Apple Is Getting Out of the Printing Business

Apple has been selling photo prints and books through the Photos (previously iPhoto) app for many years. But the company is exiting this business in the fall.

Photo prints

I guess you could ask, why was Apple still in the print business at all? Sure, in the early days, it was probably somewhat lucrative, since it was so easy to order prints directly from within the app. But there is so much competition that there’s little point to Apple being involved in this. And Apple certainly didn’t do this printing themselves; they outsourced it to a company whose core business this is.

There are a number of Mac apps that can work as extensions to Photos that offer this service, and clicking the left-hand button above takes you to the Mac App Store to check them out. And there are hundreds, even thousands of companies offering prints online.

The advantage of using the Photos app, or an extension, is that you can organize projects from within the app, making it very simple. If you install one of these extensions, you can access it from the File > Create menu when viewing a photo album.

Get a Photo Book Every Month with the Charcoal Book Club

I like photography as a hobby, craft, and as an art. If you follow my writings, you’ve seen that both here on Kirkville, and on my photo site (photos.kirkville.com) I’ve written about photo books that I like. I’ve written about books by some of my favorite photographers, such as William Eggleston, Joel Meyerowitz, Michael Kenna, Gary Winogrand, and others.

There are lots of great photo books out there, but there are many by photographers who are not so well known. For example, I recently came across a beautiful book by Mark Steinmetz, Paris in My Time, which contains some beautiful black and white street photos.

I came across the Charcoal Book Club recently. It is a curated, monthly service which sends you one photo book per month. I like this idea, and I especially like that the books that they have sent, and currently sell individually through their store, include some photographers I appreciate, such as Todd Hido, Jan Koudelka, Michael Kenna, and others. There is always the worry that you may get a book you don’t want, but they let you know in advance what the next book will be, and you can swap it for something they have in their store, so I’m not worried about ending up with lemons.

So far I’ve gotten two books, and they are both very interesting, by photographers that I wouldn’t have found easily on my own. The service isn’t cheap – I’ve opted for the quarterly plan, which comes to $60 a book – but good photo books aren’t cheap, and I think it will expand my knowledge of photographers.

If you’re interested in joining, go here, and, when you get to the checkout, enter the discount code KIRKVILLE to save 10%. (I get a lagniappe for each person who signs up with this code.)

Apple Photos Needs Selective Sync

Apple tends to dumb down many of their features, and this is very obvious in their cloud tools. With iCloud Music Library, for example, you can’t choose to not sync certain albums, playlists, or genres; it’s all or nothing. With iCloud Photo Library, it’s the same: you sync everything, or you sync nothing.

It’s problematic with iTunes, but you can always remove the music you don’t want to sync to the cloud. In addition, you don’t pay for cloud storage; iCloud Music Library lets you sync up to 100,000 tracks, more than enough for most people.

With Photos, however, you may have lots of content that you don’t want or need to sync. You may have videos that you don’t need in the cloud. You may have albums of photos that you don’t want to access on other devices. And you may have raw files in your library; these are larger, uncompressed files that you use to create photos to export, but that you don’t need to access in the cloud. Photos pairs raw files and JPEGs shot at the same time, but you generally only need to use the raw files when you are editing photos. (You might want to edit raw files on an iOS device, however.)

With my two cameras, the raw files are 20-50 MB each. Because of this, my Photos library which contains about 2,400 photos, takes up nearly 40 GB.

Photos library

This is a problem for two reasons. The first is that I have to pay for iCloud storage, and I’m getting close to the 50 GB that I currently pay for; the next tier is 200 GB, which I won’t be able to fill for some time. The second is the fact that syncing all these files takes a long time. I only have 1 Mbps upload, and if I shoot a lot of photos, it can take hours for them to sync. And the way iCloud Photo Library works means that if I ever have to sign out of iCloud for troubleshooting – something I’ve had to do in recent months – then sign in again, it uploads everything, even though all the photos are in the cloud. And that takes days with my bandwidth.

Apple could offer an advanced sync option, whereby you would choose to either sync to the cloud certain albums or exclude them (similar to the way you choose to sync or not sync music to an iPod or iOS device), and allow you to choose to not sync videos, raw files, and perhaps other types of photos. Or perhaps only sync favorites, or other types of selections.

Apple has designed iCloud Photo Library for people using iOS devices, who don’t have these issues, but more and more people use Photos to store photos shot with other cameras. The launch of the new Lightroom, which is subscription only, will probably lead a lot more people to look at Photos as a solution for both managing and editing photos. It’s a great tool, but the lack of selective sync hobbles it for many users.

How to Use Selective Color Editing in Apple Photos

The latest version of Apple Photos has added some powerful editing tools. One of the most useful is Selective Color. It lets you select a single, precise color and change it. You may need to do this when you lighting is off, or when colors just don’t look right. (Though you should try adjusting white balance first, if you think the lighting is incorrect.)

To show you how this works, I’m going to use a photo that has a very strong, colorful subject. Here is the photo in the Photos interface in Edit mode.

Selective color1

As you can see to the right of the photo, I’ve opened the Selective Color tool by clicking on the disclosure triangle to the left of its name. To adjust a color, click one of the six color buttons, then move the sliders below. Hue is the actual color itself, such as taking a greenish blue and making it bluer, or changing a yellow to look more or less orange. Saturation adjusts the intensity of the color. And range is how much related colors are affected; a higher range affects a wider band of colors.

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How to Save Full-Quality JPEGs from Apple Photos

Apple’s Photo app is very simple to use. It combines a digital asset manager (DAM), which is essentially a tool that organizes and displays photos, with powerful editing tools. Many photographers are convinced that they need Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop to manage and edit their photos, but Apple’s Photos can do much if not most of what they need. (It’s the tool I use for almost all my photo editing.)

When you edit photos, and want to share them, there are two ways to save files in JPEG format. And these two methods create files of very different quality.

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Straighten Crooked Pictures in Apple Photos

It happens all the time: you want to shoot a photo of something in a hurry, and it’s not straight. Back in the days of film, you’d get your prints back from developing and look at them, and if you wanted them straightened out, you’d have to use scissors. Fortunately, it’s a simple process now. In Apple’s Photos app, you can do this in a few clicks.

Here’s an example. I was on the grass in my garden taking pictures of Rosalind the Cat, and I got a few of her walking toward me. You know that cats won’t sit still, so they were all a bit skewed. This isn’t a problem when the background is less obvious, but here, with the house behind her, it looks a bit odd. (Though some people might actually like that strange angle…)

Straighten1

First, go into Edit mode. To do this, select a photo and press Return. In these screenshots, I’m in Edit mode; you can tell that you’re in this mode because of the black background and the buttons on the right side of the window.

To straighten a photo, you use the Crop tool. In the next screenshot, you’ll see I’ve select that tool in the column of buttons at the right.

When the crop tool is active, you’ll see a frame around the image, and, to its right, a small arc showing numbers like on a clock. If you click anywhere on that arc, you can drop up or down to rotate the image. It moves as you drag, and Photos also displays grid lines to help you align the image.

Straighten2

As you can see above, I’ve aligned the edge of the lawn with one of the grid lines. Photos maintains the aspect ratio – the white frame – and zooms the photo so after cropping it fills the frame (you can see what’s being cropped outside the frame).

When you’ve got the angle you want, press Return and Photos applies the crop. (And it still retains the original photo, and you can revert to it at any time by clicking Revert to Original at the top of the window.)

Here’s the final photo:

Straighten3

Note that you can also do this on an iPhone or iPad; tap the Edit button, and you’ll see the Crop button. It works the same on iOS as on the Mac.

How to Delete Raw Files from Apple Photos

Glenn Fleishmann answered a question on Macworld today in his Mac 911 column. A correspondent has both raw and JPEGs in his Photos library, and wants to delete some of the raw files. He asked:

There are several where I would like to keep only the JPG and would like to delete the raw file entirely. Is there a way to do this without exporting the .jpg file, deleting the pair, and re-importing it?

Glenn’s reply was to export the originals, then delete the files in Photos, and re-import the JPEG, but that’s not the best way to do this. In many cases, you may already have applied edits to the JPEG file, and doing this brings you back to square one. Here’s a better way:

  1. Select the photo for which you want to delete the raw file.
  2. Choose File > Export > Export 1 Photo. This will save the JPEG version of the file, with all your edits.
  3. Next, delete the photo from your Photos library. This deletes both the raw and JPEG files.
  4. Finally, re-add the exported JPEG by dragging it onto the Photos window.

You will lose your editing history; you won’t be able to see the adjustments you’ve made to the photo. But you’ll have the full-quality JPEG, in its final form, and you’ll have gotten rid of the raw file.

Note that if you simply drag the photo from the Photos app to the Finder, it saves a JPEG but in a lower quality than if you go through the export procedure.

Read more about how to work with raw and JPEG files in Apple’s Photos app.

How to Convert Color Photos to Black and White in Apple’s Photos App

Black and white photos are an acquired taste. Some people love them, some people hate them. I’m in the former camp myself, in part because the history of photography started out in black and white, and so many great photographers used that type of film, even after the advent of color. But I also like the way black and white photos reduce a subject to its barest elements: light and shadows, lines and contrast.

If you do like black and white photos, you might want to try converting some of your own. In Apple’s Photos app, there are two ways to do this.

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How to Work with RAW and JPEG Files in Apple’s Photos App

If you take photos with an iPhone, you don’t really pay attention to the format of the digital files it saves. They are JPEGs, the standard compressed format that has been in use for for about 25 years. They’re commonly used on digital cameras because they save a lot of space. They’re like the MP3s of image files.

With most digital cameras – other than a smartphone – you can choose the level of compression you use for your JPEGs. My Fuji X100F has two options: normal and fine. As an example, the manual explains that on an 8 GB memory card, you can store 800 photos at normal compression, but only 540 at fine compression. My Olympus Pen-F has four options: basic, normal, fine, and super-fine, which, at full-size allows you to store from 510 to 2347 photos on the same 8 GB. (Note that the Pen-F has 20 Mp while the X100F has 24 Mp, so the largest files of the former are smaller.)

But you can also choose to shoot in RAW format. This stores uncompressed files that contain the raw data that the camera’s sensor records. They are much larger – you can only store 150 or 340 of these on the same memory card with each camera – but if I retain the music comparison, they’re like the original music on a CD that hasn’t been compressed.

Apple’s Photos app supports most RAW formats. (Here is a list of the cameras that are supported.) One notable exception is my Fuji’s compressed RAW format; not only does Photos not support this, but many other photo apps can’t handle this type of file.

Raw jpegIf you shoot in RAW, you can import your photos into Apple’s Photos app just as you would do with JPEGs. And if you shoot in both RAW and JPEG – any camera that can shoot in RAW allows you to do this – Photos detects that the two photos go together, and imports them as a pair, and displays the photos with a small icon on the top right corner of a thumbnail. Photos picks the JPEG as the main photo, and this icon shows the letter J.

However, you can edit the RAW photo, and use it as the main photo. To do this, select a photo and press Return to enter edit mode. As part of the information that Photos shows about this picture, it says which format it’s in. Here, Photos tells me that the photo above is being edited in JPEG mode.

Jpeg edit

To switch to the RAW file, choose Image > Use RAW as Original, or right-click on the photo and choose Use RAW as Original. When you do this, you may notice that the photo changes a bit; it may become lighter, or have more contrast. This is because RAW files have greater dynamic range; they cover more gradations of light. You can then edit the photo the same as you would any other.

When you export the photo by dragging it from Photos to the Desktop or to a folder, it will be a JPEG, since RAW files aren’t intended to be viewed or shared. If you export it by using the File > Export command, you can choose JPEG, PNG, or TIFF format. And if you want to export the RAW file to use in another app, choose File > Export Unmodified Original for 1 Photo. This will export the RAW file, if that’s all you have, or both files, if you have a JPEG/RAW pair. But these files won’t contain any of your edits.

Apple’s Photos App and Lens Correction

When you take a digital photo, the camera you use receives light through its lens, but the light information it gets can be slightly distorted. Because of this, cameras often use lens correction to create JPEGs from the original light information, or when converting RAW files into JPEGs.

If you shoot RAW files, many apps that process these files can also apply lens correction, using metadata stored with the files, to create better images. In some cases, this can even be using a huge database of information about lenses and cameras.

It’s interesting to know that Apple’s Photos app also applies lens correction, yet doesn’t tell you anything about it. This lens correction is not only applied in the Photos app, but also within macOS; if you have a RAW file and view it using Quick Look (select the file and press the space bar), lens correction is applied.

I haven’t been able to find a database of which lenses Apple is aware of, but there is a document showing which cameras are supported for RAW files. It’s likely that Apple supports those lenses that add metadata to the RAW files, which covers most lenses people are likely to use. This said, if you’re using a non-digital lens on a camera with an adapter, you won’t get any such information; it’s possible that some third-party software may be able to apply correction for this type of lens.

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