Owing to the steady improvement of cameras on mobile devices, we now take more photos than ever before. We dump them into digital storage to make room for more and dread the day we’ll have to find that one photo from 2004 because we never took the time to properly organize our photos.
It doesn’t have to be like that. There are many photo managers for Linux, but their primary purpose is often just viewing and basic editing. KPhotoAlbum is a small but powerful KDE application that can organize many photos at once. Unlike Digikam, KPhotoAlbum isn’t trying to be all things to all people – instead, its developer opted for the philosophy of doing one thing, but doing it well.
KPhotoAlbum offers the source for compilation. For (K)Ubuntu users, you can install via the PPA:
At first run, KPhotoAlbum greets you with a welcome screen. Choose the demo mode (if you want to test the application without importing photos), or create a database to catalog your photos. If you keep all photos in one folder, that’s great, because KPhotoAlbum doesn’t support multiple root folders. Enter the path to your main folder (for example, “/home/$USER/Pictures”), and let KPhotoAlbum scan through the subfolders to build a database. It reads metadata (EXIF) and checksums of your photos and stores it in a single XML file. This makes it fast and lets you freely move or edit your photos. They aren’t tied to KPhotoAlbum since it doesn’t modify them directly.
The “Home” screen is the starting point in KPhotoAlbum. The main area (1) contains your categories and options like “Search” which you access by a single click. The histogram or timeline (2) groups photos by period when they were created. The “Scope” info area (3) displays currently selected categories and tags. The box on the right (4) shows the exact number of selected images and the total of all images in the database. “Save” icon means there are unsaved changes.
You can tweak KPhotoAlbum in the “Settings -> Configure KPhotoAlbum” dialog. Adjust searching options, duplicate files detection, window background color, thumbnail sizes and more.
Annotating and Organizing Photos
KPhotoAlbum offers several levels of categorization, but it’s flexible and doesn’t force you to use all of them. Still, it’s important to clarify the terminology.
Categories are the top level; they appear as icons on the home screen. You can remove the default ones and create your own, even give them custom icons. Categories are easily managed from the “Settings” dialog. Here you can set the defaults for untagged images.
Subcategories are optional but useful when organizing travel photos. You can create a “Travel” category, make subcategories for each country, and use town names as items (tags). For some reason, subcategories are called “Super Categories” which can be confusing. You have to select items to add them, but there aren’t any checkboxes – you need to click them and leave them selected.
Let’s say you want to manage a stock photo collection. First you’d create categories (“Free,” “For commercial use”…), then sub-categories (“Business,” “People,” “Objects”…) and finally tag images based on what they represent (“clock,” “computer,” “woman eating salad”…).
To tag photos, go to the “Home” screen and click “Show thumbnails.” This displays all untagged photos. You can sort them by date in the “View” menu. Select one or more images, right click and choose the “Annotate…” option to launch “Annotations.”
Now you can add tags by typing them into boxes below each category and pressing Enter. Use the “Options” menu at the bottom to customize this dialog.
4. Labels, Tokens and Stacks
“Labels” and “Tokens” are great for in-depth organization, but to the average user they’re probably an overkill. “Stacks” function like virtual folders within a tag or category, and you can use them to save space in the thumbnail view.
Navigation and Search
Navigation starts at the “Home” screen, where you can open categories and show thumbnails for all images in the database or just the untagged ones. Clicking a category icon opens the “Category” view. Subcategories, if any, are expandable.
Clicking any of the items in the “Category” view brings you back to the “Home” screen, but now you’re in a different scope. If you click “Show thumbnails,” now you’ll only see those with the chosen tag. This is visible in the Scope info area in the bottom left corner.
2. Histogram (Timeline)
“Timeline” view is a scope that shows images based on their creation date, regardless of tags. For example, to see all images from 2012, zoom in on the histogram. There’ll be green numbers representing images. Then select “Show thumbnails” and click below the number, in the “ruler” area of the histogram (light green in the screenshot below) to show only images from that period. Now you can select and tag them all at once.
KPhotoAlbum has a built-in photo viewer with slideshow and fullscreen modes. Open it by right-clicking any image or pressing “Ctrl + I.” It’s also possible to annotate individual images from the Viewer.
4. EXIF Search
Also accessible from the “Home screen”, EXIF Search helps you find images based on criteria pulled from metadata.
Privacy, Export and More
KPhotoAlbum offers a neat privacy option to lock and password-protect photos from viewing. You can remove selected images from the database, open them in external tools, merge duplicate versions of photos and view database statistics. To add a single folder to the database, open the terminal and navigate to your main photos folder (the one KPhotoAlbum is using), then type:
Now you should be able to edit images from that folder.
KPhotoAlbum is not a magical solution. You still have to annotate manually, but it makes the process efficient and eliminates the need to rename image files; you can leave those “DSC00XY.JPG” filenames and just tag them in KPhotoAlbum.
It’s really fast; it imported my gigantic wallpaper collection in less than a minute. The newest version (4.6 at this time) boasts features like face recognition and Age View. KPhotoAlbum might have a steep learning curve, but there’s a great PDF handbook if you get stuck. Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but designers and professional photographers will surely appreciate it.