Get comfortable in Apple’s Photos app, in 10.10 Yosemite and 10.11 El Capitan!

Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course

Jason Snell

Make a smooth transition to Photos for Mac with help from former Macworld lead editor Jason Snell. You’ll find help with importing iPhoto and Aperture photo libraries, iCloud Photo Library, organizing and editing photos, syncing photos to iOS devices, sharing photos online, making slideshows, creating projects such as cards and calendars, and more. Updated for El Capitan!

This product has been discontinued.

Join Jason Snell, former lead editor at Macworld, and make yourself at home in Apple’s Photos app, which replaces both iPhoto and Aperture.

Jason tells you what to expect from Photos in comparison to iPhoto and Aperture, and walks you through importing libraries from iPhoto and Aperture.

Once your images are safe and sound in the Photos app, Jason helps you understand the Photos interface and points out how you can organize your images. You’ll also learn how to work with the editing tools — and how to use third-party editing extensions.

And, for those who are feeling crafty, there’s a chapter about using Photos’ features to create your own books, cards, and calendars. The book doesn’t stop with what you can do within Photos on the Mac. You’ll also get help with syncing photos with iOS devices or an Apple TV, and with sharing your photos via social media.

What about Photos 2 in Sierra? Photos 2 doesn’t run in El Capitan or Yosemite, but if you’ve upgraded to Sierra, your copy of Photos is now at version 2. And, if you’d like help with the new machine-learning features in Photos 2, like Categories, Places, and Memories, check out Photos: A Take Control Crash Course.

Jason answers a bunch of burning questions, including:

  • If I import a library into Photos, can I still edit it in Aperture or iPhoto?
  • Will Photos require a huge amount of disk space to import my iPhoto library?
  • What should I do about iPhoto or Aperture metadata that doesn’t map to Photos?
  • Where’s the sidebar?
  • What is the System Photo Library, and why is it important?
  • What should I expect if I turn on iCloud Photo Library?
  • Can I delete iPhoto? What about my old iPhoto library?
  • How do I interpret (or turn off) the icons that overlay my photos?

You’ll find directions for editing photos, including help with:

  • Using basic editing controls, like rotation and crop.
  • Taking advantage of the blue checkmarks on the Adjustments pane.
  • The utility of each of the special adjustment controls.
  • Creating a default set of adjustments.
  • Applying a specific set of adjustments to more than one photo.
  • Removing a blemish from a face in a photo.
  • Editing a raw file (instead of the JPEG).
  • Using a third-party photo-editing extension.

You’ll also find advice about:

  • Why the search field is so important in Photos.
  • Sorting all your albums and sorting photos within albums.
  • Applying location information (geotags).
  • Working with keywords, and using the heart-icon Favorite button.
  • Training Photos to recognize a particular face.
  • Setting up albums and smart albums.
  • Sharing an album online via iCloud Photo Sharing.
  • Configuring the Ken Burns effect in a slideshow.
  • Exporting a slideshow as a video file.
  • Using Apple’s print service for printing photos.
  • Editing a photo while working in a book, card, or calendar.
Jason Snell

About Jason Snell

Jason Snell has been writing about Apple since it was doomed—1994, to be exact—and was the lead editor for Macworld for more than a decade. He also oversaw editorial operations for PCWorld, TechHive, and Greenbot. He currently writes about technology at, and hosts the Upgrade and Download podcasts at, and produces and hosts many other podcasts at

This version came about because I wanted to add the new features in Photos 1.1, which ships as part of 10.11 El Capitan.

Added in Photos 1.1

  • Geotagging: You can now add location data to a photo (or selected photos) within the Info window, as I mention now in a few places in the book.

    Also, the screenshot in Use the Info Window now shows the entry of a location from the Apple Maps database.

  • Metadata: I updated the sidebar Filling in the Blanks to describe the new batch feature for editing title, keywords, description, and location information.

  • Better sorting: A new sidebar, Sorting Your Albums, looks at how to sort albums on the Albums pane. Another sidebar, Sorting Photos in Albums, notes the welcome new sorting options for albums.

  • Editing extensions: You can now edit a photo using a third-party tool. See Edit with Extensions.

Other Changes

  • The Cost of Cloud Storage reflects Apple’s most recent prices for iCloud storage.

  • A new topic, Play Back Live Photos, describes how to work with this new photo/video hybrid from the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

  • In Photos for Mac, you can still hide a photo by Control-clicking it, but in Photos for iOS, you must first “share” it. Find out how in Hiding Photos.

  • A new sidebar, The All-New Apple TV, mentions that I haven’t had a chance to see how photos will be supported by the fourth-generation Apple TV.

  • A new tip in Importing from Disk offers a Terminal command to prevent Photos from opening automatically when you plug in a device.

What versions of OS X does Photos run in?

The Photos 1 app runs on the Mac in 10.10 Yosemite and 10.11 El Capitan. As I write this text, the Yosemite version of Photos is stalled at version 1.0.1, whereas the El Capitan version is at 1.1. There are only a handful of differences between the two, and this book calls them out so that you can use it effectively with Yosemite or El Capitan. Even so, if you’re a big Photos user, you’ll probably want to upgrade to El Capitan in order to enjoy the full range of capabilities. You can look at the “Added in Photos 1.1” topic, early in this book, to find out what’s different.

[On 9/23/16, the Yosemite version of Photos is still on version 1.0.1, so it appears that Apple does not intend to ever bring 1.1 to Yosemite.]

Photos 2, which runs on macOS 10.12 Sierra is covered in a different ebook, Photos: A Take Control Crash Course.

  • Read Me First
  • Introduction
  • Photos Quick Start
  • Photos vs. iPhoto and Aperture
  • Import from iPhoto into Photos
  • Import from Aperture into Photos
  • Import Your Files into Photos
  • Use Multiple Photos Libraries
  • Navigate the Photos Interface
  • Add Info about Your Photos
  • Make Albums in Photos
  • Define Smart Albums in Photos
  • Sync with iCloud Using Photos
  • Work with Photos in iOS
  • Process Your Photos
  • Edit Your Photos
  • Share Your Photos
  • View Photos on Apple TV
  • Make Slideshows in Photos
  • Make Books, Calendars, and Cards
  • Make Photographic Prints
  • The Photos Grab Bag
  • About This Book
  • Notable Interview with Jason Snell is Notable

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on November 19, 2015

    Following the release of Jason’s update to his Crash Course book, he sat down with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices to discuss what’s new in the update. Such interviews are no new thing for Jason: he has conversed with Chuck many times in the past as, among other things, a guest on Chuck’s long-lived MacNotables podcast. MacNotables is now ten years old (an eon in podcast time), so it should come as no surprise that their conversation veered into a discussion of the venerable podcast’s decade-long run. So kick back, relax, and get the picture of what’s new in Photos and then enjoy a stroll down memory lane with Jason and Chuck.

    A Useful Hack for Throttling iCloud Photo Library Uploads

    Posted by Adam Engst on May 22, 2015

    Over at TidBITS, we’ve written an article that offers a potential solution to the problem of Photos overwhelming your Internet connection with uploads to iCloud Photo Library. It’s not for everyone, but it might help you. See How to Throttle iCloud Photo Library Uploads.

    October 4, 2016 -- We don't plan to update this title about Photos 1 again, but we have created a new title with a slightly different name that covers Photos 2, along with an increased emphasis on iOS 10 and a new chapter about Photos on the Apple TV. See <a href=photos-crash-course>Photos: A Take Control Crash Course</a>.

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