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Articles: iPhoto in the RAW

iPhoto has been doing some growing up lately. When it was first released I had great hopes for its potential to "iTunes" my photo collection... hopes that were soon dashed. One of my biggest complaints was that it would make copies of all my photos and organize them as it saw fit. I resisted for a year, not wanting to give up control of my photo filing system. But after discovering my system was not really easier to use, I opted for the visual scan and album method of iPhoto. Little by little, iPhoto changed into an invaluable friend of my photos the way iTunes bonded with my music. Photo albums are published to my .Mac account in minutes, and pictures are compressed for easy email. iPhoto 5 has an abundant list of features, including support for the RAW file format. However, iPhoto 5 only supports RAW taken from some cameras and only if you get them directly from the camera. Not from a folder or older collection.

RAW support never was a concern to me. My wife and daughter have consumer digital cameras that don't use the professional RAW photo format. I still use a film SLR (I like the heavy click noise it makes) and scan my negatives. Being an inquisitive sort, I decided to scan a series of negatives in RAW format. If I am going to move to a professional Digital SLR I should have some experience with RAW, I thought. When I dragged the first roll over to iPhoto to import, as I had done with .jpg files countless times before, I received an error. "File format not supported." After checking the Apple discussions boards (a great resource is ) I found that Apple's RAW support was very limited, leaving some people out in the digital cold. Those with a D70s could not import but those with a plain old D70 could. I needed to find a way to get these RAW images into iPhoto, and apparently so did a lot of other people.

The solution is simple: just convert the RAW images into .jpg files. Doing this one at a time can be tedious given a large collection of files. Fortunately, Adobe Photoshop can help speed things up with batched automated tasks. First, you will need to create the "Action" that will be repeating on each photo. In Photoshop select "Actions" from the "Window" menu. It may already have a check mark by it meaning it is already loaded and you just need to find it among all the other palette windows. Click the new item button at the bottom of the window. You will be prompted for a name. Call it "RAW to jpg" and click the "Record" button. Everything you are doing now is being recorded so don't do anything that you wouldn't want done 100 times. Go to "File" and open a RAW file you want converted. Once open this could be a good time to adjust any image settings you would want done to every photo. Just remember if you do it now it will do this to every photo batch so best not to add anything picture specific. Now from the "File" menu select "Save As... " and change the file type to "JPEG." After you click "Save" make sure to click the stop button in the bottom of the "Actions" window.

Now you need to use your new Action in a Batch. Go to the "File" menu, mouse down to "Automate" and over to "Batch... " The Batch window will open and at the top there will be a section labeled "Play." In that section, select in set: "Default Actions.atn" and in Action: "RAW to jpg" Next down is "Source" which you want set to "Folder." You will choose the folder where you have all the RAW files you are converting. This could also be a folder in the mounted camera volume. After selecting the source folder mark the box to "Override Action 'Open' Commands." In the "Destination" section switch to "Folder" same as was done in "Source" and select a destination folder. This should be a different folder than your source. Now you are ready to go. Select "OK" and watch the high-speed conversion of photos. After the Batch has completed close down Photoshop and check that the selected Destination folder is full of your new JPEGs. Select all the new JPEGs and drag them onto iPhoto's Dock icon. Once iPhoto has stopped importing, you can discard the converted pictures or hold onto them as backups.

As iPhoto grows up, this inconvenient little step of converting RAW files should not be necessary. Soon Apple will step up and improve iPhoto's RAW support. Until then, if an early critic like me can come to love iPhoto, you probably will too.
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