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› Do you need Photoshop or is Google Photos or Apple Photos enough?
  • Published on December 14, 2015

Many digital photographers are wondering if they still need Photoshop or if Google Photos, Apple Photos, and the crop of other free image editing and sharing tools can met their needs. Casual photographers who don’t need the precision of Photoshop or don’t want to purchase Photoshop Elements are turning to tools such as Google Photos and the similar Apple Photos in large numbers. The increase in use of Google photos has been significant by any benchmark, as they announced this month that they have reached 100 million active users that have uploaded 50 billion images to the cloud-based photo editing and storage app. While Apple Photos shares the same name, it has a smaller number of users. Here we explore some of the key differences between Photoshop as well as Google Photos and Apple Photos. It’s worth noting that although these apps share a similar name, they are different tools, with Google Photos running on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android devices, the Apple Photos app runs only on Apple devices.

Learning Photoshop or another Photos app

While Photoshop is an incredibly powerful tool, becoming and effective user generally requires enrolling in classes to learn Photoshop. This is true for both the complete version of Photoshop as well as Photoshop Elements Contrast this to both Google Photos and Apple Photos, which require very little learning. This is primarily because the Photos apps have a more limited range of capabilities, making the smaller number of options easier to learn and use.

Using Photoshop or Google Photos for Image editing

Photoshop was developed long before the Internet and mobile smartphones with cameras. It was created as an application for editing and manipulating images, and remains primarily focused on users that want to edit images. The powerful image editing tools of Photoshop far outpace those available with Google Photos or Apple Photos. Merging images, overlapping layers, or making fine-tune adjustments are all possible in Photoshop along with more basic adjustments such as color correction and lightening an image. By comparison, the image editing capabilities of Google Photos and Apple Photos are quite limited. While they support brightness and contrast adjustments, and can easily remove red-eye, there are few options for combining images. They also no capabilities for merging complex composites of multiple photographs such as what is available in Photoshop.

Storing Photos online with Photoshop and Google Photos

While Photoshop does provide limited online storage capabilities, Google Photos emphasizes storage above all else. A recent update to Google photos makes it easy to clear-out space on smartphones and move images to their cloud storage, where Google Photos offers unlimited free storage. Google also offers easy options for sharing photos with friends and family. Apple also offers a limited amount of free storage space for users of their Photos app, ad does Adobe with Photoshop. In both of these apps, online storage and sharing appears to be an afterthought, whereas with Google Photos, image sharing is at the forefront for its existence.

The best photo app

For those looking to edit and manipulate images, Photoshop remains the kind of the hill. For online file sharing and file storage, Google Photos is the clear winner. If you only have limited needs for editing, such as removing red-eye or lightening an image that is under-exposed, the controls of Google Photos and Apple Photos may be sufficient for your needs. With free unlimited online storage along with a free app, the Google Photos tools are difficult to pass-up. Even serious Photoshop users are likely to find themselves using the free tools from Google when the full power of Photoshop isn’t needed

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.