Photography and the Mac

Photography and the Mac

Macs have long been a favorite of Graphics Professionals. But now we are seeing a steady flow of “Switchers” many whose first introduction to the Apple family was via IOS devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad). Almost invariably some of the first questions we get at MacForums go something like this, “I just got my new Mac and I love it . . . I heard it was great for photos. What do I need to do?” or “How do I get my pictures from my camera into iPhoto?”, or even “Do I need Picassa, Aperture, Adobe PSE etc etc . . .?”

The intent of this article is not to transform the reader into an expert in Photography or Graphics on Macs, if for no other reason than I am neither. Rather, the goal is to provide an overview of Photography in general and then some specifics on resources available and simple ways to handle the basics of photo management, storage, editing and sharing on your Mac.

Photography: Art, Science or Both?

Photography is a process for producing an image by optical, chemical, mechanical or electronic methods, or through a combination of all of these.


First, a little history (Those who are easily bored I invite to skip to the next section.)

The earliest photography used an optical lens to “expose” chemical compounds that had been coated on metal plates. The plates were then developed using solutions that removed unreacted coating from areas that had not been exposed to light. The resulting images were “positives” in that they were dark where the subject was dark and light where the subject was light.

Later the “negative” process was developed where the exposed plate (originally glass and then later film) was exposed and developed to produce an image that was the reverse, dark where the subject was light and light where the subject was dark. This resulting negative was an intermediate step in the total process and was used to produce a final positive image, typically on chemically coated metal or paper.

All of these early methods were difficult, time consuming and extremely unforgiving of operator error. As a result, photography as a hobby or vocation was out of reach of most of us. It continued thus until George Eastman, founder of Kodak, developed the original Brownie camera which came preloaded with paper backed emulsion film. With the Brownie the aspiring photographer, having completed his exposures, sent camera and all to Kodak for development and printing of photographs. Kodak returned the camera freshly loaded with film, ready for the next shoot.

Later Edwin Land developed the Instant camera and co-founded Polaroid. The Land Camera combined exposure and photo developing in one unit. Finished photos were available in minutes rather than days or weeks, which made the camera a commercial success despite the generally lower image quality than was obtainable through standard film cameras.

Most recently has seen the advent and some would say triumph of the “Digital” camera. In the last decade sales of photographic film and film based cameras have plummeted while sales of digital cameras have soared. This change has been driven by ease of use and almost immediate availability of finished images.

The first digital cameras were film cameras that had been modified to replace the film carrier with a photosensitive chip that converted the light to digital pulses which were then electronically developed through software into a resulting image. As you can imagine the cameras were expensive, technically complex, not user friendly, fairly low resolution (i.e. poor image quality) and, again, expensive. But, as price came down and image quality improved the digital camera market took off. In 2008 Polaroid after multiple bankruptcies switched all photographic production to digital products.

Today, when someone purchases a camera we don’t even ask whether or not it is a digital camera as film photography has returned to its pre-George Eastman status as the province of a few dedicated professionals and amateurs willing to accept the additional cost, time and effort for the specialized results they are able to obtain through use of photographic film.