iPhoto is great but eventually, if you are serious about your photography, you will need to grow to a pro level photo editing application. Here are three tale-tells signs that you should be thinking about moving up.

You want to apply local adjustments

iPhoto adjustment are limited. If you want to be able to apply adjustments with near pixel perfect precision, you need to move up. Local adjustments are the cornerstone of pro editing: they allow you to selectively darken the sky, adjust skin tone, remove blemishes, etc. They will increase the quality of your work and boost your creativity.

High volume of pictures

While iPhoto can handle 25,000 pictures, its organization features are limited and once you approach its limit, things start to go wrong. I know because my father in law is nearing the limit now and he keep experiencing slow downs. Also, the filtering and classification of pictures is much more detailed. You can use complex conditions based on any meta data in your smart folder.

You want to use plugins & third party tools

iPhoto is a closed box, it works well, provide a great set of tools but you can only play with the tools it gives you. On the other hand, Aperture and LightRoom have an open architecture which allows developers to create plugins to interact with your picture library.

While some of these plugins are already available on iPhoto (like Facebook sharing), a lots are not, such as all the filters and tools provided by OnOneSoftware and others. Using these plugins have become integral part of my workflow now and I could never go back to the simplicity of iPhoto.

Conclusion

If you find yourself limited by iPhoto, do not hesitate and take the plunge. Aperture is ridiculously underpriced at 80$ on the app store. While I prefer LightRoom, for anyone coming from iPhoto, Aperture is an incredible upgrade well worth your money.

UPDATE August 2012

In the summer of 2012, Apple updated both aperture and iPhoto to work on the same library so the library structure is the same. This allows you to choose which ever program works best for you at the time. This however leaves lightroom out of the picture.

 

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