iPhoto: Editing Images with an External Program

| TMO Quick Tip

iPhoto’s image-editing tools make it simple to adjust color balance, rotate a photo, remove red-eye, and make all sorts of other changes. But what if you need to add a box around a subject or want to use a Photoshop filter? You could, of course, drag the image in question out of iPhoto, open it with the other program, and then reimport the changed file to your iPhoto library. But that’s tedious, and I don’t like tedium. Let’s all use iPhoto to avoid extra work! Adding to all the other things I do to avoid extra work, I guess.

So to first set which application you’d like to use to edit your photos, choose the menu item iPhoto > Preferences. From there, click on the Advanced tab, and toggle the Edit Photos drop-down menu to In application

iPhoto will then bring up the familiar “Open” dialog box for you to navigate to your preferred program.

OK, so you’ve picked what application you’d like to edit your images with. What does that mean? From now on, whenever you select a photo and either click the Edit button at the bottom of iPhoto’s window or choose Photos > Edit Photo, iPhoto will duplicate your image and open that duplicate into the program you selected above. Why does it duplicate the image first, you ask? Because after you make edits using iPhoto’s internal tools, you can always choose Photos > Revert to Original to undo everything, but iPhoto can’t revert changes made by Photoshop, Preview, or any other external editor. So you’ve still got a safety net if you really screw things up.

So edit your photo in the alternate program and save it. When you do so, iPhoto will update the duplicated image in your library with your changes.

Also, now that you’ve told iPhoto which other editing program you prefer, you can choose whether to edit within or outside of iPhoto on a case-by-case basis. To do this, right- or Control-click on an image. From the contextual menu, select Edit in iPhoto or Edit in External Editor. Handy!

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David Atkinson

Cool tip.  On a different note, why is it that photos modified in iPhoto (OS X), where you manually change the date/time, don’t transfer that date/time information across to iPhoto (iOS)?  It is frustrating to create an Event in iPhoto on my Mac where the photos are all sorted chronologically only to open that same Event on my iPhone using iPhoto and have the photos all sorted differently.  Getting information on the photos shows that the modified dates never came across.


I tested it with Aperture and Preview. All is fine with Preview but Aperture changes are not applied. Is it only working with Photoshop and Preview or am I doing something wrong here? I think I am pretty savvy with Aperture.

Melissa Holt

Hey tampaappleman,

My guess is that it won’t work since Aperture is in itself a photo-library management tool. So when you send a picture there, Aperture imports it rather than editing it for iPhoto.

If you’re using recent versions of the programs, Photo Stream is an easy way to share images between Aperture and iPhoto.

Hope that helps!

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