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Apple’s Photos: The Hidden Power Tools

Apple’s Photos for Mac was a combination between the previous generation’s iPhoto and Apple’s discontinued professional software, Aperture. Good thing is that everyone with a new-age Mac can get Photos for free! While free may not get you all the crazy powerful tools that you’d find in Photoshop, thanks to some hidden tools that were donated from Aperture, at least you can make some decent global edits to the photos you have.

Get Started

Obviously, you’ll need to get some images into the Photos app in order to start– either import straight from within Photos while the phone or camera is hooked up, or drag and drop a folder right onto the Photos icon in the dock. Now follow along:

Find a picture that you want to edit and double click it so it enlarges.

Click on the Edit button on the top right hand corner of the window.

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  • If you’re in full-screen mode, the white borders will turn black, and you’ll have to move your mouse up to the top edge of the screen to reveal the menu bar and the aforementioned Edit button.

 

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Notice that the Edit button turns into the yellow Done button.

Click on icon that looks like a knob, next to the word Adjust.

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This is where I’m going to show you some of the advanced tools within Photos.

Simplicity at it’s finest

I just said advanced tools, yet I’m sharing the simplicity of it? Well yeah, thats because there’s advanced calculations behind the three default simple sliders. You basically only have 3 different sliders that you can adjust.

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The Light slider, when moved left and right, doesn’t just make adjustments on a linear scale, it actually adjusts a couple of different options at the same time. This makes tweaking the brightness of an image without destroying details quite a bit easier with the aid of Photos. If you drag the white bar to the right, the shadows will increase and the highlights will also increase, to a point. It’s quite interesting. In the more advanced section, you’ll see what the slider is actually doing.

The Color slider adjusts the color, adding or decreasing saturation. Not much more to say about that one.

The Black & White slider is one of my favorites. Theres much more to black and white photos than just clicking a button that takes away color, and desaturating everything until it is black and white. This slider emulates a black and white film thought process, when a photographer would place a colored filter in front of the lens. The color of the filter can alter the light that passes through and hits the lens, altering how the black and white photo appears when it is developed. It’s based off the good old color wheel that we learned in grade school. Filters of a specific color would make anything in the image of the same color seem whiter/brighter and the color that is on the opposite side of the color wheel, blacker/darker. For instance, photographers would place orange filters on the front of their cameras to bring out the sky or darken waters. The orange filter blocks out more of the blue light that is received by the film and therefore, anything that is blue turns darker, resulting in more contrast in the sky. This slider emulates different colored filters. As you drag it left and right, you can see the different black and white tones shift. The simple part of all this is that you don’t have to think about it at all. You can just drag the slider left and right and find what looks best to you.

Getting More Advanced

By hovering over a section, such as Light, you’ll reveal the Auto button (which, in my opinion, takes the fun out of everything) as well as the downward arrow/chevron, which reveals some advanced sliders for each section.

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Remember how I said that the light section changes different values? Here’s the proof, and you can try it for yourself. Any adjustments you have made initially with the sliders will reflect the expanded sliders. Like in the example below. The slider was dragged to the right to brighten the image, and just like I stated before, the shadows were lifted and the highlights were dropped down to compensate.

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With these additional sliders open, you can gain some additional control over the image that you previously wouldn’t have had. On top of that, Photos restricts the range that certain sliders can go. With the expanded Light menu open, try holding the Option/Alt key and watch as some of the sliders shift to give you additional range! Anytime that you make a change in a value, you can do the trusty Undo command – Command-Z, to take a step backward. You won’t reset the whole image until you hit the Revert to Original button at the top, after making a change.

After you make a change in one of the sections, you’ll see a blue checkmark appear. You can uncheck it to turn off that specific effect. That’ll work for every single section that you’ll play with.

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Now, the “hidden” part.

Since we got many of the fundamentals out of the way, let’s talk about the extra stuff we can play with! Many people haven’t been very adventurous about clicking things they don’t understand, mainly out of fear of messing things up, but those who do are rewarded. Those who have ventured out to click the word “Add” in bright blue, to the right of the word Adjustments on the top right corner would have found quite a few more sections that they can use to help their images along.

Add

The different sections are pretty helpful with White Balance, Sharpen and Definition modules being the main ones that I’d recommend using.

  • Sharpen – basically makes the image look a little clearer. It isn’t an instant fix for blurry pictures, but it can help in some situations.
  • Definition – Makes the edges of every detail in the image more pronounced
  • Noise Reduction – Helps blend the noise, beware, too much of this can make your image look plastic and/or blurry
  • Vignette – as an artistic effect, this can help draw the eye to the center of the frame by darkening the image. Mainly used to help correct lens vignetting.
  • White Balance – a tool to help color correct overall tones in the image. I’d choose the eye-dropper tool next to it, then click on something you know that was supposed to be white.
  • Levels – brings up another tool to help adjust the levels of blacks, whites and RGB

Modules

All of these little sections can help enhance your photo. Just like in all edits though, start off sparingly– you can definitely go a little overboard with any one slider. If you’re ever freakin out too much, take some time away from the computer and perhaps compare the image to other images you’ve taken. As with all adjustments and tools, play around with them and take the time to see what each thing does and how it impacts your image!

 

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