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.