Apple Photos app: Mac OS X update brings brand new image management tool

Long in beta, Apple's much-awaited Photos app has arrived

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The Independent Tech

How often have you wanted to show a friend a photo on your iPhone, only to remember that you took it on a previous phone so that particular image is safely stored on your computer at home?

That annoying scenario is about to become history, thanks to the new Photos app available on Mac as well as iPhone and iPad. So what’s wrong with the iPhoto program on the Mac, you ask?

Nothing, but the Photos app is the next stage and looks very similar to the iPhone and iPad versions – another example of Apple bringing its iOS and OSX products closer. This is excellent and the greater synergy saves so much brain ache as you don’t have to remember two different ways to move an image, edit it and so on.

It works in conjunction with iCloud Photo library so you can see all your photos wherever you are. They’ll be accessible on your Mac, iPhone, iPad and any computer with an internet connection via iCloud.com. As of now, iCloud Photo Library is available through the Mac, thanks to the program emerging in the last few hours from beta to its full glory.

When you edit an image, the changes are saved across the board to all your devices as well as in the cloud.

When you choose Photos instead of iPhoto on your Mac and turn on iCloud Photo Library – and it’s a free app – it starts uploading your images. How long it takes depends, obviously, on how many images you have, how big they are and how quick your connection is. Don’t expect this to be a short experience if you are a compulsive shutterbug. Still, it can save you space on your Mac hard drive. An option called Optimise Mac Storage means the full-resolution pics can be stored in the cloud while lower-resolution and smaller versions are saved on your Mac.

You get 5GB of storage free, but you can pay for more. An extra 15GB, for a total of 20GB is painless enough, 79p a month. And if you need it there are 200GB (£2.99 a month), 500GB (£6.99 a month) and even 1TB options available, with the biggest costing £14.99 a month. For casual snappers, 20GB is likely to be sufficient, with 200GB enough for all but the most committed photographers.

The Photos app is radically redesigned from the iPhoto interface but as it now matches the design of the app on your iPhone, it’s quickly recognisable. The gaudy but enjoyable Collections view from the iPhone and iPad is here and looks tremendous on a bigger screen – a real improvement over the now slightly dated look of iPhoto. Of course you can also see the images chronologically in the Years view or in the individual Albums you’ve created.

Tweaking images is either easy (click Enhance and it’ll do the lot for you) or lets you retain greater control by adjusting individual details. So you can control separately the colour saturation, adjust the exposure, modify the highlights and shadows in an image as well as turning it into a highly attractive black-and-white version.

All these controls appear in sliders so are easy to operate. Just as importantly, you can scoot back to the original at any point, which takes away that panic factor as you realise you’ve made a pig’s ear of it all.

Just like apps such as Instagram, but with much greater variation, you can add filters to instantly transform an image. There are eight built into Photos including an appealing one called Fade and a nostalgically familiar Instant option.

The Photos app looks like being a powerful, accessible and easy-to-use photo manipulation app that offers familiarity to anyone used to the iPhone app. Although iPhoto has long been an efficient program, this is better.

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