, click the Revert to Original button.
  • The crop tool lets you select a common proportion, such as 8×10 or 5×7. You can rotate the crop tool. The guidelines that appear will help you apply the Rule of Thirds to your photo crop. Hit the Enter key to apply the crop.

If you apply some of the effects, you might want to click the Make a copy button which will save this edited photo with the same file name, and this copy will be saved to the same folder where the original is saved. The file name will have a (2) added to it. You might want to change the (2) to something more meaningful, like “sepia”, “cropped”, or “edited.”

If you’ve saved off a copy of the edited photo, click the Revert to Original button to get back to the original, unedited version of the photo. Otherwise, all of these edits will be applied to the original photo automatically. Click the red X, upper right, to get out of the edit work area and go back to the tag and caption interface.

Photo Gallery editing tools

3. Add people tags if applicable, in the People tags section. Faces will be recognized if they’ve been tagged before, and as the program finds matching faces in new photos, it will ask you about the match.

Photo Gallery people match

Photo Gallery who is thisOtherwise, the program says, “Who is this?” Click there and either type a new name or type to search for a name which you know has already been used. As you tag people and the database grows, you will be able to click on faces in the ribbon above the photo thumbnails to filter your photos to only those containing that face-person. The program may identify more matches when you click the face in the ribbon.

Photo Gallery people ribbon


Photo Gallery geotag4. Add a geotag: Start typing the city. The program will try to find a match for what you are typing.

5. Add a caption. Write whatever you like. This ends up being written to the Title and Subject fields in the Windows Properties form for that photo.  You can see this by right-clicking the photo and choosing Open File Location.Photo Gallery Open File Location

When the folder opens, your photo should be highlighted. Right-click again, and choose Properties. Click the Details tab. The caption you added will appear in the Title and Subject fields.

6. Descriptive tags: These tags also get written to file properties. I always tag the year, city, state, and people or subjects at minimum. Although this might seem like repeat information if you’ve used these as part of the file name, the descriptive tags are differently searchable depending on the photo program you are using to try and ind the phot later on. Some of my tags include:

  • Season (summer, fall, etc.)
  • Indoor or outdoor
  • Event names (“1st birthday”, graduation, anniversary, “50th anniversary”)
  • color or “black and white”
  • detailed location (“Pope Farm Park”, home, “Park Elementary School”, kitchen, etc.)
  • Anything that uniquely identifies the specific photo (glasses, “blue dress”, “with toy train” etc.)
  • Holiday (Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.)

Make sure tags which consist of multiple words are put into quotes. That way the words won’t get collected as separate tags.

To actually enter a tag, click the Add descrptive tags text, type the word or phrase in quotes, and hit the Enter key.

Photo Gallery Tagging

Photo Gallery: How to find photos that have no tags at all

  • Click the File tab
  • Click Options
  • Click the General tab
  • Check the box for Show Descriptive tags under the Navigation Pane section and click OK

Now, the left-most pane will have a section at the bottom called “Descriptive tags” which is useful for filtering all the photos in the collection which share a specific tag! The side-benefif is that the first group under this section is called “not tagged.”  Now you know which photos need attention.

You might also want to populate the “Add an author” field in the Information section of the Tag and Caption pane on the right to preserve the name of the person who took the photo. This is also written to the Windows properties for the file.

7. Make a backup .tif for archiving: If you don’t already have a .tif copy as a backup, a copy made now will inclide all the title, subject, and descriptive tags you’ve created for the photo, written to the properties of the .tif file. Move the .tif files to a separate location for backup.



5 – Step Photo Organization

There are plenty of “how to” blog posts on Pinterest, so I’ll have a go too. 
4 March 2017

According to the Library of Congress, we need to be our own digital archivists

The Library of Congress has an entire website dedicated to personal digital archiving and family history. On their blog The Signal, they listed 4 easy steps toward preservation: Identify, Decide, Organize, Make Copies.

Here are my five steps:


Gather, Name, Organize, Maintain, Enjoy

None of these steps are very easy in my experience. I struggled for years with the steps of digital media organization. I have one big overall rule, though – don’t overthink it. There are really only two goals:

  1. Be able to find what you are looking for
  2. Be able to share what you’ve collected


  1. Find and scan the physical photos in your collection and save them to one folder on your PC (I start with “Pictures” as the top-level folder name)
    1. Photo albums
    2. Picture boxes
    3. Pictures in frames
    4. Also scan documents such as newspaper clippings, school programs, obituaries, memorial cards, etc.
  2. Find and collect photos from hard drives, phones, camera SD cards, and cloud storages such as Facebook
    1. How to download photos from Facebook
    2. Also get the video clips from these locations


What have you got? Look through all the pictures. Think about an organization hierarchy based on what you have. You can also start thinking about tags and metadata. It will help a lot in the long run if you take the time right now to rename the Windows files to something that identifies what is in the photo.  More information

Also be disciplined about deleting things you don’t need to keep:

  • For example, I didn’t keep a digital copy of zoo animals taken 50 years ago unless there was a person I knew in the photo as well. The physical copies of these still exist if I ever really want to see that black and white picture of a long-ago elephant behind a fence.
  • Ditch the blurry photos from your phone unless they are otherwise significant, such as the one and only photo of something important to you.
  • Keep only the best of the similar shots – like the time when you took ten bathroom-mirror selfies. (Hope you cleaned up your bathroom before you did those…wash that mirror too.) You don’t need to keep all ten. Keep the ones you love and delete the rest. You really won’t miss them at all.
  • You may find duplicates. I have my great-grandmother’s photos, my grandmother’s photos, and my mom’s photos. I scanned all the albums and ended up with many duplicates. You might want to delete them now, so you have a few less to manage. However, if you prefer to wait, when you start tagging photos, the tags will help you find and weed out the duplicates.


Hard part! Once you figure out a hierarchy that works for you it makes all the difference.

Date-based hierarchy

You might like to organize by year, then by month and day, or by Event, as suggested in an article from Photography Life. I found that a date-based hierarchy didn’t work as well as I wanted it to, for me, but it might work for you.

  • Sometimes, I have no idea what the date was at the time an old photo was taken, although sometimes you can figure it out (Easter 1965 fell on April 18, Thanksgiving in 1901 was on November 28, etc.)
  • It didn’t help me locate “that photo of Cousin Pat” if I couldn’t remember the approximate date of the photo. Tagging would certainly help with that, but if you’re still “in progress” with tagging, you might need to find some specific photo before you’ve finished.
  • Not all the photos in my collection are of people. There are pictures of places, animals, flowers, cars, etc. It’s easier for me to locate pictures of my dog Teddy when I have them stored in Pictures > Animals > Pets.
It’s not perfect – but it does help narrow it down: did I save that picture of Ma’s kitchen to “Places > Wisconsin > Wyocena” or is it in  “Catch all?”

After some trial and error, this is the scheme I ended up with (within the top level Pictures folder):

  •  Animals
    •  Captive (Zoo, botanical gardens, etc.)
    •  Pets
    •  Wildlife
      •  Birds
      •  Bugs
      •  Deer
      •  Other Animals
      •  Rabbits
      •  Squirrels
      •  Turtles
  •  Catch all
    •  Fireworks
    •  Food
    •  Other catch all (furniture, household items, etc.)
  •  Clip art
  •  Digital Darkroom (includes document scans, “photoshop” type manipulation)
    •  Artistic borders and frames
    •  Background suitable
    •  Composites
    •  Document scans and screenshots
      •  Clippings
      •  Coloring and patterns
      •  Letters
      •  Obituaries
      •  Postcards
      •  School and Church related
      •  Vital records
    •  Effects and filters
    • Other manipulation (colorized, sepia, “instagram” type filters)
    •  Restoration
    •  Stacks (HDR photo editing  – stacked exposures)
  •  Flowers
    •  Fields and groups
    •  Floral portraits
    •  Macros of flowers
  •  Foliage
    •  Leaves
    •  Other foliage
    •  Trees
  •  Original scans (where scans get saved as I’m batch scanning)
  •  People
    •  Celebrities
    •  Friends
    •  Kids and immediate family
      •  1937
      •  1939
      •  1940s
      •  1948
      •  1950s
      •  and so on, up to the current year, with subfolders lke:
        •  2016-01-03 Bowling
        •  2016-01-09 Basketball camp
        •  2016-01-16 Bald Eagle days
        •  …and so on
    •  Other and unknown (those scans from your old photos which contain people you don’t know)
    •  Other family (not the immediate family, this is where all the cousins, aunts, etc. “live”)
    •  Professional photos (school photos, etc.)
  •  SORT (this is the folder that I use as the destination when I am in a big hurry to import from my cameras and phones) – this is a working folder and everything in it is supposed to be moved out to another folder.
  •  Travel, Events and Places
    •  Events
      •  2016 dance recital
      •  Grandma’s 80th birthday
      •  Rockford air show
      •  …and so on
    •  Places
      •  Alabama
      •  Around Madison
      •  Around Wisconsin
      •  Indiana
      •  …and so on
      •  Tombstones
        •  Massachusetts
        •  New York
        •  Wisconsin
        •  …and so on
      •  Unknown places
      •  Work


The actual maintenance workflow will be different, depending on the source (phone, camera, scanner, etc.) and the photo database program you end up using (Microsoft Photo Gallery, Lightroom, Paint Shop Pro, etc.)

This is the step where I’m dealing with photos I saved to the folder hierarchy listed above, renaming files, tagging, doing things like color correction, restoration, etc. It is an ongoing process. I sorted pictures first so I could find them right away, and all the tagging is still in-progress.


Share the photos

Make scrapbooks

Make digital albums and stories

Put them on facebook

Send them off for print copies



Tagging photos to add metadata

4 March 2017

Scanned photos vs. “Born digital” photos and videos from your phone

Automatic vs. Hand-crafted metadata

Whether your image file is a scanned photo or a photo or video from your phone or camera, some metadata (data about data) is automatically contained within the file. For example, “born digital” pictures and video have the date and time automatically added in the file properties.

Other examples of “automatic” metadata:

  • Height
  • Width
  • Resolution
  • GPS/geographic location (if the camera has a location feature, and you have it turned on)
  • Flash source
  • Aperture
  • Exposure time
  • Camera make and model

We can add some additional metadata ourselves, which can be used to help describe the digital file and then find it again later on. It’s especially important to do some tagging when working with scans of old photos, which won’t have very much useful information attached to the digital file automatically.

Minimum: Rename the files

When I import from my camera, it is important to me to rename the file.

A typical image from one of my cameras has a file name similar to “DSC_001.jpg.” My file naming pattern includes when, where who, and/or what and also may have a basic description such as:

“2016-05-15 Sauk City WI Dance Recital.jpg”

files in folder

Even if I don’t make any other changes, I can tell by reading the file name what the picture contains. I won’t waste time opening this file if I’m looking for a picture of my dog, for example. Some programs will help with the file rename process by sorting your photos for you before you import them from your camera. If your camera or phone SD card contains photos accumulated over one calendar date, the import wizard might batch those files into separate dates. You can choose to let the program rename the files with this date included in the file name. Make sure the date and time are correct on the camera-side copy before you import the pictures.


The purpose of tagging is to help you find what you are looking for.

I always tag year, city, state, sub-location (such as “home” or “River Arts Center”) names of the people in the photo (in quotes), event name (if the photo is of a specific event), and which camera I used to take the photo.

I tag mostly the same way for scanned photos – year or era (1942, or 1940s), city, state, sublocation, names of the people or things in the photo, event name (if the photo is of a specific event) and “scan” instead of the camera name.

Step back before you start tagging, and think about what you might search for if you are trying to find this specific image.

Make some rules

  • Re-use existing tags whenever you can
  • Pick a format for abbreviations, names, and locations and use it consistently
    • Will you abbreviate it or spell it out? (St. Louis or Saint Louis)
    • Will you use nicknames or full names? (Jim or James) – I always use both as separate tags, such as “James Smith” and “Jim Smith” – both tags applied to the same photo. I might use the “Jim” tag but somebody else someday might use “James” as their search term.
    • How will you format phrases? If you don’t enclose them in quotes or make them all one string, the words will get separated into individual tags. “May Elementary School” will become “May” “Elementary” “School”
      • “May Elementary School”
      • MayElementarySchool
      • May_Elementary_School
    • Will you tag married women with their maiden name, married name, or both? I always use the maiden name, with the married name if I need a tiebreaker (I have two women named “Ida Wing” in my family)
  • Add as much information as you want. The goals are:
    • To describe the photo to people who might not otherwise know what is in it
    • To find the photo again later when you want to use it.

Scanning photos to create digital files

Getting photos into the computer

There are different processes for scanning negatives and 35mm slides. I have no experience with negatives or slides, but there seems to be a lot of good advice availableon the internet for working with these types of materials.

scannerMy photo collection consists of new images, which were taken with smartphones and digital cameras, and scans of old family photos and documents. My scanner and the scanner software are part of my all-in-one printer. The scanner part is a flatbed scanner which is in the top part of the printer.

The process I follow:

  1. Clean off the scanner bed:
    1. Blow dust off or wipe with a microfiber cloth
    2. If there are smudges on the glass, you can dampen the microfiber with just a little water. Some sources say you can use rubbing alcohol, but that seemed to damage my microfiber.
    3. Make sure the scanner bed is dry before you use it, or the moisture might damage the photos.
  2. Make sure your own hands are clean and dry.
  3. Blow or gently brush dust off the photo to be scanned.
  4. Lay the photo or a group of photos on the glass bed, face down.
  5. In my case, I click the Scan button in the scanner program on my PC. This generates a preview on my PC monitor. I can see if the photo or photos need adjusting on the glass bed of the scanner. Often, the image is crooked or may even fall outside the bounds of the scan area.
  6. Select an image resolution.
    1. 600dpi is a good general purpose size.
    2. The higher the number, the bigger the resulting digital file will be. But, it’s also true that a higher resolution might allow you to see details in the photo that you may have missed, since you will be able to zoom in more.
    3. Experiment with this number until you arrive at a compromize between desired detail and file size.
  7. Select an image format if the scanner allows it.
    1. If you have plenty of storage place, you might want to choose to save as a .tif file. The TIFF (wikipedia) format is “lossless” and it also allows some metadata (such as title, subject, and tags, for example) to be written right to the windows file. However, .tif files are larger than jpg files.
    2. If the scanner you’re using only outputs to JPG (wikipedia), you can make a copy after the scan and save that copy as tif.
  8. My preferred settings are 600dpi, tif.
  9. Select a destination folder (Windows), name the file, and click Scan.
    1. I save these scans to a folder called “Original Scans” because usually these are not the final copies I want to use for digital video, or for sharing.
    2. Most of the time I am bulk-scanning, with several photos on the scanner glass at a time. I want to cut those apart and save them as individual photos, so at this stage, I don’t bother to rename the original scan.

Scanner software settings dialog

Generally, I try to scan as .tif, to “Original Scans.” Then I open each scan file and cut it up into individual photo files. Each of those gets saved as a jpg. As I save the jpg files they get renamed, sorted into my photo organization scheme, and maybe manipulated and edited a little bit. They get tags assigned also. After that, I open the jpg in Microsoft Paint and save as .tif to a backup folder. All the tags and file names get saved right along with the tif (so both the tif and the jpg have the metadata I’ve created.)