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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Developer: Blue Lava Technologies
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.
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.
Developer: Apple Inc.
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
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.
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!