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The hidden editing power of Photos for OS X

Jeff Carlson | Aug. 12, 2015
Photos for OS X is designed to appeal to a broad audience, with simple editing tools that let anyone improve their photographs. But is that it? Even though it's a 1.0 product (replacing iPhoto and Aperture), a lot of editing power is actually hidden beneath that user-friendly surface.

photos os x imac

Photos for OS X is designed to appeal to a broad audience, with simple editing tools that let anyone improve their photographs. But is that it? Even though it's a 1.0 product (replacing iPhoto and Aperture), a lot of editing power is actually hidden beneath that user-friendly surface.

For example, when you edit a photo and click the Adjust button, you're presented with sliders for improving light and color. Dragging a slider makes the image brighter or darker (Light), or more or less saturated (Color); you can also click the Auto button that appears when the mouse pointer moves over the tool. Clicking the down-facing arrow icon, however, exposes individual controls.

That's just the beginning.

Jump into editing

To access the editing view, normally you click the Edit button when viewing an image, but there's a better way: simply press the Return key. This shortcut also works in the Moments view when a photo is selected.

Shortcuts also go directly to specific tools, even if you're not yet in the editing view. Press C to open the Crop tool, F for filters, A for the Adjust tool, R for the Retouch tool, and E for the Red-eye tool. While you're editing, press the arrow keys to switch to the previous or next photo without leaving the editing view.

To compare your edits to the original version of the photo, press the M key for a quick before-and-after.

Choose which version to edit

If you shoot with your camera set to Raw+JPEG format (which records both a raw image and a high-resolution JPEG version), Photos treats the two separate images as one. However, the application defaults to editing the JPEG instead of the richer raw version.

To switch, open the photo in the editing view and choose Image > Use RAW as Original. (The option is disabled unless you're in the editing view.)

Add more adjustments

The Light, Color, and Black & White adjustments in the Adjust tool are just the most common adjustments. Several more are available by clicking the Add menu (see image below). I find having the Histogram visible to be helpful, for example. If you use some controls regularly, such as White Balance, choose Save As Default at the bottom of the Add menu; those adjustments will appear every time you edit a photo.

Photos add adjustments
Edit the photo using several adjustments that aren't immediately visible.

Extend edit ranges

A funny thing happened one day when I accidentally pressed the Option key while editing a photo: The tick marks on several of the adjustment controls moved.

 

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