Apple Photos App – A Photographer’s Review

Apple have today released the first beta of OS X 10.10.3 which contains the first released build of the new Photos App which is to replace both iPhoto (which was targeted at the consumer end of the market) and Aperture (which was targeted for the professional end of the market). I sit firmly in the Aperture end of the market as someone who is presently in higher education studying photography and after a brief play with photos I am sad to say: IT SUCKS!

Photos on first launch will seek out your Aperture and/or iPhoto libraries and offer to migrate them to photos. By migrate this means create a copy of the library you choose to import and set that up as a photos library. Not too bad if you have a small library but if you have thousands and thousands of photos, as I do on my iMac you will suddenly find yourself with two large photo libraries taking up space on your disk. When it does launch the rather iOSesque interface pops up.

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From this interface you can browse your photos however any form of project organisation is gone with photos simply organised by date and location now.

Going into editing and Apple have really gone back to basics. By default the only options available are for Light, Colour and Black and White. Expanding these options brings more familiar sliders such as Exposure, Highlights and Shadows. Looking for more advanced(!) stuff like White Balance, a histogram and Levels? Well it’s turned off by default because clearly Apple feel these advanced controls should be buried away where no one can use them by mistake!

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If you want to make localised edits or brush in effects well you are out of luck. The only brushes to make it in are a healing brush which works fine for minor blemishes and a red eye removal brush. Fancy some dodge and burn? Or softening a model’s skin? Tough!

Which brings me onto possibly the biggest gripe with this app. As woeful as it is compared to even the hideously outdated Aperture for making edits at least you can always use an external editor like Photoshop to do one of the many things that Photos is incapable of. Nope! Gone are any form of external editor options which means if you want to edit it in photoshop you’ll need to export the image out of photos to a folder in finder, edit in photoshop and then import the edited file back into photos. A ridiculously lengthy and complicated process to achieve something that previously would take two clicks of the mouse!

It is clear from just a few minutes with this app that Apple are targeting the iPhoto section of the market. Which is fine but even iPhoto users will find the app lacking in features compared to iPhoto. Although the ability to order Books, Calendars and Cards remains in and seems to function as well as previously, gone are the fun email templates. My Mum loved receiving postcard emails from iPhoto when me, my partner and the boys went on holiday last year. No longer possible in photos with just the option to send photos as standard attachments. Boring! The cynic in me suspects these didn’t make the cut whereas print products did because print products of course make Apple money. Fun email templates don’t!

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(fun emails like this: no longer possible in photos)

Adobe have been quick in trying to capitalise on Apple’s virtual abandonment of photographers by offering cheap photography creative cloud packages and the ability to import libraries from Aperture. In spite of this, some die hard Aperture users have stuck around waiting to see what photos bring. I suspect many more of them will be making the leap to Adobe and those that don’t will have a ticking time bomb on their hands as every OS X update brings the possibility that Aperture will stop working with no compatibility update to come.

Although this is still a beta app and it is possible Apple could resolve some of the more glaring omissions to make this app workable for not only iPhoto users but also possibly some of those who have stuck with Aperture through thick and thin. However as it is, Photos is unlikely to satisfy either user base and will be nothing more than a huge disappointment for all. Photos’ integration with iCloud Photo Library is about the only positive I can draw from an app full of negatives (this post would have been 10 times longer were I to list them all). However the ability to sync your library across multiple devices, and pay Apple for the privilege if you have even an average sized photo library as you will need more iCloud storage, does not make up for the fact that photos is very very lacking.

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