iPhoto vs Photoshop CS3

Last modified on August 9th, 2008

It should come as no surprise that photoshop is a much better tool that iPhoto. iPhoto is a free package that ships with Tiger and Leopard, and allows you to do quick adjustments to your photos. While obviously not marketed towards a high-end market, it’s easy to use and is a fairly decent tool to have a in your photography arsenal.

Unfortunately, sometime around Leopard, my iPhoto experience seemed to get a lot worse. I never really figured out exactly what happened, but there was a clean point in time where I felt iPhoto started really underperforming.

The other day at the BC Festival 150 I made the decision to start shooting RAW. I’ve always sort of guessed that RAW yields a higher image quality, partially because there’s no JPEG compression involved, but also because RAW images hold 12 or 14 bits of data per pixel as opposed to JPEG’s 8 bits. That means you have the opportunity to correct minor exposure problems via software before converting to JPEG, allowing some photos to be saved that otherwise might have been ruined with the camera’s JPEG only setting.

I’ve been testing out various professional programs at home tonight, including Photoshop CS3, Lightroom 2.0 and Aperture 2.0. I have a few high-end photoshop plugins that come in handy from time to time, especially in the area of high-ISO noise reduction.

I decided to do a little test tonight to see just how bad iPhoto was (or conversely, how good Photoshop was) when dealing with RAW images. Take note of this photo of Leslie Feist I shot the other day:

Leslie Feist, Copyright Image

This photo was taken using a Canon EOS 40D in RAW, and processed slightly in iPhoto. At the time, I thought it was a decent enough image, and I posted it to Flickr.

Tonight I started with the RAW CR2 image in Photoshop, and attempted to make the exact same shot. I cropped it a little bit looser, but in terms of processing, only adjusted the white-balance and added a slight bit of sharpening. The final result is here:

Leslie Feist, Copyright Image

In terms of image quality, the second one is amazingly more detailed, especially in the background and in the features of Leslie’s face and hair. To be quite honest, I was actually surprised that the difference between the two images was that apparent.

I’m going to try and get used to Lightroom 2.0, since I hear Lightroom and Photoshop compliment each other well. I’m not a huge fan of the Lightroom layout though, as I find it rather cumbersome to navigate. But we’ll see how it goes.

What is everyone else using these days to edit photos? iPhoto, Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, or .. ? Drop a comment.

7 responses to “iPhoto vs Photoshop CS3”

  1. Hesty says:

    digiKam for photo archiving and quick edits. The Gimp for more elaborate stuff. Hey, if the price fits ..

  2. Stewart says:

    I’m no expert photographer or anything, but I used Lightroom for 9 months and the UI pissed me off big time.

    Aperture though makes far more sense, apparently it’s pretty good to boot!

  3. Gregg says:

    I’m using Lightroom and Photoshop, though I’m tending to go into Photoshop less often as Lightroom gets more and more features.

    One of the main ways I’m using Lightroom is to make a virtual copy of any photo and then do all my editing on that copy. I can then export the entire catalog or just that portion and bring it into another computer (my wife’s computer, my work laptop, etc.) and see the picture or continue to work on it, without having to actually move that modified copy over to the other computer. I’ve been using that to work on pictures during breaks at work, and easily bring the results home; or so the wife and I can each modify photos and then combine or compare the results.

    I do have one other step; after importing the pictures to my computer I use Geosetter to geo-tag most of them, and then I reimport the EXIF data into Lightroom.

    Have you added the Flickr export plugin to Lightroom?

  4. Alan H says:

    I’ve been using Aperture for a while, and now that it’s 2.X it has started to come into its own. It does an excellent job of soft-editing images and doesn’t touch the original files. I find that it works will with NAS storage and can round-trip to another editor if that is REALLY what you want to do. (This does lose the soft-edits advantage, and doubles the storage requirements..)

    I find that for the typical post-processing I do, (noise reduction, color correction and white balance, etc) Aperture has what I want. It even supports retouching and apparently the plug in support is getting better and better.

  5. fotoeins says:

    Hey, Duane. I’m also in the process of deciding between Aperture vs. Lightroom, as I jump more fully into shooting RAW. Reading any and all responses for both is very useful.

  6. Gib Wallis says:

    Thanks so much for posting with the two photos.

    It sounds like you really didn’t do a lot of work in either application, but being able to work with the RAW file is simply a world of difference.

    I liked the first version of the photo, but I love the second one.

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