I think either you're very used to iOS apps, or that Windows apps are more suitable for your use. I'm not being an ass here, just saying it like it is.
Or maybe someone at the Apple Store didn't give you a quick run-through of how iPhoto works.
iPhoto is not perfect, but the concepts it presents are very different from all the micro-managing tasks you want to do. It's part of the fundamental differences on the Mac.
The idea is that once you add a photo to iPhoto, it will be saved, edited and stored at the best possible quality while taking up the least amount of disk space necessary.
You don't need to right-click anything. Just drag the file onto the iPhoto icon on the Dock to import into iPhoto. In Safari, right-click on any image to add it to iPhoto.
When images are added to iPhoto, you don't have to worry where the file is, what it is doing, how big it is, how many pixels, and so on. It's just there. There's enough space on your hard drive nowadays. You don't need to Export or re-Import, just Merge the Events together for photos you want to group together.
When you edit a photo, click Edit, do your changes, then click Done and that will save the changes. If you were in full-screen mode, click the X on the bottom right-hand side to exit full-screen mode and save the changes. Don't worry, the original photo is always stored. You can click on Photos > Revert To Original in the menu bar to revert to the original photo at any time. Be careful, this will undo all your changes permanently.
When a photo is edited, I do believe a modified version of the photo is also saved as an actual file, but in any case the moment you click Done or the X, your edits are saved. These edits you made are non-destructive, even without Revert To Original the edits you made to the photo can be adjusted further. The next time you go into Edit mode, you'll see the settings you changed, for example in the Adjust panel.
Just relax and let iPhoto do it's thing. Or, as I mentioned, maybe this Mac stuff is not suitable for your needs. Or simply iPhoto is not suitable for your needs. Consider Adobe Lightroom or Aperture.
[BE CAREFUL HERE AND STRONGLY RECEOMMENDED YOU BACKUP YOUR HOME FOLDER BEFORE DOING THIS PART] If you want to explore further, go to Pictures in your Home folder, right-click on iPhoto Library file and click on Show Package Contents. These are the actual files in your iPhoto Library as seen by the system. Again, don't worry too much about it and don't touch any of the files when you Show Package Contents unless you know what you're doing.
Years of using Windows has conditioned our thinking and is the predominant challenge the Mac and new Mac users face.
Originally Posted by kaiser_soze
The first time I tried to use iPhoto and discovered what a useless piece of contrived garbage it was, I immediately developed a strong aversion to any Apple software. People who have a healthy attitude toward the respective roles of the user of software vs. the designer, do not write software the way this software is written. It is written by idiots, for idiots.
When you right-click (or secondary click) on the icon for an image file in Finder, you do not get the option to open the file in iPhoto. You have to scroll to "Open With" and then "Other", and select iPhoto from the long list of apps in the applications folder. This by itself strongly suggests that something is seriously screwed up.
You can select iPhoto, but then everything is just crazy. The contrived concept of "importing" the image file into iPhoto then occurs, but it occurs silently, without you having any awareness. What you do not realize is that after editing the image, you will not be able to save it in its original location without going through the ludicrous, contrived nonsense of "exporting" the file. You end up with untitled "Events" in iPhoto corresponding the different instances of implicit imports done in this manner.
There are editing tools, and there is the suggestion of the capability to change the size, i.e., to reduce the pixel count. This capability is suggested in the iPhoto help, where one of the subheadings under "Editing Photos" is "Adjusting photo size and orientation". But if you read every word linked under that subheading, there is no mention whatsoever of the capability to change the size of the photo. Of, the notion of size for an electronic photo is dubious anywhere, since it corresponds more intuitively to the size of the file than to anything else. The capability should exist to reduce the number of pixels or, without changing the number of pixels, re-apply the jpeg compression in order to reduce the size of the file while keeping the pixel count the same. These capabilities are among the most very basic capabilities that any photo editing software should provide. But unless these capabilities have been cleverly hidden from the user, they do not exist in iPhoto.
But you can perform other types of photo editing, i.e., change the contrast, color saturation, etc. Per convention, intuition, and common sense, the changes do not get permanently written to the file until you save it. So you click on "File" in the menu bar and look for "Save". At least, this is what you assume because this is the most obvious sort of behavior for an application of this sort. But not iPhoto. iPhoto is "special". Instead, you click on "Export", and then proceed to save the photo, potentially as a duplicate copy. But if you save the photo as a duplicate copy, are the edits you made also applied to the original copy that you used to open iPhoto? What if you don't export at all? Are the changes made to the original photo, or lost, or what exactly?
None of this makes a whit of sense, and it is only scratching the surface. iPhoto is the most useless piece of unmitigated junkware that I have ever encountered. But it isn't all that different from Apple's other application software. All of it is encumbered with horrifically contrived perspectives on how the user should interact with the computer. With all of it, you have abandon any hope of interaction in any straightforward, intuitive manner.
The idea that I would have a piece of software that allows me to edit a photo, but that leaves me with no clue as to whether the changes I made are written permanently to that file, or what actions are necessary and sufficient to cause those changes to be permanently applied to the file, is so utterly, manifestly preposterous that it boggles the mind to think that anyone of sound mind would write software to behave in this manner. It boggles the mind.