12 improvements in High Sierra's Photos app for Mac

Whether you're an enterprise or consumer user, you'll want to learn how to use the new features in your Mac’s Photos application.

Whether you're an enterprise or consumer user, you probably take a lot of photos with your iPhone — that’s why it’s the most popular camera used on Flickr. When you get those images onto your Mac, though, what can macOS High Sierra’s Photos app do for you?

Image matters

We’ve looked at Apple’s new image formats, and we are learning all about ARKit, but Photos was the other key highlight to Apple’s High Sierra announcement at WWDC.  Reflecting its focus on photography, the company has worked quite hard to make the application even more useful than before. These include new editing, organizing, Live Photo editing, improvements to the People album and improved integration with third-party photo editing apps, such as Photoshop or Pixelmator.

Expanded sidebar in new edition of Photos

Apple has a funny relationship with the sidebar in Photos. It used to be a regular fixture before becoming an optional extra some time ago; now, it has returned with an always-on sidebar in the new edition.

The resizable sidebar provides a range of new views: Import view now shows all your previous imports in chronological order, so you can get to images captured at a specific time.

You will also find a new My Albums view to store all your collections, plus a new Media Types view in which you’ll find items grouped as burst shots, selfies, panoramas, slow-mo, and the rest.

GIF support added to Photos

Apple has at last added GIF support to Photos. Now there’s a place to put all those entertaining items you pick up along the way.

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Photo curation tools

My photo library is a mess. Sure, I know my way around the application, but I seldom make the time to organize my pictures. (Most of them are just snaps of my dogs). High Sierra makes this a little easier with a range of new curation tools. These let you filter your photos by your choice of criteria. You can easily track those images you’ve found, drag and drop them into albums and easily export them to the desktop.

You can also do batch changes to groups of images, such as rotation and favoriting of pics. Finally, there’s a new selection counter tool that you’ll find in the top right of the Photos window, this shows you how many images you have selected at any given time.

Changed edit interface

The edit interface has been changed. You now see a full-screen window with three tool types at the top (Adjust Filters, Crop). Select one of those to get to your families of different tools, so you’ll get to the new edit tools in Adjust and new image filters in Filters. What’s nice is that some of the hidden edit tools have now been made easier to see.

New Compare button

Another nice touch is the introduction of a Compare button (top left), you use this to take a look at images before and after you apply an adjustment to check if it really is an improvement.

New image Adjust tools

Apple has also put a bunch of new image Adjust tools inside Photos. These include Aperture’s popular Curves and Selective Color options.

You use Selective Color to adjust the hue, saturation, luminance and range selectively for a color. This lets you hone in on one problem color and tweak it in order to improve the overall image. You’ll also find levels, definition, noise reduction and sharpen tools.

Fresh Filters

Available in the Filters pane, Apple is introducing a range of powerful new filters you can use to add a little style to your images. I think they are a little more effective than the existing choices.

The new filters include:

  • Vivid
  • Dramatic Warm
  • Dramatic Cool
  • Vivid Cool
  • Vivid Warm
  • Mono (a black & white filter)
  • Silvertone (a black & white filter)
  • Noir (a black & white filter)

New Memories categories

Apple has also introduced over a dozen new Memories categories. This is important, as it means the machine intelligence inside Photos has also developed the capacity to recognize images that contain such things. New categories include pets, babies, outdoor activities, performances, weddings, birthdays and sporting events.

What’s annoying is that while Photos can now automatically create collections of your images in such scenarios, you can’t use the Smart Albums feature to access the data: so, you can’t create a Smart Album to capture all your wedding pictures and then prune that collection by getting rid of any images featuring your ex, for example.

I think that’s a missed opportunity as the machine intelligence inside Photos can now access such information, so why can’t the human intelligence that owns the application?

We, the people

Apple has made two key improvements to the People album. It has made the image previews larger so you can more easily find and identity the people in your pictures, which is useful. What’s far more useful is that your People album will now be updated across all your Mac and iOS devices when you use iCloud Photo Library. This improvement raised some applause when announced.

Live Photo editing

New Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure effects let you get more out of your Live Photos. You can also trim, mute and select a key image for each Live Photo, meaning you can keep the best elements of the image and get rid of the rest.

Third-party pictures

If you need to work on an image you can now open it in your favorite third-party editing app from inside Photos. You’ll work in the app — Photoshop, for example — but the results will be automatically saved in the Photos library, which helps gets rid of duplicate files.

Apple has also opened up a little, so developers can build extensions to order prints, create web pages and other useful functions. You can download these from the Mac App Store; they’ll come from the likes of Shutterfly and Wix.

Photos from FaceTime

Not precisely a Photos improvement, but it will be popular all the same, you can now capture a moment in a FaceTime conversation as a Live Photo. The person you are "speaking" with will be told the image was taken, and the photo will be popped inside your Photos library.

So, that’s your top-down, 1,000-word summary of some of the improvements in Photos on High Sierra. Please drop me a line if you have any other constructive observations about the new application.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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