Tags ‘Photos’

Feature Request: iCloud Photo Library needs a purge downloads button Ă  la Google Photos

iCloud Photo Library Photos Mac 16-9

I’ve been all in on iCloud Photo Library since Apple replaced iPhoto with the new Photos app on the Mac last year and I haven’t looked back since. I pay $2.99/month to sync my 13,206 photos and 1,087 videos (plus iOS device backups) with iCloud, and this allows me to take or save photos and videos from any device and have them appear across the others including the web, edits, albums, and all. I even have a system to help ensure to if something in the cloud gets hosed that everything will be fine at home (and if the house burns down hopefully the cloud is still there).

This also enables me to access my 155 GB photos library in the Photos apps on iPhones and iPads that otherwise couldn’t fit that much content. Thumbnail previews are available at all times, and full resolution versions download on the fly as needed. When you’re iPhone, iPad, or Mac needs more local storage, Photos can remove full-res images and downloaded videos to make more space using an optimize storage option. This works pretty well especially on higher capacity devices, but there’s one problem…

Photo and video purging happens automatically as needed with iOS and OS X deciding when the time is right, but it’s not perfect at knowing. Google Photos (which is free but uses its own app) takes a different approach by putting a great big button in the settings section that lets you free up storage on the spot by purging downloads that are already in the cloud.

iOS lets you remove all downloaded songs and movies from the Music and Videos apps, but there’s no similar action for manually removing downloaded photos and videos from the Photos app in a single step.

Here’s a real world scenario where that’s a problem and a button like Google’s would come in handy. My iPhone is 128GB and my iPad has 32GB of storage. The iPhone’s a better video camera with 4K capture, but the iPads a better video editor with a larger display and faster processor.

While I was away from reliable Wi-Fi last week at CES, I tried AirDropping a short 4K video from my iPhone to the iPad to edit it with iMovie, but the file transfer failed with an insufficient storage warning. Photos was the single app taking up the most amount of space even with optimize storage turned on because there were local downloads lingering around, and iOS didn’t know to purge them and make room for the AirDropped video.

iCloud Photo Library iPad

Every single photo and video stored locally on the iPad was already synced to iCloud and saved locally at home on my Mac, so the solution was to fully disable iCloud Photo Library on the iPad to remove those large files. Okay, nothing lost but time. Once I was back home on reliable Wi-Fi, I just had to re-enable iCloud Photo Library on my iPad to continue having access to the photos and videos that I shoot on my iPhone but with a much larger display.

I could switch to alternative solutions that bring me to the same place, but I really like Photos and iCloud Photo Library and just want to see this one tiny feature added to improve the experience. The solution here is a pretty easy fix and one I hope we see with iOS 10 and OS X 10.12 later this year.

If you’re a Photos user or iCloud Photo Library user, are there any simple features you’d like to see added as well? As ever, let us know in the comments!

Filed under: Feature Request, iOS Tagged: Apple, google+ photos, iCloud Photo Library, iPad, iPhone, Mac, photos

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Zac Hall

January 15th



How-To: Setup Photos and iCloud Photo Library with external storage + Time Machine backups

iCloud Photo Library Photos Mac 16-9

Over the weekend a good friend of mine shared a screenshot of a really scary error message from Photos for Mac. Every photo and video taken over the last two weeks failed to open, saying instead that ‘An error occurred while downloading a larger version of this video for editing.’ The solution? ‘Please try again later.’ and press OK. What’s worse is he was relying on the app’s Optimize Mac Storage setting to fit the library on his local storage and trusting iCloud not to screw things up along the way. And he didn’t have local copies backed up, a mistake he for obvious reasons regretted.

Stories like these aren’t rare, which is why my colleague Jeremy wrote earlier this year that “iCloud Photo Library still isn’t worth the hassles,” despite Apple lowering iCloud storage costs. But I still recommend Photos and iCloud Photo Library, new features that topped my “favorite new Apple things from 2015 that will last for years” list, just not with the default setup. As with any cloud service, the one major caveat is ensure you have a reliable local backup (followed by plenty of patience at the start).

While there’s no turning back data loss, I shared my personal Photos plus iCloud Photo Library setup with my friend, which he’s moving to now for a hopefully better experience. Below I’ll detail each step, which required a little research before I figured it all out, so you can hopefully have a positive experience with Photos and iCloud Photo Library as well.

iCloud Photo Library Benefits

First, let’s discuss the benefits of even bothering with Photos and iCloud Photo Library. Using iCloud Photo Library lets you shoot or import photos and videos from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or the web and have them all go to a single library that you manage.

Delete a photo or video from any signed-in device and it goes to a trash folder for 40 days and can be recovered from any device before it’s fully deleted. Edit a photo’s color or light or crop it and apply a filter and the changes appear everywhere and can be reversed.

Create an album from any signed-in device and it appears everywhere else without syncing with iTunes. Select the heart icon on any photo or video and it appears in a Favorites album on all your devices.

iCloud Photo Library

This is how I find the 200 photos that I really like the most out of 13,000 that I’ve taken over the years, which comes in handy when it’s time to make a Christmas calendar at the end of the year.

Finally, iCloud Photo Library (with a subscription to a proper storage tier) lets you access huge sets of photos and videos from iPhones and iPads (and Macs) which would otherwise have too low storage. Using the ‘Optimize Storage’ option lets you see thumbnails of your whole library and selectively download only the photos and videos you open.

My iPhone 6s Plus is 128GB and it can’t comfortably store my photo library plus apps and offline music; even using the free Photo Stream feature on a 16GB iPad Air meant installing very few apps to accommodate the storage needs. Turn on iCloud Photo Library and you may still see the occasional low storage warning, but Photos will respond in the background by removing full images and videos stored in iCloud to free up space.

iCloud Photo Library Risks


But any number of things could go wrong with iCloud Photo Library or your iCloud account in general. So I do not recommend using Photos and iCloud Photo Library with Optimize Storage turned on anywhere without a Mac using the Download Originals option somewhere.

The problem is your Mac may not have enough internal storage to hold your entire photo library either, but Photos on OS X lets move your Photos library from the default Photos folder to cheaper and higher capacity external storage with little work.

But even with photos and videos downloaded locally either internally or externally, it’s possible something could go wrong with iCloud Photo Library and even your local files could get hosed in the process. OS X features a system backup tool called Time Machine that “automatically makes hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. The oldest backups are deleted when your backup drive is full.”

By default, external drives are excluded, but you can easily change this in the Time Machine settings within System Preferences.

Having at least one Mac with Photos setup to download original photos and videos that backup to Time Machine greatly minimizes the risk that something will get hosed in iCloud Photo Library. (I understand not using the service if you have a bad experience somewhere else along the way, but these steps should help iCloud Photo Library work for you.)

My Setup

Here’s exactly what I use plus recommendations:

The Mac is always on and regularly syncs and downloads my iCloud Photo Library to Photos even when the app is closed. I upgraded the slow hard disk drive that came with my Mac for a faster solid state drive (guide here), sacrificing storage for speed.

I keep a larger external drive connected over USB 3 which works fine, although a faster Thunderbolt drive will eventually replace that for me. Apple’s AirPort Extreme is pricey but I use Apple’s AirPort Utility app enough that it’s worth it for me, plus I connect a larger external drive to it to hold all my Mac’s Time Machine backups.

Finally, Apple’s $3.99/month plan gives me 200GB of iCloud storage and I’ve got about 80GB free so there’s room to grow for me. Your specific needs will vary, but you should get the general idea.


Once you’ve got all the pieces in place, there are a few settings that differ from the defaults you’ll want to know about. If you’re Photos library won’t fit on your internal drive, you can move it from the Pictures folder in Finder to your connected external drive.


The trick here is to remember to set the new location as your system library in the Preferences for Photos. Only the System Photo Library can sync with iCloud Photo Library, although you can create additional libraries stored internally or externally that backup if you have the need.


The Download Originals to this Mac option in the Preferences for Photos should be checked on for the whole process to ensure this is the true version of your photo collection. This means your photos and videos are fully saved locally and not relying on iCloud for access.

Time Machine

Next, if you’re responsibly using Time Machine backups, keep in mind that the default system setting is to ignore external drives. You can change this in the System Preferences app under Time Machine > Options > Select drive > click – (minus) > Save. This step is key and took some initial Googling on my part when I first had the thought to go this route.


Knowing I have my whole iCloud Photo Library saved locally and backed up with my desktop Mac allows me to use the Optimize Storage option on my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad, giving me full access to my photos and videos regardless of local without worrying about losing data.

Additionally, you could add online backup with services like Backblaze or CrashPlan for added peace of mind (just check how external drives are handled). If you’re Mac and external hard drives are stolen or destroyed in a fire, you’re back to relying on iCloud alone to recover your photo library. Budgets and bandwidths will vary, obviously, so consider this piece a non-essential add-on to the equation.

Photos iMac

For me, I consider external storage and Time Machine backups essential to using iCloud Photo Library with Photos. No matter how good iCloud got at being a reliable cloud service, it’s solely my responsibility to ensure that my personal photo collection of my daughter growing up doesn’t disappear one day.

Have you own Photos and iCloud Photo Library setup that you trust? Let us know in the comments.

Filed under: How-To, iOS, Mac Tagged: iCloud Photo Library, iPad, iPhone, Mac, photos, Time Machine

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Zac Hall

December 15th



Google Photos free space saver feature + Shared Albums arrive on iOS

Google Photos iOS

A few weeks ago Google unveiled a new space saver feature for its Photos app on Android, and this week the best feature 16GB iPhones and iPads could wish for is now available on iOS. Google Photos has also added Shared Albums across iOS, Android, and the web, which makes sending pictures and videos you capture to friends and family super easy.

Google Photos already lets you upload high-resolution versions of your personal photo library to the cloud at absolutely no cost, or full-resolution versions with 15GB of cloud storage or upgraded paid storage. And Google Photos lets you access your photo library through apps on Android, iOS, and the web without taking up all your local storage. But a new feature now available in the iOS version lets you actively tell Google Photos when you’re running low on storage or just want to free up some space by pressing a button that offloads the photos already uploaded to the cloud from your device and only keeping ones downloaded that still need to upload. The button is located within the settings section of the app.

Apple’s paid iCloud Photo Library similarly offers an option for optimizing free storage which is useful on devices of any capacity especially 16GB and 32GB models with large libraries, but Apple only gives away 5GB for free then requires 99Âą to $9.99 for 50GB to 1TB of cloud storage. Apple’s version also works automatically in the background, but this creates a more ambiguous experience as you could still have a large library taken up with local photos that only the system can decide to offload.

The latest version of Google Photos on iOS also includes a feature unveiled in September that was promised to roll out by the end of the year: Shared Albums. This feature allows you to invite friends and family to view and optionally contribute to albums you create in Google Photos. Shared Albums can be created right from collections you already create for yourself in Google Photos, and inviting people to join works across platforms including iOS, Android, and the web. Once an invited contact accepts your offer to join, you can even allow them to add their own shots to the Shared Album and new alerts let everyone know when new photos and videos are added.

Apple’s free iCloud Photo Sharing feature works similar by letting you and others share photos and videos between iOS devices and Macs, and albums can be viewed on the web as well, but Google Photos works across Android as well and integrates right with the standard album system.

Update to the latest version of Google Photos for iOS from the App Store to take advantage of the new space saver feature and Shared Albums. Shared Albums also came to Android and the web with the latest update this week.


Filed under: Apps Tagged: Android, free, free space, google+ photos, iCloud Photo Library, iOS, photos, Shared Albums, space saver, videos, web

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Zac Hall

December 11th



Opinion: My two favorite new Apple things from 2015 that will last for years

Spoiler: I like these, but they're not my picks

Spoiler: I like these, but they’re not my picks

2015 proved to be a gigantic year for Apple in terms of shipping totally new products and seeing services go live for the first time. Apple Watch is a brand new category for the iPhone maker, the new Apple TV delivers on long-awaited update to the streaming box, and iPad Pro is every bit the giant tablet that was rumored for so long. My two absolute favorite new things from Apple this year, however, aren’t new hardware products but instead two services that have been criticized but have made a meaningful difference in my everyday life…

The first is the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library. I stuck with iPhoto for far too long, but the photo management app and the old iLife suite was easily one of the most compelling parts of owning a Mac for me during iPhoto’s prime. I developed a workflow for capturing photos, sorting them all out, and keeping them around between the iPhone and iPhoto, and I didn’t want to let go of that workflow even when Apple announced in 2014 that iPhoto was dead and Photos for Mac would eventually replace it. I’d take a month’s worth of photos and videos on my iPhone, dump them into iPhoto and create an event called MONTH YEAR, then sync the library back to my iPhone. This meant having the highest capacity iPhone available and not syncing videos back, but it generally worked for me right up to Photos and iCloud Photo Library’s launch toward the start of this year.

iCloud Photo Library Photos Mac 16-9

Enter Photos for Mac and iCloud Photo Library. The migration process was basically Apple saying “push this button and trust us” which didn’t work out well for everyone, and my roughly 10,000 photo and 500 video library took over a week to upload to iCloud on my mediocre broadband connection, but eventually everything got sorted out in the right place and I haven’t looked back since. I no longer worry about manually organizing my library by month and year as Photos has far superior time-based organization than iPhoto did, and iCloud Photo Library lets me have access to all those videos too that were previously only accessible from my Mac.

Photos and iCloud Photo Library also lets me edit photos from any device and see those changes everywhere else, delete photos from anywhere and have my library update, and access my 13,000 photos and 1,000 videos and counting from 16GB iPads. Albums also sync across devices without having to sync with iTunes on the Mac, which has been huge for me. Over the weekend, I sat down to make a couple 2016 calendars in Photos for Mac using family photos for grandparents as Christmas gifts. I’d been tapping the heart to favorite the best photos taken throughout the year so I had a nice bucket of about 150 photos to choose from with the Favorites album which made the process much easier than in past years.

There’s still a lot I’d like to see from Photos and iCloud Photo Library, like real support on the new Apple TV, syncing Faces and Google Photos-like search, and access to Projects like calendar, card, and book creation from iPhones and iPads and across different Macs, but year one of Photos and iCloud has been a grand slam for me personally. I’ve seen horror stories of how iCloud Photo Library has been a nightmare for some people, but I’ve been fortunate not to have any major hiccups past the initial, lengthy upload process.

In fact, iCloud Photo Library and Photos for Mac saved my summer vacation photos back in July. My iPhone was off Wi-Fi for several days and not backing up to iCloud when the software had to be erased for one reason or another. Although my iPhone hadn’t been backing up everything, iCloud Photo Library was sucking up my Disney World family photos and downloading them back on my Mac hundreds of miles away. Exactly what I wanted.

And for my number two pick for favorite new Apple thing of 2015: Apple Music, but not on its own. Beats Music was totally fine and worked really well for me. Apple Music is in more places like iTunes and CarPlay and works with Siri, but it’s Apple Music paired with Family Sharing that makes it something special to me.

Apple Music

$10/month for a single membership, or $15/month for up to six memberships means for $5 more each month I can share access to Apple’s catalog of music with people in my family that only buy a few albums on iTunes, never buy digital music but have years of physical media, or just settle for what plays on the radio.

Apple’s clever here, too, because where I could see myself starting and stopping a Music subscription on my own, I’d be in trouble (or at least disappointed) if my family lost access to their newly made music libraries and playlists.

Family Sharing on its own lets you share paid apps and iTunes media purchases, but it’s still sort of technical to access these without being shown. Apple Music through Family Sharing is generally very easy to use, however, aside from a few road bumps during setup you may experience.

There are other new Apple things that I really appreciate this year. Apple’s Podcasts app got a lot better in iOS 9, just as my previous favorite podcasts app Instacast was discontinued. I’m still happy with my Apple Watch for the most part, and I’m increasingly impressed with what I can comfortably do with the iPad Pro (like write this piece on Wordpres through Safari while watching Tweetbot streaming in a column), but Photos + iCloud Photo Library and Apple Music with Family Sharing are two new Apple things from 2015 that I would not want to trade or replace.

How about you? What’s your favorite new Apple thing and why? Let us know in the comments, and vote in our poll for new products and peripherals too.

Filed under: Opinion Tagged: 2015, Apple, Apple Music, best of, iCloud Photo Library, iOS, photos

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Zac Hall

December 7th



How-To: Go beyond OS X Photos + make amazing wall art from your Mac’s pictures (Part 4)


Several months ago, I wrote a three-part guide to making amazing wall art from your Mac’s photos (part 1, part 2, part 3) — a popular series that readers told me they’d really enjoyed. The premise: as photography has gone digital, most of the pictures we take have become trapped on our computers, rarely seeing the light of day. Turning your favorite photos into large-format wall art is a great way to decorate your home or office, and with the recent introduction of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, higher-resolution photos and ultra-high-res panoramas are possible, increasing the image quality of even your everyday snaps.

Even though Apple’s OS X Photos app focuses on making small prints, photo books, and calendars, there are some great third-party photo-to-wall art services out there. Previously, I looked at how to turn your photos into large-sized metal, acrylic, and canvas wall art. This brand new part 4 explores three additional services, looking for the first time at photo prints on wood, as well as spotlighting several nice variations on prior themes…


Turn Your Photos Into Wood Prints

After looking at other materials in prior parts of this guide, the one I really wanted to see for myself was printing on wood — a process that can either create a rustic, earthy look, or have a less prominent texture, depending on your preferences. To test wood prints, I looked at two well-respected photo printing services: Bay Photo and Shutterfly, two of the biggest names in wall art-sized photo printing.


Bay Photo offers two different ways to submit photos and order products. Its free Bay ROES app (shown below, and recently updated for El Capitan) handles everything, while a web-based interface can be used for basic prints, including the Maple Wood Prints ($22 for 5″ x 5″ to $875 for 48″ x 96″) tested here. The web app is extremely straightforward, and I was able to upload my photo, choose mounting/hanging options, and place an order very rapidly.

photogiftguide-20 Original Image photogiftguide-21

Bay offers the choice between either a “natural” or a “white” finish. Just to see what it was like, I went with the white finish, which reduces the amount of visible wood grain to make colors pop more. The result — using a photo I post-processed with MacPhun’s Intensify CK — was impressively color-accurate to the deliberately dreamy image I uploaded, and looked like a painting on wood, which I really liked. As suggested, the choice of a white front finish did noticeably reduce the amount of obvious wood grain in the print, which will suit some images (like the one above) better than others. And while the nail/screwholes-in-planks mounting solution isn’t fancy, it works.


As a contrast, Shutterfly’s Upload Your Own Design Wood Wall Art ($90 for 8″ x 10″, $400 for 24″ x 36″) comes only in a natural grain option that really lets the wood texture shine through. Shutterfly uses a very straightforward web-based interface for uploading and previewing photos, which really turns out to be important with a natural grain wood print: without a white initial layer, color saturation is going to be muted, so Shutterfly lets you tweak the image against a grain preview so you’ll know what to expect.

holidayphotox Original Image photogiftguide-11

I started with a countryside castle photo, and based on Shutterfly’s previewing tool, felt that a little extra color saturation would be necessary to create contrast with the wood texture. While there are obvious differences between the original image and the finished print, the web preview gave me a very good idea of what to expect. The finished wood print had the natural wood look I’d wanted to see, plenty of detail, and a faded, rustic look that was only a little less color-intense than the web preview. It’s worth noting that while Shutterfly’s wood art prices look higher than Bay Photos, they’re offset by substantial coupon codes such as BUYMORE, which knock them down by up to 50%.


A New Twist On Metal Photo Printing

I’ve tested a bunch of compelling metal photo printing alternatives this year, and have generally been blown away by the results: particularly with a nice front finish, aluminum prints can look really stunning, rich in both color and detail. From a framing perspective, the most distinctive option I’ve seen is Bay Photo’s Double Float ($33.60 for 6″ x 8″ to $582 for 28″ x 40″). Standard metal printing is done on a single sheet of aluminum, but Double Float actually joins two layers of metal together to create a three-dimensional picture frame.


Because of the complexity of the layout process for a Double Float print, Bay requires you to use the Bay ROES app, which was recently updated for the latest version of OS X. While the app could use a little additional streamlining, it works very well to let you set up the top and bottom layers of your print, choosing crops and alignment. You can select from five different surface treatments (High Gloss, Mid-Gloss, Satin, Sheer Glossy or Sheer Matte), and either use the same image and treatment for both layers, or go with two images and treatments.

photogiftguide-6 Original Image photogiftguide-12

The sample Double Float print I made had deep blacks, excellent detail, and substantially accurate colors. Some of the dark shading nuances were lost in the bottom of the photo, but made up for by the rich, inky blacks, which really made the image compelling in person. Technically, I was very pleased by how this print’s alignment turned out — it was hard to be sure it would be perfect in 3D even after setting everything up the Bay ROES app — and the foam float mount between the surfaces provided a gentle but noticeable separation between the layers. If you’re looking for a way to add extra impact to a metal print, Double Float is a great choice.

A User-Friendly Canvas Wall Art Service

As its name suggests, CanvasPop specializes in printing photos on canvas — a process commonly known in the art world as giclĂ©e — and does a very good job, very quickly. The uploading and layout process is entirely web-based, and designed to be ultra-simple, so anyone can submit a print. Interestingly, CanvasPop keeps a chat window on screen to offer help instantly with the setup process, and prominently offers coupons that chop a significant percentage off of the official prices. (Before coupons, pricing starts at $37 for a 10″ by 10″ canvas, climbing to $422 for a gigantic 76″ by 38″ canvas with a wood frame.)


I was thrilled by the print quality on this rendition of my youngest daughter, which took a 22-Megapixel image up to a 20″ by 30″ size while accurately preserving both detail and colors; the original image had a warm yellow color temperature which the canvas print accurately replicated, even though my snapshots of the canvas doesn’t do the color matching justice. On the other hand, the image was cropped a little on the top and bottom, not enough to change the focus of the image, but enough that people looking for edge-to-edge reproduction should request CanvasPop’s (free) proofs to confirm the print will be exactly as expected.

photogiftguide-16 Original Image photogiftguide-17

While there are several frame and edge options — variable depths up to 2.5″ thick and your choice of colors or wood frames — mounting is simple. Given the canvas’s comparatively light weight, the included, pre-installed edge-to-edge rear wire works perfectly as a mounting solution. You can also choose three-canvas triptychs if you want to spread an image across multiple canvases, a premium-priced feature which can work extremely well with landscapes and panoramas.


Two Distinctive Acrylic Printing Options

The concept behind acrylic printing is much like the trick Apple used with the original iPod: use a thick layer of perfectly clear plastic to enhance the depth and “pop” of whatever’s below it. With acrylic photo prints, you can either use a large-sized basic photo printed on paper, or go with something more significant behind the plastic. As was the case with the wood prints above, I tested both Bay Photo and Shutterfly for this, as they’re heavy hitters with great options. The image above is Shutterfly’s Photo Gallery Acrylic Print ($70 for 8″ x 10″, $250 for 24″ x 36″), produced using the previously-mentioned web interface.

photogiftguide-19 Original Image photogiftguide-13

Even though Shutterfly’s Acrylic Print wasn’t as heavy as Bay’s version due to a difference in the backing materials I selected, the quality and impact were both stunning. The print arrived with optimized, intense colors and stainless steel mounting posts in the corners. Beyond nailing the colors and details of the original photo, the print really benefits from the gallery-quality look of the metal mounts, and the depth of the thick clear plastic front surface. This particular shot illustrates the power that a vanishing point-style photo can have to really draw you in when blown up to a large size.

The Bay version I tested is the Face-Mounted Acrylic Print ($19 for 4″ x 4″, $1,492 for 43″ x 96″), shown here with 1/4″ thick acrylic and a French Cleat mount. Most of the original images shown here were used without modification, but I used Bay’s web-based uploading tool to crop the photo a little, and the finished print was perfectly cropped and aligned as shown in the preview.

photogiftguide-22 Original Image photogiftguide-14

Beyond doing a great job of representing the original photo’s color and detail — again, the original image and print have a natural yellow warmth that snapshots don’t reproduce well —  Bay’s version really rocked in the depth department. Due to both the thick clear acrylic face and a more deluxe DiBond backing that sandwiches supporting pieces of metal behind the print, the Face-Mounted Acrylic Print was one of the most substantial-feeling and nicely mounted photo prints I’ve tested. If you’re going to turn one of your prints into something you hope to sell, Bay’s treatment has the heft that you’d expect from something with a premium price. You can choose the option that’s best for your budget and personal needs.

More From This Author

Check out more of my How-To guides and reviews for 9to5Mac here! My prior guides to turning digital photos into beautiful wall art (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) have been big hits with readers, and I’ve covered a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users.

Filed under: How-To, iOS, iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: acrylic, Aperture, Bay Photo, CanvasPop, IPhoto, Mac, metal prints, OS X, photo printing, photos, Shutterfly, wall art, wood prints

For more news on iOS Devices, iOS, and Mac continue reading at 9to5Mac.

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Jeremy Horwitz

November 5th



Flickr iOS app updated with 3D Touch for quick actions, comparing photos & more


The Flickr iOS app has been update with support for 3D Touch on the latest iPhones. You can now upload a photo, view your feed, check notifications or carry out a Spotlight search right from the Home screen. Spotlight lets you search for albums, groups or recently-viewed photos.

The app also has a handy new 3D Touch feature within the app for deciding which photo to share from a selection … 

In your camera roll, we’ve added something unique to help you find your best shot. Press a photo to preview, then move your finger left/right to quickly page through neighboring photos. Once you’ve found your favorite, press harder to Pop full-screen.

Shared links now also open directly in the Flickr app, rather than Safari.

We’ve seen 3D Touch support added to a number of apps recently, including Apple’s own iWork suite, Skype, Snapchat and Evernote.

Flickr is a free download from iTunes. With the site offering 1TB of free storage and an auto-upload facility, it makes a handy alternative (or backup) to iCloud.

Filed under: Apps Tagged: Camera, Flickr, photos, Photostream

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Ben Lovejoy

November 5th



Pixelmator for OS X updated with Photos app extension, Split View support and San Francisco UI

3. Pixelmator Photos Extension Retouching

Following the corresponding update to Pixelmator for iOS 9, the company has released the latest version of Pixelmator for the Mac ($29.99) with full support for El Capitan. This includes compatibility with changes to the OS as well as an overhaul in the Pixelmator user interface to feature San Fransisco, Apple’s new system font. The update, version 3.4, also includes official full-screen Split View support on El Capitan, so users can dock Pixelmator next to any other app on the system filling the display.

Perhaps most interestingly, the app now includes a Photos.app editing extension …

The extension does not add all of the Pixelmator feature set inside the Photos app, instead focusing on the Distort tools. Backed by a Metal rendering engine, users can swirl, twist, pinch and warp their images without leaving the Photos editing UI. After installing the update, the extension just appears alongside the other edit panels in Photos for quick access. There’s even a Reduce tool to selectively undo any warping edits.

Unfortunately, there’s still no easy way to open an image from within Photos into a fully-fledged Pixelmator edit window but the onus to implement this is heavily on the side of Apple, not third-party developers.

2. Pixelmator and Split View

To top it off, the update also includes enhanced integration with the pressure-sensitive Force Touch APIs on OS X   to make painting even smoother on supported Macs, including desktop Macs using the new Magic Trackpad 2. The update should also address many of the crashes users experienced with the app when updating to OS X El Capitan.

As always, the update is free for existing users. New Mac users interested in advanced photo-editing can buy Pixelmator from the Mac App Store for $29.99. You can also buy Pixelmator for iPhone and iPad ($4.99) and have all your projects sync through iCloud across all your devices.

Filed under: Apps, iOS, iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: image editor, OS X, photo editor, photos, Pixelmator, pixelmatr

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Benjamin Mayo

October 15th



How-To: Make the most of Lightroom to streamline your photo editing & cataloging


When Apple ceased development of Aperture, a lot of serious photographers were very unhappy about Apple’s attempt to palm them off with Photos instead. Many headed instead to Lightroom, the photo cataloging and editing app Adobe created from the ground up specifically for photographers.

If you’re new to Lightroom, our review covers the process of converting from Aperture – everything from importing your existing photo libraries to where to find equivalent features. This piece is about getting the most out of Lightroom – especially when it comes to speeding up your workflow – via some recommended tweaks and tips.

Let’s start with my recommended settings … 

Recommended settings

When viewing and editing photos, you obviously want to view them at the largest size possible. OS X of course offers a full-screen mode, but Lightroom has a built-in one that I prefer as it doesn’t waste any space with the bar containing the close/minimize/expand buttons.

You’ll find this in Window > Screen Mode > Full Screen. With this setting, the menu bar only appears when you move the pointer to the top, but you can choose to keep the menu bar visible if you prefer.


Next, we come to what I personally consider the single most important Lightroom setting for anyone who shoots in RAW format rather than JPG: XMP files.

Lightroom offers non-destructive editing. That is, you can walk back any changes you make to a photo at any point in the future, be it seconds or months later. That’s great, but by default, the log of all the changes needed to walk them back is stored in the Lightroom catalog (or library) itself. If the catalog gets corrupted, that’s your edits gone. If you reimport the photos on another Mac, that’s your edits gone. So Adobe offers an alternative, known as XMP files.

If you go to Preferences > Catalog Settings and check ‘Automatically write changes into XMP,’ then Lightroom writes the change log into a separate file stored with the photo. This only works with photos shot in RAW format, like Nikon’s .nef format.


These files have the same filename as the photo, but with a .xmp extension.


If you reimport the photos, Lightroom checks for the presence of a corresponding XMP file and reapplies all the edits. As well as offering peace of mind, this is a really handy feature if you want to import the same photo into more than one catalog. Which brings me to a key decision you need to make …

Single or multiple catalogs?

You can, if you wish, have a single Lightroom catalog for all your photos. At the other extreme, you could have a separate catalog for every shoot – an approach taken by some professional photographers. There are pros & cons to both approaches, and I suggest most people will want to pick an option somewhere between the two.

A single catalog, containing every single photo you’ve ever taken, offers one key benefit: universal search. Provided that you keyword your photos (a topic I’ll come to shortly), you could, for example, search for all photos of your partner. Or all photos taken in New York. Or – if you keyword with the care of a stock photographer – all photos of a model wearing a green dress and using an iPhone.

The downside is that a single catalog soon gets rather unwieldy. If you have a modest number of catalogs, most of us will know which of them contains a particular photo, and you can always import the photo into more than one catalog if desired. Here’s what I do: a small selection of catalogs where it’s obvious where to find a photo. If I’m looking for a photo of The Bean in Chicago, it’s going to be in Travel. If I’m looking for a photo of a dancer, well, you get the idea.


So, my view is: if you’re a stock photographer, and never know what a client might ask for, consider a single master catalog. If you’re a wedding photographer, have one catalog per wedding. Everyone else will probably be best using a small number of separate catalogs.

Importing and keywording photos

I mentioned searching for photos by keyword. It’s an enormous help to keyword your photos. For example, in this case I wanted to find my favorite photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. I selected five-stars and put ‘golden gate’ into the text field, and Lightroom instantly shows my two 5-star rated photos of the bridge.


The secret to keywording is to do it when you import photos. In this way, and with some thought given to when you import, you can automate much of it. For example, if we zoom in on the keywords here:


I was importing a whole bunch of photos shot in San Francisco, so all the keywords bar ‘Golden Gate bridge’ and ‘travel slideshow’ were entered once, and automatically applied to all the photos during the import. You’ll find this option top-right in the Import panel (you may need to open the panel):


All I had to do afterwards was add a few keywords to individual photos here and there.

You’ll notice an additional option here in the form of ‘Develop Settings.’ Very occasionally, you may want to apply a Develop preset (for example, high-contrast black-and-white) to all the photos in a particular shoot. If you do, you can choose it from the dropdown here and then it’s automatically applied during import.

Initial cull & file-naming

It’s been said that the difference between a good photographer and a bad photographer is the number of photos they take. A good photographer shoots sparingly, because they know what they want to achieve, and know how to achieve it. A bad photographer takes a ‘spray and pray’ approach.

I tend to agree, but at the same time, you don’t always know in advance which will be the best shot. For example, I’m a huge fan of the ‘blue hour’ – that time around 30-45 minutes after sunset when the sky has a blue glow and there’s just a touch of color remaining from the remnants of the sunset.


But sometimes the glow doesn’t happen – if it’s too cloudy, for example – and it could start raining between the sunset and the best blue hour moment. So I’ll take a photo every 5-10 minutes as the sun sets, so I have some banked shots just in case. In the above case, though it did get cloudy, the moody sky was rather lovely, so I kept that shot and deleted the previous ones.

This is part of my personal philosophy for photography: I want one photo per scene, not a whole bunch of similars. My one exception to this rule is when deliberately shooting a series of related photos. For example, one time when I was in DC I arranged to meet up with a local dancer to shoot some sunrise photos at the reflecting pool.


So, you need an efficient system for culling photos – deleting the ones you don’t want, leaving you with the best. To use my system, you’ll need to make one more setting change: in the Photo menu, check Auto Advance.


So, import your photos, go to the Library tab and double-click the first photo to view it. What I then do is apply a numeric rating to each photo. I won’t bore you with the historical reasons for me using 0, 1, 3 and 5 instead of 0, 1, 2 and 3, but it’s habit now so I stick to it.

As you view the photo, press a number key. My system is:

0 – Delete
1 – Probably delete
3 – Probably keep
5 – Probably a favorite

I say ‘probably’ because you’ll likely need to do more than one pass to be sure. For example, you may think a photo is a keeper until you come to a better version. I am very sparing with 5s, for reasons I’ll get to.

As soon as you press a number key, the auto advance setting means it will immediately move to the next photo. So rating each photo is a very quick and easy process. Once I’ve done my first pass, the first thing I do is actually delete the zeroes. To do this, click the Attribute setting at the top to open up this panel:


Set the <=> symbol to =, and then set all the stars to off (you may need to select 1 star and then select it again to toggle it off). Lightroom will now display all the photos you rated zero. Do a quick scan to double-check, then CMD-A to select all and backspace to delete. Lightroom will ask you whether you merely want to remove the photo from the catalog, or delete the file. I’m ruthless, so I delete the file – make your own choice here.

Next, I select all the 1 stars. These are the photos I think I’ll probably delete, but wanted to check that I had better alternatives. What I do here is run through them again, this time rating them as 0 or 3, to delete or keep. Repeat the above step afterwards to delete all the zeroes.

Now I have the photos I want to keep, with my favorites labelled. I now rename the files sequentially. CMD-A to select all, then fn-F2 to rename. I have renaming presets for 1-, 2- and 3-digit filenames, depending on how many photos I’m keeping.



Now I’m ready to process the photos – or what Lightroom calls developing, after the dark room days (which I am old enough to remember – from my 14th birthday, my bedroom was really a darkroom with a bed in the corner).

Photo editing is a very personal process, but here’s what I do …

I always crop first, as I have some presets that apply a post-crop vignette. I mostly process very quickly and easily by applying one of my own presets, but I do use some built-in ones, and a few third-party ones. My approach is to keep travel photos and portraits looking pretty natural, and to allow myself to get more carried away on fashion shoots.

For a good 90%+ of my photos, though, I use one of five presets that I created (three of them with one variation each).


That makes for very fast editing, and ensures that each shoot has a coherent look, rather than wildly-varying ones. I may tinker a little with the result of the preset, but usually not too much.

If you currently find yourself doing a lot of hand editing on individual photos, my top tip is to really pay attention to what you do to each photo. Chances are, you’re quite repetitive in your choices – and you can then turn what you’ve done to one photo into a preset that you can use for similar ones.

For example, I take a lot of blue-hour shots. With almost all, I want to do exactly the same thing: cool the white balance, to emphasize the blue tone; boost saturation, to bring out the remnants of the sunset and further deepen the blues; increase the black-point, for greater drama. (I also under-expose by one stop, but I do that in-camera.)

If you adopt my approach of observing your editing and creating presets, you will dramatically boost your editing speed.

Speaking of which, while I generally avoid similars, when I am shooting a series – like the dance shoot – I process the first one (probably with a preset) and then sync-develop the rest. Click the edited photo first (important) and then shift-click the last one. That will select them all. Then click the Sync button, bottom-right in the Develop tab.


Note that you’ll typically want to deselect the crop, unless they are tripod shots.


Sharing photos

I have a number of different export presets, for example, one for this site, which outputs at 1024 pixels wide, another for large prints, another for desktop photos and so on.

I said that I’d come back to why I use the 5 rating sparingly. That’s because no-one wants to see all your trip photos, even if it was with Unicef and included a lot of cute kids. But a handful of your favorites? Sure, people will be up for that.


I typically give 5 stars to anything from two to six photos per trip. I used to do a lot of business travel, and I enjoy leisure travel today, so I’ve visited 68 countries to date. My 5-starred travel photos? 93 in all, which is a slideshow people might want to view. 3000 photos, not so much.

I hope this has been helpful. Please do share your own tips in the comments.

Filed under: How-To Tagged: Lightroom, Lightroom tutorial, Photo cataloging, Photo editing, photo management, Photo processing, photography, photos, Photoshop

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Ben Lovejoy

October 8th



This Bug-Eyed Camera Is a Whole New Take On Capturing Pro Quality Pics 

You’ve never seen a camera that looks like this. Its flat black visage is like the face of some terrible spider. It’s called the Light L16, and it may not look the part of photographic tool, but it hopes to accomplish the impossible: professional quality in an (almost) pocket-sized device.


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Michael Hession

October 7th


iPhone 6s Plus: Living with Live Photos

Live Photo Still

Linked to this still iPhone 6s Plus photo are both motion and audio that further capture the moment

Live Photos aren’t perfect. The video shot in a Live Photo is a mediocre 12 frames per second, compared to the 30fps iPhones generally capture. Low-light photos are noticeably less vibrant when Live Photos are enabled. Shoot a Live Photo in the wrong orientation then rotate it, and you’ll revert back to a standard photo. Sharing Live Photos is fairly fragmented by Apple standards, even on Macs running the latest versions of OS X El Capitan. And it’s not easy to frame the perfect Live Photo; great ones tend to happen by chance, not technique.

But despite obvious day one omissions in the Live Photo experience, I’m honestly quite surprised at just how much I appreciate the new iPhone 6s/6s Plus feature. Using my iPhone 6s Plus for a full week now, my take on Live Photos has evolved from “curious but confused” to “I get it but when should I use it?” to wishing I had Live Photos years ago. Read on for how I believe Apple can improve the Live Photos experience and how the new iPhone 6s feature has changed my approach to shooting photos and videos…

Okay, so what is a Live Photo exactly? Apple describes a Live Photo as a full-resolution still image that captures movement and sound just before and after the photo was taken. That means 1.5 seconds of video and audio are captured both before and after you tap the shutter button and snap the picture. Note that Apple won’t call a Live Photo a video, and iOS doesn’t treat Live Photos like videos. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus let you watch Live Photos only by 3D Touching (deep pressing) the still photo. Older iPhones can play shared Live Photos by long pressing the still images. Apple marks a Live Photo with a special icon in the image’s corner.

iPhone 6s Plus video settings

The video captured during a Live Photo is both low-resolution and low in frame rate (12fps), so the footage plays back with a murky but somewhat dreamy look. It’s noticeable on 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, and it’s just not pretty on even larger displays like iPads and Macs. The 12MP still photo dramatically contrasts with the dated, stuttering video footage wrapped around it. It’s like pairing an iPhone 6s photo with an iPhone 3GS video. I would love to see the 12fps frame rate increase, or at least provide an option if storage is the issue.

Live Photos can be used as lock screen wallpapers on the new iPhones, but the motion is so stuttery that it isn’t as compelling as I’d hoped after Apple’s presentation. You also need to deep press the lock screen for it to animate, likely to keep battery life in control, but would anyone regularly do that? For now I’m using a Live Photo as my wallpaper, but only because I like the way the still photo looks.

Live Photos 1 Live Photos 2

Once you grasp what a Live Photo is for yourself, the first time you share one with someone else necessarily requires teaching them how to engage it. My experience with both power-user friends and less-savvy family members when sharing a Live Photo to other iPhone users is this: 1) send Live Photo 2) include instructions to open image full-screen, press and hold 3) just hope that makes sense. And that’s just from iPhone to iPhone. (There is a Live Photos icon in the photo’s corner, but it’s not a play button.)

Live Photos El CapitanThere’s a software component to making Live Photos work, too, and not even Apple has caught all of its platforms up. This is what you can expect when sharing Live Photos across Apple’s apps and platforms. iCloud Photo Library can sync Live Photos to the Mac, and Photos allows you to play them back within the app. A button labeled LIVE in the lower right hand corner lets you click and play the Live Photo.

Live Photos El Capitan

Just like on the iPhone, Photos for Mac lets you edit a Live Photo and enable or disable the live part of it. Click edit then toggle the yellow or white Live Photos icon in the top center: yellow is on and white is off. Similarly to iOS, auto-enhancing a Live Photo preserves the motion and sound, but rotating, cropping, applying filters, or adjusting light and color will revert it to a non-Live Photo.

Live Photo Messages

Somewhat frustratingly, Messages for Mac currently has zero support for Live Photos. Messages on iPhone and iPad work with Live Photos just fine, but the Mac version of the app treats every Live Photo as a traditional JPEG still image. There’s not even an icon to let you know you should view the Live Photo on your iPhone or iPad. This also happens when sharing a Live Photo directly from Photos for Mac through Messages using the share action. This is the case on both the public version of OS X El Capitan 10.11.0 and the developer beta version of OS X 10.11.1.

Live Photos iCloud Web

More reasonable is Apple’s lack of support for Live Photos on the web. This is the case when using iCloud Photo Library on both icloud.com and beta.icloud.com, which sometimes has future features before the main site. You can playback video from both versions of icloud.com, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually caught up with Live Photo support. For now I don’t spend much time viewing my photo library online, though, so the omission is less annoying than no Live Photos on Messages for Mac.

Live Photos Apple Watch

And what about Apple Watch? Testing with watchOS 2, Live Photos work as expected when you sync an album that includes them. In my case, I sync photos that I favorite to Apple Watch. This lets you set these photos as your watch face, and Live Photos will animate your watch face each time the display lights up. Viewing a Live Photo in the Photos app presents an icon in the lower left corner that shows motion but not audio when tapped. Live Photos in Messages on Apple Watch work like Messages on the Mac, just still JPEGs with nothing to clue you in to watch it.

Sharing a Live Photo online is also tricky. My videos are captured using QuickTime on the Mac with a wired connection to my iPhone, and the result is really just a video that you play and pause. Apple said that Facebook plans to support Live Photos sometime this year, but it’s not clear what that will look like. Still, with Apple behind it there should be a fair amount of support coming.

Live Photos aren’t as straightforward as traditional photos and videos, but are they worth the trouble right now? All of these software pieces will come together in time, but the wow effect of what a Live Photo can offer is not something I expect to get over anytime soon. As I mentioned at the top and discussed on our podcast ‘Happy Hour’ this week, my feelings about Live Photos have quickly changed since first trying the new camera feature last Friday.

The iPhone’s Camera app lets you decide before shooting whether or not you want Live Photos to be on or off. You can quickly toggle it on or off before each shot if you want. After my first couple of days with Live Photos on my iPhone 6s Plus, that’s exactly what I was doing: shoot a photo of a person with Live Photos on, snap a pic of an interesting looking coffee cup with Live Photos off.

That’s a lot of work, though, and the extra step of processing that decision isn’t worth missing a good shot. Adjusting my approach (and taking advantage of my 128GB of storage plus iCloud Photo Library with optimized storage turned on), every photo I shoot now starts as a Live Photo then I decide in post if I should revert it to a still image afterwards.

I have one exception to this approach. Live Photos capture 3 seconds of motion and audio, including 1.5 seconds after you snap the image. That means taking a Live Photo is noticeably not instant because it can’t be. It’s similar to taking an HDR photo on an old iPhone before the processor got so fast. That process involves taking and mixing multiple images and shooting without moving. Live Photos are the same. They take an extra second and a half, so I toggle the feature off if I want to shoot something very quickly in succession.

I joked on Twitter that every iPhone reviewer should have a toddler around when testing Live Photos because that’s when the feature really shines. Parents need Live Photos. It seemed gimmicky when I tried shooting the flag waving in my front yard and getting my cat to pose for one was more annoying than pleasant, but nearly every Live Photo of my daughter just impresses me over and over.

iPhones are getting really great at shooting video. My iPhone 6s Plus has optical image stabilization even for video and shoots in 4K resolution, and while I sometimes decide to shoot a video and not a photo, it’s still a fraction of the time.

Photos are fast to share, easy to enjoy, and don’t ask for much of your time. Videos catch the moment much better but rarely get re-watched around my house. I’m finding that Live Photos strike a really nice balance between the two formats. I have way more photos than videos of family and friends, but I wish I’d have shot more videos over the years. Live Photos makes that decision much easier for me going forward. I don’t have to change my approach, but I get the benefit of details previously only captured in video.

Live Photos seemed ambiguous when first announced and ranked low on my list of reasons for upgrading from my iPhone 6. Yes, the motion quality has plenty of room to improve and Apple’s software still needs to catch up in some corners, but consider me completely sold. Android phones and App Store apps may have been first to the photo format, but being built into the camera and apps that I use everyday in a way that isn’t intrusive is perfect.

Filed under: AAPL Company, iOS, iOS Devices, Opinion Tagged: iCloud Photo Library, iOS 9, iPhone 6s, iphone 6s plus, ISight, Live Photos, photography, photos, Photos for mac

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Zac Hall

October 2nd


February 2016
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