R.I.P. iPhoto: First look and tips for Yosemite’s Photos app

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The Photos app for Mac looks like Photos for iOS

The Photos app for Mac looks like Photos for iOS

For all those who love the Photos apps on iPad and iPhone, it will come as good news that the same format has arrived on the Photos app on Macs with Yosemite. The 10.10.3 update includes the Photos app that completely replaces iPhoto and changes everything about how we manage photos on a Mac. Here are some of my first impressions and tips on how to make the transition from iPhoto to Photos.

Getting started: Photos completely replaces iPhoto and Aperture. If you have multiple aperture or iPhoto libraries, when you first open the newly installed app, it will ask which library you want to use as your “system library.” The system library is the one that is synced with your devices using the Cloud Photo Library. Until now, the iCloud Photo Library has only been available on iOS devices in Beta. It’s out of Beta and you’ll need to use it if you want to automatically sync photos between devices and your Mac.

The iCloud Photo library stores your photos online. If you haven’t yet turned on the iCloud photo library on your iPhone or iPad, do it now by going into the Settings>Photos and Camera. Apple provides 5 GB of storage for free, but you will want to purchase more once you start syncing photos from your Mac. To change your storage plan, go into the setting on your iOS device and choose iCloud>Storage Plans>Change Storage Plan. Plans run from $0.99 per month for 20 GB to $19.99 per month for 1 TB of storage.

When you start Photos, it will ask if you want to use the iCloud Photo Library to sync the photos from your Mac. If you say yes, all photos in Photos on your Mac will also be uploaded so you can see them on all devices.  While I would prefer to choose to upload only certain files, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. This means that when you import photos from your digital camera to Photos on your Mac, all of the photos will be uploaded to your iCloud Photo library. I recommend you get into the habit of deleting the bad photos in-camera before importing them into Photos.

The iPhoto Events organization is gone. When you imported photos into iPhoto, it would group photos into Events. In Photos, pictures are automatically separated by date and location, replacing the need for creating events. When you open an existing iPhoto or Aperture library, the events will be put into a folder that can be found in the Albums tab under “iPhoto Events.”

Because Photos separates photos by date, to keep all photos together from a multi-day event—a vacation, weekend wedding, or business conference—select all of the photos in a time period, click on the plus (+) and add them to an album.

The Side Bar is hidden by default. The sidebar navigation was a staple when I used iPhoto because it was it fast to access all photos or specific albums is turned off by default in Photos. This gives the display a clean look as you navigate using tabs for Photos, Shared, Albums and Projects. If you prefer the side folder navigation to the Photos tabs, simply go to the View menu and click on “Show Side Bar.”

Favorites has replaced Ratings and Flags. Ratings and flags have been a fast and easy way to organize photos. Photos has abolished both ratings and flags. As on your iPhone or iPad, you can click the heart to add a photo to your Favorites album.

Photos that were previously flagged in your library will appear in a smart album called “Flagged.” Also, flagged photos will now include the tag “flagged” in the metadata. Ratings are gone too. Rated photos will be tagged “five starred,” “four starred,” and so forth. This makes it possible to create a smart album of rated photos or filter the photos by searching for the ratings tag. I’d prefer the rating system, but at least I haven’t lost past ratings.

Switching libraries is gone. When iPhoto added the ability to open Aperture libraries, it offered a feature where you could switch photo libraries without quitting the app. Unfortunately, it’s gone backward. To switch to another photo library, you must quit the Photos app. Hold down the options key then click on the Photos app to reopen it while continuing to hold down the key.  This will display all of the found iPhoto and Aperture libraries which can be opened. As before, Photos will default to opening the last library used unless it isn’t available.

Easy navigation comes to the Mac. If you have a magic mouse or touchpad mouse, Photos is set up for pinch and stretch to zoom as well as swiping between pictures. It was possible to use these gestures in iPhoto, but it just works better now especially with the zoomed out view to navigate between years.

Editing photos similar to iPhone but more robust options are available. The editing controls have also been changed from the way they appeared in iPhoto. The basic editing options operate the same way that they do on an iPhone or iPad and includes crop, color and adjustments by default.

More editing adjustment tools are available by clicking on the adjustments tool icon in the editing sidebar. At the top, you will see a yellow “add” button where you can add more editing tools including advanced tools like a histogram, levels adjustments and fine tuning for sharpness, white balance and more.

For those who just want to make minor adjustments, there is the tiny slider with applied adjustments in the same way it appears on a mobile device. For more advanced settings, clicking the arrow next to the “light” adjustment brings up sliders for black level, highlights, and more.

The crop tool also looks like the tool on iOS devices. It includes an “auto” crop tool that adjusts automatically to the rule of thirds and straightens the horizon.

Difficulty locating photos.  I have some older Aperture libraries. While I was able to see the thumbnails of all photos, some of the photos could not be located and wouldn’t allow me to edit them. Because iPhoto and Aperture hide photos in its package, I had to do a Finder search to locate the photo.  Photos also has that package, so I will undoubtedly stick with using Lightroom (but that’s fodder for another blog).

As I work with Photos more, I’ll be sure to put up more tips and tricks when I find them. If you want to find out more about Photos, here’s the Photos app details from Apple.

Barb Gonzalez is a travel and commercial photographer who is bringing years of experience to explain, review, and give tips about cameras, accessories, photo software, and how to create better photos. View a gallery of photos at, follow her on instagram @barbgphoto, and like the BarbGonzalezPhotography Facebook page.


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  • JJ

    Organisation is a mess compared to iPhoto.

    iPhoto is now unusable, so it’s Photos or nothing, more’s the pity.

  • W8post

    I still use iPhoto side by side with Photo. Photo sucks, it was made -my opinion, just to sell space on iCloud! The ONLY advantage of Photo is the editing.

  • Cindy Young

    Until geotags can be added in Photos, I will continue to use iPhoto.