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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Ultimate Mac Setup for Photographers (50 Apps)

OS X is a popular platform for professional photographers, and offers a huge range of software which can help to take better photos, streamline post-processing, sell images, and publish them for others to view. Whether you’re a complete amateur or a seasoned pro, this roundup will have something new to show you.

We’ll be covering 50 fantastic applications for various areas of photography: organizing, post-processing, geo-tagging, panoramas, HDR images, uploading/sharing images, and more.

Organizing & Editing Photos

  • iPhoto - The basic photo program shipped with OS X, iPhoto packs a wide range of features and integrates brilliantly with all the other software on your Mac.
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom - A professional photo organization tool, complete with powerful editing features. You can quickly import, process, manage, and showcase your images — from one shot to an entire shoot.
  • Aperture - Having improved a great deal in recent versions, Aperture now offers a good way to cull through shoots, enhance images, manage massive libraries, and deliver stunning photos.
  • Capture One Pro - The choice of seasoned professionals, Capture One works well for tethered shooting and offers a solid tool for a RAW workflow.
  • Picasa - Google’s free photo management application, Picasa is friendly and simple to use. It lacks the innovative features found in recent versions of iPhoto.
  • Bibble - Another RAW workflow tool, useful for organizing photos with a wide range of editing functionality.
  • Shoebox - A solid solution for organizing all of your photos by content, with an interface well suited to widescreen displays.
  • JetPhoto Studio - An easy-to-use photo management app with a range of publishing features (including the automatic creation of Flash web galleries)
  • Photoshop Elements - Step-by-step editing, compositing tools, and it’s built on the solid foundation of Adobe Photoshop.

Post Processing

  • Adobe Photoshop - The de-facto photo editing application, Photoshop has been an industry leader for many years. It’s incredibly powerful, but comes at a price.
  • Pixelmator - An incredibly fast photo editing tool for OS X, which uses various speed-enhancing features of Leopard. Definitely worth taking a look at.
  • Seashore - A native application built upon the core of GIMP, offering a well-rounded, free photo editing solution.
  • Corel Painter X - Taking a slightly different angle, this app tries to simulate as accurately as possible the appearance of traditional media associated with drawing and painting.
  • Acorn - A remarkably uncluttered and simple photo editor for OS X, with a great in-built brush designer.
  • Picturesque - Useful for adding the finishing touches to a photo, such as borders, shadows, perspective, reflections etc.
  • PhotoComplete - Similar to Acorn, PhotoComplete is a basic image editor which excels on account of a simple and easy-to-understand interface.
  • Prizmo - This app allows you to easily change the perspective of a photograph, and essentially “scan” using a digital camera. Fascinating stuff.

Batch Processing

  • Automator - The built-in automation app from Apple, which can perform a range of photo manipulation actions and be easily extended with a range of plugins.
  • iMagine Photo - Another tool for automating your image processing workflow. You can scale, crop, blend images, apply filters and rotate.
  • EasyBatchPhoto - Allows you to process hundreds (or thousands) of images with a single drag-and-drop, with a simple looking interface.
  • PhotoDrop - A simple utility that allows you to create small, customized droplets that turn the tedious task of modifying a folder of images into a simple drag-and-drop operation.

HDR Photography

  • Photomatix - A widely popular HDR app with tone mapping and exposure fusion. It works as a standalone app, or as a plugin for Photoshop or Aperture.
  • Qtpfsgui - Despite the horrendous name, this tool is completely open source and offers a free way to start a HDR workflow.
  • Hydra - A user-friendly interface, automatic matching of images and an Aperture plug-in make Hydra definitely worth a look.
  • Silverfast - Whilst starting to look at little dated, Silverfast seems to offer a fairly large set of advanced features. Not too user-friendly.
  • Bracketeer - A front-end GUI for Enfuse, which offers an auto-align feature and can supposedly create far better looking images than Photoshop. You can be the judge!
  • FDRTools - Another similar tool for combining images, tone mapping, and exporting in a variety of different formats.

Panoramas & Stitching

  • Panorama Tools - A page crammed with technical information seems to suggest that this is a very proficient set of tools for stitching and viewing panoramas. Also available as a Photoshop plugin.
  • Double Take - A very simple, user-friendly interface make this a good choice for when you can’t get far enough away to fit everything in the viewfinder.
  • PhotoWarp - Capable of producing some fascinating circular warps and panoramas, PhotoWarp is something a little different.
  • Flexify - Allows you to bend and stretch a photo into seemingly any shape, creating some really impressive effects.
  • Panorama2Flash - Support for batch conversion and Flash export make this app a full-featured alternative to those previously mentioned.

Uploading & Sharing

  • Flickr Uploadr - A fantastically simple app for uploading your photos to Flickr and ensuring they remain organized as you’d like.
  • Facebook iPhoto Plugin - A simple plugin for uploading images straight to Facebook, supporting tagging and organization within the app itself. Far better than the web based tools.
  • iStockPhoto Aperture Plugin - If you sell images through iStockPhoto, this plugin can be a real time-saver. If you use another stock site, check around to see if a different plugin has been created (you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised).
  • iWeb - Apple’s basic website design app can be very useful for creating quick, good looking photo galleries and slideshows from images already contained in iPhoto or Aperture.
  • PictureSync - Offering a central app for tagging and organizing photos for upload to a wide range of different online services.
  • Smilebox - A fun and friendly service for scrap-booking, creating cards, and quickly sharing photos.


  • Geophoto - See your pictures from a new perspective and start tagging by location. It can import photos directly from iPhoto or Aperture and share them on Flickr.
  • PhotoLinker - A professional solution than can integrate with GPS tracks, attempting to automatically put your photos in precisely the right location.
  • GeoTagger - A droplet for inserting GPS coordinates into your photos that integrates with Google Earth.
  • HoudahGeo - Catering for both geotagging for archival purposes, and for publishing to Google Earth, Flickr or locr. Also capable of matching photos to a GPS track.
  • PhotoGPSEditor - An easy to use meta-data editor for photo files, plus it can match data from GPS (gpx or NMEA) files. Completely free.
  • Trails for iPhone - If you have an iPhone, Trails is a fantastic way to track exactly where you’ve been for later geotagging. It doesn’t require an internet connection - great for when traveling.

Backup & Recovery

  • CameraSalvage - Retrieve your photos from corrupt or formatted flash cards or other digital camera media. It can recover data from digital camera media cards, hard drives, CD-ROM, external devices, Apple iPods, and much more.
  • Salvage - Salvage is a tool for recovering digital camera pictures from corrupt removable media.
  • ImageRecall - And another. ImageRecall will do it’s best to recover any photos from a corrupt or accidentally deleted card.
  • Time Machine - The OS X Leopard backup solution. All that you require is an external hard drive, and to keep a copy of your website locally.
  • Dropbox - I use Dropbox as a means of keeping an off-site backup of important website documents and files (though it’s also great at keeping multiple computers in sync!)
  • SuperDuper - If you’d like to keep a bootable backup of your Mac hard drive, SuperDuper is an excellent solution.


A huge selection of software is available for photographers, from direct tethered capturing right through to uploading images to a stock photography website. It’s always worth trying out a few options before settling on one in particular (especially when considering major software choices such as Aperture vs Lightroom).

Which pieces of photography software could you not do without? I’m interested to read about the applications that fit into your workflow.

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