Finally Photos

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Apple is simplifying its photo software. It's about time, right? Let's take a moment to survey all that Apple presently offers to organize, edit, and share your photos. Here are the iOS apps and some of their distinctives:

  • Camera.app
    • Take pictures, duh

  • Photos.app
    • Organization: moments, collections, years
  • Custom albums
  • Edit via filters

  • My Photo Stream

  • Shared Photo Streams

  • iPhoto
    • iCloud Journals (Anyone use this?)
    • Advanced editing

On the Mac:

  • iPhoto
    • Organization: events, custom albums, smart albums, and folders
    • My Photo Stream (sometimes called iCloud Photos)
    • Shared Photo Stream (sometimes called Streams)
    • Slideshows
    • Photo books, calendars, cards
  • Aperture
    • More organization: projects
    • Advanced editing
    • Web Journals, Web Pages, Light Table
    • Plug-ins
  • iTunes
    • Sync iPhoto/Aperture library back to iOS

It's no wonder explaining Apple's photo ecosystem to non-nerds is near impossible. Apple itself uses different lingo for the same features across apps. Ugh! Oh, and then there's that blasted notification we've all received at one point announcing that our iPhone is out of storage due to too many pictures. The process of importing them into iPhoto (and then syncing the favorites back via iTunes) has always been a tremendous chore; requiring a USB cable to import is anachronism. In my observation, non-techies accosted by the storage problem resort to either deleting pictures from their camera roll or just buying a new phone with more capacity. Seriously.

iOS 8, Yosemite, and Apple's answer

Apple's announcements from earlier this week provide a glimpse into how they intend to fix the confusion. As far as I can tell, the phrase "Photo Stream" has been removed from the conversation. Instead, Apple simply says that with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, "every photo and video you take now lives in iCloud." For the first time, this syncing also includes your edits and custom made albums. Holy smokes, does this streamline things!

Early 2015 will bring a Mac version of the Photos app, thereby bringing the same iOS experience to your computer. At that point, syncing pictures across devices will just happen.

Oh, iPhoto

But where does this lead those of us who use either iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac? Apple made no mention of those apps this week. As I see it, there are three options. First, nothing could change. Photos.app will simply be the third photo management program on the Mac. At minimum, iPhoto (and Aperture) would be able to view or import pictures from Photos.app. In this scenario, I think iPhoto would behave as the photo graveyard -- once pictures aren't needed on iCloud, they go to live in iPhoto.

Second, instead of importing from Photos.app to iPhoto, iPhoto could just be a layer on top of Photos.app. This would be especially easy if Photos.app used the same database format as iPhoto and Aperture. In other words, iPhoto would read the same database, but bring more tools to the table for editing, tagging, and organizing those pictures. (This is what we already see in the way Aperture is able to open iPhoto libraries.) I'm sure this would be extremely difficult to develop, so I'm not holding my breath for this option.

Third, iPhoto and Aperture could be discontinued entirely. Just as iWeb and iDVD ceased in this new post PC era, our photo database apps could fall to the wayside, as well. But this creates another problem. A significant number of people enjoy iPhoto's ability to make slideshows and books. Slideshows wouldn't be a difficult problem to fix; those can be made more easily and shared more broadly with iMovie anyway. As for books, perhaps Apple could either release a Projects app, or just leave it to third party developers to fix. Maybe this is heartless to say, but I can't imagine too many people's lives being ruined by Apple dropping support for photo books, especially since most are familiar with online services like Shutterfly.

Bring it

Simplification, even at the cost of discontinuing or discouraging previously beloved apps, is par for the course for Apple. The benefit of an iCloud infused Photos.app was obvious to everyone who watched Apple's keynote, and I can't wait to introduce this stuff to our amazing clients.