7 tips for getting the most out of the photos app
According to some sources, the human population took more than 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000) photos in 2015. That’s a lot of precious memory keeping! Another interesting fact… we are currently storing more than 5 trillion photos in the cloud and on our hard drives. That number is staggering to me! With an estimated world population of 7.4 billion, that’s an average of 675 photos per person. I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked my Photos library, it was more than 20,000 photos (this doesn’t include my archived photos) and that number increases each day!
With all those photos, you would be crazy not to use a good photo management/editing system. In June 2014, Apple announced that they would be replacing their popular iPhoto app with a new app called “Photos,” which was subsequently made available to the public with the release of OS X 10.10.3 (Yosemite) in April 2015. While the initial release of Photos was somewhat rocky and controversial, it did have some great benefits to it. Ease of use and a sense of familiarity when using in conjunction with the Photos app on an iOS device were among the advantages. Photos is my go-to tool for photo management and most of my photo editing and sharing.
With the simplicity of Photos (by design), it may be difficult to imagine there being many advanced tips and tricks for using Photos. For those who are new to Photos, I will help you learn how to use the app. For those who have used it for some time now, I hope to help you rediscover some of the more advanced features that are available to you. Regardless of your experience, I think you will find these tips extremely useful. Let’s get started!
Show the Sidebar
iPhoto (the predecessor to Photos) made it easy to manage your photo library by giving you a sidebar that allows you to navigate your folders and smart folders. When you open Photos for the first time, you may feel a little lost because the sidebar isn’t there. What the tech?! Fortunately, revealing the sidebar is just a click away. To view the sidebar, simply go to View > Show Sidebar (Command + Option + S).
Edit Like a Pro
Sure, Photos is a great photo management tool, but did you know that it’s also a great image-editing application? It will never be as powerful or as feature-rich as Photoshop or Pixelmator, but then again, that’s by design. While you won’t be able to remove a rogue photobomber from your once-in-a-lifetime shot, you can perform plenty of other page edits such as red-eye reduction, coloring adjustment, straightening, cropping, applying one of many filters, and even applying edits using third party extensions. To begin editing your image using Photos, simply double-click on an image, then click on “Edit” in the top right corner.
This will expose your editing toolset. I won’t go into what each function does in this post (there’s way too much to cover in a single post), so it’s up to you to explore each of the options on your own.
Syncing with iCloud Photo Library
Remember earlier when I mentioned that there are more than 5 trillion photos stored to date? A good chunk of those are very likely stored in Apple’s online iCloud storage system. My library, by the way, is definitely one of them. iCloud Photo Library is a feature built right into Photos (both for OS X and iOS) that allows you to seamlessly sync your photos between all your Apple devices. For example, I can take a photo on my iPhone 6s and because iCloud Photo Library is enabled on all my devices, that photo is automatically synced to my iPad Pro, iPad mini, and MacBook Pro. It’s even accessible by going to www.icloud.com! Not only is this convenient, but it also serves as a protection from data loss due to hard drive failure (in other words, it’s part of my backup strategy).
To enable iCloud Photo Library on your Mac, open the Photos app then navigate to Photos > Preferences. Next, click on the iCloud tab and enable iCloud Photo Library.
To enable iCloud Photo Library on your iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and enable iCloud Photo Library.
Depending on the size of your library, it may take some time to upload to the cloud, so be patient. My library of more than 20,000 photos took about a day to upload. A caveat to this is storage: the free iCloud account will give you 5 GB of storage. That may not be enough storage for your library, so you may need to increase that. This can easily and quickly be done on your iOS device by going to Settings > iCloud > Storage.
Albums are great because they allow you to organize activities or events into their own respective category. Simply create a new album (File > New Empty Album…), then drag and drop photos into that new album. Smart Albums take organization to the next level by allowing you to create a dynamic album based on search criteria. For example, I could create a smart album that will show me every picture taken in March 2015 with my iPhone 6. To do this, we create our new smart album by going to File > New Smart Album… From here, we simply give our new smart album a meaningful name then start building our criteria.
As you can see from the drop-down list, we can choose from all sorts of metadata including dates, names, descriptions, ISO speeds, focal length, aperture, camera model, etc. You can add as many filters as you need to. Once you’re done, click OK to add your new smart album.
If you ever need to change the criteria of your smart album, simply right-click on the smart album and choose “Edit Smart Album”. This can be an extremely powerful tool for searching for and organizing your photos.
Generally speaking, we don’t take photos to keep to ourselves. That’s crazy talk! We take photos so we can share those precious moments with family, friends, and others we care about. Photos makes this quick and easy, and there are several ways to share them.
To simply email a photo (or series of photos) to someone, we first highlight the photos we want to send, then click on the action button in the top-right corner and select “Mail.”
This will create a new mail message where we can enter the recipient’s name or email address and add a message.
To share photos using one of various social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc), we go through a similar process as an email. Highlight the photo(s) we want to share, click the action button and choose the network we wish to share on.
Finally, we can share using an iCloud feature called “iCloud Photo Sharing.” This feature allows us to create a photo stream. We can add photos to this stream at any time by highlighting the photo(s) we want to share, then choosing “iCloud Photo Sharing” from the action menu.
If you’re new to iCloud Photo Sharing or want to create a new photo stream, we can do this by clicking on “New Shared Album….” If we’re simply adding a photo to an existing stream, we just click on the stream we are adding to. To invite others to subscribe to one of our shared albums, we first need to highlight the shared album under the “Shared” section of the sidebar. Next, click on the “People” button on the toolbar. From here, we can add people or email addresses to invite as well as we can make this shared album available to the public. As we continue adding photos to our shared album, subscribers will receive a notification when additional photos are added. They can also “like” and comment on photos. This is great for sharing family vacation photos.
Create a Second (or Third) Library File
By default, our Photos library file is stored in our Home directory (~\Pictures) and will contain all of our photos. In some cases, it may be necessary to create a second Photos library. An example of this would be a work project that includes a series of photos that you may want to keep completely separate from your personal photos.
To create a new Photos library file, we hold down the Option key while opening Photos. This will reveal the following dialog:
As you can see from here, we can create an entirely new Photos library file or open an existing library stored elsewhere. This feature is great for more advanced users looking to organize photos in a non-traditional way.
Search Using Metadata
Metadata is defined as “data that provides information about other data.” In the case of photos, this metadata comes in the form of a photo name, description or keywords. While this metadata isn’t necessarily visible all the time, it can be extremely powerful in searching for images. Here’s an example of when this would be useful. I go on a caping trip with the boys and want to be able to search for this trip any time in the future by searching for “camping””. After adding new photos to my library, I would add “Camping” (as well as other) keywords in the keyword and/or description fields. In the future, these photos would be searchable any time I searched for “Camping”.
To add keywords or a description to a photo, we highlight a photo then reveal the Get Info HUD (heads-up display). This can be done by either right-clicking and choosing “Get Info” or by pressing Command + I. Not only will this HUD allow you to add this searchable metadata, but you’ll also have access to lots of other metadata related to this photo (EXIF information as well as GPS location, when applicable).
Hopefully you are starting to see the power of how Photos can help you keep your photos organized and allow you to easily share your photos with loved ones. These are only a few of the tips and tricks available for getting the most out of Photos. Do you have other tips and tricks that may help others? Share them in the comments section below!