Looking for a Photo Organizer/Editor

I’m looking for a program to organize and edit my photos on the Mac. The editing duties are light. Photoshop Elements fully meets my needs there, and I really don’t want something more complex. In particular I live by Auto Smart Fix and Auto Sharpen. However I’d like to not come out of one program just to edit a photo.

I like iPhoto’s organization, but it’s too buggy and has atrocious editing and previewing tools. Lightroom 1.4 doesn’t organize quite as nicely as iPhoto, but is a little more stable. Maybe 2.0 is better? What’s my best choice? Here are my desiderata:

  • Must run on a Mac.
  • Must support large RAW files.
  • Must be able to handle tens of thousands, preferably hundreds of thousands of photos.
  • Must have multiple levels of Undo
  • Must have excellent user interface on a 20-inch widescreen monitor.
  • Should have usable user interface on a 13-inch laptop screen.
  • Should not have to store anything on my primary hard drive, which is already cramped.
  • Should make this cycle very fast:
    • Preview
    • Zoom
    • Crop
    • Smart Fix
    • Sharpen
    • Export and resize
    • .

    (I really want one-button photo-optimization. I don’t want to spend a lot of time tweaking levels and hues and saturation and the like. On the rare occasion I need to do that, I can go to Photoshop. However this does mean the Smart Fix needs to be good. Photoshop Elements’ smart fix is. iPhoto’s isn’t. )

    The one other editing task I sometimes do is split a photo into several: either zooming into to different parts of the image or showing the same image at different zoom levels.

  • Reasonably fast on a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook with 4GB of RAM.
  • Should edit non-destructively.
  • Should use minimal disk space beyond the photos’ themselves.
  • Should be able to import a complete iPhoto library. Even better if it can integrate with one without copying everything.
  • Should be able to backup library to DVD.
  • Should have a fast and accurate “Actual Pixels” View.
  • Nice if it integrates with Picasa, Flickr, and other web services. Great if it integrate swith WordPress.
  • Nice to have a really nice slideshow capability, as good as Graphic Converters or better. Even better if I can tag, organize, and delete from within a running show.

Usability, stability, and performance are far more important to me than power user features. With a camera, I am a scientist and an explorer, not an artist. What do you think? What’s my best option here?

10 Responses to “Looking for a Photo Organizer/Editor”

  1. Augusto Says:

    Did you try that Photoshop Album included in Elements? I don’t even use elements for editing but just for organizing and tagging photos. Wasn’t clear from your message if you had already tried that out.

  2. Romain Guy Says:

    To me, LightRoom 2.0 matches almost all of your requirements. Missing are Smart Fix and iPhoto import.

  3. Rob Bender Says:

    When I outgrew iPhoto, I moved to Aperture. It can import iPhoto libraries (either the entire library or a single album at a time). Apple has a 30 day free trial on their website.

  4. Dolan Halbrook Says:

    Lightroom 2.1 with Jeffrey Friedl’s export plugins, or the newly released Picasa for OSX are your best bets, AFAIK. I have over 50k (mostly RAW) images in LR and run it on a MacBook Core Duo 2.4 with 4GB RAM. It’s fast enough to be not-painful most of the time; every once in a while you’ll get the spinning beachball of death but not nearly as often as Aperture (relies heavily on a dedicated GPU) or iPhoto (isn’t happy with 50k files).

  5. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    Augusto, I’m not sure what this Photoshop Album is. I don’t see any such functionality in Elements, but I could well be missing something. (This also explains why I don’t want to move up to even more complex products like full Phootshop or Lightroom.)

  6. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    OK. Seems the Mac version of Photoshop Elements does not have the Organizer/Album functionality that the PC version does. Very bad move on Adobe’s part. I have no idea what they were thinking: wasting huge amounts of time creating a pixel-perfect cross-platform GUI and then leaving out major functionality on the Mac. Much better to have a mac program that looks like a mac program (like older version of Elements did) and a Windows program that looks like a Windows program, while letting both versions have the same features.

  7. Augusto Says:

    Ah, didn’t realize the Mac version was *that* different.

    Album used to be it’s own product;

    Then it got merged into Photoshop Elements. Still is included in the latest version (for Windows);

    I like the features it has, mainly the tagging and search functionality. Really a shame they didn’t want to port it to the Mac.

  8. Bennett Says:

    Picasa for Mac could fit the bill. It fulfils most of your criteria, but I don’t know how it handles RAW files or very large (100,000+) photo libraries. It’s still in beta too, so stability could be an issue, though I don’t know if this is a real beta or a GMail-style perpetual beta.

    The main things I don’t like about it are the lack of automatic organising (iPhoto is much better) and the clunky tagging (“photo albums”).

  9. Antonio Says:

    So what about bluemarine?

    I haven’t used it myself, but it’s open source and you can always ask Fabrizio for extra features.

  10. Antonio Says:

    And it seems it’s integrated with Google Maps, so you can even associate your photos with geo-locations (probably good for bird sightings?).

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