My Mac has over 10,000 photos in iPhoto. That’s 10,000 as in ten thousand. I collected that many photos in barely five years of using iPhoto.
My biggest problem is the photo enhancement tools in iPhoto. They’re good for many Mac users, probably good for new Windows switchers to the Mac, but lacking for my tastes.
What else is available to enhance your photos? Oddly enough, there are plenty of applications with are expensive and yet easy to use, and others that are more complex, more Photoshop-like, yet less expensive. Far less.
If you’re ready to move beyond the simple tools of iPhoto, but don’t want the expense and complexity of Photoshop, consider these Mac tools.
At the low end is Funtastic Photos. $35 gets you a true Mac-like application which takes advantage of Mac OS X’s built in graphics effects, tools, filters so you can edit photos without destroying them while you learn.
Funtastic Photos is basically a point and click tool which lets you take a digital photo blur sections, add captions, change colors, highlights, contrast and saturation with ease.
Click Styles let you add a bunch of special effects which you can save and use later. There’s also a print function for layouts, a sharing component, and much more.
At the high end of the scale is LightZone which brings hundreds of photo processing tools, all layered for ease of use, each with various features and functions, and totally point and click.
If you don’t mind a little trial and error, LightZone provides an endless array of image processing techniques, fully non-destructive to the original.
The Instant Styles features make complex adjustments to your photos a mere click away. Of all the Mac photo enhancement applications I’ve used, this is one that would get nearly five stars from me. Point, click, slide, adjust.
If you have a good eye for composition and color, LightZone makes short work of photo modifications and enhancements, yet remains compatible with Photoshop. If you’re a professional, you probably already love Photoshop.
If you want your photos to look like a professional but don’t want the expense or learning curve of Photoshop, then the basic version at $129 is a comparative bargain vs. Photoshop.
What I like about LightZone, indeed any Mac application that enhances digital photos, is the ability to take a basic photo from a decent digital camera, and enhance it beyond the original.
Dynamic color range can be adjusted, as can saturation, contrast, toning, shadows and highlights, as well as any lighting, hue, and noise reduction. Color balance changes are literally a click and an adjustment.
The end result is a photo that’s been enhanced to look far better than the original.
What do you do if you really want the precise control and capability of Photoshop for both photos and graphic images, but can’t afford the price Adobe charges (about $700 when I last checked)?
The differences in features between Funtastic Photos, aimed squarely at the Mac user who wants more than iPhoto, but lost too much money in the stock market, and LightZone is substantial.
Both are point and click, slide and adjust. Both take digital photos and enhance them far beyond the original. Neither requires a degree in Photoshop. On the other hand, Pixelmator could easily be called Photoshop Lite.
The feature set is light, the look is chic and exotic, the tools are non-destructive and plentiful, yet Pixelmator is priced less than the new Photoshop Elements, the stripped down offering from Adobe.
The only real problem with Pixelmator is much the same as it is with Photoshop. You have to be a digital image processing guru already. Not so with Funtastic Photos or LightZone (my favorite, albeit much more expensive), both of which work well for those of us without an advanced media design degree.
My advice? If iPhoto is showing its age and you need more tools, try each one in sequence. Each one is somewhat different in approach and target user, though each one goes well beyond iPhoto, providing Photoshop-like capability for pennies on the dollar.