Photos for Mac Preview

Title: Photos for Mac Preview

Developer: Apple

Category: Photography

Platform: Mac

The Good: The Photos app presents easy editing and organizing with a familiar layout. If you’re an iPhone or iPad owner you’ll feel right at home in the new Photos app for Mac.

The Bad: While the simplicity may be a good fit for most people, power users and Aperture converts will find the editing and organization features a bit too simple. 

The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an easy way to organize and make basic edits to your photos the Photos app will be a welcomed edition to your app library. If you’re a power user, you may want to stick with Aperture as long as possible, or try out something like Adobe’s Lightroom. 

Accessibility Rating: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★

Date Reviewed: Sunday March 15, 2015

DISCLAIMER: This is a beta version of the Photos application. What you see in the current version could be changed in future releases. This is only a preview. A proper review will be written upon the official release of the application. 

The Photos app is Apple's new solution to photo syncing and management. It's currently in public beta, meaning that you'll need the beta version of OS X Yosemite (10.10.3) to get this app. The initial set up process is super easy. Basically, you'll select or create your iPhoto Library and in a few clicks you're up and running. A note to people with multiple libraries: iCloud sharing is currently only available in the default system iPhoto Library. If you're interested in iCloud Sharing, go with the default system library, otherwise you'll just get a message in the Shared tab telling you iCloud sharing is not available. Unfortunately for me, the library I wanted to use wasn't the system library, so I was out of luck for sharing. It's not difficult to switch libraries, but it is pretty annoying to have to switch back and forth. Other than that one super small thing, set up was a breeze, and I was up and running in literally seconds. 

The Welcome screen you'll see when you first launch Photos for Mac.

Organization

You'll have 4 views to choose from when browsing through your photos and collections.

You'll only be able to view the shared tab if you are using the default library

You'll only be able to view the shared tab if you are using the default library

Album organization is still a bit confusing.

At the top of the application, you have 4 views: Photos, Sharing, Albums, and Projects. Under the Photos tab you can chose to see your photos by year, month, event, or specific group or day. This view is taken directly from the Photos app on the iPhone and iPad. In the Sharing view, you'll find all the photos, events, and albums you've shared since you started using Photo Stream and Photo Sharing. For me, this goes back to about 2012. The Albums view is more or less an attempt to put together your iPhoto Library. If you're familiar with iPhoto, you're aware that all your photos are organized into Events, Faces, and Places. The Events from iPhoto are lumped together into on album called iPhoto Events. This seems a bit strange and unintuitive to me. While there were actual albums in iPhoto, Events were pretty much the representation of albums. I had created on album in iPhoto with my pictures from my birthday party a few years ago and it showed up as correctly an album in the new Photos app. If you click on the folder named iPhoto Events, the various Events are separated into sub albums. If Events were still going to be separated into albums, I'm not sure why they show up in a folder under the Albums section in the Photos app. Maybe this will get fixed in a later version of Photos. I noticed that my imported Events also appear out of order. There appears to be some missing meta data. I'm sure this will be fixed in future updates. Faces transferred over properly, but there isn't a Places album. If you're looking for the section where you create custom projects for physical printing, you'll find it under the Projects tab. I created a photo book a few years ago and the layout was saved, but all my pictures are missing. In iPhoto, all your projects were saved with your layout, edits, and photos just in case you wanted to have them reprinted. I have no intention of having that photo book reprinted, but it would have been nice to have it around just in case. If the app isn't going to save your photos and edits I see not point in saving the project for later use. Once again this may be fixed later.

Editing

The editing tools available are similar to those found in iPhoto.  You'll find: Enhance, Rotate, Crop, Filters, Adjust, Retouch, and Red-eye located in the side bar. All of these tools are pretty basic self-explanatory. The Enhance didn't make very drastic changes, but I didn't expect it to. Apple originally marketed the Photos app as an upgrade to iPhoto, but I'm not really seeing where it's that great of an upgrade. The experience is more simplified, but the iPhoto app had more editing and correction options. If you're coming from Apple's Aperture you're going to be very disappointed. It's really a shame that Apple is no longer updating Aperture. The Photos app is way behind in terms of both editing and organization. If you're coming from iPhoto, you'll feel pretty at home, but there are no options for the power users. There may be plugin and extension support in the future, but as of right now, Photos is just crippling for Aperture users. You'll be able to import your Aperture Library along with all your adjustments and tags, but you won't be able to share libraries. Once your photos have been imported into the Photos app, any new adjustments you make will not be available in Aperture. Your Aperture Library will remain in tact and you'll still be able to use the Aperture app. You won't be able to purchase new copies of Aperture once the Photos app officially launches this spring, so if you're interest in a copy of Aperture now is the time to purchase it. 

The editing options are pretty simple.

Bringing It All Together

One of the biggest features of the new Photos app is the cross device syncing. With the introduction of iOS 8, Apple announced that any edits you make on your iPhone or iPad will sync with the Photos app on the Mac. Any edits you make on your Mac will sync with your iPhone and iPad. You may be thinking that we could already do this. Well not exactly. You could have shared albums, and and Photo Stream, but for the most part all the pictures were not synced together. When you took a picture on your iPhone, what would show up on the other devices is a copy of the original picture you took. If you made any changes to a picture on your iPhone a new copy of the picture would be pushed to your other devices. What makes the new Photos app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad different is all your edits and ratings are syncing in real time and not just duplicated. You'll be able to see all your changes take place in real time on all of your devices. If you add a filter to a picture on your iPhone you'll see that filter show up immediately on your Mac, iPad, or any other iOS 8 device you have. The Photo Stream technically hasn't gone away, but its somewhat been replaced by a more straightforward version of sharing. You'll be able to wirelessly share photos you've taken on a digital camera quickly to your iPhone or iPad which is an excellent adoption, however, free accounts only include 5GB of storage. This can get eaten up pretty quickly with just a few HD videos and high resolution photos. Not to mention this 5GB also includes your device backups and any documents you have saved in iCloud. You'll still get your latest 1,000 photos and last 30 days worth of photos stored for free just like you did with Photo Stream. 

Accessibility 
Yosemite brought in some minor accessibility improvements, and they're present in the Photos app. Menus currently work fine with VoiceOver, and Zoom is smooth and fluid. As usual with any beta software there are a few things that aren't quite ready for prime time for VoiceOver specifically, but I have no doubt these small kinks will be worked out before the official release. 

All in all, I'm looking forward to the official release of the Photos app for Mac. Even if it isn't the most robust app, having all my photos available on all my iOS and OS X devices is a welcomed feature. What do you guys think? Are you looking forward to the new Photos app?