Taking a lot of pictures is wonderfully easy and affordable nowadays. But once you have taken all those pictures, you need a good way to organize those photos.
In this post, I will cover what I think are the best tools currently available to help you manage your photos on the Mac in 2018.
When it comes to photography software, applications are usually split in two different categories: Photo management software, and photo editing software.
Photo management software allows you to import all your pictures and organize them in various ways so that you can easily find them, and also share them with others. Typically, you can also do some light editing inside of those apps as well, so that you can improve your pictures and make them look better, or get creative with them.
Photo editing software allows you to get far more creative and do powerful photo editing, graphic design, and even blend images and graphics together.
Well known examples of photo management apps for Mac are iPhoto (now discontinued), Photos, Lightroom and Picassa (also discontinued).
Well known examples of photo editing apps include Photoshop, Pixelmator, and Affinity Photo.
In this article, I’ll be focusing on the best photo management apps for the Mac. I’m also taking into consideration that ideally, you’ll want something that not only works well on the Mac, but also syncs well with your mobile devices.
Photos : The first and most obvious option is the application which comes pre-installed on every recent Mac, iPhone, and iPad since 2015. Photos replaces Apple’s older photo management app called iPhoto, which was used and loved by millions of people before before discontinued by Apple in favor of Photos. Photos was introduced to replace iPhoto presumably because they couldn’t really make iPhoto work on mobile devices, and they needed something that would work well on both the Mac and iPhone / iPad.
For most users, Photos can do everything necessary, and is probably the only program you’ll need. While the original version of Photos that came out in 2015 was overly simplistic and lacked many features of its predecessor, the current version built into macOS High Sierra is very nice indeed.
It features a simple interface that let’s you easily organize and group your pictures by year, places, media type, people, and much more. But the biggest improvement in the latest version of Photos is how much better the editing options have become. You can now radically adjust and improve your pictures using some of the new and improved editing tools which were previously only available in programs such as Photoshop and Aperture. There are powerful adjustments available such as light, Color, white balance, levels, curves, definition and more. That’s on top of your standard Black & white, retouch, cropping and red-eye tools. You also have some pretty nice filters available right in Photos. And finally, Photos also allows you to use 3rd party extensions that extend your editing capabilities even more.
So, Photos really is becoming a very full-fledged and powerful program that will satisfy the needs of most Mac users, and it really is worth taking the time to learn how to get the most out of it. And it is completely free. But in case you want something a little different, or more powerful, I’ll be looking at a couple of alternatives to consider next.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: Lightroom has been around since 2007, and has become a massively popular program amongst hobbyist and professional photographers alike. At core, it is a very powerful tool that lets you organize your pictures in a multitude of ways, and also offers some very powerful editing and sharing tools. Adobe has recently split Lightroom into 2 different programs: Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC. The Classic version is the version that’s been around since the start, while the new CC version is a somewhat simplified application that is very much geared towards photographers who are looking to keep all their pictures in the cloud. It is also focused on people who want the ability to work on multiple devices easily and have everyting sync seamlessly.
And even though you can still buy Lightroom Classic for a one-time fee of $150. But Adobe is really pushing for customers to sign-up for one of their Creative Cloud plans. For $10 a month, you can sign-up for the Photography plan, which includes Lightroom, Photoshop, and Adobe Bridge and is frequently updated with new features. It is a really good deal if you’ll be using any of these applications frequently, and want access to frequent updates and new features. But this subscription model is pretty unappealing to many people who would rather just pay once for their software and own it outright. So, in conclusion, Lightroom is an excellent program used by millions worldwide. But it does have a steeper learning curve, and you have to comfortable with their monthly or yearly subscription model. If you’ve never used it before and you’re pretty serious about your photography, it’s worth checking out all the features it offers and giving it a try.
ON1 Photo Raw: If you’re looking for an excellent photo management and editing program that does not require a monthly subcription payment, this may be the best option currently available. This is an excellent photography application which has been around for a few years, and they have consistently improved this program over time. It is created by a small company in Oregon, and I’ve been very impressed the care and attention they’ve put into this product. For $120 one-time fee, you’re getting an incredibly powerful photography application that will satisfy the needs of just about anyone. You can also use some its features within Photos, and they also offer tons of free training videos on the support section of their site, which is really awesome. As you can probably tell, I’m very impressed by ON1 Photo Raw and I think it’s an excellent alternative to both Photos and Lightroom, or it can be used alongside both of those programs in order to enhance your pictures in new and innovative ways. I encourage you to look on their website to see what you think for yourself.
The other options I’ll talk about briefly are programs worth checking out but are not as versatile as the top three listed above:
Google Photos: This can be used predominently to back-up your photos to your Google account. Any photos stored on your Mac or mobile devices can be backed up, and you can then organize them and do some light editing through a web browser. Like most Google services, this is completly free. If you’re not currently backing up your photos to any cloud services, and you don’t want to pay for such a service, you’ll probably not find anything better than Google Photos. Much like Apple made the switch from iPhoto to Photos, Google has made the switch from Picassa to Google Photos. It’s a cloud friendly service that works well on all your devices.
Adobe Photoshop elements: This is sort of a mix between what you get with Photos while adding some of the more basic Photoshop features. If you want to get creative with your pictures without having to learn some of the more complex and difficult aspects of Photohsop, this might be a good option for you. For $80, you get a very sturdy photo management app, with some pretty powerful editing features. Some users complain that the Photoshop elements interface is not very intuitive, but overall I think this is a very solid program sold at a very reasonable price.
Capture One: This software is very much geared towards serious or professional photographers who mainly shoot RAW images. It allows you to organize your images much the same way as Lightroom or ON1 Photo Raw, but has some very powerful editing features. This application is mainly used by serious photography professionals for good reason. The editing features are nothing short of phenomenal, which is why it’s also the most expensive program covered in this article. At $20 a month, or for a $300 license, it’s obvious that this software is aimed at serious hobbyists or professionals. Check out the website, and download the free trial version if the software interests you.
I’ll try to update this article if I find something else worth mentioning, or if someone brings something else to my attention. But hopefully, this can help you make a decision that helps you organize your photos and make them look their best.