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Why switch from Apple Photos to Adobe Lightroom?

If I didn’t know much about photography and just wanted photos to easily sync up with my Mac and all my iOS devices all while being able to lightly edit photos, Apple Photos would be a grand piece of software. The option for iCloud Photo Library within the Photos app makes it super easy and hassle-free to have your photos synchronized to a remote server (iCloud), and consequently other Macs, iPads and iPhones that have that feature turned on.

That’s pretty awesome because if you lose your device, you at least know your pictures are safe on other devices and in the iCloud Photo Library as long as the device had internet connectivity and time to upload. Images you take on an iPhone upload right away to the iCloud Photo Library, same with images you import into the Photos app on the Mac. It is really is good for what it is meant for — which is to provide convenience to those who want their special moments safe with them at all times.

Apple Photos has definitely come a long way in terms of tools that have been updated to make it more of a photo editor rather than just an organization tool. The editing tools are starting to mimic software like Lightroom, Camera RAW and other software, making it easy to start editing but leaving much to be desired.

Fundamentally, Apple Photos still faces the same concerns as what I had voiced out back in 2016 in a guide to move from Apple Photos to Lightroom, from which the following is a slightly updated excerpt, highlighting three main issues with Apple Photos that should make you switch over to Lightroom if you’re taking photography seriously.


File structure

All the files that are imported or stored in Apple’s Photos program are contained within a file called Photos Library, which stored by default in the Pictures folder, within the Mac user’s home folder on. This file, in macOS, is actually a special folder that contains other folders that Apple’s software manages, so the user only has to worry about the one seemly appearing “file” to back up.

When you organize your photos into Albums in Photos, which many people do, the pictures don’t get moved into corresponding folders within that special library file. This can often cause frustration when trying to move from one program to another. Sorry to break it to you, but if you’ve organized your photos by albums, we’re going to lose out on them by moving to Lightroom — but believe me, it’ll be worth it when you’re done, more about that later.

Files stored within Lightroom reflect the actual location on the hard disk. I won’t go into detail about organizing at the moment, but basically, when you import into Lightroom configure it to create a new folder in the Pictures folder called Family Photos, you can then use Finder to navigate to the Pictures folder, and you’ll find the Family Photos folder there with your pictures within it. This makes it really easy to duplicate, backup, transfer and really get a hold on more advanced file management options and workflow possibilities.

Third Party Programs

When you’re getting more advanced, you’re often broadening the scope of work that you can do, often by different tools. While Apple is working hard to get third party software like Skylum’s suite of software, Perfectly Clear or Pixelmator integrated into Photos via Extensions, the industry standard for photo editing and retouching — Adobe’s Photoshop — isn’t one of those Extensions.

Photos has seven different Filters, which are presets based off of processed film that alter the image’s look, integrated into the their Edit area. That’s super cute, as it reflects the rest of their Photos app on the iPads and iPhones. However, Lightroom has a whole lot more built in, has the easy ability to add other amazing presets from the likes of VSCO, Mastin Labs and other companies that provides presets, and has the ability to save and create your own.

Extensions are nice to have mainly because when you use them, you don’t need to export a picture to a location on your hard drive, edit the picture, then re-import it back into Photos in order to keep track of them. Super nice right? Well if you want to use Photoshop with Photos, you’ll have to do that export-edit-reimport loop.

Lightroom has integrated functionality similar to Extensions, with many software developers allowing Lightroom to manage those files after they’re edited — making Lightroom a one stop shop that keeps the images in the catalog.

Editing Tools

I was rather impressed with how simple or how advanced Photos could be. Under the Adjust panel of Photos, you have access to many of the sliders you can use to tweak the look of the image, the bells and whistles — white balance adjustments and sharpening among others — are mostly hidden by default to avoid confusion, which is different than Lightroom, which basically lays out all your options under the Develop module.

All the tweaks, like lightening the picture, color correcting the picture and sharpening/defining the picture on done a global scale (effecting the whole image). If you only wanted to brighten a certain section of the image, well … you’ve got to use another program, like Photoshop. And well, you just read the process that it entails.

Apple has made Photos to really protect you from yourself, which is really kind of them to do when I really think about it. They make it so simple that you really can’t mess it up.

Lightroom, while it is a bit overwhelming at first, has so many things built into it that it can often be daunting to learn. Don’t freak out though. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some sort of free online resource you can use to help you learn Lightroom? Hmm.


Photographers like myself don’t exactly want all hundred-thousand photos taken in a year appearing on their iPhone and iPad, which would happen if they used Apple Photos and iCloud Photo Library to the fullest extent that it is meant to. So, instead of having every single image sync over to the iCloud Photo Library, it might be better to keep a selection of images that really mean something to you on the iCloud Photo Library and utilize it for its ease of getting images from one device to the other.

It’s rather simple to export your edits to Apple Photos on your Mac, have iCloud Photo Library sync it over to the phone, then post the picture on different social media accounts. Deleting the photo afterward keeps your library clean and leaves the meaningful pictures for you to cherish.

Organizing your photos within Lightroom does become pretty simple. Lightroom has quick and easy options of importing images straight to folders on a hard drive — internal or external, and even remote if you’d want. Lightroom was also made to help you cull out unwanted images and choose/rate images that you want to keep. Easily searchable keywords and file information is readily available by default, so there aren’t any hidden things to turn on or off. Lightroom has a whole lot of built in editing tools that are a bit more advanced than what Photos contains, and those tools give you more control.

Anyway, if you’re taking photography seriously, you’ll want more control, and that’s what Lightroom can help you with. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ll keep saying this — Apple’s Photos is great for what it supposed to do.

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