Apple OS X Photos Delayed. I'm Done.

I've been waiting since last summer for February 2015 to roll around, hopeful to get my hands on OS X Photos and see if it'll pass muster as an Aperture replacement. And now I can wait a little longer. I'll bet most of you have already heard that OS X Photos is delayed until late April. That sucks slightly. Two extra months of waiting is in the noise at this point.

What sucks much more loudly is the early reports on what OS X Photos is and isn't. A beta version of Photos is in developers' hands. I'm not in the beta program, nor do I have a system (or time) to fiddle with the pre-release software. By the magic of the internet, there's plenty of information to be had. And I'm not overjoyed with what I'm reading.

Before I launch into what I don't like, let me set some context. I'm a power user of Aperture. I use a ton of the organizational features of the product to catalog, sort, group, and search my images. I also use many of the advanced adjustments for initial RAW editing. If you are a casual shooter and just want "a place" for your images, Photos may suit you perfectly. 

Ok... with that out of the way, let's look at a few of the reports coming in.

  • The Verge reports that a lot of things we've grown accustomed to in Aperture are gone: star ratings are gone (replaced with a heart for favorites), color labels are gone, dust spot retouching is gone, custom metadata fields are gone. When bringing in an Aperture library, projects are turned into albums. The report goes on to say photos can't be geo-tagged, but can be viewed on a map. So unless your camera has a GPS unit, either built-in or as an accessory, there's no after-the-fact geo-tagging. There's also mention that "other metadata" (whatever that means) is maintained but only available in search. I can't quite parse that sentence.

    Impact to Scott: The absence of color labels is a non-starter for me. It's that big of a deal. Color labels are crucial to my workflow. I need to see what projects being turned into albums means, both in terms of organization within Photos and the backend storage of images. The lack of geo-tagging is another big issue. I always geo-tag my images. Other than my iPhone, I need to do it after capture because I don't have a dedicated GPS unit for my camera.

    Custom metadata I can live without. The vague metadata statement is concerning too, mainly because I can't fathom what it means. IPTC data can't be updated? Keywords? Something else? Metadata is important to me.
  • Yahoo Tech corroborates a lot of what the Verge does. The article has a laundry list of the adjustments that aren't in Photos. In addition to what's above, Yahoo reports Photos doesn't have the concept of stacks, doesn't have curves, and doesn't support library split/merge. The article also clarifies that missing things like star ratings and color labels are converted to keywords, to which I say "Meh." The data is there, and that's good. I'd rather have a standard rating system.

    The report also reveals launching plug-in apps is not supported, nor are metadata batch operations. I suppose in light of the Verge article, I shouldn't be surprised that metadata handling is gonna be weak.

    Impact to Scott: The non-starters are the lack of library split/merge and no external plug-ins. I do more and more processing in onOne Perfect Photo Suite - I gotta have plug-ins. Splitting and merging libraries is a huge part of my mobile workflow. Most of my new work begins on a laptop and I later merge the final edits into the main studio library.

    I like stacks and I'd miss those. Curves, too. In general, the photo adjustments of Photos are more akin to what's on iOS Photos (no surprise there, and I understand the desire for a consistent experience across devices). And the lack of batch metadata adjustments poses yet another problem for the workflow I've developed.
  • Last is an article from Apple Insider which states Apple advises pro photographers to migrate to Lightroom. I find that statement quite misleading. The link in the article goes to a page talking about Adobe's conversion tool from Aperture to Lightroom, with a brief statement accredited to Apple saying some professionals might find the new Photos application "unacceptable".

    Impact to Scott: Questionable journalism aside, I agree that the initial offering of Photos will be "unacceptable" to pros.

Is there anything good about OS X Photos? Of course. Tons of things. A great improvement over iPhoto. It's a fantastic app for beginning photographers or the family photographer that needs a quick and easy way to organize images coming in from a bunch of iOS devices. The integration with iCloud and synchronization across iDevices looks top notch. I also like what I saw in the adjustment panes. Like iOS Photos, the "master" slider that manipulates a set of subservient sliders get you a quick look for an image. That's cool and it's kind of like a preset. I'm assuming the subservient sliders can be further adjusted to fine tune a look (but I could be very wrong).

However... at the end of the day... a very obvious theme emerges. OS X Photos is designed with the consumer in mind. And I'll bet most iPhoto users will be very happy with Photos, as will those just beginning with Photos. But it is not a professional grade application.

Do I think Photos will improve over time? Yes. I expect Apple will continue to grow Photos, adding more professional grade features as the months and years go by. At a minimum, extensions for 3rd party plugins to do non-destructive edits just like iOS. I am less confident Photos will over advances in manual project management, metadata support, and other features professionals demand.

So... what am I doing? I've waited this long, I'll wait a little more. But not for OS X Photos. For Lightroom 6. LR6 is slated for release at the end of March. I'll be downloading the trial and migrating a portion of my library to hammer out my migration strategy. I want my migration behind me and to spend my brain cycles making great photos, not futzing with the tool chain, waiting for pro features that may or may not come.

Apple - I totally get what you're doing. It's been fun. Aperture has been great for me. I'm sure Lightroom will be too.