How to Edit Photos on Mac

Use the built-in editor on Mac to get photos exactly as you want them.

Photo of woman sitting at her computer editing a photo

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For simple photo edits, you don't necessarily need an expensive photo editor. Your Mac comes loaded with everything you need for editing and perfecting those special photos thanks to the built-in photo editor. You can crop, adjust the lighting, use filters, and so much more.

Here's how to edit photos on Mac.

Before you get started, make sure your Mac is updated with the latest macOS version. You'll also want to ensure iCloud Photos is turned on to access all of your photos.

How to Edit Photos on Mac: Crop Your Photo and Use a Filter

Cropping your photo is one of the simplest functions in the photo editor and is best for changing the focus of your image, removing background noise, and changing the entire look and feel of your photo.

Filters are an amazing way to add personality to your photos quickly. From black and white to brightening, your Mac is built with many different filters to choose from. To get started, open the photo you wish to edit.

  1. To get started, locate the photo you wish to use in your Photos app on your Mac.

    Screenshot of Photo app on Mac
  2. Click Edit in the upper right hand corner of your Photos app. The editing screen will open, complete with your photo.

  3. In the top menu, click Crop. The crop screen will open. You'll notice the cropping tool surrounding your image.

    Screenshot of crop screen on Mac
  4. Move your cursor to expand or contract the crop tool around your image. Once you reach the crop of your choice, click Done in the upper right hand corner.

    Screenshot of Photos app screen in Mac
  5. Your crop is now complete. You'll see your photo in the Photos app.

  6. To begin using a filter: In the top menu, choose Filters. On the right hand side of your screen, you'll be able to see the various filters to choose from.

    Screenshot of filter screen on Mac
  7. Select the filter you wish to use to preview it.

    Screenshot of black and white filter on Mac
  8. When you find a filter you like, click Done in the upper right hand corner to save it.

How to Edit Photos on Mac: Sharpen or Define Your Photo

Want to add a crispness to your photo? You'll want to use the Sharp tool to adjust the sharpness of your image. By sharpening, you can change the entire look and feel of that landscape or portrait.

Want to define those edges and make your photo pop? You can use the Define tool to do just that. To get started, go ahead and open the image you wish to edit in the photo editor.

  1. In the top menu, click Adjust if it isn't already open on your screen.

    Screenshot of adjust screen on Mac
  2. Next, in the right hand menu, click Sharpen to view your available tools.

    Screenshot of adjust screen and sharpen on Mac
  3. Move the sliders for Intensity, Edges and Falloff to adjust each.

  4. To adjust the definition of your photo, open the Definition option in the editing screen.

  5. Moving the slider, define your photo to the level you desire.

    Screenshot of adjust and definition on Mac
  6. Click Done in the upper right hand corner to save your defined and sharpened cropped image.

Want Mac to sharpen your photo for you? Under Sharpen, click Auto for an automatic adjust. Most of the editing tools include this feature.

How to Edit Photos on Mac: Add a Vignette

A vignette causes your photo to blend into the background without a clear border. This effect adds a unique softness to your photo when done correctly, but can also add drama or create a unique focus on a portrait. To start, open the photo you wish to edit in the editor.

Screenshot of vignette on Mac

From the Adjust screen, click Vignette in the right hand menu, then click Strength, Radius and Softness to adjust each.

How to Edit Photos on Mac: Using Selective Color

You can also choose to use the Selective Color feature to enhance one or more colors in your photo. The Selective Color tool allows you to change the Hue, Saturation, Luminance, and Range of the color you select. This tool makes it easy to customize your photo's color in a deeper way.

To get the most out of this tool, it's best to understand the differences between each slider:

  • Hue: Hue is described as the origin of the color we see. For example, there are many different hues of red, including crimson, wine, magenta, and burgundy. The hue tool will help you reach a different hue of the color you choose.
  • Saturation: Saturation is described as the intensity of a color. You can use the Saturation tool to intensify certain colors in your photo over others.
  • Luminance: This is described as the perceived brightness of a color in your photo.
  • Range: This tool can modify the range of color you might perceive in your image. You can add a little or a lot, depending on how you want your photo to look.
  1. To use the Selective Color Tool, click Selective Color towards the bottom of the right hand menu.

    Screenshot of adjust and selective color on Mac
  2. Choose a color option to begin enhancing your color.

  3. Use the Hue, Saturation, Luminance, and Range sliders to enhance that color in your photo.

    Screenshot of adjust and selective color on Mac
  4. Once you're satisfied, click Done in the upper right hand corner to save your photo.

How to Edit Photos on Mac: Adjusting Brightness and Color

Has your photo gone dark? Often, lighting that is less than optimal can wreak havoc on the perfect image. You can easily adjust the brightness of your photo in the editor.

If your photo looks a bit bland, you can enhance the vividness of your photo by adjusting its color. To get started, open the photo you wish to edit in the photo editor.

  1. From Adjust, click Light at the top of the right hand menu.

    Screenshot of adjust and light on Mac
  2. Move the slider to the right to brighten your photo.

    Screenshot of adjust and light on Mac
  3. To adjust the color of your photo, click Color in the right hand menu.

    Screenshot of adjust and color on Mac
  4. Use the slider to enhance the color of your photo quickly.

    Screenshot of adjust and color on Mac
  5. When you're satisfied, click Done to save your enhanced photo to the photo library.

How to Edit Photos on Mac: Retouch Your Photo

Do you have a portrait or photo with that infamous red eye? Or, do you have a portrait with a little bit of red tint to the eye you want to simply retouch? Mac photo editor makes it easy to edit both of these.

Both of these tools are great for portraits. However, the Retouch tool is perfect for touching up landscapes and more as well.

To begin, open the photo you want to edit in the photo editor.

  1. From the Adjust menu, click Retouch in the right hand menu.

    Screenshot of adjust and retouch on Mac
  2. You can simply remove blemishes by using your brush to click areas in your photo.

    Screenshot of adjust and retouch on Mac

    You can choose the size of your brush depending on the size of the area you're working on. Simply drag the slider to adjust the size of your brush before you begin.

  3. Alternatively, press and hold Option on your Mac's keyboard to show the selector tool. Here, you can select a source area for your retouch. Simply click anywhere in your photo to set the source and release Option. Then, proceed to click the blemish to remove it using the source you chose.

How to Edit Photos on Mac: Removing Red Eye

Once you have your retouches complete, you can use the Red Eye tool to remove red eye from your photo.

From Adjust, click Red Eye in the right hand menu. Adjust the slider to choose the size of your brush. You can then use your brush to correct using the Red Eye tool. You can use a smaller brush to get hard to reach places, or use the brush covering the eye completely.

Screenshot of adjust and red eye on Mac

You'll notice how the Red Eye tool improved the red veining in our lovely woman's eyes. However, for images that have red eye due to flash, your Mac photo editor can help with those too.

Your Mac photo editor also allows you to create stunning black and white images using the Black and White tool, balance your photo using the White Balance tool, or even adjust your color curves using the Curve tool.