FastStone: Tutorial on Moving Digital Pictures From Camera to PC and Keeping Them Organized

How do you easily organize and manage all your photos from your digital camera for free? This tutorial walks through the steps to easily transfer and organize your pictures from multiple cameras using the freeware software, FastStone image viewer.

There are many programs available for working with digital images, and over many years and thousands of pictures I have streamlined the process to a simple procedure using just one freeware image viewer from FastStone.

Being the IT guy, I have often been asked by coworkers for help with their digital images.  After a quick lesson, all of them are happily managing their photos.  While I would not expect anyone to follow this tutorial to the letter, I hope that everyone will gains some insight or useful tidbit they can use when working with their digital photos.

This tutorial will explain the reasons for using FastStone, downloading, installing and configuring FastStone, then using it to transfer pictures from you camera.  Finally, we look using the FastStone features, with many are tips and tricks along the way. 

For the experienced PC user, I start each section with a brief Expert. It gets to the point and assumes you know the terms and your way around the PC!  As you can see, most if this tutorial is ‘filler’ that describes what you are doing, once you’ve done this a few times it will be as easy as following the three expert sections.

Reasons for Using FastStone

1.       Non proprietary

FastStone will work with just about every Digital Camera.  Many programs that come with the camera only work the one camera, and worse, have their own method of storing and organizing photos that cannot be used by other programs.  What happens when you get a new camera?  What happens when you have more than one camera and your pictures get scattered in different folders?  We have five digital cameras in our household, and FastStone works for all of them, even the iPhone.  Only one program to learn!  If a better image viewer program ever comes along, all our photos are already organized in one place and accessible to any application.

2.       Simplicity

One free program does it all quickly and automatically.  Many programs are more powerful than FastStone, but you need to be a fighter pilot to understand all the switches and buttons and make it fly.  FastStone is more like a James Bond sports car: it’s easy to drive, looks great, and hidden away are many ‘secret’ powerful features.

3.       Free

Did I mention it was free?  FastStone is free, but if you wish to donate via PayPal if you wish to support further development.

4.       Speed

It opens and flips through your pictures quickly

5.        Portable

FastStone Image Viewer can be run from your flash drive on anyone’s PC.  I keep a few pictures on my little flash drive with FastStone.

Download and Install FastStone Image Viewer

Expert: Install FastStone

Open you’re a new browser window and visit FastStone and click on the ‘Download’ button for ‘FastStone Image Viewer’ (currently version 3.6).  On the next page choose one of the links to download.  The file size is just over 4MB.  Once downloaded, run the install and except all the defaults.  There are no boxes

Configure FastStone Image Viewer

Expert: Run FastStone and set associations in the Settings.

Run FastStone from the icon added to your Desktop, or from the Start Menu.  ‘Out of the box’ FastStone is well configured.  The only change you’ll want to make is to associate image files with FastStone (so when you double-click an image file FastStone launch and display it full screen.

With FastStone running, Press the F12 key to open the options page* and click the Associations tab. These are the file types that will now open in FastStone once they are checked.  There should be no problem checking them all with the Select All button.  You can undo this anytime.  When done click ok and your ready to go.

* Like any program, there is usually two or three ways of doing the same action, i.e. you can click the last button on the button bar or use the menu Settings -> Settings to bring up the options menu.

Organize/Setup moving images on Camera to PC

Expert: Connect camera, click File -> Download photos and set picture location and the Subfolder to create. Click download to begin

Here is the key:  FastStone can create folders named to the date the photo was taken (note: for any of this to work, the date MUST be set on you Digital Camera correctly!)  I have found that organizing photos takes too much time, so if a program does it for me, I’m happy.  Personally, I like a folder created for any given day of photos, but you can set if for all your photos are organized in a variety of ways. To summarize, if I take photos over the course of two months, then finally download the photos, FastStone will create a folder for each day that pictures were taken, and transfer those pictures into that folder; I might then end up with 6 folder called 2008-01-12, 2008-01-17, 2008-02-20  etc.  The advantage?  I can now go into explorer all my folders, when sorted by name, are in the right chronological order regardless of the application accessing them. 

Tip 1: In FastStone, click on a folder and press F2 to rename.  Add more description at the END of the folder name (ie 2008-01-12 becomes 2008-01-12 Skiing at Whistler.  This makes it faster much easier to identify the images in that folder.

Tip 2: After downloading all my pictures for a vacation I’ll make one folder for that vacation (like 2008-01-12 to 15 Whistler Holiday and copy the appropriate folders into it.

Getting Started

Take some pictures with your Digital camera, plug it into the PC and turn it on, or plug the memory card into a reader on you PC (There are so many variable here for the different camera types, but generally any new camera plugged into XP or Vista should work ‘out of the box’ with no software installed; some cameras require a dial to be in a certain position, or a transfer mode to be selected, but that should all be in your manuals for the camera).  Close any program or dialog box that opens and then run FastStone Image Viewer.

Transfer Settings

This is a onetime setup. Click the first icon on the menu bar (or File -> Download Photos).  Here is where we will setup where and how your photos are stored and organized. Give this some careful consideration, as everyone’s needs are different.


In Destination -> Location: browse to where you would like your photos to be stored, usually under My DocumentsMy Pictures is a good place if everyone uses the same account on the PC, or you want to keep the images for each users separate (ie each person has their own camera and login into Windows).  If you want to keep all the photos together, create a folder somewhere that all the users have access to, then setup each users FastStone to download to that same folder.

Tip: If creating a folder that different people have access to, you can have each user set FastStone to download the photos to a subfolder named after them.


In Source -> Create Subfolder:  Set it to Date or Month


will create a subfolder called YYYY-MM-DD for every photo, or group of photos.  A good option if you tend to pull out the camera a few times a month and take pictures of events.  Remember, after downloading the pictures it’s helpful, in FastStone, to click on a folder, press F2 and rename (ie add some text) YYYY-MM-DD to YYYY-MM-DD My Event  (EG 2009-08-15 Seattle Trip).


will create a subfolder called YYYY-MM for each group of photos taken during a month.  A good option if you pull out the camera often and take a shot here and there.  Now all your photos for a month or stored automatically in one location.

The other options will create subfolders with subfolder, and personally I don’t like to ‘drill’ down through year, then month then day to find a photo, but you may like that way of organizing, so feel free to try them!

Start Downloading

Click the download button and a dialog will show you all the pictures on the camera.  Click Start on the next dialog, and you’ll see the Status of each picture change from New to Downloaded.

When the download is complete, you can click Delete original files and only the photos you JUST successfully downloaded will be deleted off of the camera.  If you have important pictures, you may want to leave them on the camera until you’ve backed them up (usually to a portable drive or a burnable DVD.

A note on the option ‘SKIP files that have already been downloaded to the destination location’: 

In the first dialog box to download photos, this option appears at the bottom.  It works well, but you need to understand it to manage what photos are on the camera and which are on the PC.

If Checked and you click the download button:

1.       Files still on the camera that HAVE been downloaded will NOT be displayed.

2.       If, after clicking Start and downloading the new photos, you choose to delete files, ONLY the files JUST downloaded will be deleted, older photos downloaded but not deleted in a previous session will remain on the camera.

If UnChecked and you click the download button:

1.       ALL files on the camera that will be displayed.  The status will indicate if they have been downloaded or not.

2.       If you click start, a dialog will appear for each picture PREVIOUSLY downloaded to with option to replace or rename the files.  New files will download without prompting.

Tip: Personally, I leave the option unchecked, click download, then click ‘Delete Original Files’ to clear the photos I’ve previously downloaded and backed up off the camera, then click Download to transfer the new ones.  A nice little cycle that makes sure I never lose any of those key shots!


Your Done!  Your photos from any camera are being transferred to the same location and into the right folder automatically.  No fuss.  FastStone is fast, simple, intuitive, and then interface is nicely laid out.

Other Freeware Software 

Each of following have their advantages and features, but overall, FastStone gives me the control I want with very little input once setup.  Here are the issues I had with other popular image viewers.


Has some nice features, but personally I don’t like the interface, and is not as easy to use as FastStone.  If you have a  lot of obscure file types, and want to watch videos from one interface (FastStone can show the video files, but launches an external app) then take a look at this software.


Great software, I use it in conjunction with FastStone.  Only issue that I have to choose and create a download folder, and that the full screen mode is terrible (most people don’t even know you can view images full screen, and I’m not surprised, you have to put the mouse over a thumbnail and press Ctrl+Alt on the keyboard) Picasa has no zoom in full screen (which you can do with the scroll wheel on the mouse or with th + and – key in FastStone.  Much easier in FastStone!  However, this program works is a must if you want to to share photos online for free.


Another great free image viewer, but again, lacking the features to organize photos the way I want, and not as easy to learn.

P.S.:  Remember all those James Bond buttons mentioned above?  Here a few of them.  If any of them are of interest, pull down the menus and find them, or download the help PDF from FastStone and search that.

  • When in full screen view, press Enter or double-click to get back to the image browser
  • If you have some favorite photos, Bookmark the locations to find them faster.
  • Compare:  Hold the CTRL and click up to four photos, then hit the compare button (four little squares) to compare them.  Read the tip at the top of the compare screen!
  • Email:  In full screen or browser, press F6 to email the photo,  it will RESIZE* it for you and attach it to a new email in your default email program.
  • RESIZING  the image you’re emailing is very important.  Most new cameras take photos that have a very large file size, great for cropping and blowing up, but not for emailing.  Typically, setting a photos pixel witdth to somewhere between 640 and 1200 is great for emailing.  There is a preview button so you can see how big it will look to the receiver of the email.  On my camera, the photo image size goes from 4500KB to 250KB, meaning it will be sent and received 18X faster!
  • Slideshow: Just press S  in FastStone to start a slideshow, set your options and away it goes.  You can also create a standalone executable slideshow, complete with menu and music to give to others via email (if only a few pictures!) or CD.  They don’t need to have FastStone!
  • Hidden Menus!:  When viewing images in full screen…
  • Move mouse to top of screen:  to display thumbnails.
  • Move mouse to right side of screen:  to display EXIF information (Exchangeable image file format).  This is the info that your camera rights into the file, such as exposure time, F stop, focal length, etc)
  • Move mouse to left side of screen:  to display a list of basic photo editing tools.  The ones I most often use are Crop, Resize / Resample, and Image, and Enhance color.
  • Move mouse to bottom of screen:  to display a toolbar for options such as Email, Compare, and Draw Board (add text lines, etc to your image).
  • Batch Convert: Convert a whole bunch of files in one go.  Great for resizing a bunch of images before sending them online to be printed.
  • Dual monitor support: If you’re lucky enough to have dual monitors, you can browse thumbnails on on screen, while the other displays them full screen.



i like your article its great but wish you had expanded a bit ( in baby steps) how to download or upload pictures to triond. i would love to do this but have no idea how. Great article

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