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Apple Photos is no Photoshop competitor

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› Apple Photos is no Photoshop competitor
  • Published on April 14, 2015

While we teach Photoshop classes and even write books about Photoshop, when it comes to managing thousands of personal photos, we use a number of different apps. On the Mac OS, we’ve used iPhoto, which has been replaced by Apple Photos. While Photoshop is our go-to app for any serious image editing, sometimes our concern is simply keeping track of images, especially for personal shots stored on the family computer. For this Apple has released the new Apple Photos app. It runs on the Mac OS desktop, along with a similar, but not identical, version of Photos which runs on iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

Apple Photos is not Photoshop

Apple Photos is a mix between iPhoto and their image editing tool Aperture. Like iPhoto, the focus is primarily on grouping and organizing photos, making it easier to find and share them. Apple has worked to make the Photos app faster, so that scrolling through and organizing thousands of photos is fast and easy. This free app is primarily focused on organizing and sharing images. Although it does include some improved image editing functionality compared to the original iPhoto, Apple Photos it isn’t intended to be a complete Aperture replacement, nor is it intended to go head-to-head with any of the Adobe Photoshop.

Along with Photos, Apple has started an online service they are calling iCloud Photo Library. As with so many other services these days, it stores photos in the cloud. It then synchronizes photos across your Mac, iPhone, and iPad – any device on which you’ve installed the Photos app. While Apple Photos is free, making it a much lower cost option than the low-cost Photoshop Elements, the service of synchronizing images across devices does have a cost, which varies based upon the amount of storage needed.

The Apple Photos app, which is available as part of Mac OS X Yosemite (Mac OS 10.10.3) is both easier to use and more responsive than iPhoto, and much less complicated than Photoshop. It is easy to install and get up and running. It imports existing iPhoto libraries, making it even easier for those upgrading from the older image organization app. It’s faster in two important areas: scrolling through the image library, and searching. The Photos interface is simplified, with four buttons that are used to change the view of what you are seeing. These are Photos, Albums, Shared, and Projects.

The Photos button provides several views of your image library. It includes a Moments view which organizes photos that were taken at the same location and time. If you visit the beach and take a number of pictures during the day, it will organize them based upon the images being captured together. If the trip to the beach was part of a vacation, and you took other pictures on the days surrounding the beach trip, they would be organized by Apple Photos into another view known as a Collection. This level of organization is more automated than Adobe Bridge, and includes capabilities simply not available within Adobe Photoshop.

The editing tools also don’t compare to Photoshop, with Apple Photos including simple controls such as those for adjusting highlights, shadows, and white balance. As with the automated organizational tools, an automated automatic cropping function resizes images and straightens their alignment in an attempt to improve the image. As all these tools are relatively straightforward, it's not likely that you'll find a Photos course among the various Apple courses offered, and you won't find much of a need for training with this easy-to-use app.

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.