[Updated: December 16, 2014]
There was a time that every photo taken was developed and stored in a photo album. The photos could be organized however you wanted and stored in a way that they could be easily accessible. With the advent of digital photography however, organization, display, and sharing of photographs has moved from the bookshelf at your parents’ house to folders on a computer.
This move from physical to digital storage is why the application you use to organize, view, and share your digital photographs is so important. Without a proper app, the thousands of pictures you have can be lost in a sea of images forever. If you use a Mac, you’re probably used to iPhoto taking up the role of photo organizer for you, and if this is so, you probably agree that iPhoto sucks.
There is hope, as alternatives exist for just about every feature available in iPhoto that are easier and all-around better to use. Check out the iPhoto alternatives below and hopefully get a better grip on your digital photos.
Why iPhoto Sucks
Before we get into HOW to replace iPhoto with alternatives, let’s take a minute to see WHY iPhoto sucks. One of the biggest gripes with iPhoto is how it stores pictures. iPhoto uses a database to keep your images organized in a way that makes perfect sense for iPhoto and zero sense for you. Instead of using a folder structure like iTunes, all you can see is the iPhoto Library icon that, depending on your library size, could be 5GB or more.
What’s more, backing this massive file up is tedious to say the least, and moving your images from one computer to another is more painful that when hammer meets thumb. Instead of iPhoto just reading a directory, it places everything in a huge database and you just have to deal with it.
The use of this database hurts your organization, too. While you can change how photos are organized within the iPhoto application, you can’t organize them into meaningful folders. Once you leave iPhoto, organization goes out the window and you’re left with a mass of random images.
Speaking of organization, iPhoto will indeed import pictures from your iOS device or other digital camera, but it will place every date a picture is taken into a separate “untitled event.” Meaning, if you take 1-3 pictures per day and import those pictures after 20 days, you’ll have 20 different events to sort through. Organization is sketchy at best and getting events and albums to play nicely with one another requires a Zen-like level of calm that few people possess.
As your database grows, iPhoto slows down to a crawl and what should take a few seconds to import some pictures can be a 10-minute affair as iPhoto tries it’s very best to get the job done.
To finish out the list, Apple touts Photo Stream as an amazing feature of iCloud, yet it barely works in iPhoto. Images don’t show correctly and it’s barely even accessible in the newest iteration: iPhoto 9.5.
I could go on and on about why iPhoto sucks, but instead, let’s check out a few pretty great alternatives that will bring back the fun of keeping digital pictures.
Picasa – Free
Picasa is Google’s free photo application, and it’s pretty great. Picasa can do facial recognition, access GPS location information, and best of all, Picasa lets you organize your photos into whatever folders you want and accesses them wherever you store them. You also get photo filters as well as Google+ sharing and tagging.
The down side to Picasa is that it can be slow at times, but with a native OS X application and web client, it’s pretty darn good. Check it out at this link.
Dropbox – Free or Paid
Dropbox has become a real photo powerhouse with their recent updates. If you use an iOS device you can automatically upload new pictures to Dropbox both wirelessly and when you sync your device. Dropbox can also automatically upload new pictures from any digital camera when it’s plugged in to your Mac.
Pictures are stored locally and backed up with Dropbox. You can organize your photos into folders and albums and best of all it’s free. While the free account will only give you 2GB of storage, more storage can easily be purchased or earned by referring friends. Check out Dropbox here. For an even easier way of viewing your Dropbox pictures, check out Unbound for iOS.
Unbound – $9.99
Speaking of Unbound, there’s a Mac version of this software too, and it’s a pretty great iPhoto Alternative. Unbound is easy to use, fast, and organizes photos using a file structure instead of a behemoth database file.
Just like the mobile version, Unbound for the Mac can sync up with Dropbox to give you a real powerhouse of photo storage and management. You get exif data viewing, map location, and slideshows. Check out a free demo here.
MyPhotostream – $3.99 (Free trial)
This app is meant to help you easily access your Photo Stream on your Mac. While there are ways to get to your Photo Stream that are free, this app will give you quick, simple access to your pictures. While it does cost a few bucks, you can try it out for free. MyPhotostream won’t sync your pictures or help with organization, but it does it’s one task very well.
MyPhotostream gives you the ability to share via social media as well as email right from the app, so if you’re just looking to get pictures shared easily and quickly, this might be the best option for you.
Lyn – $20 (Free Trial)
Built to be lightweight and very fast, Lyn is another iPhoto alternative with some solid photo editing tools, the ability to easily share files, innovative geotagging features, and a few other nifty enhancements. For instance, the software includes the ability to geotag photos through a simple drag-and-drop interface on a map, and includes non-destructive editing to ensure that you can always revert back to a previous version. Other nice features include smart folders for organizing your files, compatibility with Aperture, Lightroom, and iPhoto libraries, and even an integrated video player.Users can share files to Flickr, Facebook, and Dropbox, and can even edit metadata tags on multiple files at the same time.
If you value speed, efficiency and simplicity, then Lyn just might be you new favorite photo editing app. The free-trial version gives you 15 days to try it out for yourself before purchasing.
Photoscape X – Free
If you’re looking for a photo editing app with lots of extra features, than look no further than Photoscape X. This software has a host of typical editing tools such as the ability to crop, rotate, resize, and straighten, but it can also adjust contrast levels, correct backlight problems, and balance colors. This easy to use program comes with a host of filters that can be automatically applied to your photos, and can batch-edit files for renaming, resizing, or changing formats too. It offers the ability to share via email and social media, as well as the option for creating animated GIF’s too.
But where Photoscape X truly shines is with its collage tool, which allows photographers to merge multiple photos into a single image, which can than be printed as well. The ability to combine photos in this manner is a bit unique in this level of photo editing software, and is a nice feature to have at your disposal.
What You’ll Be Missing
Even though the alternatives listed above are pretty great, they all still lack a few key features that iPhoto offers. First, the integration with iOS Photos is very tight with iPhoto, so if you stop using it you’re basically out of luck. Within iPhoto itself you get the ability to create Facebook and Flickr shares, and to share photos with other iCloud users.
The last major loss by using iPhoto alternatives is the ability to create books, cards, calendars, and to order prints from Apple. If these are features you enjoy using, then you’re probably stuck using iPhoto, at least for these options.
Have a favorite iPhoto alternative that I didn’t mention? Leave it in the comments for everyone else to try.