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Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac
Oct 22, 2015
The Author

Jeff Carlson is a contributing editor of TidBITS, a columnist for the Seattle Times, a frequent contributor to Macworld, and the author of best-selling books on the Mac, video editing, digital photography, and, in earlier incarnations, Web design and Palm organizers. He consumes almost too much coffee. Almost.

Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac, Second Edition

Build a digital workflow to import, tag, rate, and organize your photos!

Why take photos if you can’t find them later? Digital photography expert Jeff Carlson has developed a simple system you can use to make your photos browsable, searchable, and generally navigable!

Jeff begins by helping you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the three most popular photo-management applications: Photos from Apple, and Lightroom and Photoshop Elements from Adobe. Once you’ve picked the app that’s right for you (and there’s a chapter on migrating to Lightroom from iPhoto, Aperture, or Photos), you’ll learn to create a custom workflow for importing, evaluating, keywording, and tagging your photos so they are sort into logical groups and are easy to find. For each of these essential aspects of your workflow, Jeff provides step-by-step instructions for each of the three covered apps.

It’s all too easy to lose everything if you don’t have backups, so Jeff discusses how to back up and archive photos to protect your irreplaceable photographic memories.

Jeff also helps you pick an online service that can put your photos everywhere, looking particularly at the pros and cons, and how-tos, of iCloud Photo Library, Google Photos, Lightroom mobile, and Mylio.

Go deeper with the Photos app: This book wholeheartedly covers Photos in its discussions, but for even more about Photos, be sure to pick up Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course, by Jason Snell, from the build-your-own-bundle bar in the cart!

More Info

In the process of creating your custom digital photo workflow, you’ll find expert advice about each of these photo-management topics:

  • Shooting smarter: Make sure your camera is set to the correct time (and time zone), choose a file format, and think about capturing geolocation data while you’re taking photos.

  • Choosing the right app: Learn about the pros and cons of the most popular photo-management applications — Photos, Lightroom, and Photoshop Elements — and find directions for how to migrate from iPhoto, Aperture, or Photos to Lightroom. There’s also a sidebar about how to continue to use iPhoto or Aperture star ratings in Photos.

  • Importing photos: Make your Mac apply keywords and other tags in a batch during import, and make sure you’re storing files in a place that makes sense going forward.

  • Judging photos: Get time-tested tips for rating individual photos and learn how to deal with bad photos, whether you want to delete them, hide them, or leave them be.

  • Assigning metadata: Once your camera and your computer have assigned as much metadata as possible automatically, you’ll need to do the final bits yourself. Jeff describes how to think about this process and gives you specific steps for how to proceed efficiently.

  • Putting photos in albums: With your metadata successfully applied, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Learn how to set up smart albums to collect and display your photos automatically.

  • Add a mobile component: When it’s time to apply metadata or cull bad photos, why sit at a desktop Mac when you can lounge in a recliner — or work from your smartphone while waiting for the bus? Jeff helps you pick an online photo service that can put your photos on all your devices for viewing and editing. He provides a list of features to look for and describes the pros and cons, and how-tos, of his top picks: iCloud Photo Library, Google Photos, Lightroom mobile, and Mylio.

  • Planning for the future: Digital photos can’t be damaged by water or tossed accidentally when cleaning house, but at the same time, a disk failure could destroy every photo you own. Jeff discusses how you can back up your precious photos and archive them for future generations.

Bonus! Includes a 20% off coupon for SizzlPix!, high-def photographic prints infused onto an aluminum base. These hand-crafted prints are largely free of glare, are waterproof (some are installed in showers and pools), and have an ultra-hard coating that renders them virtually scratch-proof.

What's New

Quite a lot has changed in the two years since publishing the original edition of this book. Here’s a quick look at what’s changed in the book to reflect the current photography environment.

iPhoto, Aperture, and Photos for Mac

Here’s the biggie: Apple has discontinued iPhoto and Aperture, and replaced them with Photos for Mac. The consequences ripple throughout the book, including:

  • At the basic level, I removed all the sections that included iPhoto and Aperture, except in cases where historical information still applies, and replaced them with equivalent details for Photos for Mac.

  • A new section in Choose the Right Photo-management Application details how Photos for Mac fits in with my criteria for finding a good application (spoiler: it’s an improvement over iPhoto).

  • Photos for Mac departs from other applications in that it eschews star ratings in favor of marking photos as favorites. In Develop a Consistent Rating System, I explain how this works and provide a workaround that regains star-rating functionality.

  • I reconsidered my stance on using facial recognition services, thanks to the feature being present and useful in Photos for Mac and Lightroom, and now recommend the feature if you’re willing to put the time into setting it up. See Use Facial Recognition.

  • Photos for Mac can read a photo’s location information and place it on a map, but the process isn’t straightforward. In Apply Geotags, I explain how it works and update the section to account for merging tracklog information (which, if you use tracklog data, must be done before importing photos into Photos or Photoshop Elements). Also, Photoshop Elements 14 has a new interface for working with geotagged photos, which I detail along with the previous version.

  • iPhoto and Aperture aren’t completely gone—they both still function under 10.11 El Capitan (the latest version of the Mac operating system as of this writing). As such, I’ve rewritten the migration chapter, Migrate to Lightroom, to use Adobe’s migration tool introduced in 2014. And, for anyone who has switched to Photos but would now like to move their library to Lightroom, I’ve included a set of steps that should get you most of the way there, despite the lack of an elegant tool or process—see Moving from Photos to Lightroom.

  • Throughout, I’ve updated information to represent the latest versions of Lightroom (CC 2015) and Photoshop Elements (14).

Mobile Photo Services

The other big shift in digital photography has been a greater emphasis on mobile photography—not just that we’re shooting more photos with the iPhone and iPad, but that we expect all (or at least most) of our photos to be available on any device we have. As a result, I’ve added a completely new chapter, Go Mobile with Online Photo Services, which looks at four possible solutions: iCloud Photo Library, Google Photos, Lightroom mobile, and Mylio.

Update Plans

September 9, 2016 - Jeff has begun updating this book to cover changes in Photos and a few of the other apps covered in the book. Our tentative plan is to have the update ready later this year, although this is not guaranteed at this point. The good news is, if you purchase Take Control of Your Digital Photos on a Mac now, you will receive a free update when it is released.

Posted by Lauri Reinhardt

  1. Dropbox Shuttering Carousel App and Service

    Dropbox has announced that it is closing its Carousel picture service and app. Jeff describes his view of the matter on his personal blog in the post Dropbox’s Carousel Jams.

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

  2. Jeff Provides a Closeup of the 2nd Edition on MacVoices

    Jeff talks about the new edition of his book with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices, framing the discussion with a portrait of how the digital photo landscape has changed following the replacement of Apple’s Aperture and iPhoto apps with its new Photos app. He then focuses on issues of mobile access to photos, competing online services, data privacy, and long-term storage solutions for digital photographers.

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)