eXtensions - Saturday 6 February 2021
Apple Photos Mish-mash on Three Platforms
By Graham K. Rogers
In recent years I have also returned to film. It was all film when I was a kid. I have a couple of 35mm cameras now, but prefer to use medium format with the Rolleiflex twin reflex camera and the Hasselblad 500C/M. Developing a roll of film is not overly expensive here, but I like to scan the negatives myself. I see that and editing as part of a creative workflow.
Rolleiflex TLR (left) and Hasselblad 520C/M with Zeiss Distagon lens
Editing RAW in Nikon NX Studio
Before Aperture became unusable, I changed to the Nikon D850, but Aperture would not handle the RAW files. Reluctantly - and slightly earlier than I had expected - I moved my workflow to Apple's Photos which had replaced iPhoto. Initially this was weak but as new features were added it became more usable up to a point. The ability to create albums and have them copy over to all devices (via iCloud) was a plus. It was also useful that (initially) the editing tools were the same on the Mac as on iOS devices. With the Mac version, there were (and still are) several shortcomings, particularly the displays of metadata.
Metadata is especially valuable when working with photographs, although many apps strip it out when images are uploaded. Any image, be it RAW from a DSLR or HEIC from an iPhone carries much metadata, but although the image file holds this data, only a small portion is shown in the Information panel on Photos. On the Mac it is possible to add some information, such as captions or keywords, but not ratings (highly useful in Aperture). It is not possible to add or view metadata on iOS (or iPadOS), except by using a 3rd party application which may not handle the metadata in the same way.
The basic information available in Photos on the Mac (date/time, camera/lens focal length, file data, exposure/time) is minimal. When an image includes GPS data, this is shown on a map panel but coordinates are not available. These can be seen when an image that includes location data (film scans do not) is exported and viewed in the Finder so the information is there. Locations may be added manually on the Mac, but this has limits with the way locations are identified.
Third-party applications may also access this data. This had been readily available in Aperture. There is a way to run Aperture (Photojoseph), but it involves a 3rd party open source project: Retroactive. I am still toying with that idea too as I have several Aperture libraries on disk I want to access. There are clearly plenty who still want to use Aperture.
This was of great value in Aperture and I was pleased to see it added to Photos. Some of these tools were also available on Photos on iOS devices, so editing on one platform was similar to the others. Extensions allowed use of third party applications from within Photos (like Options on iOS Photos), so even though there were limits, there were a couple of bright spots. Then Apple broke the iOS version which at the same time showed up weaknesses in the Mac version.
Photos: Crop (left), Adjust - the image is repositioned for control - and (right) Darkroom color controls with 6x6 film scan
The ability to crop and otherwise change the dimensions or display of an image is valuable and I use this often. On the Mac this is limited to cropping an image, with the availability of aspect ratio options (e.g 5:7), rotating clockwise (anti clockwise with the Option key); and Flip (left to right - mirroring). A dial allows straightening. On iOS, Flip, Rotate and Aspect Ratio options are available. In addition to Straighten, however, there are two other tools: Perspective and Keystone. Neither of these useful tools are in Photos on the Mac (nor were they in Aperture) so to make such adjustments requires a third-party application. iOS beats the Mac here.
In Adjust on iOS devices, the user is limited to 16 specific tools, each controlled by a scroll wheel (left to right) at the bottom of the screen: Auto, Exposure, Brilliance, Highlights, Shadows, Contrast, Brightness, Black Point, Saturation, Vibrance, Warmth (a weak white balance tool), Tint, Sharpness, Definition, Noise Reduction and Vignette. On the Mac there is some grouping of these (and other controls). On iOS devices they are displayed in a linear fashion so not all are visible at the same time. While these deal with general image management tasks, Photos on a Mac has a section specifically for Black & White.
Adjusting B&W in Photos on the Mac - RGB
Adjusting B&W in Photos on the Mac - RGB
Adjusting B&W in Photos on the Mac - Neutrals and Tone
Editing in Pixelmator Photo on iPad Pro
The iPad is different, as has been clearly recognised by the branching of the operating system: iPadOS. Those who work on tablet devices have different needs. I have a collection of image editing apps that I use frequently, but prefer the initial editing capabilities of Photos (especially on the Mac), although the imbalance of tools leaves me switching: Mac to iOS/iPadOS to 3rd party app. The patronising interface of Photos on the iPad would be much improved if it returned to the earlier Mac-like selection of tools.
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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