Friday, May 27, 2011

Photo Management for Mac: HELP!

Fwd: Hands are cramping, still want to do more.

After more than a dozen years as a PC user, I have finally made the switch to a Mac. I wanted to do it for a while, but had a hard time justifying the cost. So now that I am here, I need help to determine which photo managing software to use. I have many, many photos to keep organized and have previously used Picasa to sort and organize my photos. I had planned on moving into iPhoto until I realized that it would be making multiple copies of the photos I just transferred from my PC and organizing them into a somewhat convoluted folder file structure. I most definitely want to maintain my own folder hierarchy but don't know the best way to do it. (I've also read more than a few comments from frustrated iPhoto 11 users.)

My friend pointed me towards a free 30 day trial of Aperture which seems to be somewhat better organized in terms of file duplication, and that you can import "projects" keeping your own folder structure in place. But it's Facebook integration confuses me, showing me my Facebook photos in my library - won't that cause additional duplication? I do miss having full featured photo editing software...

I also downloaded Picasa for Mac, which would probably be the easiest way for me to continue to maintain my photo library, but then it seems as though I wouldn't be taking advantage all of what the Mac has to offer.

From what I've gathered, Mac users seem to happily turn over a certain amount of "control" of their files to the Mac software. Having lived through years of PC software hell, spending countless hours reformatting computers, installing and reinstalling corrupted software, I can't help but be a little hesitant to trust the Apple software. But isn't that what I paid for?

I'm confused. Please hold my hand and tell me it's all going to be ok. I know for certain that I want to maintain the names of my folders - I do not want to have everything changed to the date the pictures were taken.

Have you made this switch? Tested out these different photo management applications? 


mike said...

I can't imagine life w/out Adobe Lightroom. (Actually, if I try, I can recall painful memories of managing photos w/out it.)

No duplication and full control.

Also, if you ever go back to the PC, no worries. If you use aperture, it doesn't run under windows.

kunstzinnigdagboek said...

Hi there! I do NOT own a Mac (yet), but am currently considering changing from the frustrating Microsoft system to a Mac, so I've done a little research myself. What I read somewhere (and I'm so sorry, but I've not recorded exactly where...) in a review about Aperture that the photo organiser was in fact the weak spot of the software. And iPhoto, I read, has limited abilities. The organiser in Photoshop elements 9 seems to be full of bugs that trouble a lot of users.
So...I cannot speak from my own experience (yet), but this is what I read, so maybe you can use it. Or mac users respond to it. It is all just a matter of opinion and experience, of course.

And I know about the formatting, re-installing, corrupted software, windows suddenly not recognizing my printer and scanner anymore (WHILE THEY ARE IN FULL-BLOWN ACTION!!!)...and I'm so incredibly fed up! I've even considered installing Ubuntu, but I've already gathered as much that Linux is software for people who like to keep themselves occupied with the software themselves. And I don't. I want to scan my art, load my videos, digitally work my photos and videos and put them online! And believe it or not, but my super-fast only 2-year old computer has trouble doing any of that without a hassle, let alone print something! So I'm really on the verge of taking that leap into Mac-ness. Although I cannot yet justify the enormous difference in price. It may be better than a windows computer, but THAT much better? And then I'm not even talking about purchasing a new Creative Suite again!!! 2000 euros, almost! Help! So, I've even been looking into installing windows on the mac to be able to use my CS3 under windows...but wouldn't that be daft? Running windows on the mac? hehehe....can't get any crazier than that!

So...I am really, really curious to see how you fare with the mac...your experience may help me decide to either take the plunge or remain in the land of frustration!

surfbits said...

I'm very familiar with the Mac platform and I can tell you that iPhoto is great for small sized photo libraries like the one I have. (1500 photos) You will be very happy with Aperture if your photos are numbering in the 5000+ range I feel. Backups are simple and easy on a Mac and folders are named for what they contain, photos, music, video, etc.

I always kept a copy of my photos on another hard drive in plain jpg format as a safety valve, but I released that all I need to do is to backup with Time Machine or several other apps that are free on a Mac and I realized I do not need to worry.

So to answer your question, small libraries of photos will be happy in iPhoto, larger ones should really use Aperture, or as another person recommended, Adobe Lightroom.

Biffybeans said...

Mike - Lightroom is a little pricey... might have to check out the free trial.

Biffybeans said...

Surfbits - I have 12,000 images in my library. :o) What exactly makes Aperture better at managing larger libraries?

mike said...

aperture is about the same price as lightroom.

yes, very expensive, but between the organizing capabilities and the "develop" feature, I almost never use photoshop any more.

Also, you may be able to get the academic version if you know an eligible student (and aren't using the tool to make money).

Biffybeans said...

Mike - Aperture is $79 through the Mac App store. Lightroom is $179 - and I am not eligible for the student/teacher discount.

mike said...

Thanks for the update. Last I checked, they were the same price.

Given how much lightroom has improved over the years compared to aperture, I guess apple felt compelled to lower the price.

Good luck! I love your work, and know from experience that having a tool that gets out of the way and lets me be creative is important.

Greg said...

Hi Biffy :>)

Longtime photographer, Mac (and PC) user since 1984...

First, remember to BREATHE... You have a learning curve to overcome! That's the fun, good news!

I made a slow transition from film to digital, and released film in '06. Been using Aperture since then. Aperture and Lightroom are very similar, and you will no doubt come accross folks who speak of A3 and LR just like folks talk about Mac v. PC, Nikon v. Canon, coffee v. tea... I choose A# because when I was at the Apple store for a 1:1, the trainer suggested taking a look at the Aperture trial. I've never looked back. As for cost, LR and A3 are about the same, and for comparison, Photoshop CS5/Bridge are many hundreds$$$ more, and very complicated.

A3 and LR do TWO things for you: They allow you to organize, name, keyword, catalog, and manage your photos; and they allow you to manipulate contrast, color, sharpness and other ways to make your images well, wonderful!

Go through some of the online tutorials while you play with A3 - there are many sites and resources to help, which I continually learn new tips and trick. Either will help you manage you photo library, but you will need to do the work to learn about them. In A3, the hardest concept for me to get what 'managed' vs. 'referenced' files. This is something you'll need to decide (and goes to your generalization that "...Mac folks give up some control..." I hear some frustration as a new Mac user, and I'd just remind you that Mac is the preferred platform for most(?) graphic artists, and you know the artist-type does not relinquish control of their creations...)

I don't want to ramble on with this post - I'd be happy to answer whatever questions you have on A3 here, or you can email me.

Been a fan for a long time...

mike said...

Thanks for the update. Last I checked, they were the same price.

Given how much lightroom has improved over the years compared to aperture, I guess apple felt compelled to lower the price.

Good luck! I love your work, and know from experience that having a tool that gets out of the way and lets me be creative is important.

Greg said...

Hey Stephanie,

I was on my way out the door this morning when I read this post, and offered a quick response which I'm not sure is that helpful.

Here are some resources that I found helpful as I was learning how to use Aperture 3:

This is the official Apple Aperture Support page.
There are some AMAZING and helpful postings there. I've posted questions several times, the last time I was actually contacted by an Apple software engineer. They are fabulous.

I also got the [then] $99 Apple 1:1 membership. ( ). I live in an area with several Apple stores nearby, so going in and getting a tutorial a tutorial or asking for help on how to do something really got me going. Yes, more $$$, but for me, why walk when you can take a train? Probably the best bargain if you are in an urban area with an Apple Store nearby. used to be called 'MacCreate', and I've purchased eBooks and video tutorials from them. Reasonably priced and I found them very helpful for going deeper with more of the rich features in A3. has lots of information, but probably isn't where you want to start. Joseph is an experienced user, great trainer, and geared more towards photographers and drilling in on more features. also has video tutorials that can help get you going. Last is a totally biased suggestion - check out the Flickr 'Aperture Users' group. You can search/read all the posts, and if you have a Flickr account, you can post questions and get answers. (Flickr has a free option, so no $$$ involved if you're new to Flickr.)

I'll also add that comparison reviews that I read when A3 was released was that performance wise, A3 often outperformed LR. You may come across reviews of earlier version of Aperture, and indeed, LR processed faster. I'm not sure as a newbie that is all that important to you, but as a user of both, there are more similarities than differences with current versions. The one area that LR has a clear advantage is in available training. LR has the predominant market share, and as such, there are tons of resources out there for LR. Two of the big players, NAPP and Kelby Training offer Adobe products including LR, but they don't offer A3.

For somebody new to the cataloging features, I'd urge you to study the difference between "managed" and "referenced" libraries. It is a bit cumbersome to change from one to the other (I did it, big time sink, wish I was smarter), but will address your '…Mac controlling…' question. In a nutshell, If you want Aperture to take care of importing and storing your photos, you'll lean towards 'managed'. Downside is that over time, you can end up with huge libraries. 'Referenced' libraries let you set up your own file system. The Aperture library remains relatively small, as your actual images are stored and filed elsewhere.

I'm with surfbits - iPhoto is great for my Grandma. 12k images is a tiny library in A3. In response to your question about what makes A3 better at managing larger libraires is its cataloguing function, considerably more powerful than iPhoto.

One last reason to stick with the A3 trial, is that one of the things that Mac has hands down over PC is the Mac 'feel'. Once you get the differences, it really does become intuitive how to browse, save files, work within Apple applications. That being said, since A3 is native to Mac, you'll be getting the Mac feel for things as you learn A3.

Congrats on your Mac - I doubt you'll ever look back!

Good luck!


Greg said...

Biffybeans said...

Greg, Thank you so very much for taking the time to provide me with all of this incredibly valuable information. I've got each of the links open and will take my time seeing how this all works. I am not completely new to imaging software- I did use older versions of Photoshop, but my old PC ran out of RAM (an obsolete kind) and I had to stop using it. Moved to Picasa and just used their bare bones tools to do some minimal editing.

What will be new for me is the idea of managed vs referenced and I will indeed read up on which will be better suited for my needs.

Thank you again for taking the time to write all this up for me. Have a spectacular weekend!

Anonymous said...

not sure about making multiple copies of images, but you can create different albums in iphoto, and have 'multiple copies' that way? I guess, if you want to organize by color or mood or year you can do all that using albums.
ps: welcome to the best machine ever, you can install windows using parallels or bootcamp if you ever need to go back...

Yoram Blumenberg said...

It’s generally not an «easy» task to get the «right» software for photo management. This question returns for me year by year again.

Last september I did a comparison between the major DAM applications on the Mac: «Damn DAMs» — and the comparison is still valid besides the fact that Phase One bought Expression Media from Microsoft a year ago and released the successor called Media Pro a couples of weeks ago … and had a bad start.

I’ll update my article hopefully within the next weeks — w/ tests and comparisons of the actual Mac versions.

My advice so far? Try to get a license of Expression Media 2.0.2 or wait a little until Phase One comes up w/ a (bug-fixed) 1.x version of Media Pro.

Richard said...

If all you want is an organizer/manager, look at Shoebox from KavaSoft. Not a photo editor, and not all that expensive. Easy to use, too.

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