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Best workflow - iPhoto + Photoshop (Elements) or simply drop iPhoto?

8258 Views 24 Replies Latest reply: Jan 5, 2010 5:59 AM by Pro Jules RSS
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enzofsilva Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Sep 25, 2009 6:54 AM
Hi everyone.

I am an amateur photographer but I like to take good pictures and have them look at least semi-pro. My wife and I have been using iPhoto for years to organize our photos. Some basic editing is also done in iPhoto.

However, the biggest reason to use iPhoto is the ease of organization and the sharing features (share via email, Facebook, etc. right from iPhoto).

I am ready to move to Photoshop (via Photoshop Elements, I don't need the full program). But I am not sure it is easy to go from iPhoto to Elements.

Would you recommend:

1. using iPhoto + Elements (how? right click a picture in RAW and "edit with external editor"?)

2. simply organize and edit it ALL with Photoshop Elements and forget iPhoto (is there an easy way to import the iPhoto Library with at least some of its organization elelemtns like albums, RAW pictures and dates into Adobe Bridge or Elements?)

Please help, what would be the best workflow?

Maybe Lightroom or Aperture? (which don't seem to offer the same features as Photoshop or Elements)...
Mac OS X (10.6.1)
  • Terence Devlin Level 10 Level 10 (121,630 points)
    If you're shooting RAW then you're best to use an app like Aperture or Lightroom.

    These apps, like iPhoto, are photo managers at heart. They are not editors, instead they will help your process your RAW into a usable format like jpeg or tiff. None of them, for instance, have layer based editing.

    Photoshop (and Elements is the same, just a more entry level version) is a layer based image editor. Ideally, you would use this with an associated Manager, such as Aperture, LR or iPhoto. All of these apps work +in association+ with an editor.

    If you're shooting RAW then the vast majority of your photos will never need go near Photoshop if you process them with LR or Aperture. The fact is that Photoshop has a million features that a photographer will never use. (Old joke about Photoshop: No one uses more than 30% of its features, so they should forget the other 70%. It's just that everyone uses a different 30%)

    Aperture and LR (as well as iPhoto) offer lossless processing of the Original image.

    LR and Aperture are firmly focussed on the RAW shooter, iPhoto is aimed much more at the Point and Shoot end of the market. RAW support in iPhoto is tacked on, somewhat. For instance, you can send a RAW to be processed in Elements but you must save it to the desktop and then import it back to iPhoto. This is not the case with jpegs or tiff.

    Aperture has many of the sharing features of iPhoto built-in, and others can be added by plug-ins. LR may also have but it has none of the OS integration of iPhoto and Aperture.

    My personal suggestion: download a trial of both because they do have a learning curve. Explore and see which one fees right to you.

    Then afterwards, add Elements to whichever you you choose.

    FWIW, Bridge is best forgotten.


    MacBook Pro 15 2.4 C2D / iMac 20" 2.66 C2D, Mac OS X (10.6), 4 gig RAM/ 4 gig RAM
  • Terence Devlin Level 10 Level 10 (121,630 points)
    We need to clarify a few things.

    You cannot edit a RAW file.

    A RAW is a dump from the camera's sensor. All the data that the sensor "saw" is poured into this container. Nothing can be done with this data. It can't be printed or anything else. All that can be done is to process this data into a usable form - that is to a recognised graphic format: jpeg, tiff, png etc.

    In a point and shoot camera this process is done automatically by the camera. With high end P&S and with dSLR you can either have it done for you in the Camera or do it yourself.

    When you use Aperture you are doing it yourself... Processing the RAW into a working format.

    So, in the iPhoto version you would send the RAW to the Elements, +process it to a jpeg (or whatever)+ and save that jpeg to the desktop and then import it.

    Oddly, iPhoto and Aperture share exactly the same engine for processing RAWs. You've just got more fine control (read: knobs and sliders) with Aperture. If you're content to process your RAWs in iPhoto then it's the same machinery as Aperture.

    With Aperture here's what happens:

    You import the RAW and process it. Aperture records your processing decisions +in a database+ and next time you view the pic applies them live as you view it. (This is why the Hardware requirements for Aperture are much higher than for iPhoto). Again, if you want to print, Aperture makes a printable version on demand.

    There is nothing to be gained (that I know of) from sending the RAW to Elements from Aperture.

    If you want to further edit in Elements Aperture will send a processed tiff to Elements for work (or psd - it's a setting in the Preferences).

    1. I have a lot of pictures which were RAAW and I edited in iPhoto without knowing it would convert them to JPEG as soon as I hit the "edit" button. Now, when I import to Aperture, will Aperture import BOTH the original RAW file AND the edited JPEG version?

    iPhoto did not convert those files to Jpeg. It preserved the RAW and processed the file and saved the output as a jpeg. Want to see your actual RAW? File -> Export: *Kind: Original*.

    Yes, if you use Aperture's Import iPhoto Library option it will bring it all over. But experiment first, because some folks don't like this and prefer to only bring over the RAWs and re-process them in Aperture.

    3. Will Aperture preserve the organization I had in place (e.g. tags, albums, faces, etc.)?

    Yes and No. I'm fairly sure that it brings over Events and Albums. It definitely brings over tags and keywords. It certainly does not bring over Faces. Faces are not part of any standard metadata at this time, and Aperture (and LR) has no way to work with them.

    My advice always when considering a change like this is to download the trial, import a couple of hundred pics and explore and see what happens when you press this button or that.


    MacBook Pro 15 2.4 C2D / iMac 20" 2.66 C2D, Mac OS X (10.6), 4 gig RAM/ 4 gig RAM
  • Terence Devlin Level 10 Level 10 (121,630 points)
    I am really confused now...

    Glad to have helped so far

    because I have heard so many people say editing on iPhoto implies more loss than Aperture...

    This is simply not true. The same processing engine is used so the output is the same. The difference is in the amount of control the user has. Think of it this way: buy a hi if and bring it home. It may have a knob for Bass and Treble. Buy a high end Hi Fi it may have a Graphic Equaliser. Still controlling the same thing, just more fine control with the Graphic Equaliser than with the basic Bass and Treble knobs.

    That's the only difference between what you can do to a RAW with Aperture and what you can do with iPhoto.

    When you then save this work in iPhoto it's saved as either a jpeg or Tiff - a usable format.

    When you save this work in Aperture it's saved as a set of instructions. If you go to use the file then it's turned into... a workable format - jpeg, tiff or whatever.

    So, in each case there process is lossless: your original file is preserved and the output is available in another, usable format.

    My point about Aperture being a better bet is if you want to use RAW - and specifically RAW, not jpeg, not tiff - with an external editor (like Elements.)



    MacBook Pro 15 2.4 C2D / iMac 20" 2.66 C2D, Mac OS X (10.6), 4 gig RAM/ 4 gig RAM
  • Terence Devlin Level 10 Level 10 (121,630 points)
    What exactly are you trying to achieve?

    You simply cannot process a RAW with Elements and Save it as a RAW. Period. It must always be saved in another format.

    What you seem to be doing is confusing processing a RAW with editing a Photo. These are different things.

    What are you hoping to do with Elements?

    Basically iPhoto saves the photo as JPEG as soon as I hit "edit". The, all edits will be done on THAT file. Correct? If I want to edit the photo with Elements (as an external editor), I will be sharing the JPEG, not the RAW file.

    No. You can also choose to send the RAW to Elements. But saving if you do you cannot send the save the resulting image directly back to iPhoto. It must be saved in a usable format first and then imported.

    I'd be better off with Aperture because it would be editing an sharing the RAW file (well, would be editing the files info on a database, not really editing the file itself).

    No. Aperture can send the RAW to be processed in Elements (though why you would I don't know) but - again - it will be saved as a usable format first, then imported to Aperture, just like iPhoto.

    Do they convert the photo to a workable format as soon as I hit "edit"? Meaning Elements will be working on a JPEG and not RAW for both Aperture and iPhoto?

    It can be either... but which is best depends on what you're trying to achieve with Elements. Process RAW or edit a Photo?

    I guess Aperture is better in case I want to re-edit a picture in a year from now (and still have it ias RAW and no loss)... with iPhoto I would be editing on top of the JPEG (which already had loss of quality to start with), I assume...

    No. iPhoto also preserves your Original (just the mechanics of this differs, not the result) and you can elect to re-process the RAW at any time.


    MacBook Pro 15 2.4 C2D / iMac 20" 2.66 C2D, Mac OS X (10.6), 4 gig RAM/ 4 gig RAM
  • Pro Jules Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Terrance, me old M8, top geezer from the Emreald Isle

    I have a questions that lead on from enzofsilva's if you would be so kind.

    To kick off - I am a big low light / candid shot fan. I am a RAW newbie and am enjoying it. I have tried Lightroom Beta 3 (didnt like the look / feel of it) Bibble (er.. just didnt like the look of it) So being a Mac fanboy I ran into the loving arms of Aperture and am v happy with the demo - and I am running demos if Nik Software plug ins (which I like a great deal)

    I am on a Macbook Air (not SSD and not Snow Leopard)
    Canon G11 (RAW just available in iPhoto & Aperture this week HOORAY!)

    I have ordered Aperture but have last min cold feet about it for these reasons.

    1) its not clear to me if I can use 'masks' or layers with Apererture. What interests me with masks is this - I read that if I can preserve the "edges" of images - I can get away with more de-noising. I have seen a very fancy 'edge-mask' software demo and I fear this is a Photoshop only plug in..

    2) Further - it seems Alien Skin is also not quite ready for Aperture.

    3) But as well as all the above - here is the bigger worry. That Aperture might be slow. I already get a little 'beach-ball' mac freezup action even on the demo with only a few photos loaded. What I heard - was - Using iPhoto and Elements - is WAY LESS taxing on the computer.

    So, am I dreaming that all these very fancy (and I am aware expencive) plug ins will work in Elements? Does the iPhoto / Elements combo give one access to a wonderland of all the fancy 3rd party Photoshop plug ins? WITHOUT the CPU slowness?

    Or does it have some drawbacks?

    I wasnt aware that Elements could work with Aperture.. Can it really? Does editing in Elements do all the above and ALSO help with CPU load.?

    Aperture ordered... (but I can send it back)

    I just wonder if its a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I suppose I am on my way to being a plug in nut. I want quite a few.

    Silver FX pro
    That fancy edge masking one (??)

    Meanwhile I have been trying to sell the wife on the idea of my MacBookAir cast off so I can get the SSD version.. (gotta love a gadget!)

    OK thats a lot - many thanks in advance and Holiday greeting to you and all reading.

    Message was edited by: Pro Jules
    Macbook Air, Mac OS X (10.5.8), Canon G11 / 2 x 430EX II / ST E2 transmitter / Nikon WC E75 Wide Angle / Wireless shutter trigger
  • Pro Jules Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Just found this message in my in box from Nik Software

    +While we do not officially support Elements 8 at this time, tests has shown that we should be also be compatible with it. You would just need to manually choose the installation location for the software.+

    +As such, it needs to be installed into the plug-ins folder for your host application. The typical location for this is:+

    +Macintosh HD | Applications | Adobe Elements 8 | Plug-Ins+
    +C: | Program Files | Adobe | Adobe Elements 8 | Plug-Ins+
    Macbook Air 1.6Ghz intel core duo 2GB 667Mhz DDR2 SDRAM, Mac OS X (10.5.8), Canon G11 / 2 x 430EX II / ST E2 transmitter /
  • Terence Devlin Level 10 Level 10 (121,630 points)
    Pro Jules

    There'a a forum for Aperture too:

    1) its not clear to me if I can use 'masks' or layers with Apererture

    Neither. But like iPhoto you can use aperture with a Layer based editor.

    That Aperture might be slow

    I would think it very likely on an MBA. Bluntly, with the array of plug-ins you are considering, you need a more powerful Mac.


    MacBook Pro 15 2.4 C2D / iMac 20" 2.66 C2D, Mac OS X (10.6), 4 gig RAM/ 4 gig RAM
  • Pro Jules Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    OK thanks Tel

    thats the sort of reality check I need at this stage.

    So to hang with the RAW post production big boys I am going to have to ditch my "Starbucks poser" model laptop.

    Fair enough. I am sure the wife will be thrilled to have it. Her MacBook is knackered anyway!

    What would be a killer spec for a MBPro for Aperture then?

    SSD drive?

    I want a fast boot up time anyway....
    Macbook Air 1.6Ghz intel core duo 2GB 667Mhz DDR2 SDRAM, Mac OS X (10.5.8), Canon G11 / 2 x 430EX II / ST E2 transmitter /
  • Terence Devlin Level 10 Level 10 (121,630 points)
    You don't need an SSD drive, though that will be faster - but a lot more expensive. You need as much Ram as you can afford and a whole lot of disk space. Then the fastest processor you can afford and be sure you have a separate graphics card.


    MacBook Pro 15 2.4 C2D / iMac 20" 2.66 C2D, Mac OS X (10.6), 4 gig RAM/ 4 gig RAM
  • Old Toad Level 10 Level 10 (112,980 points)
    Not to thru more confusion into the mix but you might visit this site to get more information on DAM (digital asset management) applications, Aperture included, and good info on workflows, etc.: The DAM forum. It's run by professional photographers.

    If you like having control over your folders take a look atMedia Expression, formally iView MediaPro. That and Photoshop or PSE will give you lots of fire power.

    But as Terence suggested you will need as much memory as you can afford and possibly a good sized external FW hard drive to house your files. With high powered image processing you will want to keep about 20GB or so free on the boot drive for temp swap files used by the system and the applications.

    3Ghz iMac, 4G RAM, 1TB HD; MBP 2.16 Ghz 2G RAM; 1.5TB/160GB HDs;, Mac OS X (10.6.2), Canon:i850/8600F, Epson R280; 4G Nano, 30G Video iPod; Panasonic DMC-FS15
  • Barbara Brundage Level 7 Level 7 (22,075 points)
    So, am I dreaming that all these very fancy (and I am aware expencive) plug ins will work in Elements?

    Probably 85% of all plug-ins that are compatible with PS CS4 will work with PSE8, but you should always check with the developer to make sure.
    iMac C2D 2.16, iMac G5 2.1, flat panel imac 700, ibook G4 1G, Performa 6116CD, Mac OS X (10.6.2)
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