I own a D90 with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. However ever since buying my camera I am struggling to find a proper workflow to process RAW images on my Mac which does at least the following

  1. Adjust shadows and highlights.
  2. Adjust an image via its histogram.
  3. Adjust white balance.
  4. Adjust exposure.
  5. Crop a photo.
  6. Present a preview of how the photo may look like after printing.
  7. Apply EXIF tags.
  8. Apply watermarks.

So my question is what kind of workflow should I follow, if I were constrained to use only free software on my Mac?

Edit: Please also suggest a software or a set of software applications to use.

Edit: Flagged as a wiki question since there can't be correct or perfect answer.

Edit: Given the fact that a freeware will probably not be able to cut it, I have come to the conclusion that I will need to buy a low cost software for this. I am keen on using Lightroom but may have to settle with iPhoto.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you clarify whether your desire for FOSS is driven by price sensitivity (you want free as in beer) or philosophy/ethics (you want free as in liberty)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Jul 17, 2010 at 15:42
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Price sensitivity is the main reason for asking this question. I would rather money to buy another lens than a software. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 17, 2010 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you currently at school or university? Education discounts can make photography software much more affordable. I'd recommend Aperture for your needs which I got for £60 instead of £120. Frankly, your processing software is going to get more use than a lens. You'll be using it for every photo. \$\endgroup\$
    – MJeffryes
    Dec 3, 2010 at 21:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that much of the software for Linux will also build on OS X, with differing degrees of porting work required. So see this question on Linux raw software: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/471 \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 22, 2011 at 4:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Don't overlook Apple's own iPhoto. Its got some decent editing capability built in, and comes on Macs, and is well integrated into apps on the Mac. If you want the latest version its a cheap upgrade via the Mac Store. I use Aperture right now, but used to use Lightroom and Photoshop regularly. And, I've used Gimp, so its a possible candidate too. \$\endgroup\$
    – Greg
    Mar 22, 2011 at 6:13

5 Answers 5


Given that the reason for the question is price, I encourage you to rethink this constraint. How much is your time worth? You can get excellent post-processing software for little money compared to a lens. For example, Bibble can do everything above in the same application (might need a plugin for the watermark) and it costs only $100 for the lite version.

I tried to go the same route (on Linux) and got tired of screwing around with freeware. The commercial software is way better and your time is worth more than you think it is - particularly since the smoother post-processing is, the more fun photography will be. :)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Couldn't have put it better myself. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Jul 29, 2010 at 23:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ What (commercial) software do you use on Linux? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 16, 2010 at 22:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Bibble. It's OK but better than freeware alternatives. \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Sep 19, 2010 at 1:54

I know you asked for free stuff, however given that I whole-heartedly agree with Reid about how valuable your time is.

Have you looked into Adobe Photoshop Elements 8? This is a powerful little tool that offers everything your looking for, in a single package, for a very cheap price (relatively speaking.) For $80, you can have a nice, professional tool that serves your needs, without any hassle.

I am not sure how much $80 (or quite possibly less, deals for PSE8 are all over the net, and you can often get it bundled with camera equipment even) affects your bottom line, but it seems rather trivial compared to say $1000 for a new lens. At least with Elements, you could get the most out of the lenses you do buy. ;)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd second that suggestion. I use Elements and I've yet to get into a situation where I wished I had Photoshop or Aperture. Great piece of software, and good value. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 4, 2010 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Myself I'm using Photoshop CS5 because I need it for other things as well. I didn't know that Elements version is so cheap. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Apr 30, 2011 at 17:17

I shoot Canon, so my workflow will be slightly different... but I use:

  • Picasa to upload/organize

  • Digital Photo Professional (Canon only) for most cropping/simple adjustment.

  • Gimp for almost all the other processing.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1, except for Picasa. I rarely upload, and when I do it is to Flickr. I organize on chronological basis on my hdd (automatically with EOS Utility). \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Mar 22, 2011 at 18:38

You should take a look at RawTherapee. It used to be a proprietary application, but the author changed that a few years ago and now it is available under the GPL. You have to compile it yourself to run it on Mac OS X, but I guess that is part of the FOSS experience.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for mentioning RawTherapee, i didn't know it and it's looking promising. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 30, 2011 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't support Retina™ displays at the time of writing (now) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2015 at 17:25

Pisca provides basic photo editing tools (crop and colour and level adjustments) as well as good EXIF tagging. Have a look at GimpShop application which is based on the GIMP but with a more Apple/Photoshop style user interface.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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