photos

Photo Sorting and Pruning on iPhone

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately, and if you looked at my iPhone, you’d see a lot of photo bloat. You know what I mean, right? You take five pictures of people in one pose when you just need one. There is nothing wrong with that. Often it turns out to be picture number 2, 3, 4, or 5 that is the real keeper. The challenge is quickly getting rid of the non-keepers.

Flic Screenshot – Why so blurry? (Click to enlarge)

For a while now I’ve been using Flic for this. Flic is a straightforward iPhone app that displays photos from your photo library and lets you quickly keep or discard them. Swipe right to keep, swipe left to trash. The app is a great idea and an easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff as your sort through photos. On vacation, I would go through this app every evening and have a more-or-less pruned photo library on days where I took a lot of pictures. However, lately I’ve been unhappy with Flic. My problem is that its picture preview mode renders images a little blurry. In my haste to get through photos, I tend to forget this and more than once I found myself trashing good photos. 

So I started looking for a replacement and landed on an optimistically named app, Best Photos. This app isn’t quite as simple as Flic. With Best Photos, you can flick up and down between photos and tap a trash can or heart icon to either trash or favorite image. You can also compare two photos on the screen at once. Best Photos is more powerful than Flic but still generally allows you to sort through images quickly. Most importantly, its photo renders are much better than those in Flic so I can do a better job in assessing keepers, which was entirely the point.

Because Best Photos already has you using gestures to move between images, it would be nice if they added a gesture to Trash or Favorite photos, rather than tapping an icon. Nevertheless, Best Photos is a better experience overall for me particularly because of the way it renders the images. 

Best Photos Screenshot (Click to enlarge)

This problem could be solved in the Apple Photos app with a setting that turns off deletion confirmation, but I have to admit I'm not entirely certain I'd want deletion to be that easy.

The Photos Video Field Guide

Late last year I started outlining a new MacSparky Field Guide on photo management. It was one sweet outline and I'd even started writing words. Then I got my hands on the Photos beta and realized that Photos did something pretty remarkable. Photos manages large photo libraries loads better than iPhoto ever did and the iCloud Photo Library works far better than I ever expected. I started revising the "photo management" outline until I realized this was no longer a comparison of competing photo management services and instead an in-depth manual for Photos.

At that point I scrapped the outline and instead produced a Video Field Guide explaining how to get the most from Photos. After a few months of work, here it is.

The Photos Video Field Guide is a 2.5 hour screencast that teaches you how to install and use Apple's Photos Application and sync all of your photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone using iCloud Photo Storage. Managing your photos with multiple devices has, over the years, come to feel like chasing a mythical white whale. Not anymore. Photos delivers the goods and this screencast teaches you how.

Topics Include:

1. INITIAL SETUP

While Photos attempts to make your initial setup simple and easy, there can be complications. What if you have more than one existing photo libraries? What if you've got folders of photographs sprinkled all over your hard drive? All of these can be imported into Photos but you've got to know the ropes. This video screencast shows you all tricks to run Photos on your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Photos also can use iCloud Photo Library to make sharing photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone easier than anyone ever thought possible. The Video Field Guide walks you through the initial iCloud setup, including advice on which cloud storage to use and how to get the initial upload of your photo library done with as little pain and suffering as possible.

2. PHOTO MANAGEMENT

Photos uses an intuitive organizational structure that lets you see your pictures grouped by years, collections, moments, and individual photos. This Video Field Guide shows you exactly how it works and sprinkles in several power tricks to make managing your library even easier. Once you've sorted that out, Photos also has options to create custom and smart albums, where the program seeks out photos for you pursuant to your instruction.

Photos also has specialized libraries that can identify the faces of your family and friends. You can even search you library so if someone says, "Hey! Quick! Find me that picture of Uncle Ralph from April 2007 wearing that ballerina tutu!", you can deliver the goods. This stuff sounds complicated. It's not. By the time you get to the end of this video, you'll be able to embarrass Uncle Ralph in no time flat.

3. PHOTO EDITING

Photos also has a surprisingly large toolset to make your photos better. You can do simple edits, like cropping and rotating, but you can also make complex adjustments to color and light. On the Mac there are even more tools including a histogram, sharpening, definition, noise reduction, vignette and level adjustments. If all of this sounds like greek to you now, that's okay. After watching the video it won't.

The video also explains Photos built in filters and how they can be an excellent jumping off point for making your photos look great. It also covers has the semi-magical "enhance" button. If that's not enough, there are workflows to get your photos out of the Photos app and into an external editor for further work on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

4. PHOTO SHARING

With the new Photos app, there are many ways to share your images with friends and family from something as simple as an email to full-blown shared iCloud albums. This section of the video covers all of the sharing options from the Mac and iOS. The Photos Video Field Guide also demonstrates how to make books, calendars, and cards from the Photos application on the Mac.

5. VIDEO

Believe it or not, Photos can manage your video files too. This section covers the best practices for managing video files in Photos and its limited editing capabilities.

6. BACKUP

No photo management system is complete without a thorough backup system. The Photos Video Field Guide concludes explaining backup strategies and techniques. This section also demonstrates how to export images from Photos for additional backup.

The screencast is two and a half hours and fully bookmarked. You can buy it now for $9.99.

Did you ask for a sample video? I thought so. Here you go.


Photo Management and the Mac

For so long, photo management between our Macs and iOS devices has felt like the mythical white whale. We are all taking more pictures than ever and at the same time using multiple devices, making photo management a nightmare. It didn't help that iPhoto and Aperture lingered, feeling like relics of a bygone era and every independent company that tries to come up with an innovate web-based solution seems to fold up before it gets any momentum.

However, at WWDC in 2014, Apple promised they are taking photos to the cloud and they really get it this time. They even explained they were working on a new photos app for the Mac, called, appropriately, Photos that would let us seamlessly work between devices. 

Then there was silence.

In fact, there was so much silence that I began to wonder if there was a problem. Today, the most recent developer build of Yosemite showed up with the Photos app for Mac, ready for testing. I'm so eager to see this work (and so tired of iPhoto) that I loaded it up and, after making appropriate backups, pressed the button to move my iPhoto library into Photos. I'm not going to go into great detail about it. Others have. I will say however, that the app feels pretty good for a beta and already runs much faster on my Mac than iPhoto ever did with the exact same library.

Am I feeling a glimmer of hope?

There is going to a public beta at some point and nobody outside of Cupertino has tested it enough yet to really render judgment but right now it feels like Apple has a contender for solving the photo problem.