Thanks to the new digital photography era, my computer is flooded with tons of photographs (like most photographers).

I'm looking at a software having the following characteristics ( one software )

  1. Fast There is a lot inefficient Basic-like stuff on the Net. I want something that not only processes images in a fast manner, but also a reactive interface
  2. Raw literate Able to read and decode the raw format (of well known brands) with of course conversion to standard formats (jpg, png, tiff, ...)
  3. HDR able Not necessarily the 3-to-1 picture feature. A software that understands that HDR pictures (usually raw) own a huge transformation potential, and offer mathematical ways (tone mapping, curves, functions, masks...) to operate a conversion to other formats
  4. Macros? Script! PS macros are a pain. I want something that looks like a computer language. Of course, script recording should be possible, and the recording generated script editable, showing all the commands details (for instance, the masks values etc... all the parameters required to run the command that was recorded)
  5. Image processing All the standard white-balance, hue, saturation, contrast, crop, resize, rotate...

Photos database

The soft has to find all photos everywhere on my disk(s), then offers a review of each of them, Raws, Jpegs...: (All keys could be different)

the process can be done from the keyboard (i.e. not using the mouse)

  1. Pictures, say 7 of them, appear ~150x100px on a single line with the one is the center being selected.
  2. Enter would zoom to full screen (fit), twice would have it 100% (left/right arrows to navigate inside the pic), ESC back to 7
  3. DEL disables/delete the pic
  4. SpaceTo enter a comment / TAGs (tags are ordered by decreasing importance).
  5. Thumbnails are created automatically, (DB could be a disk tree that follows the tags (e.g. See House Family => path = .../sea/house/family/img_xgz2a_2121.jpg)
  6. Tags can later on be searched


  1. On the Mac

All of this should be part of a unique software.
Current software that do not qualify: Gimp, Photoshop, ..

NB: please do not close as duplicate this question unless the other question covers (at least) the same software requirements

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice, I didn't know about that kbd tag. BTW Lightroom can do do that, except for HDR (Scriptable through a free third-party). Look at this one though: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/5329/… \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2011 at 17:45
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think there's a risk of being closed as a duplicate, but there is a pretty real problem: you've got a very, very specific wish list which is a) unlikely to be precisely met by any existing software and b) unlikely to be a generally helpful question since it's unlikely to be exactly someone else's question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jan 3, 2011 at 17:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Seems like the most limiting factor in your list might be 'on the Mac.' \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2011 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The real limiting factor and wishful thinking starts with "one software". Everybody uses a set of applications for such complex tasks. Heck, even Adobe Photoshop, which covers most of OP requirements is a set of apps. \$\endgroup\$
    – Leonidas
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure why this question keeps getting downvoted. It might be a little too specific, but I don't think it's a bad question, per-se. Then again, I guess thats why we have a voting system:) \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Jan 4, 2011 at 6:03

5 Answers 5


I'm curious why you think Photoshop doesn't meet what you want, when it clearly does match everyone of your requirements:

  1. Fast. How fast is fast? CS5 runs really well for me. This question reminds me of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

  2. RAW: Adobe Camera Raw is updated constantly to support the latest raw formats

  3. HDR: CS5's HDR capability is fantastic (ihmo)

  4. Macros: Photoshop supports VBSCript, Javascript, and AppleScript. Javascript has it's faults, but given how performant the stackexchange sites are, there is no denying in the right hands, it's incredibly powerful (LIKE A NINJA RIDING ON THE BACK OF A PIRATE)

  5. Image Processing: It's photoshop.

  6. Images Search tag, yada yada: Photoshop comes with Adobe Bridge with integrates seemlessly with what you want.

  7. Mac support: Yep. Runs on a mac.

    I suspect you are looking for something that is very specific to how you work, and it's very unlikely that you are going to find something. The good news is, if you're inclined, GIMP is open source, so you could add the features you want to the source, and commit them for addition to the mainline.

  • \$\begingroup\$ ROFL @ "LIKE A NINJA RIDING ON THE BACK OF A PIRATE". |D:] youtube.com/watch?v=Sfs2FRgp-ow -> "Everything is better...with PIRATES." \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Jan 3, 2011 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, I'm not familiar with Adobe latest stuff - Bridge for instance. But when I think Adobe, I see heavy tools, not always convenient, nor intuitive... \$\endgroup\$
    – Déjà vu
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I concur, they are heavy tools, and not necessarily intuitive. I would liken Photoshop to programming with Perl; there is more than one way to do what you want. As you progress in skill, you are rewarded with more creative options. That said, as a photographer, I rarely use photoshop, and instead opt for Adobe Lightroom, which is a comprehensive photographic workflow management system. Since you need HDR, image processing, and so on, Photoshop is a better answer; though with 3rd party plugins it is possible to do most of what you want inside Lightroom (including applying photoshops macros). \$\endgroup\$
    – Alan
    Jan 4, 2011 at 6:06

You've already written off the closest thing you're going to find to this requirement set in your answers above. I don't forsee there being anything actually that will meet your arbitrary "one [piece of] software" requirement, since good software engineering practices tend to prevent the development of such monolithic tools; instead the norm is a set of tools that each do one thing very well.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A bit of a nitpick, but I think that good software engineering practices solve user problems. UNIX-style software engineering emphasizes the use of many small tools combined to solve problems, while other approaches do use 'monolithic' tools to solve a task or set of user tasks (ie, excel or word). It's more of a style thing of whether to have one or many programs, not a 'best practices' thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – mmr
    Jan 3, 2011 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I couldn't agree more with @mmr. Good programming practices are subjective at best, and there are fundamental and very different schools of thought about what "good software engineering practices" are. Different best practices service different areas and needs as well...there is no one size fits all here. When it comes to photography post-processing workflow, a single tool that solves all of a photographers problems would be FANTASTIC...and I certainly don't think its something that shouldn't be sought after simply because, as mmr pointed out, UNIX style == many small tools. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Jan 3, 2011 at 21:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ true, there are other styles of engineering, however, I think it's unfair to say that only the unix world uses the mentality of a tool doing one thing very well. Adobe follows the same mentality on both Windows and Mac. Apple follows the same mentality on many of their apps. The open source world follows that mentality across all platforms. Not sure who that leaves in the image processing world... but everyone seems to be following that model in some way or another. \$\endgroup\$
    – cabbey
    Jan 3, 2011 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ With Adobe apps, I wouldn't say that they just do "one" thing well. Most Adobe tools are adept at several things, and when it comes to Photoshop...its adapt at a ton of things. It is not just a pixel editor, nor is it just a photo editor, nor is it just a 2D editor anymore. It is a fairly monolithic, highly capable app with a very broad featureset. The notion of a "tool that does one thing well" seems far set from any Adobe application to me...and does seem firmly rooted in the original concept about unix. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @jrista, I would argue that that isn't one application. You're talking about a handfull of different apps in Creative Suite there (PS, Illustrator, ACR, Dream Weaver, Fireworks, After Effects, etc.) :) \$\endgroup\$
    – cabbey
    Jan 4, 2011 at 0:33

Lightroom 3 with an HDR plugin is probably your best bet.

  • Full cataloging system based on many different types of metadata
  • Non-destructive (unlike Photoshop)
  • Relatively fast
  • Very good RAW support
  • Image development presets, export and watermarking automation, plugins
  • All the standard white-balance, hue, saturation, contrast, full on cropping mode (with golden section overlays), resize, rotate and more like grain, post-crop vignetting, tone curve, spot levels, brushes, spot removal tool, red eye removal, graduated filters.

As a photo management and development suite, I swear by Lightroom.


For your "photos database" section: it sounds like you just described your file manager. Turn on icon view, and make sure the default action for pictures is to open a simple file viewer, preferably one that has a keystroke to zoom to 100% and another keystroke to exit (I don't know what's available for the Mac, but Eye of Gnome uses '1' to zoom to 100%, 'f' to go back to 'F'it to screen, and Escape exits). Obviously 'delete' will delete the image! Your file manager also probably stores thumbnails somewhere, but you'll have to look up where that is.

As far as tags: I think you want to do some research into how you want your tags stored: in a separate database or saved as metadata inside each image file. The first might help with searching, while the second is more portable to other programs. I'm sure there are other options and plenty of pros and cons for you to investigate.

It's been a few years since I used a Mac, but once you figure out how you want your tags stored, couldn't you just write a short AppleScript and bind it to some key combination, so that you'll get a popup for the selected file and be able to enter your tags?

Also, it's not quite what you are asking for, but I think you want to look up Image Magick (www.imagemagick.org) which provides command-line (and, therefore, scriptable) tools for image editing. Among other things you can use it to create thumbnails or otherwise modify (rotate, crop, etc.) images.


I found the best match for my needs.

Apple Aperture that is. Most of my requirements are covered by Aperture.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.