Photos, as you probably already know, is a program that you can use to store and edit your digital images and videos. But that just scratches the surface of what it can do. Perhaps most remarkably, Photos can keep your image library backed up and synchronized across all your Apple devices. That way your Mac, iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch all contain the same photos, videos, and albums, all the time, which is pretty darn amazing. And by using Photos’ shared albums, your family and friends can share photos from events as they’re happening, and you can view them in a self-updating album on any device. Because your photos and videos are always available on all your devices, you can use Photos’ incredibly powerful editing tools anywhere—for example, you could start editing on your iPhone, continue on your Mac, and then finish on your iPad.


Technically speaking, Photos is a database—a special kind of program that tracks all the files you tell it about. Databases perform their tracking magic by creating a support file—a library, in this case—that includes an individual record for each file you import. If that’s clear as mud, consider another app that you (likely) interact with all the time: the Contacts app on your Mac or iOS device. The Contacts app is a database that points to a file containing an individual record for each person you’ve told it about. A physical and somewhat vintage analogy is a Rolodex (database) and all the little cards (records) it contains.

Photos lets you view all kinds of info about each image file, including the camera settings you used when you took the shot (great for improving your photographic skills), as well as the date, time, and location (if your camera has that ability). You can add your own info to each file, too, such as who’s in the picture, custom titles, and descriptive phrases that can help you find certain pictures more easily. Even the edits you perform in Photos get tucked into each file’s record, so you can undo the edits whenever you want. And Photos isn’t just for managing images and videos taken on digital cameras; it can easily manage pictures you’ve scanned or had burned onto disc by your local camera store.

But Photos goes far beyond all that. For instance, once you identify a few faces in your photo library (you’ll learn how in Chapter 4), the program begins finding and identifying them all on its own, so you can spend more time building creative projects—slideshows, books, calendars, cards—and less time digging through your library to find specific images. Photos helps you organize your digital memory collection in other ways, too. For example, it displays your images in chronological order and automatically creates albums that help you find certain files. such as the last ones you imported, ones you’ve marked as favorites (Using Favorites), or videos. You can create your own albums, too, and then combine them into projects, convert and export them for use elsewhere, and easily share them with friends and family.

By embracing Photos, you’re getting in on the ground floor of something very special: the first complete photo and video organizer for a mobile lifestyle—whether mobile for you means moving from the living room to the bedroom or jetting across the globe. This book is your trusty guide to this amazing new program.


In the past, the word “program” was used for software that ran on desktop and laptop computers, and the word “app” was to describe software that ran on iOS devices (the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). These days, Apple uses the word “app” to describe all kinds of software, regardless of the device it runs on. This book uses both terms, but leans toward “app.” Don’t be confused—when you see the term “app” or “program,” it just means “software.”

Photos’ Backstory

Apple knows there are precious few people who enjoy the time-consuming task of managing and processing photos, so they’ve tried to make it as painless as possible. Back in 2002, Apple introduced iPhoto, Photos’ predecessor, which enjoyed a long reign as the simplest image-organizing and -editing program available for the Mac. iPhoto introduced millions of people to the joys of image editing, and offered the more adventurous quite a lot of editing power and flexibility. The only problem with iPhoto enjoying such a long life is that it had a lot of outdated code under its hood, resulting in a program that crashed often and, if you had a big photo library, ran as slow as molasses. Therefore, in the summer of 2014, Apple announced that it would stop updating iPhoto and its pro-level sibling, Aperture, in favor of a fresh start with a new program: Photos.


Just because Apple will no longer update iPhoto and Aperture doesn’t mean you have to stop using them. As of this writing, both programs perform perfectly well in Yosemite 10.10.3, right alongside Photos.

Photos is a completely redesigned image organizer and editor that can do (nearly) everything iPhoto could, plus a whole lot more. Built especially for OS X Yosemite, Photos is smokin’ fast and has a wonderfully sleek design. Compared to iPhoto, it offers a more logical way of viewing your pictures based on date (instead of events), and easier ways of getting around within the program. Also, Photos’ editing tools are more powerful than iPhoto’s, and the program inherited many editing features that were found only in Aperture. You get a slew of fun filters for applying nifty color and film-grain effects, plus a simpler process of creating books, cards, slideshows, calendars, and prints. And, as in iPhoto, everything you do in Photos is 100% non-destructive, meaning you can undo your edits anytime you want.

Perhaps the most exciting news is that you can use Photos in conjunction with Apple’s iCloud storage service to sync your picture library to all your Apple devices, so you can have all your photos with you all the time. That’s right: You can avoid the sinking feeling you get when you want to show a photo to someone, but you can’t remember where the heck that picture lives. Alas, this syncing service isn’t free, but it’s affordable—and the peace of mind you get from knowing your files are backed up is worth the small fee. But you don’t have to use it.

Like iPhoto, Photos is built to handle the needs of the masses—it’s not designed for professional photographers. So if you need the ability to edit certain parts of a photo, fix perspective or lens-distortion problems, and the like, then you need a pro-level image organizer and editor such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.


If you want to remove your ex from a vacation picture, combine images, push photos through text, or draw and paint from scratch, you need the advanced editing power found in programs such as Pixelmator, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or the 10-ton gorilla of photo editing, Photoshop. Conveniently, your humble author has written a book about it: Photoshop CC: The Missing Manual, available from (For other books and videos by your author, visit

What Photos Can Do

As mentioned earlier, Photos can do most everything that iPhoto could, save for the exceptions mentioned in the box on Photos vs. iPhoto. If you’re a seasoned iPhoto user or you’ve used the Photos app on your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch), then you’ll feel right at home in Photos on your Mac. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect to accomplish with Photos:

  • Import images. Photos can import pictures and video from just about anywhere, be it a camera or memory card that you plug into your Mac or an iOS device. If you’ve got an iCloud account that you sync pictures with, you can import from there, too. Photos understands almost any image format, including the raw format captured by most cameras (Fun with File Formats).

  • View your snapshots. Photos logically organizes your pictures and videos by years, collections, and moments. In Years view, you see teeny-tiny thumbnails of your pictures based on the years they were taken, which you can scroll through at high velocity. To see one of your shots at a larger size, just click and hold its thumbnail. To drill deeper into your photo library, click within any year and you open Collections view, which shows pictures taken at the same place within a certain time period—during a recent trip to New York, say. This view is similar to iPhoto’s Events. Click inside a Collection and you open Moments view, which displays pictures taken within a shorter time period—your big night out on Broadway, perhaps. If your camera captures location info (as iOS devices do) or if you added a location using the Info panel, you can also view your thumbnails plotted on a map. The program’s Info panel shows when you took each photo and what camera settings you used. Photos for Mac lets you maximize your screen real estate, too—its Full Screen view makes your pictures feel practically life-sized.

  • Organize your collection. You can manually arrange pictures into albums that you create, though Photos includes several built-in albums such as All Photos, Faces, Last Import, Favorites, and Videos. If you’re lucky enough to have a newer iOS device that has a camera with the nifty Panorama, Slo-mo, Time-lapse, and Burst features, you automatically get albums for that stuff, too. Photos also has a powerful (and trainable) facial-recognition feature, as well as smart albums, which self-populate based on criteria that you set. You can mark your best pictures with a Favorites tag, making them easier to find later on, and also create and assign keywords, which let you find groups of photos based on similar content (such as flowers, food, or Fido).

  • Find pics quickly. Photos includes a powerful search field that lets you easily locate photos based on any text associated with them, such as a filename, keyword(s), a face you’ve named, a description you’ve added, or where you took them. This field also lets you locate photos taken during a certain time period or on a specific date.

  • Sync and share images. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library lets you sync all your pictures across all your Apple devices, and ensures that full-size versions of everything in your library are safely backed up onto Apple’s servers. This service is insanely convenient, though as Meet the iCloud Photo Library explains, you do have to pay for it. You can also use iCloud to create shared albums (which are great for sharing photos with far-flung friends or relatives) and you can easily upload pictures to social media sites such as Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. Emailing pictures from Photos is a breeze, as is sending them to others via text message. You can also transfer pictures onto other Apple devices using AirDrop.

  • Edit your pictures. Photos offers editing tools for every skill level. You can use its one-click options to easily enhance, rotate, crop, straighten, and flip your images horizontally or vertically, and to apply a plethora of filters to give your shots creative color treatments. In Adjust mode, you’ll find powerful and innovative preview-based controls for adjusting lighting (exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast, and so on), and color (saturation, contrast, and cast), among other things. You can reveal additional controls for things like sharpening, adding definition, reducing noise, and adding an edge vignette. Photos also lets you zap blemishes, scratches, and stray hairs with the Retouch tool, and even conquer pesky red-eye. Once you’ve corrected one picture, you can easily copy and paste those edits onto another image. And it’s super simple to duplicate a photo if you want versions with different effects (say, a full-color version and a black and white).

  • Make slideshows and movies. You can create instant and saved slideshows using Photos’ beautiful built-in themes, which come complete with background music. When you craft a saved slideshow, you can add text to any slide you want (a feature that even iPhoto didn’t have). You can also customize elements such as transitions, slide duration, and whether the slideshow loops. Photos also lets you view and edit any movies you’ve imported—you can trim clips, adjust the timing of slow-motion videos, select a preview frame, and export frames as pictures. And when you’re done creating your slideshow or movie masterpiece, you can easily export it to share with others and send it over to iTunes for syncing with your iOS devices.

  • Print your images. Photos lets you print pictures in a variety of sizes on your own printer or order pro-level prints from Apple. Either way, Photos handles all of the resizing so you don’t have to worry about it. And if you print on your own printer, you can easily gang multiple pictures onto a single page.

  • Create books, calendars, and cards. Photos includes several themes you can use to create some of the world’s most beautiful photo books, calendars, and greeting cards (of both the folded and postcard variety). The program’s easy-to-use design controls let you make every page of every project look just the way you want. After that, you can upload the whole kit-and-caboodle to Apple so they can professionally print it, and then ship it to you or your lucky recipient.

Using Photos for iOS

To keep things simple, Apple designed Photos for the Mac to be virtually identical to Photos for iOS (that is, the version for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). In Photos for iOS, you can view, tag, edit, and share your pictures just like you can in Photos for Mac. That said, you need your Mac—and a much bigger screen than any iOS device has—to build projects such as slideshows, books, calendars, and cards, and to order prints.

There are slight differences between the two programs, and they’ll be duly noted in this book when they occur. The most obvious difference is that, rather than clicking things like you do on a Mac, you tap them on your touchscreen. So if you’re reading this book while working with an iOS device, whenever you see the word “click,” think “tap” instead. Also, you get fewer editing tools in Photos for iOS than in Photos for Mac. But for the most part, mastering one version of the program means you’ve also mastered the other, which is convenient.


Throughout this book, and throughout the Missing Manual series, you’ll find sentences like this one: “Open your User folder→Pictures→Photos Library.” That’s shorthand for a much longer set of instructions that direct you to open three nested items in sequence. Those instructions might read: “On your hard drive, you’ll find a folder called Casey (or whatever your user folder is named). Open it. Now locate the Pictures folder and open it, too. Inside it you’ll spot a file called “Photos Library.”

Similarly, this kind of arrow shorthand helps to simplify the business of choosing commands in menus. The instruction “Choose File→Export→Export Slideshow” means, “In Photos, open the File menu at the top of your screen, and then choose the Export command. In the hierarchical menu that appears, choose Export Slideshow.”

About the Online Resources

As the owner of a Missing Manual, you’ve got more than just a book to read. At the Missing Manuals website, you’ll find tips, articles, and other useful info. You can also communicate with the Missing Manual team and tell us what you love (or hate) about this book. Head over to, or go directly to one of the following sections.

Missing CD

This book doesn’t have a physical CD pasted inside the back cover, but you’re not missing out on anything. Go to to find a list of all the shareware and websites mentioned in this book, as well as Appendix C.


If you register this book at, you’ll be eligible for special offers—like discounts on future editions. Registering takes only a few clicks. Type into your browser to hop directly to the registration page.


Got questions? Need more info? Fancy yourself a book reviewer? On our Feedback page, you can get expert answers to questions that come to you while reading, share your thoughts on this Missing Manual, and find groups for folks who share your interest in iPhoto. To have your say, go to


In an effort to keep this book as up to date and accurate as possible, each time we print more copies, we’ll make any confirmed corrections you’ve suggested. We also note such changes on the book’s website, so you can mark important corrections in your own copy of the book, if you like. Go to to report an error and view existing corrections.

The Very Basics

You’ll find very little jargon or nerd terminology in this book. You will, however, encounter a few terms and concepts that you’ll see frequently in your Mac life. Here are the essentials:

  • Clicking. To click means to point the arrow cursor at something onscreen and then—without moving the cursor at all—press and release the clicker button on the mouse or trackpad. To double-click, of course, means to click twice in rapid succession, again without moving the cursor. And to drag means to move the cursor while keeping the button continuously pressed.

    When you’re told to ⌘-click something, you click while pressing the ⌘ key (it’s next to the space bar). Shift-clicking, Option-clicking, and Control-clicking work the same way—just click while pressing the corresponding key on your keyboard. (On non-U.S. Mac keyboards, the Option key may be labeled “Alt” instead, and the ⌘ key may have a Windows logo on it.)


    New Macs come with Apple’s Magic Mouse, a mouse that looks like it has only one button, but can actually detect which side of its rounded front you’re pressing. If you’ve turned on the feature in System Preferences, then you can right-click things on the screen by clicking the right side of the mouse or by clicking with two fingers instead of one. Doing so typically produces a shortcut menu of useful commands.

    All through this book, you’ll see phrases such as, “Control-click the photo.” That’s telling you that Control-clicking will do the job—but if you’ve got a two-button mouse or you’ve turned on the two-button feature of the Magic Mouse, right-clicking might be more efficient.

  • Keyboard shortcuts. Every time you take your hand off the keyboard to move the mouse, you lose time and potentially disrupt your creative flow. That’s why many experienced Mac fans use keystroke combinations instead of menu commands wherever possible. ⌘-P opens the Print dialog box, for example, and ⌘-M minimizes the current window to the Dock.

    When you see a shortcut like ⌘-Q (which quits the current program), it’s telling you to hold down the ⌘ key, and, while it’s down, type the letter Q, and then release both keys. And if you forget a keyboard shortcut, don’t panic. Just look at the menu item and you’ll see its keyboard shortcut listed to its right. (To see a list of all the keyboard shortcuts in Photos for Mac, choose Help→Keyboard Shortcuts.)

  • Gesturing. On an iOS device, you do everything on the touchscreen instead of with a mouse and keyboard. The same is true if you use a trackpad connected to your Mac (either the built-in version you get with a laptop or the wireless, Magic Trackpad). You’ll do a lot of tapping of onscreen buttons on an iOS device, though you’ll also navigate by swiping your finger across the screen (say, to move from one image to another, and so on). Dragging is also a factor, which you do by sliding your finger across the glass or trackpad in any direction—like a flick (described next), but slower and more controlled. A flick is a faster, less-controlled slide. For example, you flick vertically to scroll through lists of thumbnails, which is a lot of fun—the faster you flick, the faster you scroll up or down. Scrolling lists have a real-world sort of momentum, so they slow down after a second or two, so you can see where you wound up. Last but not least, you can zoom in on a photo by spreading—that’s when you place two fingers (usually thumb and forefinger) on the glass and spread them. The picture magically expands as though it’s made of rubber. Once you’ve zoomed in like this, you can zoom out again by putting two fingers on the glass or trackpad and pinching them together. To see a quick, animated demo of common gestures, choose →System Preferences→Mouse or Trackpad. You can also learn more about gestures by visiting

If you’ve mastered this much information, you have all the technical background you need to enjoy Photos for Mac and iOS: The Missing Manual.


When you Control-click (or right-click) something on your Mac, a little menu pops up. What’s listed in the menu depends on what you clicked—which is why they used to be called contextual menus. But these days, Apple calls them shortcut menus, so that’s the term this book uses.

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