iPhoto is an excellent tool for basic photo management and editing, but if your library's getting too big to handle or you need advanced editing options, it might be time to look into alternatives. Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture provide better management and image tools, while Photoshop and Photoshop Elements can augment iPhoto's basic editing software with more powerful options. If you're starting to feel like your library is getting out of control, here are some of the best reasons to upgrade.
Better organization and file handling
When digital photography first hit the scene, the average shutterbug's saved images numbered in the hundreds; these days, most photographers — regardless of whether they're professionals or amateurs — have thousands of pictures and videos to organize. Digital asset management is challenging at best, but with the right tools, organizing and locating images can be a snap. Lightroom and Aperture both offer extensive metadata functionality, allowing you to add important information such as copyright and contact information to an image, which carries over when photos are exported.
Media handling (an app's ability to read and store various file formats) is also key. Photo formats include JPEG, TIFF, and Raw, while varied video formats are populating more and more hard drives; depending on the format, those files are sometimes difficult (if not impossible) to view and play in simpler applications like iPhoto. Lightroom 5, for example, allows users to not only view, but edit a wide range of video formats from within the software — a real bonus for photographers who also shoot video.
Upgrade your editing
As your photography skills develop, post-processing becomes a more important part of your workflow. With more advanced software programs, adjustments like exposure, sharpening, and color correction can be made locally to select portions of an image thanks to layers and layer masks; in contrast, most of iPhoto's tools apply globally to the entire image.
Most programs, including iPhoto, can process Raw files. The processing provides a huge amount of control over "developing" an image by altering its white balance, exposure, image noise, and highlights/shadows. This bypasses the camera's processing algorithms, which may not be representative of the conditions under which the images were captured. Better software offers more control, however, and you may get a better-looking Raw image by bringing it out of iPhoto into a program like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
Speed up your workflow
Most photographers would rather be out shooting than sitting and editing their images. As such, batch processing images is a big help for building a faster workflow. Adobe Photoshop not only offers a complement of default batch processing options, but you can also create custom actions or install an action set from a third party. With these processing tools, you can simplify repetitive tasks such as resizing and watermarking, or even apply specific adjustments with a single click of the mouse.
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