Apple’s Photos App: How To Use OS X Yosemite’s Coolest New Feature


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Apple released the OS X 10.10.3 update this week for Yosemite that features a ton of bug fixes and that diversified emoji keyboard picker that everyone’s been talking about. But the update also brings a MASSIVE new feature to OS X in the form of a brand spanking new Photos app. And this has been a long time coming too. The old photos app was a schonky piece of crap that had way too much in common with iTunes; it was annoying to use, lacked useful features and, generally, was just a chore to deal with. The new setup is vastly improved, however, with tons of useful features and a powerful set of editing tools. 

WWDC 2015: OS X 10.11 Update Expected

Apple is expected to unveil OS X 10.11 at this year’s WWDC 2015 expo, which kicks off later today in San Francisco. Unlike Yosemite, which was a huge update, OS X 10.11 is expected to focus on security features, bug fixes and overall stability. Indeed, this year’s WWDC is likely to be a stability-fest, as Apple is also expected to drill down on stability in iOS 9 as well. 

“Apple is rumoured to be working on a new kernel-level security system called Rootless,” according to Mac Rumors, “which will help curb malware by preventing access to protected system files. Apple may also convert many IMAP-based applications like Notes, Reminders, and Calendars to its iCloud Drive system to improve communication between the apps and increase security.”

Control Center is expected to get a facelift and will sport similar features to its iOS-based counterpart which means music controls and access to things like Do Not Disturb, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. 

Photos is meant to replace the aging iPhoto software that has come on Macs since 2002. It’s also meant to bring more unity between the photos on your Mac and the Photos app in iOS. If you’re an iPhoto user, Photos looks and acts completely differently. That’s where this post comes in. 

The idea behind the new application is simple: bring your Mac, iPhone and iPad closer together by leveraging the power of the cloud. Photos of OS X is robust, feature-rich and fairly easy to use that forms a central component of Apple’s renewed focus on productivity across its growing arsenal of products. Never before has Apple’s ecosystem –– Mac, iPhone and iPad –– felt so holistically linked. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the new Photos for Mac app.

Built with the cloud in mind


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The first big thing about Photos is that it’s built with the cloud in mind. We’re all used to taking pictures and then importing them into our photo apps where they live on our hard drive. We’re also used to the fact that if we want to see those pictures on other devices, we need to export them to those devices in some way. But Apple wants to change all that with the new Photos app and a new feature of iCloud called iCloud Photos Library. What iCloud Photos Library does is store your entire Photos library in the cloud. That’s right: every picture and video lives online. The big idea behind this is if your photo library lives online you can access it from any device at any time: Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch.

But not only does this iCloud Photos Library keep your photos stored on a big hard drive in the sky, it also syncs all your edits you make across devices. So, if you take a photo on your iPhone it will automatically be uploaded to your iCloud Photos Library, which then makes that photo available on all your devices, including your Mac. Now if you make an edit to that photo on your Mac, that edit is synced across iCloud Photos Library so that picture now appears with that same edit on all your devices.

Further, iCloud Photos Library stores all your pictures and videos in their original high-resolution format (including RAW). You can then choose to keep local copies of recent or favorite pictures in the original format or in a more compressed format on all your devices. The ability to keep device-optimized lower quality pics (like a JPEG version of an image on your iPhone instead of a RAW) means iCloud Photos Library allows you to save room on the smaller hard drives found in mobile devices.

Keep in mind iCloud Photos Library eats into your iCloud storage allotment. Every iCloud user gets 5GB of free storage space. Unfortunately if you have years worth of photos, your iCloud Photos Library is going to be much, much larger. My Photos Library is 75GB in size! If I want to upload it all to iCloud Photos Library (and it is an all or nothing proposition) I need to shell out money for extra iCloud storage space.  Right now that extra storage costs $0.99 a month for 20GBs, $3.99 a month for 200GBs, $9.99 a month for 500GBs, and $19.99 a month for 1TB. If you go over your storage limit iCloud Photo Library will stop uploading and syncing photos and edits between devices until you pay for more storage space.

Photos sorts your pictures and videos automatically


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Another big feature of the new Photos app is that it automatically sorts your pictures and videos so you don’t have to. It does this in two ways:

The first is by grouping your photos into time and location-based groups by Years, Collections, and Moments. Years will show you any images you’ve taken between January 1st and December 31st of any given year. Years are made up of Collections. There can be an unlimited number of Collections in one Year. Collections are grouped by time and location. For example, if in 2014 you took photos on your trips to France, Germany, and Italy you’d see a different Collection for France, Germany, and Italy in 2014. If you took a trip to France in February and then another trip to France in September, you’d also see two different Collections. Collections are made of Moments. Moments are the final level down. There can be an unlimited number of Moments in one Collection. Like Collections, Moments too are grouped by time and location, yet their time and location groupings are hyper-focused. Where a Collection might group all the photographs you took in Paris during a week, a Moment will automatically group all the photographs you took in that one afternoon at the Eiffel Tower.

But besides this Years, Moments, and Collections auto grouping, Photos also sorts your images and videos into pre-configured albums. These include Favorites (items your marked as favorites), Panoramas, Videos, Slo-Mo, and Bursts. As you can tell, these pre-configured albums follow the types of photos and videos you can shoot with the iPhone. The albums are a great way to quickly see all your specific types of photos and videos in one place.

Editing tools are much easier to access and use


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Apple has also radically simplified the editing process in Photos. Many of the tools have been refined and organized in a much better layout. And you can enter edit mode at any time simply by selecting an image and pressing the Return key on your Mac. Many of the editing tools can be applied with just a few clicks, including Enhance, Rotate, Crop, Filters, and Retouch. But Photos also offers a ton of powerful editing tools called Adjustment tools, which operate using sliders. These adjustment tools really let you refine your images; though some can be a bit too complex for people who don’t know a lot about color theory. In that case those people are better off sticking to the basic editing tools.

What’s missing from iPhoto… and Aperture?

With the release of Photos for Mac Apple has discontinued both iPhoto and Aperture. Given that Apple strips out a lot of features whenever it scraps an old app and makes a new one, it’s not surprising many hardcore iPhoto users and Aperture users may find Photos lacking in some respects.

Let’s start with Aperture…well, lets not actually. Photos is no replacement for Aperture. Don’t think for a second it is. If you were an Aperture user you’re going to want to jump to Lightroom by Adobe.

As for what’s missing from iPhoto: Events are gone (though Years, Collections, and Moments work just as well). The Places feature is mostly gone. Yes, you can still view your pictures on a map, but the ability to add or change their location has been removed as well as some of the more nuanced features like setting a location pin’s radius. Matter of fact location pins are totally gone and have been replaced by location stacks–piles of photos on a map.

The star rating system (1-5 stars) for individual photos is also gone. Now you can only mark a photo as a favorite or not. Additionally the ability to compose themed emails with your pictures embedded in them is gone as is Facebook and Flickr syncing (though you can still share your photos to Facebook and Flickr).

A great app for 99% of people

Though Aperture users will hate Photos and hardcore iPhoto users will find the transition awkward, the new Photos app is a terrific app for 99% of the people who will use it. It’s fast, streamlined, and offers powerful sorting features. And after using it for a few months now I can say its probably the best desktop app Apple has put out in years.

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