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Photos for OS X Beta is in OS X 10.10.3 Developer Release

PhotoJoseph's picture
February 5, 2015 - 12:47pm

The time has come, the walrus said… 

Photos for Mac OS X is now available as beta software for those on the developer program. Since I'm currently on the road, don't have a system to sacrifice to a beta OS, and am not on the dev program anyway, sadly I won't be giving you a personalized first look.

The good news is that you can get one from tons of others sources. [I've moved the list of articles to the bottom of this post] Thanks to everyone sending these in; keep 'em coming!

So far about the only other things I can tell you is that there are no star ratings, Aperture import of a large (but not unreasonably so) Aperture library is crashing it, and that as expected it's certainly no Aperture replacement. I'm glad to see that books are still there. Obviously at some point I'll have to get my hands on it, but at this point, I'll have to rely on the reports of others to update the site.

If you're a developer, since clearly this isn't a secret, please post your thoughts in the comments below.


UPDATES: I'll keep adding articles here as they are sent to me.

Apple Photos for macOS

Strange thing to say Jochen, if you’ve been reading my posts.  I haven’t badmouthed anything, in fact, I’ve suggested Photos will be great for many people.  All I’m saying, is that this is not an app that most professional photographers who are using Aperture, will be able to use as a replacement going forward.

As for the ‘glass is nearly empty’ … those people left the fold back in June.  I’m still sitting here waiting and I’m not going to decide anything for at least a year, so I think I can safely say, you’ve gone the wrong way on that.  Maybe your glass is overfull?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but on the other hand, I’ve been using Macs professionally since 1989.  I spend most of my working day, in front of a Mac.  I’ve also been working on Apple’s private beta programs for a number of years.  So, I’m simply applying this experience in extrapolating what I personally believe to be the case.

As I’ve said more than once, perhaps Apple will surprise me and others and actually make this into something useful to professionals, but personally, I don’t think that will happen.  On the other hand, as you’ve touched on and I mentioned previously myself, there are some fabulous new imaging technologies in the underlying MacOS and you could perhaps envisage these being leveraged, either by Apple or other developers to either build plugins for Photos, or completely new imaging apps (there is one coming soon, but not built on Swift).


Photos is built with extensibility in mind. Apple will be looking to showcase that, with key 3rd party extensions available close to lauch, and maybe even major in-house developments. 

For example, Apple produces Mac OS X. And what is basically an extension, Mac OS X Server. They could well do a similar thing with Photos - OR someone else may. Photos Pro, for example. Don’t forget, Photos is the free offering.

All of the foundations, and access to the system level and app level hooks are there.

I’m optimistic that there will be professional level editing and management available around the Photos platform by the end of the year. But I’m not sitting still waiting for it either.

“For example, Apple produces Mac OS X. And what is basically an extension, Mac OS X Server.”

That’s an astute observation and a very interesting parallel.  I hope it proves to be insightful too.


Aperture users have to quit looking at the Photos app as a less than adequate replacement for Aperture … and more so as a hub for a completely new paradigm where users could add specific solutions for their needs … rather than accept a one-size-fits-all behemoth that tries to be all things to all users.

Unfortunately, in our traditional software solutions … each user has to not only deal with, but also pay for, considerable dead weight of items and options they rarely if ever use in their specific workflow. Photos, with it’s extensibility, can offer a true non-destructive workflow that can be tailored to individual users … and cease this endless whack-a-mole attempt developers have had to offer up until now whereby if they don’t offer a complete Swiss Army Knife conglomeration … nobody considers the solution worthy.

Solid again, Butch.

Jobs killed OpenDoc.  You think it’s back? :)

Oh I think it is good that this is dead…

This is a really good point sir.. People must understand that Photos can leverage extensions to become more than just the stock photos app it seems to be..

Look at the iOS version: you hit edit and it allows you to use third party apps as an edit sheet straight from Photos.. once you’re done, it roundtrips back seamlessly to your Photos gallery and is Non destructive so you can revert to original (somewhat like Nik plugins in Aperture).. That alone is a lot to look forward to.. Imagine the countless possibilities (Photo Book plugins, metadata plugins,etc..)  

I also feel that Pixelmator, for example, could leverage this and allow users to regain the brushes style editing that Aperture had without ever leaving the Photos app.. Instead of Apple being Jack of all trades and master of none, it can delegate to these third party developers who are masters in their specific fields.. 

Things are looking up for the Photos app today, with some really useful extensions and an impressively integrated approach.  Now we need Photos to actually provide useful DAM and it can be the hub to a very flexible workflow.

Solid, Butch. 

Read the article (especially the last 8 paragraphs)  by David Pogue that Joseph eluded to in his post above and that should put this launch and how it affects Aperture users in perspective.  Pogue has been an Apple insider of sorts and part time disciple for quite a long time. I think he gets good information from Apple itself.

Simply stated, he says we will be able to use Aperture as we have been until Photos has been fleshed out over time and by 3rd party developers to be robust enough to replace Aperture (hopefully).  Eventually it won’t be supported by Apple’s OS, but according to Pogue, that will be several years up the road.

 The neat thing in my mind is we can play with it on the side, on the same computer, without it affecting our work flow with Aperture.  

Very clear. Thanks, John. 

Perhaps we will see a demo from Pixelmator at a late February event showing OS X and Photos plugin in the lead up to an updated  Watch preview, new MBAir/big iPad announce. I do believe Photos is not an App in the traditional sense of typical computer programs, rather as stated above it is the framework to support users choice for advanced editing. Perhaps Applle will eventually offer something more advanced, perhaps not. Bring on the plug ins!

Chris Breen also put up an excellent review on Macworld at


I think Chris did a better job than Pogue on reviewing the product and the comments area has some excellent information.

I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, I won't be laid a hand upon. I don't do these things to others, and I require the same from them. - John Wayne, from "The Shootist"

Tom, thanks for the link. This is a simple solid initial review.  While gloom and doom is rampant, I am not so sure that this will ultimately be the case.  Imports of original files can be directed to external storage–same as Aperture.  If the file structure is similar or the same, then we can import, if we want, our Aperture Library.  I have already determined that if I want to access my original and modified raw files from Aperture, then I will use Aperture to retrieve the file and export it to whatever format and photo editor I choose (possibly including Photos). Both libraries can co-exist.  What I found interesting in this article is that the stars and colors, while not shown in the same manner as Aperture, are imported in ‘text form’ in Keywords. If this is the case then these ratings should be retained and sortable.  As long as there is a filter(s) that meet our requirements then this should not be a problem as we all had thought.  Smart Albums are included. The next question is ‘how smart are they?”  How will the filters compare to Aperture? If as complete, then this will also address many of the issues discussed.  The fact that the hard disk requirements are not replicated is key.  The hard links discussed seem to address this issue completely.  It is also apparent that there will be 3rd party apps/plug-ins that will look to improve the Photos environment.  I don’t know to what extent, but I am certain that original Aperture edited files can be exported as well as new Photos imported files and edits.  If Photos does not offer exactly what we need, then 3rd Party apps may fill appropriately.    Of course the final determination for me will be how much can I do with Photos? Will the file/folder/project organization work for me? Will the majority of edits and 3rd party apps be enough for me? Will photo/album sharing work like it does now and allow me to limit who has access to these albums?  And will the process complement what I already know and expect? Or will it be too little to merit using Photos at all?  So far, it appears that more questions are being answered as the Beta testers get more involved.  However, no one will actually know until the OS X is updated (this is a key that it is an update to the operating system and not a stand alone application!), and 3rd party apps are released.  So for now I am standing pat and not fixating on which other editor I will use. I don’t look at this as avoiding the inevitable, since the jury is still out.

Thanks for sharing the information.

I ran across this video of the new Photo App in action:
Hands on: Photos for Mac OS X - YouTube

One thing I noticed he states it is good replacement for iPhoto but not Aperture.

Nice video … though he failed to point out he was demonstrating the first issue of a Developer Beta … not the official GM v1 release.

Hi. A small question - is Custom Books function present in Or there are only pre-configured templates?

Thank you.

No custom books.  So no custom print templates.

People who can’t see the pro potential in what’s occurring here are thinking based on their perception of what a pro photography app should look like and be like today. The platform that is being developed here steps over the roadblocks that exist today where workarounds have had to be developed to make them fit in the cloud world where photographers use (or would like to use) multiple devices and apps for their work.

Here’s a very simple use case where Photos will work for pros in a way that no other pro app today can:

You’re in the field and upload your photos to your iPhone via your SLR’s wifi. You do some quick tagging and sorting, maybe some experimental editing.

You get back to the studio and start working on your Mac. When you reach a photo that requires some brushes and layering work, you grab your iPad, open the photo in Pixelmator (the same photo, not a copy) and using a Wacom Bluetooth stylus, you do whatever editing is needed. You go back to your Mac and the edits are applied. You find another photo that would benefit from a VSCO filter. You pick up your iPhone and apply that filter and a second later it shows up on your Mac with the filter.

These are all non destructive edits because the Photos platform is on the OS level where any apps are welcome to manipulate them.

You head out to the local coffee shop and while you wait for your client, you do a final run through, making a few more adjustments. The client arrives and you review the photos on your iPad. She’s pleased with the results so you airdrop all the photos on to her iPhone. You send her an invoice with Square and she pays you on the spot with ApplePay.

This can all be done today, on Day Zero of Photos. Imagine how much more powerful it’s going to get when developers start making apps to leverage the new Photos architecture? In fact, they already have, on iOS. It’s the same library and its all compatible.

If Apple releases an iPad Pro with a stylus as has been heavily rumoured, then we’re all going to be walking around with the equivalent of a portable and fully integrated Wacom Cintiq in our camera bags. 

What if the other shoe has yet to drop? If you think about it for a second, why would for Mac have brushes when Apple doesn’t make a touch screen Mac nor is the Magic trackpad ideal for precision brush strokes? What if the 12” iPad Pro is all about professional photographers? What if for iOS is updated with clone/stamp tools and other brushes on the device where those kinds of adjustments is more appropriate? What if for the first time, the iPad version is more featured than the Mac version? It’s about time, things have been trending in that direction. 

In the near future, I can even imagine Apple building an iCloud API for camera manufacturers. Your Nikon SLR would allow you to log into your iCloud account, uploading photos either directly to iCloud or to the iPhone in your pocket. Perhaps SLRs will get PhotosPlay, something similar to CarPlay where iOS’s UI takes over your camera’s screen.

The Photos UI you see is just the consumer oriented part. The architecture beneath is much more compelling.

Well said!!!  Workflow and integration options can be amazing!

Yes … we have to look at the big picture. (pun intended)

I recall all too well seeing these same type of comments when AF and digital cameras were introduced … even the early years of scanning film and processing images in Photoshop was scoffed at by many in the field  … “no self respecting professional would ever consider such things … these frivolous things are only appreciated by rank amateurs”

Sometimes you have to look beyond today and consider what is possible. Yes, today, Photos (just like other recent advancements) my not be quite ready to replace Aperture … but it could very well be the foundation to open up more possibilities that we ever considered possible before.

We probably all agree, that Photos 1.0 in its current state is nothing to replace Aperture.

There is some hope, that plugins might bring in missing features in the area of image editing but I’m sceptical, that plugins will bring in missing features in the area of DAM as well (bringing back self contained, exportable projects, nested folders, stacks etc. ). Well it does not have to be the exact same structure elements we had in Aperture, maybe it could be a completely new approach, but it has to be something. The current DAM in Photos is targeted at people managing their personal photos but it is inappropriate to manage projects and/or clients. 

A plugin, that alters the DAM capabilities, would either have to change the whole storage structure of the Photos library without breaking the compatibility with iCloud, or somehow map its own structure onto the existing storage structure of the Photos library. Hardly believe, Apple would allow this.

IMO Apple is primarily focussed on iOS these days. Not surprising as that is where they earn their money. And they wanted a unified experience for Photos on iOS and OSX. That is what we got, the iOS App on the Mac. Luckily today’s iOS devices are powerful enough to run desktop level image adjustments and filters, maybe even more powerful, than what we have in Aperture today. Otherwise the OS X Photos app would be even simpler than it is now. And Apple won’t prevent plugin developers to develop Pro-Level image adjustment bricks. Why should they? But it is unlikely, that they spent much effort in tweaking the plugin interface to allow plugin developers to deploy Pro-Level DAM, as professional / enthusiast amateurs are no more Apple’s primary targets for their Photos app.

For those who are willing to extend their endless wait for ApertureX aka Photos version X + plugins, hopefully Apple has already developed the plugin interface with enough foresight (or by accident), that it is flexible enough to allow plugin developers to enhance Photos in the DAM area (and probably other areas not mentioned here) as well.

Pete, you are right on the $$$ here. As a non-professional, my end game is not the same as those who need to make a decision if this affects their livelihood. I can afford to wait, hoping that DAM will be adequately addressed.

Yes again! Everyone is looking at Photos as a standalone application; comparing to Aperture, PS, LR, etc. It is not. It is integral to Apple’s OS across all platforms, and is begging to be optimized by 3rd party apps. The fact that the initial beta will appeal to the everyday photo masses only means that more people will have another reason to adopt the OSX platform instead of keeping their PC along with their iPhone. This is not a solution to a photo application update but a strategy to increase overall adoption of Apple’s total enviornment. Build it and they will come.

Do you know this software?

I would like it as plug in for Photos.

The developers have indicated that is the plan.

“The developers have indicated that is the plan.”

Is it possible to point to the article or interview that states this please?.. I’m trying to find information on third party developer interest in Apple Photos but have yet to find anything.. Would be much appreciated.

Where have you seen this Butch?  The only comments I’ve seen from them, say that they are not looking at anything other than getting Affinity Photo to launch and presumably, a bit beyond.

Then I suppose they’ll have Affinity Publisher, so that’ll be another year … then versions 2 of all three. So … maybe we could hope for something in 4 or 5 years?

You may want to listen to Derrick Story’s latest podcast released today (02/10/2015). 

He actually talked to Apple and was informed that Photo App was a replacement for iPhoto and not Aperture. He goes into pretty good detail on his conversation with Apple and the future with Photo App. 

Thanks Stuart for this, very insightful. 

If you didn’t yet listen to this or have the time and for those interested and hoping for the third party support to revolutionise Photos into the ground breaking app we all want it to be, Derrick has some further disappointing insights. According to his insider conversations it is remaining closed unlike the iOS app on its official initial release. So us optimists might have to hang in a bit longer before we can see our expectations realised (and deal with a further wave of negativity on the official release). I know plugins weren’t there with the initial Aperture release either but am concerned that Apple are not emphasising the potentially revolutionary nature of this app themselves (iCloud aside). 

I wouldn't go as far to be concerned about apples imagination of this apps potential. My guess is by far simpler and pragmatic than any claims about what Photos is or may be:

Apple has a big gap with the iCloud Photo Library: The integration with the Mac is missing. They are working quickly to close this gap ASAP. This is the one most important thing for Photos 1.0. Aperture is not a number one topic up to this point.

Fair point Jochen, the iCloud part is a big feature in this. Derrick also talks about how Photos will be able to access multiple libraries although there will only ever be one library that is designated for use with the iCloud photos library. For those not wanting to commit to larger iCloud storage space and monthly payments but would still like some of the benefits of the new iCloud Syncing experience one possibility could be having all of your photos on a second larger Photos library and then using their primary iCloud linked Photos library for current projects they are working on, allowing editing on multiple devices before moving over to the second library when the project is done or when you hit your storage limit. I’m certainly going to try that out as a good compromise between the old and new style of photos sharing/syncing.

The connection to a single library is not really a big surprise. It was the same with Aperture or iPhoto. They could have given up this library file handling completely and just hide all Photos Assets somewhere within the Users Library folder - they decided to go the same way like before - which is a good thing. Using “option” is only one option - you can also just open the library files with a double click. All this stuff is new and beyond what was known in Photos for iOS8. It has to work with data that comes migrated and it has to be flexible enough for the future needs of millions of customers. The Photos apps will have a user base that is likely much much larger than Aperture, Lightroom an Capture One together. It has to be absolutely rock solid. I it really looks like getting this done is a big task - it will need time. Photos 1.0 will be no Lightroom Competitor. It will be no Aperture Competitor. It’s purpose is broader and it has to be much more robust than both of those “Pro”-Programs perhaps will ever be. “Extensions” or normally run in process. This means third party code that runs within the App. Adobe has shown with Flash, that this can destroy the image of otherwise really good programs. When Apple factored out flash into its own separated process, Safari got a lot more stable. Many Safari crashes were just Problems with Adobes Flash. Apple will certainly not rush out this extension system. The potential of Photos as an extensible App is big: But building such an ecosystem needs time. It doesn’t really help when more and more bloggers and podcasters try to find out if Photos is more like iPhoto or like Aperture. In some ways it is both and in others it’s neither.

Some solid points there Jochen. Read elsewhere from a developer that there is no merge libraries feature so for now my above idea wouldn’t really work. Hope that changes in the future.

Yesterday had time to catch up with Derrick’s podcasts …

There were 2 statements from Apple, that made it pretty clear, what Apple’s plans are for their Photos app:

  1. This was the first time I ever heard about a statement from Apple, that Photos is a replacement for iPhoto and not a replacement for Aperture and that Aperture users, who want to switch to another app, should look elsewhere. 
  2. Unlike Photos in iOS, the plugin interface in OS X only allows plugins for export and sharing to social media, not for image editing. And there are no plans that this will change in future versions.

Reading these 2 statements, and they come directly from Apple, I see very little room for further speculations, whether Photos might evolve into an Aperture replacement in later version or with the help of third party plugins. Simply said, it won’t happen. And the statement Aperture users should look elsewhere clearly says, Apple has nothing else in the pipeline, that could replace Aperture.

IMO it is even more likely, that a new player appears on the stage next to Lightroom and Capture One, than Photos will grow into an ApertureX. The market is there for a third player. There are still a lot of Aperture user, who stick with Aperture as long as it works hoping for something to come, before the lights are switched off. And there are probably as much having already switched to Lightroom and Capture One halfheartedly, who would switch again in a heartbeat to a new, more Aperture like alternative (esp. concerning UIDAM and preserving Metadata and edits from Aperture).

So lets spread the words to software developers: Our money is sitting here, waiting for your product …


Hi Pete,

I don't remember hearing in Derricks podcast that Apple may have said, that there are no plans to develop more than sharing extensions. To me it sounded as if he said nothing is known about that - which may be either a small or a big difference.

Quote from the podcast ”… but nothing else (than sharing) at the moment is planned to be opened…”

Of cause Apple might change their plans. ;-)


Yes, I’m afraid this is the rather sad news that has been fairly evident to those of us with access to Photos.

On the upside …

I found today that images with adjustments which are imported into a Photos library from Aperture are handled in an unusual way.  The adjustments are not editable … there are no bricks available for the Aperture adjustments *but* and this is sort of bizarre, they are completely respected, in that you can duplicate the image and/or add new adjustments using Photos own adjustments, which are ‘added’ to the Aperture adjustments and those files can be exported correctly, with *all* the adjustments applied.

This is a major bonus going forward, because this means that legacy images, from Aperture, will *not* be marooned if Aperture is broken by a future OS update (only a matter of time).  IOW if in 10 years time Photos is still shipping, you will be able to access you Aperture images, add new adjustments to them, (or remove them completely and start over with Photos own adjustments, or make a new version and do the same) export them or use them in any way that Photos allows you to … books, calendars, export, sharing etc.

The problem of course, is what to do for new work going forward and that is indeed going to be a problem, because there is Lr and C1.

I’m very tempted to just keep using Aperture and to resign myself to dedicating a Mac to whatever OS is the last one to work with it (most likely Yosemite) secure in the knowledge that at any time, I can convert my libraries to Photos and that the images and their adjustments will be intact and can be repurposed with ease from there.  I hope that in two or three years time there will be other alternatives, that will facilitate a move away from Aperture.

I really pissed off at Apple about this even though, I just sigh and think, ‘of course they dumped us … that’s what Apple does’.

thank you for all the informations

Please, APPLE. Please , please. Please–do what you want with editing tools. But please don’t break metadata tools, especially custom naming conventions. PLEASE, Apple. 

Hi all, new member although have been a longer term reader.

For those interested in the possibilities of the Photos having an open framework to the OS RAW engine for third party developers what are your thoughts and speculations on integration based on the iOS examples so far.

Ideally I would like to see third party adjustment bricks being able to be added to the Photos app itself rather than a plugin model (even if it is able to access the Photos framework directly). If I take the example of Photos iOS and the Camera+ app, while the latter can work on the same version of the photo and you can go back at a later stage to undo the change or modify further in Camera+, this only applies if you do not make any further changes in Photos (or another third party app). If the latter does happen, then they are effectively baked in. Concerned that this approach would also happen in Photos OS X too if it follows a similar “open in” editing style rather than editing within Photos.  If that was the case it would seem to suggest non-destructive editing without duplicating files but only if adjustments are done in a linear fashion with third party apps. 

Any thoughts?


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