The new Photos app for your Mac

If you have the latest version of the operating system for your Mac, specifically 10.10.3 or higher, you have Apple’s newest photo management, editing and sharing app called Photos.  It replaces the long-lived iPhoto as the primary photo app for your Mac.  However, in Apple tradition, iPhoto remains on your Mac as does you iPhoto library.  iPhoto was probably moved off your Dock but it still remains in your Applications folder in Finder.  Apple will not update iPhoto past this point and there may come a time where it will not run at all with future versions of OS X.

I recommend that you jump into Photos with both feet.  I really like it and find it much easier to use than iPhoto.  It is virtually the same Photos app as on your iPhone and iPad.  When you first open Photos it will ask you to create a copy of your iPhoto library for use with Photos.  Let it do so.  Through some OS X magic, your hard drive usage will not grow by the size of your iPhoto library, so don’t worry about that.

When Photos opens you will see a screen very familiar to you if you have used iOS’s Photos app.  Instead of on the bottom, the key areas are on the top of the screen.  These are Photos, Shared and Albums.  There is an additional button that is not on iOS - Projects.  These are things you can create in Photos on the Mac that you cannot create in iOS: photo Books, Calendars, Cards, Slideshows, etc.

Starting with the Photos button, use the back arrow in the upper left to go back to Moments, Collections & Years, just like on iOS.  Photos are automatically categorized for you by date and location taken.  You cannot change this organization.  You can still put photos into Albums by any categorization you want, but the photos remain in the Photos collections.

The Shared button contains all of the photos that you have shared with others or they with you using iCloud Photo Sharing.  The Albums button allows you to view and edit your manually created Albums and contains all of the Albums and Events imported from iPhoto.

Finally, the Projects button allows you to create projects with your photos and works very much like it did in iPhoto.

Editing photos in Photos is a snap and contains some very powerful but easy to use tools.  Start editing a photo by clicking it so it shows as a single large photo, then click the Edit button in the upper right.  This brings up the Edit menu with the following cool features:

  • Enhance - a one click enhancement that is quite effective
  • Rotate - rotate 90 degrees
  • Crop - crop your photo and adjust the level angle of the photo
  • Filters - apply pre-programmed filters like black and white, faded colors, etc.
  • Adjust - this is the powerful one where you can manually adjust the brightness and color aspects of your photo.  Click it and then hover your mouse to the right of the Light adjustment tool.  Click the down-arrow to reveal detailed tools. Now slide the main Light slider left and right and watch all of the other adjustments change.  This is some powerful editing that does not require you to be a pro editor but gives similar results.  You can tweak any of the detailed adjustment tools as you wish.  Do the same for the Color tool.  Very, very cool.
  • Retouch is the last button on the bottom.  It allows you to touch up blemishes, reflections, wrinkles, etc.

To edit the next photo in the series, click the right-arrow button on your keyboard.  I really like editing with Photos.  I can get the desired effect much easier and faster than with iPhoto.

So, if you have followed me through this so far I have a (potential) reward for you.  If you still do not like the interface of Photos, there is a way to make it look somewhat more like iPhoto.  Go to the View menu in the menu bar and choose “Show Sidebar”.  This will turn on the sidebar like iPhoto (but take your buttons away along the top).  If found the sidebar to be helpful while I was learning Photos, but I have stopped using it now.

There you go - try Photos, don’t be afraid.  This summer I will be designing a Photos class that I will teach at Clark College this fall.  Watch for it, it will be lots of fun!  In the mean time, if you want a head start the textbook I will be using will be released in July: “Photos for Mac and iOS: The Missing Manual”.

Let me know what you think of the new Photos app!