Is the Apple Photos ecosystem still "for me"?

Two years ago, I started moving my photo storage and organization workflows to Apple’s Photos + iCloud ecosystem. There’s a lot I love about it. On the other hand, I have a fair share of frustrations, mostly with the apps. Will we ever get smart albums on iOS? Why is the macOS app worthless for any heavy duty culling or organizing tasks?

Those nitpicks aside, my primary concern is that Apple’s Photo ecosystem and I are diverging on a deeper, philosophical level.

With the release of iOS 13, it seems clear that Apple sees a future where photos are organized and curated entirely by intelligent software. Instead of organized by emotional humans super-powered by amazing workflows and incredibly smart software.

Here’s a recent example. According to Photos, I spent Friday the 13th seeing The Pharcyde at Great American Music Hall. I do enjoy The Pharcyde, but I was at a bar across the street for at close friend’s birthday party.

If there’s any way to edit the title/location, I can’t figure it out. Adding to the confusion, I also have this intelligently curated “Moment” from the same night. (I have no idea how these two things are related.)

Sometimes I want software to be intelligent and just do the work for me. I love that I can quickly delete a bunch of accidental screenshots. I also enjoy being served smart collections of images to relive recent moments. But, my photo library is incredibly personal. Sometimes those moments are things I don’t care to remember at all. For the ones I want to remember, let me choose the cover image. No one knows which image highlights a moment better than me. Worst case, let me edit the damn title.


FWIW it’s not really for me anymore. In killing off Aperture Apple suggested those of us who want the control we used to have needed to migrate to e.g., Lightroom, but Lightroom isn’t a solution for a lot of us.

It’s vexing. What used to be sorted on the Mac is now a mess – and there isn’t a lot of evidence that there are plans to “give back” some of the control we lost in photo organization.

Not sure if this is the same problem that you have but I don’t turn on iCloud Photos on my phone because 90% of pictures on my phone aren’t “serious” - either throwaway pictures, screenshots, funny and dumb pictures, bad photos, etc. I don’t really want to uploaded them anywhere, even as a backup.

I manually upload “good” photos to after editing via Pixelmator, aside from other backup options.

Once a week or so I plug my iPhone into my iMac’s hub and transfer everything to the Photos app, with the checkbox to delete from the iPhone all uploaded images. Space is cheap, so I keep everything locally. If I used iCloud Photos I’d definitely need by now to spend $10/month on additional cloud storage, which is unnecessary for most of the dinky images saved - no need to access them at any time from any device.

Still, with continued advancements in AI and in post-processing, and with no maintenance needed for cloud storage, this (or Adobe CC storage, or Google Photos) this is definitely the way forward for most people now and in the future. If Adobe’s cloud-based Lightroom and Photoshop ever approach the power and local printing capabilities of the desktop apps (we’re probably still years from that happening, though) I could see myself migrating all my images to the cloud. But now now, and not for a while.

I’m one of those curmudgeons who loved Aperture and still has a copy of it running off to the side for my old photos. I find the curation that Photos tries to push in my face deeply annoying. I want to look at all of the photos that I took and make my own decisions about what worked and why. The majority of my photos are taken with a standalone camera that gives me more control over what I’m taking and reviewing them is part of the process, for me, of learning to be a better (or at least less bad) photographer. That does seem to be antithetical to the direction that Apple is headed. I’m also stuck with DSL for my internet connection and that means I’m looking at days to upload shots from a trip. So… not going to happen and another reason that I have no interest in the Photos ecosystem.

This is definitely an area where Apple is trying to make 80% (maybe) of the people happy and letting the rest fend for themselves.

It took me a while to get used to Lightroom (I use the Classic version) but I now like the organizational features in it. We already had an Adobe CC subscription in the house for work my spouse does so I didn’t have to have the subscription or not debate with myself. I do wish though that Adobe would make some progress on being a better citizen on the platform.

1 Like

Getting rid of bad photos could be easier, but I am able to keep my iCloud Photos library fairly tidy today.

My bigger issue is what it does with all my good photos. I’d love for Photos to help me curate the “Moments”, but I want to have full artistic direction over the final draft. I really relate to @raucous here:

I want to look at all of the photos that I took and make my own decisions about what worked and why. The majority of my photos are taken with a standalone camera that gives me more control over what I’m taking and reviewing them is part of the process, for me, of learning to be a better (or at least less bad) photographer.

I’m trying really hard to convince myself that it’s worth continuing to invest in the Apple photos ecosystem. But I’m starting to feel like I will get more enjoyment from the control I get out of something like Lightroom. I’ve been using the CC version on macOS and iOS for edits to images I plan to print or publish on the web. It’s not perfect, but seems to be getting better almost every month of so. The pace of development over the past 12 months has been impressive.

While not perfect what is the alternative?
What other app natively integrates into iOS and Mac OS handles the HEIF format and EXIF data generated by the iPhone?

Inaccurate GPS is due to reflections of buildings etc. When out in the clear it will be much more accurate. However it will never and never should be as accurate as a cruise missile…

One day we will get keyword and smart album integration. Until then I stick with it.

Meantime ruthlessly deleting any image not deemed worthy to keep.

The accuracy would be fine if you could edit those infrequent occasions where it misses. I feel like it’s not too much to ask, especially when the experience is prominently displayed in the primary screen of the Photos app.

1 Like

You use Pixelmator as your camera? I have Pixelamator and just bought the pro version.

Or, perhaps I want to ask you which app you use?

Hi, Raucous!

I agree with you! I have two new iPads and an older ipod. For a few years, I’ve been using the latter to shoot photos. I have always used a 35 mm camera (from 1974!) that still works. Then I switched to digital for a few years.

I am lusting after the new iPhones– for the camera with its myriad of lenses! No way I can afford $1,000. But I realized just how much I’d love a zoom, in particular. I was looking at some of the digital cameras but I didn’t decide on any one.

Are you using a 35 mm camera? If so, do you mail out your film? A digital? Can you recommend a digital? I have been into photography considerably more than I have been of late.

But you are so right that Apple is going with the 80%, I believe. It drives me nuts that I cannot label or entitle my photos to help organize them.

I very recently downloaded Lightroom but haven’t used that. What do you find advantageous about it? Would I need a subscription to use it? Beyond a certain point?

I think because I’m so use to a 35 mm, I try to use what I have to make me a better photographer, eg by trying to frame my shots as opposed to taking a great number but that’s sure tempting as I believe the experts do…, lol, maybe not such a great example. But I don’t need Apple to tell me which shots are the “best”. They can’t truly even do that!

And maybe a different app from the get-go might help me improve. God-only-knows I have enough Photography apps!

I find apple photo and the ai inside of it nothing more than a toy or at least something to play with and see what comes out.
But I almost always take photos with a standalone camera, and have always organized my files in a folder structure, since aperture days, and always manually created my “moments” or albums or collections or whatever you want to call them :smiley:
I guess if you want to have control over your files and the way they are displayed Photos is not for you.
As of friday I will be out of the adobe ecosystem too (I cannot justify 145€ a year for LR Classic - the only one I use), so I will rely on ON1 or Capture One or something else… this is still to see.

Right now I have a “clunky” set up, but it works for me.

Take picture on iPhone 11 Pro w/ Halide or Camera -> I decide I like it -> Airdrop to Mac -> Edit in Pixelmator -> Upload to and a few other cloud-based places -> Post or share.

Once I get my new iPad Air I can install Pixelmator Photo and makes this a little easier :slight_smile:

1 Like

I’ve recently (earlier this week) moved most of my photos 2015-date into iCloud photos, and will be moving the rest (from Aperture) from 1998 or so. So far I’m pleased. I had stopped using Aperture in 2015 when its demise was announced, and was stuck with a bunch of chronological folders created through Hazel and PhotoSync.

I’m tied to a Mac when I need to use smart folders but that was the case with Aperture and the file system as well.

Nothing requires me to use the automatic groupings in Photos but they have been a great starting point.

I’d love for Photos to help me curate the “Moments”, but I want to have full artistic direction over the final draft

This is simply solved by creating my own album and selecting and adding photos from the curated groups.


Thanks, Juan! I just checked out Halide and it looks like an interesting app. I’m probably going to buy it.

Do you shoot in RAW? If so, can you tell me how Apple Photos handles it? Are the photos converted to jpeg or whatever?

You’re going to love the iPad Air. One of the reasons I decided on it was to use with Pixelmator Pro. The iPad Air has a gorgeous screen. It’s really a neat machine.

All this is true of Apple Photos as well… the only issue is that you can only add tags (keywords) on the Mac as far as I can tell.

You should read the post linked here - generally raw stays raw but there are exceptions: How do you edit your personal photos?

1 Like

If you use Lightroom on the desktop then yes, a subscription is needed. Not sure what can be done with the mobile apps without a sub. Lightroom is a very powerful photo editor as well as organiser. I now use it for virtually all my editing, only going into Photoshop occasionally. The use of pre-sets makes it very quick to adopt a look and standard fixes to images.

Even though I don’t like Adobe’s draconian approach at times, I think they make the best photo editing and management software with nothing else coming close (yet!).

1 Like


I am a bilingual teacher-primary, typically third grade. The kids used a lot of invented spellings, often phonetic which worked in Spanish oh so much better than English. Never mind the Spanglish!

When I started teaching I was pulling my hair out trying to decipher what they had written. And it took forever. I could have been a cryptographer during WWII! Well, I finally figured out a strategy. It helped immensely to read aloud, to myself, what they had written.

I saw your name and I reverted to my old efficacious habit. And then I just started cracking up! That’s really quite clever, areohbe! Did you come up with that avatar when you were one smart little kid? I may steal your idea: I like it that much!

Now I forgot what I was going to ask you… relevant to photos. :wink: Oh well…!

Thanks! I was reading LR reviews. A couple of people mentioned that, in the free app, if you export the photos they are in small size, as opposed to how they are exported with the subscription. Do you know if that’s true?

Several people mentioned that the only subscription made available now is $9.99 per month as opposed to $4.99 Adobe had charged before.

Thanks ever so much, Spiv! You’ve helped a lot!

I’ve been looking at the camera you mentioned, and others like it, upon reading your post. They just boggle my mind! The ISO (I remember them as ASA) are in the thousands! I went to an awesome George Harrison concert and we were pushing the film to 800. A friend tried 1600 and had a hard time getting the photos developed. And the zoom lens capabilities: wow!

The mirrorless cameras are brand new?