The 8 Top Features of Apple Photos App on Mac and iOS

Get the most out of Apple Photos

The Apple Photos app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac may be simple on the surface, but it's hiding a lot of cool and clever features. Here are the eight features everyone should know about to get the most out of the app across different devices.

Apple Photos on iPhone and iPad is nearly identical, which makes it easy to move between the devices. Apple Photos on Mac launched in 2015 to supersede iPhoto. Apple Photos on Mac is not identical to the phone and tablet, but it uses similar icons, button locations, and terminology.

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Powerful Search: Find Objects in Photos You Didn't Think Was Possible

Search options for pictures.


What We Like
  • Multiple search terms.

  • Lots of items that can be searched for in a picture.

What We Don't Like
  • There's a finite list of items the app needs to know about in order to search for it.

Search is the feature to start with for dealing with photos. Finding the photo you need in a photo app is job number one. To do this, Photos on Mac and iOS both have a powerful search feature that searches for locations (GPS location if taken with a phone), people, albums, and even objects in photos. The app's objects detection is surprisingly good and particularly helpful when looking for a photo you can't quite remember the date for.

To search in Photos for Mac, use the search box in the top right corner of the application. On iOS, tap Search in the bottom right corner of the app.

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Hide Photos: Remove Private Photos From Commonly Seen Areas

How to hide photos on Mac.
What We Like
  • Removes sensitive photos from side-eyes.

What We Don't Like
  • Hidden photos are still easy for snoopers to find.

  • Not password protected.

You can hide a photo if you want to keep it from being seen in some of the most visible places throughout the Photos app. This .prevents other people looking at your photos from stumbling into sensitive ones.

When you hide a photo, it's removed from the Moments, Collections, and Years sections. However, you can find the photo in a new album called “Hidden.”

To hide a photo:

  • Mac: Right-click a photo and click Hide.
  • iOS: Tap one or more photos, tap the Share icon, and scroll right and tap Hide.

Hidden photos are not password protected. If you want to password protect photos using the stock iOS apps, you can add photos to a note in Apple Notes and give that note a password.

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Filters: Make Your Photos Go Retro

Image filter apps.
What We Like
  • Apply quickly with no editing skills needed.

What We Don't Like
  • Some filters are stale and out-of-style looking.

Filters are built into Apple Photos on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. A simple but useful feature, filters allow you to add a colored or black and white appearance to pictures.

Filters mimic how different types of analog film look with different tints and hues, including instant film from Polaroid cameras.

To use filters on both iOS and macOS:

  1. Select a photo.
  2. Select Edit.
  3. Select the three intersecting circles.
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Photo Effects: Give Your Pictures a Bounce and Other Fun Movements

Image effect apps.


What We Like
  • Bounce, Loop, and Long Exposure give new life to Live Photos.

What We Don't Like
  • These effects are not obvious to find.

  • More effects are needed.

While Filters provides a different look, Effects in photos can add new life to Live Photos.

On iOS, Photos can add looping, bounce, and long-exposure effects. The looping and bounce effects take a Live Photo and make it GIF-like, repeating endlessly. Long exposure blurs the items in motion, while stationary items remain unchanged.

Try using long exposure effects on photos of running water or cars driving by to get fun images.

To use photo effects on iOS:

  1. Swipe up on a Live Photo.
  2. Tap an effect to apply.
  3. Once an effect is selected, it appears every time the photo is viewed.
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Facial Recognition: Use Facial Recognition to Find People in Photos

A screenshot of the Faces page for facial recognition.


What We Like
  • Easy way to find pictures based on who was there.

What We Don't Like
  • Facial recognition still isn't perfect at identifying people across ages.

Photos on iOS and Mac can identify people based on facial recognition. If you want to give the face Photos has identified a name, you can do so:

  • On Mac: There is a dedicated album on the left side that shows you the faces in Photos that have been recognized. It is up to you to give and confirm the names, if you'd like to.
  • On iOS: You see faces in the search section. If you tap a face, you can confirm the photos selected by the system and add a name.
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A mobile screenshot of photo management tools.
What We Like
  • Access Photos features from outside the app.

What We Don't Like
  • Force Touch is less discoverable.

On an iPhone with Force Touch capabilities, you can press down on the app to quickly get a menu of shortcuts, including the Photos widget, Most Recent, Favorites, One Year Ago, and Search.

Most Recent takes you to the photos that were just taken—a handy feature for returning where you left off.

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For You: Relive Memories Without the Work

A screenshot of the For You section of Apple Photos


What We Like
  • Lots of neat ways to rediscover old memories.

What We Don't Like
  • For You could benefit from more highlighted pictures.

Photos' For You is meant to pull in memories from across the years and events to resurface ones you might have forgotten about. This is a recent addition to the Photos app on iOS, and it tries to make an already personal app even more meaningful.

One of the most prominent features of For You is On This Day, which shows you what happened on the same day in the past. Facebook and Timehop both have this feature, but if you have all your photos on your phone, this could be even more relevant.

There are other memory highlights like “Best of last 4 weeks,” which highlight recent events. If you haven't dug into For You or glossed over it, give it a look. It's a great feature to help get the most out of Photos.

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How to share photos on iPhone.


What We Like
  • Sharing in Messages is even better than before.

What We Don't Like
  • Sharing with family members and group could still be made easier.

Sharing photos is arguably the second most important feature of any photo app, behind finding the photo you want to share. Sharing has been revamped in iOS 12 and there are several ways to let people see your pictures.

  • Using iMessage: There's now an iMessage app that inserts photos into messages more naturally and suggests people to share recent photos with. If you send more than a few photos, it automatically populates a shared iCloud library which can be accessed on the web, outside a phone or tablet.
  • Using the Photos app: Select a photo from within the Photos app, tap the Share icon, then scroll right and tap Copy iCloud Link. You can later send this link to people to share photos.
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