Apple Photos

Apple has pushed a developer preview of their new desktop photos app, simply named Photos, out to testers today. Realistically I had been preparing myself for being underwhelmed by the initial release, but I find I'm even more underwhelmed than I thought I would be. First, let me say, it looks great. It doesn't seem to choke on large libraries of photos, the basic editing tools look to be quite good, and the fit into the whole iOS/iDevice/iCloud ecosystem looks to be great. That last part is an issue for me seeing as how I'm an Android user with a Mac computer, but more on that in a minute. I'm not going to get into previewing what Photos is, The Verge and Wired (and every other tech blog) have some good write ups of it if you want that. Instead I'm going to point out the red flags that these articles have shown.

Geotagging. Apparently at this point you can't geotag photos. As part of my process I use the geotag info from my Moto X to tag the rest of my photos from a shoot. It's part of my goal of organizing my photos better for better searching and finding. Now at this point in the preview you can search, see, and sort geotags, so my guess/hope is that the ability to geotag is added before final shipment.

Ratings. This is a little confusing to me as I don't use iOS, but the 5 star rating that I have been using in Aperture to differentiate my top quality stuff (5 stars) and my lesser quality, but not crap shots (1-4 stars) is gone. In it's place is a heart rating. I assume it's just a single heart, not a trade of stars for hearts. For more advanced users this isn't going to be very useful. Along with the ratings I'm assuming the color coding option is probably also gone. Again this was useful to me to easily find my photos that are ready for posting (purple) or already posted (green). This hasn't been mentioned as gone in Photos (in the articles I've read), but I think part of that is because most of these tech sites don't use Aperture so don't know what to look for when comparing the two.

Brushes. First, let's be honest, Aperture's brushes at this point in time aren't all they were cracked up to be when they first came out. Other products have more advanced brushes at this point. But, they were still very useful for quick edits of dust specks, distracting elements, and targeted edits. Well they're gone in Photos. I'm not that surprised about that. Disappointed, but not surprised.

Other features that are gone or currently missing is the built in tools to sync albums with Flickr and Facebook. As this is a feature that I didn't think Aperture did very well to begin with (it took me 6 months before my albums on both sites stopped deleting and re-uploading photos) I won't miss it, but it will make sharing to these sites a little more difficult as you have to use the system wide share tool. Another feature absent is the integration of plugins. This makes sense for a version 1.0 piece of software. You need to make sure the base is stable before opening it up for developers to write plugins for. But this means that I can't easily use a plugin right now to overcome some weaknesses in Photos. Maybe 2.0 will be better.

Now here's the other thing about Photos that I'm kind of annoyed about, but not surprised. iCloud plays a huge part in it. Having your photos in the cloud and easily viewable on all your iDevices, synching across all your Apple devices in near real time. It's pretty impressive. It's also not available for me. As an Android user who very much likes his Moto X I won't be able to do much more than load up the web version of Photos which may or may not have any editing tools. There is no Photos app for Android, and I would be very surprised if there will be one in the near future. Contrast that with Google and their Photos/Google+ Photos app which has all the same features on iOS and Android. Photos are stored in the cloud, and through the app are easily viewed and edited both on devices or in a web page. There is no real desktop app (Picasa is there, but I don't know how actively it's being developed these days) but there are ways to sync photos to the desktop. It's not as elegant as Apple's, but it's an extra step I'm ok with for not having to be locked into a software and hardware ecosystem.

So where does this leave me? First, if I haven't said it, this is just a preview of Photos. Some of the missing features might show up in the final version due to ship in the Spring with an OS X update. But if I'm being honest with myself I have little hope that some of the bigger things (brushes, ratings/organizing tools) will come back. At least not in 1.0. I have Lightroom, probably the most popular Aperture-like piece of software out there, but I really don't like opening it, never mind using it. Yes, part of that is because I am not totally familiar with it, but if I open a software product and don't like the way it looks, odds are I don't want to spend the time to figure out the way it works. So Aperture runs just fine on my computer today, and will continue to do so through the life of Yosemite, or so we've been told. I will probably end up forcing myself to open Lightroom up more and get more acquainted with it, as I don't see Photos 1.0 as a viable option moving forward.

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