Considering a switch to Mac OS - what is the workflow like?

I’m think about switching from Windows to Mac OS. I’m curious how the workflow would be in Mac OS compared to what I’m used to. Here’s what I currently do in Windows.

  • Shoot RAW or sometimes RAW+
  • Use the file manager to copy new photos into my laptop file system. I use a simple folder hierarchy of Pictures > {YEAR} > {date}_{event name}
  • Use a dedicated DAM app (iMatch) to cull, rename, keyword, tag, and caption.
  • Open PL4, navigate to the desired folder from within PL, edit as desired, export to same folder
  • When finished with a folder, use iMatch to move it to an external hard drive which is usually kept off line.

I would like to:

  • Generally keep a similar workflow. It’s fairly simple and not tightly integrated or heavily dependent on a particular software, and I like it that way.
  • Avoid using a third-party DAM if possible, and instead use Apple Photos
  • Do some captioning and keywording, but maybe not with a full-blown DAM like iMatch. I tend to spend a lot of time adding and managing metadata, but not making much use of it later. By that I mean that I rarely search by keywords and generally can find what I’m looking for by navigating to the the right folder.
  • Still be able to view the contents of the off line archive. Even when my external drive is disconnected, I can still view thumbnails of the photos and view (and even edit) their metadata. This is the feature of iMatch that I find the most useful.
  • Still be able to write metadata back to the image file instead of keeping it locked in a database somewhere.

Can I accomplish the above with bundled Mac OS features plus Photolab somehow? Or do I need to switch to a new DAM application to replicate what I have now?

Also: How will PL and DeepPrime do on an M1 Macbook Air with 8GB RAM?


I’d answer with a cautious yes and stress the “somehow” too.

Involving Apple’s will push you down the rabbit’s hole. As starters, I’d set Photos to NOT copy files to its library (do that before importing images) to preserve your folder organization and to save drive space. You can then work in DPL and Photos independently, all you have to do is to import into Photos the exported files. RAW images will look differently in both apps, but the exported jpeg or tiff files should look the same.

You could also use Photos for exported files only for ease of sharing and integration into the appleverse. This is what I do.

Ignoring Photos is fine too, but then you’d need an app to add keywords etc. DPL is not very good at that now, but this might change. Using more than one app to manage metadata is not the best of ideas, although it can work, depending on what you combine.

I have an M1 MacBook Air (16GB/1TB) and DPL works nicely. Look for posts about DPL on M1 in this forum for more information.


The simple answer is that some things are definitely easier with macOS.

Whatever you use as a DAM, do not use Photos for anything other than hobby snaps. It ties you into its internal database and duplicates (badly) some of the editing features of PL.

You can actually use Finder Tags instead of simple keywords. It’s a part of Finder and allows you to use the Spotlight search to find your files afterwards. If you still want a DAM as well, you can then also add keywords or replace the tags with keywords and Spotlight will still find your files easily and fast. I know many people who never bother with anything other than Finder, Tags and Spotlight.

I don’t know of anything that does that but you could always export your files to small jpegs from PL and keep those locally. The only reason iMatch allows you to edit metadata offline is more than likely because it puts it all in a database, not in the files.

Using Finder Tags has absolutely no need for a database. macOS maintains an index of them and so much more, always ready for instant searching.

Whether it replicates what you have now is down to how much metadata you want to store. But searching for tagged and.or keyworded files doesn’t need any extra software.


Thanks, that’s helpful info. So basically, keep the raw files out of the albums (in a separate hierarchy) and import them when they are developed. Makes sense.

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The finder tags sounds interesting, thanks for pointing that out. It seems like those tags remain outside the photo itself (resides in Apple’s OS/software). Is that the case? So if I move the photo to another system, do those tags go with it, or are they left behind?

It does both actually. Changes are kept in the database along with a thumbnail. Then they are written to the file when desired. After initial processing, and right before storing offline, I’ll write the metadata into the actual files (so if iMatch goes poof I still have my keywords and all that). If I make metadata updates to the existing files while they are offline, I just write them back later.

Finder Tags will transport to other Mac computers and disks but not to other operating systems.

Hmmm. sounds like another of those situations where it is possible to lose all sorts of stuff if something goes poof. As I said, I personally don’t know of anything on MacOS that does the same.

Does iMatch automatically create and write to XMP files for RAW images?

Yes, agree in general, the more complicated things get the more likely you are to experience “issues” :smiley:

For XMPs, yes It’ll write XMP sidecars for raw. My camera (Pentax) uses DNG format for RAWs, so I just let it write into the DNG directly (you are given options). I know some people aren’t comfortable with that (I’m not 100%) but I thought the benefit was worth the slight risk. I mitigate by writing sparingly (just before archive) and keeping versioned backups.

Appreciate the help. Trying to get this workflow sorted out is really the only big thing that needs to be resolved in order to move forward or not.

Personally, for my own images, I write directly to all RAW file types including DNG. I just makes searching a whole lot easier because Spotlight searches for keywords find the image file instead of the XMP, which you then have to find its “partner”.

I am in the final stages of testing a Mac app I have been writing that manages keywords, tags, descriptions and star ratings. It plays very nicely with PL, in that you can browse your entire folder hierarchy in one continuous scrolling view or in sub-folders and save searches in smart folders that automatically update. When you have selected the images you want to edit in PL, even if they are in separate folders, just “open with…” PL and PL will create a project and present the files for editing. It might interest you for the kind of thing you are doing.

I suggest you considering Mylio for this purpose.
Some pros and cons for this software/solution:

It is cross platform: Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android

It is also a replication tool that can solve having the photos on the external drive and being able to see them inside Mylio while ext. drive is offline.
Although the whole concept of replication needs some understanding/accomodation in comparison with your current solution.

It has keywords, although only the not hierarchical ones. You can add title and caption/description and also set copyright/author. It has star ratings too.
If you are working with RAW files using XMP sidecars, metadata compatibility is good (although Marion from IMatch doesn’t like it). Using it for JPG only is not very good.
DNG is a special case. Mylio will write metadata to an XMP sidecar, but you can save the changes to the file.

It write most information to the XMP sidecar. Problem is, it is also the case with JPG, TIF and DNG formats. It can also write inside the files, but you don’t get a category/collection to see which files need write back.

It is software as a service=subscription, whit all its pros and cons.

I also use Mylio on a Mac for this purpose. I echo @Joanna’s comment earlier: do not use Apple Photos for this. I’ve tried, and suffered for it. Referenced files seemed to get lost, and there was no easy way to relocate them. If the images are consolidated to the Photos library, you risk library corruption if you try to access them inside the library. It’s a consumer app for phone photos.

PhotoLab and Mylio work quite well together if you shoot raw - PhotoLab will recognise keywords from Mylio, and star ratings. Mylio will recognise finished images exported from PhotoLab. If you only work with JPEGs, Mylio will still work, but an extra step is needed if you want PhotoLab to see keywords and ratings allocated in Mylio - this is because Mylio saves metadata in an XMP sidecar, even for JPEGs and DNGs, as @bekesizl has mentioned.

You can try Mylio on Windows, it’s cross-platform.

I only use Apple Photos to distribute my finished images to the devices that don’t have Mylio on them, and that’s all.

[Edit: corrected typo]

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I just noticed that bit. I can only compare between my 2017 iMac (3.8GHz Quad i5 with a Radeon Pro 580 8 GB GPU) and M1 Mac mini with 16GB RAM. The M1 runs the PhotoLab UI noticeably faster than the iMac, even though it is using Rosetta to run Intel code, and is faster in general apart from when exporting using DeepPrime, where the iMac GPU gets used - but if I’m exporting more than ten at a time, I would leave it running and go and do something else anyway, regardless of the computer speed. PhotoLab is still… less than stellar in its UI performance on the M1, compared to its rivals.

Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll check it out.

The Photolab UI is less than stellar on my current hardware too (i5, 16GB RAM, SSD, integrated graphiczzzz). I’m not talking about image processing time (I can walk away) but UI lag, especially UI element fade in/out, preview pan/zoom lag, etc. is annoying, but workable, at least for now.

Thanks for the workflow explanation, I’ll keep that in mind while I evaluate it.

Workflow-wise, what I tend to do is to import to Mylio, rate and cull there, then optimise the keepers using PL working in Mylio’s folders, saving the JPEG result in the same folder as the raw. Mylio has an automatic stack-like behaviour - if you save a JPEG next to a raw, but give the JPEG a filename suffix ‘_display’ (so ABCD1234.raw becomes ABCD1234_display.jpg), Mylio recognises that as the finished version and shows it in the UI instead of the raw.

I was doing some work on my M1 Mac earlier - PL is certainly very usable, it’s just that the native versions of some of the rivals do better! When PL gets a native version, I think it will catch up.

Mac Performance: pretty spritely these days with a solid graphics card and lots of memory and images which are 36 MB and smaller. D850 and 5DSR images have always been much slower for me. For best speed in workflow, don’t turn on noise reduction at all until right before processing (except for previewing/testing noise reduction on a couple of sample images).

I second everyone’s comments about Apple Photos. Treat that application like the plague as it will destroy any workflow you attempt to build with its flaky database and it’s ability to lose or ruin originals. Metadata, particularly ratings, cannot be reliably exported from Apple Photos.

I would advise you to use the Apple folder and file system as part of your core DAM process. It’s very reliable. Don’t bother with Finder Tags as support comes and goes from them and they have historically been very fragile. XMP sidecars with metadata are far more reliable.

Triage applications which support XMP sidecards include FastRawViewer ($15), ApolloOne ($30), Photo Mechanic ($130). Photo Mechanic Plus ($230) will also create and manage catalogues which are incredibly fast to filter and search even when huge (7 TB of images). Using finders and folder structure to manage finished images can work though.

I have written in considerable detail about workflow in Photolab on MacOS, based on my posts here on workflow, DAM and triage.

Dear Alec,

thanks for the link to the DAM thread of 2018. I’ve read the whole bunch :laughing: and found a lot of informations you talk about, which are still under discussion and have not been implemented.
It sounds like a wishlist of past times.
So i will take a deeper look into FRV, which I bought only for culling a few month’s ago.

best regards

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The Apple M1-based machines are light-years better than the hardware that is based on Intel. Get an M1 Mac and not an Intel Mac. If you can spend more money, get 16GB of RAM. The M1 does not have dedicated RAM for graphics/video. My wife has an M1 mac mini with 8GB and you can see that it is offloading process data to the SSD. I have a 16GB M1 mini and it feels snappier.

I’d also urge you not to use Photos. Lots of heartburn. I use it for sync’ing iPhone images over to my Mac. Once they are on my Mac and out of Photos, they are safe!

I do hope that DXO adds native support for M1 soon. It’s been a year since Apple announced it - most of DXO’s competition is native today and Nik/DXO is the only photo software that I use that still needs to run on the emulator.

Good luck whatever you choose to do.

iMazing works a treat for managing and offloading iPhoto/iOS/iPadOS photos. iMazing also offer a free HEIC-JPEG converter which works in batch and renders the HEIC well enough in JPEG I can’t tell the difference, even under a loupe.

PS. Intel Macs do pretty well on desktop from mid-level graphic cards. Not in a rush to fight with a new system architecture. The latest Apple OS are incredible violators of privacy – Catalina+ send home information about every time you open any app telling what you opened and why. There is no option to opt-out. Privacy, Apple, ha ha. No thanks.

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Thanks for the advice, and those links. Very helpful reading. It’s a bit of a paradigm shift because the workflow I’ve fallen into (maybe thanks to the iMatch Way) tends to treat the raw as the master and everything else as derivative, which (as one commenter said) eventually leads to putting a lot of work into some images that you end up throwing away during processing. I like the idea of applying tags and captions to the finished image instead, and that can be done in the file manager on Windows (and presumable in Finder too).

I downloaded FRV to trial. Overall I like it, and I can see it fitting in to a simplified process.