Photo editing sw for a simple workflow
February 26, 2008 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for recommendations on a good photo editing application for a Mac. Specific needs inside.

After a bit of a break from taking photos, I am starting to ramp back up.

I just went to launch Photoshop and it immediately crashed with an 'unrecoverable' error. This is probably due to a recent upgrade (10.4->10.5) as this is the only thing that has changed on the system recently. I am not interested in fixing this problem because 1) I suspect Photoshop is probably overkill for what I need and 2) ummm... well, lets just say this copy was 'borrowed' and I am looking to go legit but don't want to spend ~700 dollars in the process.

My process for photo processing is fairly simple.

All I want to be able to do is the following:

Starting from iPhoto, launch the editing software and do some very basic
color correction. (Think auto levels/colors, but with room to tweak).

Optionally, I may want to convert to black and white at this point. The way I did this with PS was to tweak the channels in monochrome mode until the proper look was achieved. A similar method with the new application would be ideal.

Then I want to crop the photo as 5x7, 8x10, 8x8 or some similar ratio. I want the DPI maintained for this step. Also, I don't want the application to decide how the image is cropped. I would like the application to give me an aspect ratio constrained box that I can move over the image and selecting the anchor points myself. Once I am happy with the photo, I save this image as the high res original.

Working from that saved image, I then want to maintain the aspect ratio, but downgrade the DPI to 72. This images is saved as the web copy.

Then I want to make a 140x140 pixel crop of the last image for use as a thumbnail. Same cropping functionality is desired here as above. This is the final image I save.

I am playing with GraphicConverter right now, but I don't like how its controls for cropping and black and white conversion. (Either that or I am missing how it is supposed to be used).

Also, as I am writing this, I am getting the feeling that I am kind of missing the point of DPI. I had always kind of assumed that the photos my camera produced had an 'intrinsic' DPI value, but logically that doesn't make any sense since the camera wouldn't know when I take the photo how 'big' it supposed to be.

I suppose the bottom line is that I want a touched up, very high quality copy of the photo for printing purposes, a much much smaller but suitably high quality copy for displaying the photo on my website, and a fixed sized thumbnail (140x140 so the layout of my site isn't borked).

Any and all suggestions are appreciated. Ideally, I would like to use a fully functioning demo before committing and I wouldn't mind spending up to 150ish dollars. (I could go a bit higher if it were a really slick application).

Thank you!
posted by cayla to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Acorn. It has many fewer features than Photoshop, but does pretty much everything I need in an image editor at home.

Looks like it covers your list of needs as well.
posted by joe vrrr at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2008

Best answer: Adobe Lightroom will do it all. Trial download here. Can't recommend this piece of software enough - it's ridiculous awesome for setting up an efficient photo editing workflow.

I assume Apple Aperture 2 will also do it but I haven't tried it out.
posted by junesix at 12:05 PM on February 26, 2008

Here's a review of three lightweight image editors for the Mac, including Acorn.

I've been using GraphicConverter for ages. It excels at batch-mode stuff, but isn't as friendly for direct image editing. But if you're plowing through a bunch of photos to make thumbnails, it's aces.

You are correct that "DPI" is arbitrary—until you pick an output device. It's a little confusing because (as I understand it) one of Photoshop's organizing metaphors is that everything has known dimensions and DPI (which make more sense, if you do have known dimensions). But if you're just designing something for the web and you just want it to be 100 pixels square, it's a problem. This may be where you picked up the "intrinsic DPI" idea.
posted by adamrice at 12:27 PM on February 26, 2008

I second junesix-- Lightroom has entirely changed my workflow for the better, it's so streamlined now. That one program handles all my needs and keeps all my photo's organised unlike ever before.

Just remember to get hold of a sheet for shortcuts, once you've got them in muscle memory, you'll be flying through your pictures.
posted by Static Vagabond at 12:38 PM on February 26, 2008

I use GIMP, but it might be a bit of overkill for what you want to do...but it's free!
posted by schyler523 at 12:47 PM on February 26, 2008

I am getting the feeling that I am kind of missing the point of DPI.
Yes, possibly. DPI doesn't matter at all until you try to put the picture into the real world, when it matters because different printers cram a different number of dots into the inch.

Your picture comes out the camera as a chunk of pixels, say 1440 pixels wide by 720 pixels deep (comedy small numbers for easy sums in my head). There's no DPI setting. PS will put one on it, say 72dpi and tell you that the picture will be 2 inches wide by 1 inch deep when printed. If you change the dpi setting to 144dpi, the picture will suddenly be 1 inch wide by .5inch deep ... but nothing will have changed. It hasn't added or removed any pixels.

The only time it does this is if you tell it you want the picture to stay at 2 inches wide by 1 inch deep at 144dpi. Then it has to make up extra pixels to size up.

Sorry, is this getting confusing? In short: forget about dpi on screen. All that matters there is pixels. You want something like 800 pixels by 600 pixels to display on screen, but you want to just keep the file at its original size for printing.
posted by bonaldi at 1:05 PM on February 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the suggestions and advice. Very helpful stuff.

Of the suggestions so far, I am most intrigued by Lightroom. It is a little more than I wanted to spend, but it is very cool. I have been playing with it for the last half hour or so. It looks like that for my needs I will be living mostly in the 'Develop' section.

I did try Acorn also and it looks interesting. That could be an option too.

I knew I was offbase with my thinking of DPI. All of those explanations help!

Again, thanks all.
posted by cayla at 1:19 PM on February 26, 2008

Get Lightroom. It's the best thing to happen to digital photography in years. I only use Photoshop for compositing and heavy retouching now, I do everything else in Lightroom.
posted by bradbane at 1:19 PM on February 26, 2008

Get lightroom. No joke, it's totally sweet. It's frigin awesome. I dont' know. It's amazing.

You can pretty much get away with 80% of everything without photoshop, if you have lightroom. If you shoot raw, it's even better (but that's not essential).

RE: DPI I wouldn't sweat it. All you need to know is that if you are exporting for the web, go to 72 dpi, if you are exporting for print, 300dpi is good. It's more complicated than that, but not by much.

And you can get lightroom to handle all that for you.
posted by sully75 at 2:06 PM on February 26, 2008

schyler523: if I may piggyback a question about GIMP here... I've got a 13" MacBook, about a year old. I am having the same problem as cayla - photoshop stopped working after I upgraded to leopard and I can NOT get it to work again, and I've had technical help and everyone is stumped. I was thinking of trying out GIMP, but it runs in X11, right? I was using for a while, which runs through X11 and it was horribly clunky and never really worked right. So I guess what I'm asking is: if I"m looking for a Mac photoshop replacement, is GIMP sufficiently photoshop-like?
posted by indiebass at 2:59 PM on February 26, 2008

is GIMP sufficiently photoshop-like?
no, no, ho boy, no uh-uh avoid.
posted by bonaldi at 3:29 PM on February 26, 2008

I've seen some talk about the Pixel Image Editor... does anyone have any experience with that program?
posted by indiebass at 3:32 PM on February 26, 2008

Don’t overlook the soon-to-be-released Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac. $90.

It will include Bridge and Camera Raw, plus virtually all the layers, masking and selection goodness of PS proper.

I don’t have Lightroom, but I did go with Aperture for a while for its one-adjustments-panel efficiency, and find that with Bridge and Camera Raw I never bother with it anymore and can’t see what Lightroom would add to the party editing-wise that I can’t get from Bridge/CRaw + PS when needed. You’ll pay $200 and still not be able to select or create a layer or use a cloning tool.

I’ve got CS3, but Elements looks like it’ll provide almost the same experience for under $100.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:53 AM on February 27, 2008

Response by poster: I just checked back in and saw your comment dpcoffin. I will definitely keep my eyes open for Elements when it is released.

I marked the first Lightroom comment as the best answer because so far that has been the best application I tried, but thank you everyone else for your input.
posted by cayla at 11:44 AM on February 28, 2008

« Older Burn it Blue   |   Axe Me! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.