In 2014, Apple announced they would end support for two popular pieces of photography software: Aperture and iPhoto. Aperture was the company's professional-level offering and iPhoto was a simple photo editor and organizer for the casual crowd. In 2015, Apple retired Aperture and iPhoto and released Photos 1.0, with a "best of both worlds" feature set.
Apple touts Photos as powerful-enough for discerning photographer but easy for beginners to use. In this tutorial we take a closer look at Photos and you'll learn how to get the most from this surprisingly useful, capable program.
Image Correction with Apple Photos
Mobile Pictures Need Love Too
While I usually leave my big DSLR raw files to Adobe Lightroom, where I have an established workflow, I've found that Apple Photos is the perfect tool for all of my iPhone captures. Photos brings a the level of control that was once reserved to expensive programs to everyone with a Mac. It's very possible to correct pictures from your smartphone and improve their look!
While this tutorial focuses on the correction tools, correction is far from the only thing Photos can do. There are plenty of other features, from sorting and organizing to making your pictures into projects, that are worth your time. But correction is our goal here.
Apple Photos includes all the basic adjustment tools that you need. Correction is a crucial stage: it's where you truly get to see the potential in your images for the first time. When we talk about correction, what we mean is fixing incorrect exposures, compensating for deficiencies in the lens or camera, adjusting white balance, and so on. The goal here is to get your pictures looking clean and neutral. Making things look perfect or stylistic comes later.
To open the editing tools, double-click an image in the grid view and choose Edit in the upper right corner.
Enhance is a one-click attempt at correcting your photos. When you click Enhance, the first tool on the tool panel, Photos will take its best guess at improving your image.
It's not a bad idea to try out the Enhance button before spending time editing an image. You can use Enhance as a starting point and then adjust the image to your liking.
Clicking on the Adjust tool will open three new sliders: Light, Color, and Black & White. Check out the video below to learn how to use the adjustments sliders.
Crop and Rotate
The quickest way to improve an image is to improve it's composition. Cropping an image is the art of refining what's in the frame after capture. Press Crop to launch the tool.
Once you've entered the crop tool, you'll see some new handles appear on the edge of an image. To crop, just grab one of the handles and drag to draw your new crop area. Once you release it, Photos will apply the crop to the image. Cropping is non-destructive: you can always grab the handles and re-crop the image anytime in the future!
Aspect ratio is an important part of cropping. An image's aspect ratio basically describes its shape, or the ratio of width to height. A widescreen monitor might have an aspect ratio of 16:9, because it's wider than it is tall. A square image would have an aspect ratio of 1:1, because the two sides are equal.
To lock an aspect ratio, click on Aspect and choose the ratio to lock. Often, I'll set this to Original, which simply maintains the same ratio of the original image. You can still crop the image, but you'll find that the crop window feels locked to your selected aspect.
Tilt correction can also be applied with the wheel to the right of the image. Grab the wheel and move it up or down to straighten an image out. When you're completely finished with adjusting your frame, just press Done in the upper right corner of the app.
If you've captured your images with an iPhone, Photos will typically auto-rotate the image to the correct orientation. If that's not the case or you want to try out rotation for artistic purposes, just leave the crop tool and choose the Rotate tool to rotate an image 90 degrees each time.
When you need to make spot adjustments, the Retouch tool is where it's at. It's a smart brush to remove spots from an image. With the Retouch tool selected, drag the slider on the right side to increase or decrease the size of your brush.
It doesn't get much simpler than that! Keep this tool in mind when you need to remove a spot from your images.
Hidden Adjustments: Advanced Controls
Photos is an easy-to-use piece of software, but it has more advanced tools for power users hiding behind the scenes. You just have to know how to enable them!
With the Adjust tool selected, there are extra adjustments options available on the Add menu that appears at the top of the tools. When you press Add, you'll see the option to enable other adjustment tools.
With these tools, Apple Photos goes from a simple photo editor to a tool for power users. Try out the Sharpen tool for detailed adjustments, the White Balance tool for simple color correction, and the Histogram box to help you monitor your exposure. You can always return to the Add menu and uncheck any of these tools to return to a simpler interface.
Filters are stylized, one-click looks included with Photos. Click on the Filters icon to open up the choice of filters.
A quick filter can be the perfect place to finish an edit. Simply click on one of the eight included filters to apply it to an image. If you don't like like the look, you can always select another or simply press Revert to Original to start over. After you apply a filter, you can always refine the look with the adjustment sliders.
Noir is my favorite black and white look, while Chrome is my most used preset for color images. Hopefully, Apple will add even more filters in the future.
If you want to learn more about Apple Photos, Tuts+ carries a full-length course on the application. It's a deep dive into the application and covers everything you need to know; from setting up iCloud Photo Library for storage to sharing images on the web.
Apple's support website also has a collection of support articles with short, feature-specific guides to learning the app.
Are you using Apple Photos? I'm curious to find out how many Tuts+ readers are using it for their personal or professional photos. Make sure and leave a comment to let me know.
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