Trying to figure out the best way to tag, store and sync a large reference library

I am really into model trains, art, and photography. As such, I have a large library of reference images that I want to tag and sync across my Apple devices.

I do not want these images stored in iPhoto. If iPhotos had more than one hidden album, and synced smart albums to iOS. I’d use that. Likewise, I thought of Google Photos, but on iOS it insists on using my camera roll.

Right now, I am just storing these images/Videos in Finder. Without going too far into the weeds, I generally store images in a \Railroad Name\Locomotive Type\Locomotive Number folder. The main challenge with this is if the image contains more than one locomotive. So, I’d like to tag them for saved searches.

My main thought is to just go through the Finder and manually apply the tags based on the criteria I want. Then build Smart Folders off the tags I want. This would also cover a lot of the saved images I have for art reference or other images that inspire me. I am already paying for the cloud storage to sync.

Another option is Evernote. It will do the multiple tagging I want and easily sync. I toyed with OneNote, but it can’t seem to handle multiple tags, and this is a rare moment when Evernotes everything-in-one-bucket method works so I can split off different notebooks.

Is there a photos-based app for Mac and iOS that will let itself be separate from the photo library?

I would consider Lightroom. Albums. Tagging. Comments. macOS and iOS apps and sync.

That’s not a bad idea, actually. Thanks.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. GP for IOS only backs up your photos to Google and displays the photos in the camera roll. It doesn’t store duplicates.

I’ve been using it to backup originals for a couple of years. For me the process is set it and forget it so I don’t know if it has the features you desire.

I don’t want it to have any access to my Camera Roll. I want a completely separate library just for images I didn’t take, or are photos I just took for reference. I want to be able to keep personal photos separate.

Understood. And I just learned “Google Photos does not even support searching for tags, thus will never implement the option to add tags.”


I’d recommend Devonthink if you want to add other reference material besides images

LightRoom is what I choose for all photo metadata creation and use.I use LightRoom Classic because I do not want my photos on Adobe Cloud so that limits my IOS use.

I thought about that, but the high cost turned me away.

I don’t use tags, fwiw. Google Photos offers unlimited image storage for photos up to 16 megapixels and videos up to 1080p resolution. You can upload and keep your photos separate.

(Amazon Photos, which I’ve never used, offers unlimited full-resolution online photo storage, and 5 GB free video storage, to Prime members.)

I use Google Photos for some types of private albums (you can send a private link, or a link only for a specific person who logs in with their Google account). I am volunteer foster shelter dogs, and I use private photo albums on Google Photos per dog which the specific group involved can access and from which they can choose photos to publicize. I find it very useful.

I don’t use iCloud Photo storage at all, never did, have no reason to need access at a moment’s notice to every photo I’ve ever taken.

Is there any way to get Google photos on iOS to completely ignore the camera roll?

I’ve never let GP have access to my camera roll; I just access it in a web browser, and manually select and upload images I want to go into GP, usually into a specific album.

It is not actually required to import photos into the Photos library, for them to be seen in Photos. There is a setting, on be default, in Photos, that imports photos into the system library, but you can turn it off, and you basically have a referenced library. You’d have to move back and forth manually between the two modes, of course, which is a big point of failure.

Alternatively, you can use a separate Photos library (referenced, as described above) for the railroad images. Moving back and forth among libraries is not too big a hassle, certainly no more than using an entirely different application.

Seconding DEVONthink. For large, heavy libraries, it’s really the best. Many notes app have untold limitations on their notes sizes (EN is around 20 Mb, I think). DT handles anything you throw at it. It’s not an easy nor fun app to use, but its power is unparalleled.

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25 MB basic, 200 MB Premium

FWIW, 25 MB is a lot of text for a note.

Ah thanks for digging up the numbers.
Indeed, it’s a lot of text, but it’s quickly not enough for video.

Yeah, I do store a ton of video as well.

For now, I am just tagging in macOS and building a few smart folders with the common criteria.