9 Photo Management Apps for OS X

With digital cameras becoming ever cheaper and easier to use, just about everyone is a photographer these days – Mac users are no exception. I’ve been searching for the perfect photo management software for my Mac to help me keep my photographs organized and tagged.

My requirements aren’t too complex; an app which is both effective, yet simple to use. This is a selection of various photo management software for the Mac, ranging from a simple and inexpensive solution for an amateur to use, through to applications with a range of complex features.




iPhoto from Apple is a great photo management app. It’s simple to use, has a reasonably good set of tools built into it, and best of all, it ships with your Mac as part of the iLife suite. With the launch of iLife ’09 Apple has added a host of useful features to iPhoto. With features such as face recognition and tagging, support for geotagging, out of the box integration with Flickr and Facebook, iPhoto is a near perfect choice for amateur photographers.

Price: $79 (part of iLife, bundled for free with Mac)
Developer: Apple




Picasa is a photo management software from Google. One of the great things about it is that it is available for Windows, Linux, and the Mac, which is good if you use multiple computers with different operating systems. Although it does not yet compare to Apple’s latest release of iPhoto in terms of features, Picasa is a great option for people who don’t require thorough post-processing support.

The developers have recently integrated facial recognition into the application which is a great addition to the existing set of features. However, Picasa’s primary USP is the fact that it is tightly integrated with Picasa Web Albums, Google’s free photo sharing web service. This allows users to easily share photographs over the internet at the click of a button. Picasa for the Mac is still in beta. It’s fast, it’s free, and it’s quite simple to use, so I would definitely suggest you keep it on your radar.

Price: Free
Developer: Google




Fotonauts is a relatively new entrant in this space. Like Flickr, it’s primarily a web service, and allows users to organize and share photographs online. They have also launched a desktop application for the Mac – still in a private beta mode at the time of the writing of this article. However, the software shows great promise, ticking off basic requirements such as search, organizing into folders, photo tagging etc.

One brilliant feature of Fotonauts is that you can interact with friends and discuss about a photograph or an album directly from Fotonauts. Drag and drop a photo on the discussion panel to start a conversation about it with someone. I also really liked the way the Fotonauts desktop application plugs into its web service in an interactive manner unlike most other photo management applications.

Price: Free
Developer: Fotonauts




If you use Flickr to share your photographs Flickery is an application you should definitely check out. It is comparable to Picasa in many ways; lightweight, simple to use, and well integrated with the Flickr web service. As it targets amateur photographers it comes equipped with everything a basic user would need, allowing you to organize images into albums, tag, email, upload to Flickr, and so on. Flickery is a very pleasant application to use with a clean design and effective user interface.

Price: $12.70
Developer: Eternal Storms Software




iLovePhotos is a free Mac application and photo sharing service. Like Picasa and the rest of the software in the amateur photographer category, iLovePhotos too makes adding, tagging, and sharing photographs a breeze. It claims to have integrated facial recognition, however, my experience was that the feature still requires a little further polish.

The only notable feature that makes iLovePhotos stand out is great slideshow support. You can instantly create slideshows of your photographs and proceed to embed into a website, or watch on your iPhone or AppleTV.

Price: Free
Developer: Blue Lava Technologies

Photoshop Elements 6

Photoshop Elements 6

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6

Adobe Photoshop Elements made a return to the Mac platform after a two year break as Apple was busy switching from PPC to an Intel based system. A few months after Apple released the Intel based Mac, Adobe returned with Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. And what a come back it was. A neat looking user interface, a good set of tools to edit your photographs, simple and well-thought out photo management features, and good integration with iPhoto and the web. Elements 6 packs a host of good features, is simple to use and reasonably well priced.

Price: $69.99
Developer: Adobe



Apple Aperture

We now move on to the photo management and post processing software used by professional photographers. Apple has made great progress with Aperture since the launch of v2.0. A substancial price drop from $500 to $200, a distinct improvement in the speed with which the software operates, and excellent previewing are some of the improvements in the new version. It comes with all the bells and whistles required, has an interface that is easy to navigate, and is reasonably customizable so as to be able to adapt to different user workflows.

A significant price difference from Lightroom and a comparable list of features make Aperture a great choice for professional photographers using a Mac. Note, that, however, Aperture will not run on a Windows computer, which could be a deal breaker for some. Then again, it integrates beautifully with the rest of Apple’s application lineup; iLife, iWork, the Final Cut, and so on.

Price: $199
Developer: Apple Inc.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

Over the years, Adobe Photoshop has almost become the de facto standard photo editing application for people all over the world. With the addition of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to their offering, Adobe have brought their A game to the battle for the best photo management software. With some very good image adjustment tools and support for a wide variety of cameras and photo formats, Lightroom is a great choice.

Lightroom is available for both for both Windows and OS X. Pricing is steep, but Adobe is a well known, reputable brand which can command a relatively high price tag for such a solid piece of sofwtare

Price: $299
Developer: Adobe

Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro is a RAW workflow app that helps you manage and handle the post-processing of your photographs. If you are a professional photographer (and can afford the dent in your wallet), Capture One Pro is a great choice.

It has excellent image quality, is pretty easy to use, and the folks that developed it seem to have really understood how professional photographers like to work. Capture One Pro provides an end-to-end solution for photographers, giving you control over your images from capture to print.

Price: $399.99
Developer: Phase One


It is rather hard to really recommend any one of these fine photo management solutions. For amateur photographers the choice, for me, is between iPhoto and Picasa, with Fotonauts looking really promising in the near future. I would recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 to advanced amateurs.

As far as the professional set of software goes, there is little to really separate Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Capture One Pro, and Aperture. Each one is feature-rich, and sports a great user interface. The main differentiating feature is the price point.

If you can, I suggest you download a few trials and give each app a try-out. If you have any more suggestions, please do leave your thoughts in the comments section below!


Add Yours
  • Nice list there, certainly going to try out Flickery

  • Aperture is not that great of a program. There’s a lot of stuff people won’t use, and even if you were a professional photographer, I would still definitely recommend Photoshop. I think iPhoto is the best piece on this list, but I will check out iLovePhotos

    Thanks for it, nice post!

    • “There’s a lot of stuff people won’t use, and even if you were a professional photographer, I would still definitely recommend Photoshop.”

      Aperture and Photoshop are two very different programs. Photoshop is a photo editing software and by far the best one out there.

      Aperture is a photo management software like Adobes Lightroom. And both are great for professional photographers in a mac.

  • What about LightZone?

  • I would never pay for anything more than iPhoto

  • Nice list… Didn’t realize Picasa released for mac, had been waiting for it!


  • While Arcsoft are generally slow at releasing new software for Mac and make applications with really ugly interfaces, they have made some software in the past like Photo Impression which has been an excellent entry-level image organiser and editor. You quite often find their applications supplied free on CD with new printers and camera’s etc.

  • Adobe Lightroom for the win. As a photographer, its all I use for my photo editing and management. Though I do use iPhoto to host pictures once I’ve exported them to a JPG format.

  • Hello Sukrit,
    Thank you for including iLovePhotos on your list.

    The iLovePhotos team has been working hard the past few weeks to bring you a better photo management app. We’re dedicated to improving your photo experience, and nothing helps us do that more than hearing from you. You can greatly influence future features by writing to us at [email protected] or following us on Twitter at @ilovephotos.


    Have an iPhone? iLovePhotos integrates with your iPhone contacts:
    When you tag people in your photos that you already have listed in your address book, the tag icon is updated to the address book. The next time you sync your iPhone your iPhone contact list will update as well. See how it works in this short YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLmyRlf1AaI.

  • Cosider reviewing software and service from http://www.phanfare.com – using it myself for about five years now.

  • I like iPhoto, but I think it is complicated.

    Now I found a new product from Wondershare :iCollage for Mac.
    The overview of icollage is wonderful, hope it can bring me more surprises that the icollage can be more easier than iPhoto.

  • Picnik.com does some interesting effects, such as color accenting. Might want to check it out, since it is web based (nothing to install) might be a good option while traveling. Also they offer a “pro” version for $25/yr. (similar to Flickr)

  • iphoto all the way

  • Soon to be added to the list is ACDSee for Mac. I’ve been using it on the PC for years and absolutely swear by it. The beta is available and equally robust as anything out there.

  • Love all the feedback. Would love to know if any of these software applications are able to include “Photo Release Forms” attached somehow in the metadata or with some link. I use Adobe Lightroom and the meta data and tags are powerful for any pro… iPhoto too for non-pros and ease of use.

    However, since I work with non-stock images, the photos I use are for non-commercial work thus need a model-release to be attached or linked to the image. I’ve got hundreds that I need to do this with for a non-profit I work for.

    Any relevant feedback would help. Thanks!

  • Great list – and of course being Mac the design of most of the programs is beautiful. The one area that I am disappointed – particularly with iPhoto (less so Aperture) is your photo information (like keywords, captions, ratings, etc – what is called ‘metadata’) isn’t stored in the photos themselves. It means that depending on how you share or backup your photos – that stuff can be easily lost! This webpage http://www.happydigitalphotos.com/photo-management-software compares various photo software from the perspective of how “metadata” is handled.

    Hope its useful (Not Aperture and Lightroom do a MUCH better job of this than iPhoto).

  • I used Picasa on my PC for years, and then on Mac as soon as it was available in Beta. There are many things I like about it. (Free. Let’s me manage the file structure natively in the Mac OS. Syncing Web albums to the cloud and an nice iPad app.)

    However, my frustrations have reached a climax, and I will now move away from Picasa. On the Mac, it seems that updates are slow in coming. Software quality is poor. (New updates crash.) Folders appear in bizarre sequences. Frequent program hangs. And most frustrating of all…..Web Albums disappear, after hours of work to organize them.

    It’s really too bad. They had a good thing going. But I do not get the sense that Google is committed to Picasa in a big way.

    I will seek a commercial alternative. Thanks for posting the comparisons!!

  • Always the best content from these prdioiogus writers.

  • I used to Picasa for a while and it made a big mess in my mac… I tried iPhoto and had to spend 3h till it started doing the way I wanted. Photoshop Elements could be a bit better. But I have found out Shoebox a half year ago and happy to work with it. I think it’s the very program for photo management for Mac OSX under $100.00.

  • What about Lyn, a very good solution for browsing and organising pics!


    and a short review

  • I’ll certainly have to check out Flickery, seems like a neat little program from what I’ve heard outside of Appstorm. I’ve been using Aperture, Lightroom 3 and some other not-too-flashy stand-alone photo(-library/management) apps.

    I feel Aperture is a bit to clunky — this could be due to the fact that I’m on a 2GB iMac (2007), or almost certainly due to that fact… it freezes, lags, delays, which is a shame as its features are quite user-intuitive and I found its learning curve to be no more than a few minutes.

    Anyway, I’ll get back to you when I check out Flickery — great article.

    • if you are on an old mac try to get a copy of iView media pro – the best photo management app of its day. shame it got axed!

      • It didn’t get axed. It was bought by Microsoft and put out as Expression Media. It has since been bought by Phase One.

        They don’t look or feel like people who ‘care’ to me. Whereas the iView Media were dedicated.

        PS Graphic Converter with an existing Finder structure works well – but not for reviewing or skimming all photos.

  • You didn’t mention Finder. The problem with using the apps you mention is that most cost you more money and you can be trapped using their products. I recommend using the Mac file browser, Finder, and tagging the photos using one of the free tagging apps.

    Actually, Picasa is not a bad tagging program but the problem is that its tags are not indexed with Spotlight. If you use it, I recommend copying the name tags to OpenMeta and Windows tag formats like here:


  • Hi there,

    Wow, thanks for that informative review, much appreciated.

    I want an application that will help me with the following:

    I have a folder with 2500 photos in it, a lot of these photos I want to delete and the rest I want to organise into about 8 folders. This is my only objective for an application ie. the best photo folder organiser which also makes it easy to delete the photos at the same time.

    What do you recommend?