iPhoto vs Picasa



One of the things I imagined would be a no-brainer when I started using my Mac was that all my photo work would be done on it. After all, Apple makes a pretty big deal that iLife (with iPhoto, iMovie, etc) is great for managing media like that. The reality is that it’s been more difficult than I thought it would be.
For a non-professional photographer I take a lot of photos, especially when playing tourist. I have an excellent "Prosumer" camera: the Canon 30D, with a few decent lenses. I’ve got just over 19K pictures in my library and up to this point in time I used Picasa, the free photo management solution from Google.
Picasa has been wonderful for me. It does exactly what I need it to do which is ride herd on my photo collection. It tracks my folders just like I have them on disk, creates a huge contact sheet that I can scroll through very quickly and allows me to do quick and dirty editing. Most of my editing is removing the occasional red-eye and adjusting lighting. I’ll sometimes use it to straighten out a picture or crop it too, but if I do much more than that it’s off to Photoshop.
Getting the photos into iPhoto
I figured that I would simply blast those pictures into iPhoto and away I would go. My first step was to copy the 45GB of photos to my MacBook. Next, I imported them into iPhoto. It took a while to get that many photos in.
I was now using 90GB of disk space, not 45GB! The default installation of iPhoto takes the photos and copies them into a single large iPhoto library file. Once the files were in there I could delete them from my hard drive, but that meant that my photos moving forward would be stored in that file.  I later learned that you can set up iPhoto to work nearly exactly like Picasa: leave the photos in their original location and view them in iPhoto. When I get a little time I’ll move to that model.
One catch I experienced: Picasa leaves your photos in their original directory. If you retouch a photo it makes a copy under that directory and places the originals in there. When I imported the photos into iPhoto it also pulled in the originals.
iPhoto has two primary views: Events and Photos. I’m not sure what the significance is when it comes to how the pictures are broken up. It appears that both views categorize the pictures in the same way: they use whatever underlying folder structure you had to break up the pictures. Since I had a bunch of "originals" folders under my main folders, every other event had an adjacent "originals" folder. Not much could be done about that – just the nature of moving from Picasa to iPhoto.
I really do wish that iPhoto would break up the events into the days that the pictures were actually taken. Not the date/time stamp of the file but the date/time stamp embedded into the picture. That would really make it easier to find things.
What I Miss from Picasa
This list is surprisingly short: I miss the ability to zoom in on my previews while in iPhoto. If I am looking at all of my photos as a kind of contact sheet and double click on an item to make it expand to fill the window, I cannot zoom in further unless I switch into edit mode. There’s a little zoom control in the lower right corner but it’s disabled in preview. I am constantly tripping on that.
What I Like in iPhoto
Slide shows in iPhoto are excellent. It includes a "Ken Burns" effect that can be controlled very easily. I can add in music from iTunes or Garage Band and make something that just looks excellent.
The photo information can be edited in batch! That’s great when your wife’s digital camera runs out of juice for so long that it resets the date time to January 1, 2000 when she recharges it and every picture she takes has a date/time stamp from 7 years earlier.
While I haven’t used it yet, the ability to have iPhoto just make a photo book for you is pretty darn cool. I realize that many online photo services like dotPhoto.com and Shutterfly have done this for years but the way iPhoto builds them is sweet.
Now that I’ve worked through my initial frustrations with iPhoto I think it’s actually going to be able to replace my beloved Picasa.