Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The new Photos app on OS X

Screenshot of Photos on OS X

Apple recently decided to phase out its existing photo editing and management apps for OS X, iPhoto and Aperture, and replace them with a new app simply called ‘Photos‘. Photos is essentially the same as its iOS counterpart of the same name, and, through the iCloud Photo Library, is able to manage a single, synchronised photo library across all Apple’s devices – Mac, iPad and iPhone.

I’ve had a few weeks to get to grips with Photos, and so here are my thoughts. These are from the perspective of a former iPhoto user.

Migrating from iPhoto to Photos

Shortly before Photos was made available as part of the 10.10.3 update to OS X Yosemite, Apple released a small update to iPhoto to aid migration, so it’s important to ensure that this is installed. If so, then Photos offers to import your old iPhoto library. It’ll then combine this with any photos already in iCloud from your iOS devices to create one big photo library to rule them all. The import did take a while – my iPhoto library was pushing 50 GB – but once done, all the photos were imported as expected, edits and titles intact.

Unlike iPhoto, Photos is not orientated around ‘events’. All photos in iPhoto had to belong to an event; in Photos, there’s a simple ‘Photos’ stream that includes every photo you’ve taken, grouped by date and/or location. Your events are therefore converted to albums, and any albums from iPhoto are brought across as albums as well.

One of the first things I did was sort my albums by year – albums can be put into subfolders for ease of organisation. I also got rid of various ‘miscellaneous’ events that I had to create in iPhoto – photos don’t need to be in albums anymore so these were unnecessary. I’m now just using albums for when I need to collect a group of photos together, which is much better.

Editing photos

The edit functions of Photos are broadly comparable to iPhoto – red eye removal, rotation, cropping, light and colour adjustments and a one-click ‘enhance’ button. There’s also a series of filters to apply to your images – a few more than iPhoto offered. The adjustments default to basic light and colour sliders, but you can enable a histogram, white balance, sharpening and definition tools. They’re a bit easier to use that in iPhoto in my opinion.

The one-click Enhance button seems to do a better job than it did in iPhoto – it doesn’t tend to over-saturate my images. I haven’t had to do as much fine-tuning as I used to, which is nice.


iPhoto was a huge, slow application. It took up over a gigabyte of disk space and was slow at just about everything – even on the newest of Macs. Photos has been re-written from the ground up and it shows – not only does it only need 50 megabytes of disk space, but it’s significantly faster. My Mac Mini is five years old and Photos runs fine; there’s a bit of a pause when switching in and out of photo editing mode, but it’s not nearly as bad as iPhoto was.

Exporting to Facebook and Flickr

So far, this review has been quite positive. Here’s where it takes a negative turn; whilst it’s great for managing and editing images; Photos sucks at exporting. Unlike iPhoto, which had its own export code, Photos uses the standard OS X sharing features, which aren’t optimal. Here’s why.

Firstly, you will struggle to export more than 50 images at a time. It won’t even give you the option of exporting more than 50 images to Facebook, and trying to send that many to Flickr completely locks up my Mac. So you’ll need to export them in smaller batches.

You can’t create new albums when you export, like you could with iPhoto. You can only export to pre-existing albums on Facebook or Flickr. If you don’t select an album when exporting to Facebook, all your photos will go into a generic ‘OS X Photos’ album.

And my biggest bugbear with Flickr export is that it doesn’t copy across titles or descriptions. If you select multiple photos, then you can give them all the same title or description, but they won’t use the ones that you’ve set inside the Photos app. It’s fine for individual images, but for multiple photos it’s rubbish.

Ultimately, when it came to exporting a large number of photos from Flickr, I resorted to saving the photos in a folder, with the titles as the filenames, and uploading them manually. Hardly optimal, but it at least retained the titles of the images.

Three steps forward, one step back

Overall I like Photos – it’s much faster, and having all of my photos available on all devices via iCloud is nice. Editing is generally better and I feel like I can get more done than I could in iPhoto. But the problems with exporting images really takes the shine off it. I hope Apple takes the time to fix these issues for a future update.

One Comment

  1. Yeah I had bother with the Flickr plugin for Lightroom for similar reasons. So I just went back to using the Flickr Uploadr and exporting the photos from Lightroom as jpegs (from RAW) and dragging them into Uploadr. Extra step I know, but I’ve gotten used to it now.

    As far as naming goes, I only name the ones I upload as I have far too many to think up names for them all. So that happens in Uploadr only.