If you didn’t already know this, iPhoto 6, part of Apple’s iLife ’06, can import and manipulate RAW photographs. But, there is one feature disabled by default that you may want to turn on.
I use iPhoto to manage my RAW files, but I would prefer to do any color correction / manipulating in Photoshop. By default, if you select “edit in external editor” from within iPhoto, it doesn’t send the RAW file over to Photoshop, it sends a jpg copy. If you would prefer iPhoto to send the original RAW file, just turn that feature on, under the advanced tab of iPhoto’s preferences.
If you don’t use Photoshop, and you edit your RAW files from within iPhoto, when you are done manipulating them, iPhoto automatically creates a jpg of the file. There is another checkbox in the advanced preferences that you may want to consider clicking. It makes iPhoto save the edited RAW files as 16 bit Tiffs, rather than jpg. If you choose this option, you’ll be maintaining a much higher quality image, but you should be aware that a 16 bit Tiff will be a substantially larger file… possibly 10-15 times larger.
Once you made any changes to a RAW file, the copy (either jpg or tiff) will now be what is displayed in your library. If you want to revert back to the original RAW file, simply right-click (or control-click) on the image and select “revert to original”. If you want to keep both the original RAW file, and the edited copy, either duplicate the image before you start editing it, or before you choose “revert to original”.
A while back I was asked by an odl reader to put together some tips for effectively using iPhoto. I haven’t forgotten about that, I just need to find the time to do it right. Stay tuned.