You have a Mac. You have some photos you wish to bring up to their fullest potential, so you start looking around at photo editors. Before you do, check out Apple Photos. You might be surprised at how good it can be.

Is Apple Photos easy to use?

In a word, yeah. And it’s quick. Photos tucks complex editing tools into several simple controls by default. The layout is extremely intuitive but surprisingly powerful.

There are three groups that allow you to edit your photos: Adjust, Filters and Crop. We will have a look primarily at Adjust. This might give you an idea whether you want to fire up Apple Photos and look at it more. The version in these screenshots is Apple Photos 5.0 running on macOS Catalina 10.15.7 on a 2017 iMac.

For those using macOS 11 Big Sur, the interface and features are similar. There’s a new Vibrance adjustment, as well as some updates to the Retouch tool. You’re also able to import and perform basic edits on video files.

Having a look at Adjust

Open any photo by double-clicking. Then click on the “Edit” button located on the toolbar on the upper right corner. In the middle of the toolbar, click on Adjust, which also has a dial icon. We’ll cover some of the features, located on the right, in order of appearance.


Light slider that will auto-adjust several different parameters as you slide it. Try this first. This might get you where you want to go, as it works surprisingly well.

Click on the Options arrow and you can see the different parameters that it automatically adjusted. Tweak if you want to adjust further. See what happens. You can always move it back.

Have no fear, all of the tweaks you make can be reversed at any time!

Black and white

Are you into black and white photography? I always love to check out what my photos look like in black and white. Toggle back and forth between color and black and white by clicking the blue checkmark circle on and off for this or any other parameter.


This is a surprisingly effective feature that really made me stand up and take notice of Apple Photos. The Retouch feature is designed to remove spots, blemishes and scratches. It does this very well. But I also found that I could remove things like tree branches that were hanging into the corner of my image! That’s impressive.

It’s so unbelievably easy to use that it might be dismissed. It should not be. Just brush the spot you want to disappear, and bam, it’s gone. You can adjust the size of the brush with the slider.

I decided to remove some of the dirt marks on the passenger window. Here is a screen shot of me in the middle of removing it.

Above is the photo after I removed a couple of the dirt marks.

White balance

White balance refers to the relative “warmth” or “coolness” of the color white in an image. It’s often referred to as a color temperature. The pulldown menu gives you neutral gray and two other scenarios. Adjust this to taste. I cooled this image very slightly by moving the slider to the left by a small amount.


This is exactly what you think it is. I clicked on the Auto function initially, which is shown above.

The Auto feature over-sharpened the image too much for my taste. No matter. I clicked on the arrow to the left of Sharpen to open up the individual features. I dialed back the intensity quite a bit, as you can see in the above photo.

A quick look at Filters

As mentioned, there are three major sections on the top of the toolbar, Adjust, Filters and Crop. Filters is somewhat similar to the filters you might see upon uploading filters to Instagram. With a click of the button, you can transform your photo to have a certain look. This is otherwise self-explanatory, but I did want to show that this is another feature.

A quick look at Crop

There are numerous features in crop that are useful. Above, I decided to ever-so-slightly straighten the photo. I did this by adjusting the dial to the left of the image. This results in a handy grid that allows you to better see if your horizon, or in this case, the truck window, is straight.

Crop also allows you to crop according to common aspect ratios such as square, 16:9, 8:10 and so forth.

A creepy Halloween night photo edited by Apple Photos.

Do I have Apple Photos?

Apple Photos comes bundled with Mac computers with OS Yosemite (10.10.3) and onward. It was released in April 2015. If you are running an OS before that, you have iPhoto, which offers some similar tools. By the way, there is a similar version of Apple Photos on iPhones.