537: The Photos Field Guide and Apple Photos


Really informative episode. Photo and photo management are really important to me. Like Stephen, I have been using Finder only for years and it has served its purpose but I may be ready to try a different approach. I used to use Google’s Picasa and I loved how that app would not screw with your own personal folder organization/structure, and how that app was just a better interface to handle photos. I don’t feel the same with Apple Photos…yet.

Similar to David, I have a massive photo library/collection spanning 20 years now. Similar to Stephen (maybe it’s the name :wink: ), I need to be able to access the actual photo images/files (JPG) and as noted, have been using Finder/Folders forever to organize photos by year and, in my case, event/activity. I create annual photo books for the family and being able to dig into the actual photos is important.

The other thing that just frustrates me about Apple Photos is that I feel like I am handing over my photo life and putting my photos in a ‘black hole’ since the Apple Photos organizes them on the ‘back end’ in such a nebulous method. I basically need order and structure here. :rofl:

I could write a few pages on different use cases where I need flexibility in my Photo manager and I won’t bore you with those. To me, the big thing that I need to get past is giving up full control of my photo collection to Apple and this app. I don’t know if I’m there yet.

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I was looking for this in the episode but to no avail, maybe wasn’t listening closely enough. When Stephen says he’s switching from DropBox to full Photo workflow, does it mean all RAW are now kept also inside Photo?

Just curious how people are dealing with it. Keeping all RAW in Photo, or only keeping the developed/edited JPG in Photo while having RAW stored somewhere else outside Photo?

That’s how I read/heard it too. And that is the rub that keeps me away from Apple Photos.

Apple Photos does give the option to keep your folder structure as you defined it (as I noted, I organize my pix by Year > Event/Activity) however by choosing that option in Preferences, the app does not then sync those photos with iCloud. So basically, they are forcing you to push all your photos into their method of file organization. For me, that’s a show stopper. Can someone convince me I’m wrong and that I’m looking at this via a 2005 lens?

Any suggestions on how to keep “family” photos in sync? If my wife and I go someplace we both take photos with our devices. It’s frustrating that we have to create shared albums and exchange photos with each other. It would be nice if there were a way to automatically share/sync photos.

Apple will tell you to use Shared Albums, but as they mention in the show, these are less than full resolution. What I want is a shared library from Apple. I get that not everyone will want to share all photos with a spouse, but my wife and I do. As I said on another thread, I’ve been searching for a solution for 13 years! What I have cobbled together is that Dropbox on my wife’s iPhone autosyncs all her photos to a shared folder. Hazel on my Mac imports them into Photos, then moves them to my NAS (for just-in-case safekeeping). It’s not perfect (there are occasional hiccups related to duplicates and other issues), but in general it’s worked okay. I would prefer an iCloud based solution and, like the complaint about lack of more free iCloud storage, it is my perennial complaint/request.

I generally don’t keep RAW images around unless it’s really special, in which case JPGs will go in Photos and RAW on an external drive or something.

I’ve bought the Field Guide mainly for my wife, and have turned on iCloud for her photos across her iPhone and iMac. However it just doesn’t work for me. I had used Aperture with photos external in a directory hierarchy, just buying into having it manage the photos just when Apple dropped Aperture! So I’ve moved to Lightroom. To handle syncing from my iPhone I had been using iCloud Photo Stream (which seems to be unmentioned in the Field Guide, at least as far as we’ve gotten) but now use Adobe’s cloud to transfer, with Lightroom on the iPhone.

It’s still a terrible mess. Pictures from here Photos and my Lightroom have to be manually exported and transferred to my server computer where they are typically shown using Plex.

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I will have to take a look at this option. I suppose then we will have 2 copies of her photos but at least she can see them all in one place then.

I also use and like HoudahGeo, and I find using my iPhone as a tracker to be so convenient as to be worth the extra battery use. The only bummer is that one in ten trips the app stops recording, so you’re back to guesstimating where each photo was taken.

What is best practice re backup Photos if one doesn’t have a Mac but solely iOS/iPadOS?

So I added a couple of folders from my ‘Finder’ / folder based photo collection to Apple Photos (via my iMac) to sort of ‘dip my toe in the water’ with Apple Photos. I then let them sync with iCloud as noted in the episode, and they eventually found their way to my iOS Photos app. So all good. As noted in the epsisode, love the ‘photo discovery’ tools embedded in Apple Photos!

However, when I then connected my iPhone to my iMac via Lightning cable to charge my phone, Apple Photos (on Desktop/iMac) now wants to import from my iPhone iOS Photos into my desktop Apple Photos all the photos that I originally added to Desktop Apple Photos via Finder, essentally trying to add hundreds of photos already in Apple Photos.

Is this how it works? This makes no sense. Is there a setting that needs to be adjusted that I am missing?!? Will this be a never ending cycle if I add more of my ‘Finder’ based photo collection to Apple Photos? If so, this is terrible UX.

Terrible time groking all of this myself, and sticking with other approaches. However three thoughts:

  1. Make sure this box is not checked so that Photos won’t open when you attach your iPhone.
  2. Don’t press this button!
  3. I would expect that every photo would be in this category, “Already Imported” so would not be imported again even if you did press the button.

Yes, I am aligned with you on all of those points. I do not have that #1 box checked. I have not clicked the #2 “Import…” button. As for the “Already Imported” indicator, what you’re saying was my thought too. However, I think the situation is that Apple Photos (Desktop) and Apple Photos (iOS) are not connecting the dots that I first added those photos via iMac Desktop version of Apple Photos, which then synced with iCloud and added them to iOS Apple Photos.

I’ve had Photos and iCloud sync for them for a while, but I only had the Mac set to use it, as a backup. I also stored all my photos in a Year/Month folder structure within finder, as well as Photos. iPhone photos were uploaded to my Mac using Photosync, with HEIC files put in to Photos and JPG copies of them put in to finder.

However, going through the field guide, I’ve not gone all in with Photos, and have now created a smart album to have an album created that lists all images added to Photos since last date - I’ll then export these and Hazal will sort for me in to the finder backup for me.

I have made sure to turn off Dropbox uploading and Photosync, as these will upload the thumbnail images from the camera roll, as I have optimise phone storage turn on.

And on top of that, the photos put into a shared photo are ordered by when the photo was added, not taken. Unless I’m not seeing an option to change this. I find this to be bananas. It kills me!

@MacSparky – I just wanted to say thanks for the great job you did on the Photos Field Guide. I purchased as soon as I saw it was released and I’ve watched every minute of it. Well done!

It really is two courses in one and very thorough. Also, your primary model for the guide is gorgeous. I bet it was fun working with her :smile:


Thanks @KirkS! This one took much longer to put together than you’d think.

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One thing I’m still confused about with photos on iCloud: is it absolutely necessary to forever maintain a paid iCloud account with enough storage for all your photos (+videos)? And as our collections grow over time, needing to pay incrementally more to Apple every month forever? I don’t might a reasonable fee for a cloud storage service, but permanently-growing lock-in pricing is not OK.

You can initiate selective sync from your Mac, not iOS; it is not a prominent or obvious feature.