How to Set up and Use the Apple New Photos App in OS X Yosemite

Last week, Apple released an update for Yosemite that includes a new Photos app . This app is a working replacement for iPhoto and does a much better job of organizing your photos without overwhelming your system resources. Here’s how to use it.

How it differs from iPhoto

Before we dive into how to use Photos, it’s probably worth going through a quick checklist of what separates Photos from iPhoto. Both apps are photo management tools, and if you’ve used iPhoto, you’ll be familiar with photos from the get-go. However, they work differently. Here are just a few important differences between the two:

  • ICloud Photo Library is deeply integrated with Photos, but you can still use Photos by manually syncing them to your phone. That’s a good thing, because the 5GB of free space Apple is offering is probably not enough for most people.
  • With iCloud Photo Library, all images are instantly sent from your phone to your computer (and vice versa) instead of using the old Photo Stream feature (which is still available).
  • You can sort your photos by type, including panoramas, burst shots, time-lapse shots, and more, just like in iOS.
  • Sorting options are very similar to iOS apps, but you can still sort by album, date, and location. You can also split by collections like in iOS. Shared albums are now also displayed in the main source list.
  • The star rating system in iPhoto has been replaced with a heart for “favorites” specific photos.
  • As with the Photos app for iOS, the different views are divided into several levels: Years, Collections, and Moments. You can enlarge any of them by clicking anywhere in the timeline. You can also click a place name to view the map on which your photos have been tagged.
  • Your photos are divided into three separate tabs on the top navigation bar: Photos are all the photos in your library, Shared are any shared photo streams of which you are a part, and Albums are any albums you’ve selected. i created. Finally, you also have a Projects tab where you can create and print photobooks.

There are other minor differences, of course. In fact, what’s most important is that Photos is much faster and more responsive than iPhoto. It’s still not a perfect photo management tool, but at least it doesn’t stop your entire system when you open it. For the most part, if you’re already an iPhoto user, you’re good at photography. If not, it’s still easy to pick up.

How to set up photo sync

The initial photo setup process is straightforward. If you’re using iPhoto or Aperture, Photos will automatically import your photo library into Photos. If you have multiple libraries, hold the Option key and open Photos. You will be asked which library you want to use. Photos use the same master file as iPhoto or Aperture, so don’t delete old libraries when you’re done. It should also display all of your photo data, including all faces you’ve tagged, geolocation, dates, albums, and everything else.

From there, you will need to decide if you want to use iCloud Music Library or My Photo Stream. With iCloud Photo Library, any image you take on your iOS device is automatically uploaded to iCloud and imported into the Photos app.

With My Photo Stream, the last 1000 (or the last 30 days, whichever is greater) are synced between devices only when connected to Wi-Fi, and they are not stored in iCloud at all.

You can also opt out of any of them and upload your images to Photos manually. Just plug in your camera and Photos will ask if you want to import them.

If you’re using Photo Stream or iCloud, you’ll need to tweak a bit.

On Mac:

  1. Go to System Preferences> iCloud.
  2. Check the iCloud Drive box.
  3. Check the Photos box and make sure iCloud Photo Library is turned on (or check the My Photo Stream box).

On your iOS device:

  1. Go to Settings> iCloud.
  2. Tap Photos and turn on iCloud Music Library (or tap My Photo Stream to sync all your devices over Wi-Fi).

Keep in mind that if you decide to use the iCloud Photo Library, you will probably need more storage space to keep up with these photos. Here’s what it will cost you:

  • 20 GB : 99 ¢ / month
  • 200 GB : $ 3.99 per month
  • 500 GB : $ 9.99 per month
  • 1 TB : $ 19.99 / month

Once all of this is set up, it will take a while for Photos to sync everything or import old photos. Once that happens, that’s pretty much all there is to the photo management part.

Check out the new photo editing features

Apart from photo management software, Photos also has some very basic photo editing features. Most of them are slightly improved versions of what’s already in iPhoto.

To edit an image in Photos, simply select it and click the “Edit” button. Here you get a very simple set of six editing options.

  • Enhancement : Applies a set of automatic adjustments that should enhance the photo.
  • Rotate : As the name suggests, this allows you to rotate the image in 90-degree increments.
  • Cropping : Cropping allows you to straighten the image, crop it, or adjust the aspect ratio.
  • Filters : Photos contains eight filters that you can use to apply to your images: Mono, Tonal, Fade, Chrome, Process, Transfer, and Instant.
  • Adjust : Here you can add specific adjustments including Light, Color and Black & White. Click the down arrow to open a set of advanced settings for each. You can also adjust white balance, levels, noise and more by clicking the Add button. They use sliders to control everything. Add more effect by moving the settings to the right, and less by moving them to the left.
  • Retouching : Retouching allows you to hide blemishes or blemishes. It doesn’t work that well, but it’s okay if you need to cover up something small.

Not much out there, but Photos does support third-party extensions, so hopefully we’ll see integration with software like Pixelmator at some point in the future.


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