I've avoided tagging my images for too long...

Howdy folks,

For the longest time I’ve avoided tagging any of my images as I’ve not fully implemented or committed to a workflow and to be honest, I’m still not there.

Doing my memory card dumps to /YYYY/YYMM/ folders was a big step!

I’m not asking for a step by step but I would appreciate any workflow suggestions or opinions :grinning:

Would using Digikam’s feature rich organizational tools coupled with Darktable’s raw processing abilities be a good idea moving forward to organizing a tagging a few years worth of photos?

I’ve tried this approach before; Import to Digikam for tagging (subject, date and location) and facial recognition. GPS coordinates aren’t important to me.
I do remember having trouble getting Darktable to take / update these tags I’ve added.

I’m not asking for anyone to tell me how to do it as that is what search engines are for :sunglasses:

I would like to know how some folks on here handle their development vs tagging / organizational aspects of their photography collections.

Do you handle it with just one program? Combine the strengths of many? Or are you constantly jumping ship, adjusting workflows and learning new software ?

Yes, I use darktable for tagging, because I only tag my RAW images. Exported JPGs and others are “archived” in digiKam. digiKam automatically searches for changes on every startup and reads the tags from the JPGs.

In darktable I use Ctrl+t and this two self brewed “plugins” AKA lua scripts:

Beside lighttable modules both add shortcuts to copy tags between images or allow to set shortcuts for specific tags.


Thanks for you thoughts and links to your plugins Christian.
I’ll give the two plugins a try and see how they work.

This article changed my life 3 years ago:



@Andrius, while I generally appreciate the article, I don’t go with the thesis to not archive in manufacturer raw format but convert to dng. Experience has shown (and was documented here several times) that it is better practice to archive your raw data in the raw format of the camera (not the results of processing of course) for several reasons:

  1. There are several FLOSS libraries to read most of the raw formats out there, and in most cases it has not proven too difficult to analyze a new raw format and add it to these libraries (THAT SHOULD NOT DISCOUNT THE EFFORT AND SKILL OF THE PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY DO THE WORK, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB; BUT FOR THE PURPOSE HERE THE RAW COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE RAW LIBRARY LANDSCAPE TELLS A STORY AS WELL). And these FLOSS libraries don’t go away suddenly, they are FLOSS, so you will be able to use the source code or at least the knowledge from the source code in 10, 100, or 1000 years from now. Probably it’s a good idea to archive the source code of rawspeed and/or dcraw and/or … – if you apply “and” or “or” depends on the strength of your believe in doomsday scenarios :wink:.
  2. The format support of the libraries mentioned before is excellent, and a lot of special features of particular raw formats are covered. But, from time to time, new features of the formats are discovered that people were not aware before. If I convert to dng, the converter will only save the features that he knows in an accessible format, others may be lost or extremely hard to access later. The libraries mentioned before may get the access to the extra features in the original raw format after it is discovered, and the benefit cab then be used even with the archived original raw files.
  3. dng allows for too many options that are only partially coverd by dng reading libraries. At least, dng files have caused a lot of issues and AFAIK there are still some dng specialities that are not covered by FLOSS software and probably not even commercial software.
  4. There is AFAIK no FLOSS raw to dng converter. That causes a vendor lock-in that I observe people using FLOSS software seem to circumvent.
  5. dng converters may introduce data loss, e.g. by application of lossy compression. If the converter is not open source, it is extremely difficult to prove that it really converts all the data for all input files that may come, even if it does it for the last files you tried.

There may be more …


Could not agree more on this.
I did convert my first PEF to DNG in the beginning but was told by evix2, darktable, etc.folks to stop doing that.
I did switch my camera from PEF to DNG though… I think some software could not read my PEFs…

Besides the DNG thing it is still a great article :slight_smile:

I will discuss with digikam folks if that is better to remove that recommendation.

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I thinks it’s something different if the camera saves natively dng. I only talked about conversion afterwards.

Great, big thank you :smile:.

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Re: workflow suggestions

I tried tagging but when it came time to search I couldn’t remember what tags to use. I now find I prefer it all done with the file system (no database…I was 15 years a database programmer and I’m glad to now be free of it) so, with the file system only what I do have migrates more easily.

Camera/birds/belize/mmddyyyy/raws or /jpegs and /jpegs/up … for web versions. I can review the raws if needed. The jpegs tell me what I once thought were the best few images from the group. Meta-descriptions more fine-grained yet i won’t remember anyway.

Rsync from cron makes a backup to another disk. If the house burns down I’m screwed. But terabytes on the cloud cost too much.

…because it’s not all obscurely hidden inside an opaque sql schema I can use perl sed awk bash to find stuff.

If you love perl sed awk bash, you can just add exiftool (perl) to that list and the world of tags opens up to you on the filesystem as well :wink:

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Sure. Yes. Exiftool is useful. But what tags to add? What ever I think of today I’ll forget 6 months later. If it’s coded into the file path I can see it…“what was that Toucan photo I made in 2014? That was a February trip to Costa Rica!”

Find /camera/birds/Costarica/
-name “*jpg” pipeto grep 2014 pipeto grep -i toucan

…might turn up PIC1234_Toucan-eating-avocados.jpg

Ah. I forgot the most important part. Always always always include the RAW file name in the jpeg, so I can match the jpeg to the RAW it came from.

PIC8725.NEF might become PIC8725_Kiskadee.jpg

I would do the same but with tags.
Event- vacation
Place- CostaRica
Wildlife- bird or just wildlife

One thing I like about tags - one image can have many of them. But it is hard to place a single image in few folders. You can copy it of setup simlinks for sure but that will be even more complicated than figuring out your tags structure


I’d certainly suggest sticking to one program/method as far as tagging and organising goes. Spreading that kind of data between multiple structures is not good. Both digikam and darktable have sensible databases (and in no way opaque) from what I’ve looked at briefly, but how they compare in actual use I know nothing about.

Yes that’s good’-many tags to one image. You do have to invent a naming
convention and stick to it

I’m not saying my way is better. Just that it’s convenient and valid.

Sometimes I add searchable (visible) attributes to a directory of images
with “touch”

… touch lamar-river
… touch playing-tag etc

/* colin (sandy) pittendrigh */

Having just discovered darktable and digiKam recently, I was bolled-over with dt’s image processing abilities but not thrilled with its data asset management model/interface. However, within minutes of installing digiKam I was enjoying its asset management interface immensely. So I use each for it’s particular strength. I can only suggest that you use what feels best for the task and not worry if that means using separate applications.


My experience in a nutshell:
2007: “I’ve avoided tagging my images for too long…”
2008: Back to using a file browser and a semantic folder structure.


I semi tag my stuff. Everything that goes on the web is tagged as my website uses the tags, captions and gps info. I have a public website and a private one for family photos running the same setup.

I do get a bit lazy tagging people in family photos… I’m using darktable or Geeqie for tagging and they are not ideal. Darktable is to slow and Geeqie to rudimentary. Making things worse I also use Rawtherapee which doesn’t really do metadata.

So I’ve been considering Digikam… A bit scared at running that kind of software as I feel they tend to make a lot of assumptions and be very “helpful” in ways you might not appreciate. I do like however the way it helps with face tagging. That queue thing looks very convenient.

Are there any risks associated with running digikam on thousands of DNG, jpg and xmp files tagged with the software mentioned above? I want xmp’s together with the files, a separate database is useless to me.

Can digiKam sync tags between files with the same filename? I want the metadata to be associated with the DNG’s (my camera produces DNG’s) In my workflow the raw file is the source I come back to whenever I need a image for a new context/media. So the DNG needs to be prepped with all the metadata my exports should have. Otherwise I’d have to retag for every export? Here RT is a bit of a problem as the exported files won’t have the metadata from the xmp files. So I need a convenient way of syncing metadata. I know about exiftool
exiv2 etc but when dealing with images I find I need visual sort etc to keep track of things.

From what you described it looks to me that darktable will work better for you. Darktable does copy metadata to exported jpegs.
Digikam can group raw and jpeg and do some operations including tagging on the grouped files at the same time but I don’t believe it will copy metadata from raw to a new jpeg export.
As for where digikam stores your metadata, there are few options:
Database (sqlite or mysql)
Xmp sidecars (they sync well between darktable and digikam)
Embedded metadata (jpegs only. There is an experimental support for DNG but I think it is going to disappear from digikam in future due to users complains about DNG corruption)

Having said that, if your DNG has a sidecar with some tags and information added by either darktable or digikam the new jpeg you export from that DNG in darktable will have all the tags written into the file and both digikam and darktable will see them (for some reason sometimes the new jpeg shows up in digikam without tags but the tags appear few minutes later or after restart)

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Thanks for the info! Perhaps I’ll give digiKam a try because the people tagging does look good particularly if it’s darktable compatible. I do need to use RawTherapee for my Pentax Pixelshift files as well as for more severe highlight recovery. I guess I need to manually copy metadata for those files.

Try copying the xmp sidecar and renaming it to match the jpeg created in RawTherapee. Who knows maybe that will do the trick.

:rofl::rofl: This is exactly why I just keep to a logical file structure! All my good ones get processed and uploaded to Flickr anyway, so tags in my large raw database just seem like overkill for me, as a dedicated amateur photographer. If I was a working pro, however, maybe it would make more sense to tag…