eXtensions - Wednesday 10 January 2018
eXtensions: The Wednesday File (39) - Apple Photos on the Mac Maturing: A Look at What can be Accomplished
By Graham K. Rogers
Basics and LimitationsAlthough no longer being developed by Apple, Aperture still works on macOS, High Sierra, although I use it far less in part because I use the iPhone more. I am now running the iPhone X and find photo output quite acceptable, for example this week's Walking the Old Mahachai Line was shot entirely with the iPhone (I had my Hasselblad too, but the negatives will not be ready until Friday).
Although I have been using iCloud Photo synchronisation with Aperture for a while - and still do - the two-way integration through Photos is a clear benefit for iPhone images edited on the Mac.
A big plus for me with Aperture is managing content. On Photos there is a passive response: images are automatically brought into Moments, where they are sorted by date/time. There may be slip-ups here when a camera is set for the wrong date, or with scanned images, or those edited in some apps that apply new metadata to an image. A user may specify a location or album for a new import, but this is not an automatic option as it is in Aperture.
When importing images from a camera, there is an active response in Aperture and the user is offered a project by default. The other advantage with Aperture image management is the ease with which I can create (and switch between) libraries: each a complete collection of projects and albums. I have not quite mastered that (or had the courage) with Photos.
Previous States of EditingWhen Photos was first available, editing options and tools were limited. This was clearly not the Aperture replacement I wanted. The image sliders for Light, Color and B&W, as in Photos for iOS, made basic changes easy. Like the iOS app, each of these could be opened up to allow adjustments to specifics (inc. Shadows, Contrast, Black Point), so there were some useful quick-editing possibilities.
A small selection of other tools was provided including White Balance, Sharpen (why these two are still not included in iOS Photos baffles me). Also available then were Histogram, Levels, Vignette and others. An excellent oversview of the first version of Photos is available on MacWorld (Jeff Carlson).
The use of some of these extensions, greatly increases the editing and output options available to users. More to the point, with these extensions, there is no need to exit to the standalone versions of these apps: all editing can be done within Photos. As editing is non-destructive, the original image can always be retrieved, although I often duplicate an image if I am making heavy changes.
The use of extensions added a considerable flexibility for those users who can take advantage of them. Those I have come with paid apps. Some users may not be able to buy additional software; and in some cases useful editing applications may not have extensions.
Editing within Photos using Tonality Pro Extension
Recent Editing EnhancementsWith the most recent update to macOS (High Sierra) Apple expanded the editing tools and while still not quite up there with Aperture, there is far more that can be done, even with the basic application. There is now a revised interface and the main option areas (Adjust, Filters, Crop) are selected using buttons top center of the editing screen. Crop is neat and tidy, with a useful straighten tool, plus flip and mirror options. There are nine basic filters offered which are reasonable for those who want really quick changes. Several apps have better options.
The Adjust section has seen the most improvements although I have a niggle about the placement of tools on the right (I am left-handed). These are on the left in Aperture, but can be switched to the right to accommodate the user. There is no such option in Photos. We cope.
The top three options (Light, Color and B&W) remain the same. As before each can be opened up for specific adjustments. Even with these basic controls a good amount of adjustment is possible. I particularly like the B&W section which adjusts the look of an image delending on RGB filters.
Below these adjusters there is now a richer selection of tools bringing Photos closer (but not quite) to what could be done in Aperture. I want to examine the tools subjectively: I use some more than others and there are reasons for this.
CommentsSeveral of the early limitations of Photos have now been mitigated and the application can be used as a fairly comprehensive editing tool. To make the case, all of the images in my recent posting - Walking the Old Mahachai Line - were edited using Photos. Many just had simple adjustments made that are easy enough to do using the tools that are provided within Photos. Quite a few had additional adjustments by way of the extensions. These are quite like plugins that are widely used in Aperture, Lightroom and other high-end photo editing apps, so Apple is reaching for the same sort of flexibility with these.
iPhone image edited in Photos with no use of extensions
To help better organise and search for images, I have found that entering Keywords is useful. This is not as well organised as might be, although many images already include keywords added by Photos. GPS coordinates from iOS devices help considerably, so adding locations when importing from DSLR cameras with no GPS will help searching.
Recent experience has shown me that a lot more of my editing can be done within Photos, which indicates that this has matured significantly from its first appearance. Interfacing and tools may need some more tidying up, but many users will find this provides a good basic photo-editing experience.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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