What's Still Missing From Apple’s Photos App?

Quite a lot, it turns out

Key Takeaways

  • iCloud Photo Library can now export your entire Library direct to Google Photos.
  • Apple’s Photos app is still missing basic features.
  • Photos app has many features that are so well-hidden, you may never discover them.
Two photographers swapping out a memory card with a laptop computer nearby.
Samsung Memory / Unsplash

Apple’s Photos app works just fine, but six and a half years after launch, it's still missing some embarrassingly obvious features. 

Apple just added a feature that lets you export your entire Photos library to Google Photos. This is pretty great, as it avoids having your photos locked up on your Apple device or in Apple’s iCloud. But that feature seems more like a way to stave off growing antitrust pressure from government regulators than an actual feature people will use.

"To be honest, I think the move to Google is redundant," professional photo organizer Caroline Guntur told Lifewire via email.

"Most users who want out of Apple Photos want to move into Lightroom or another similar software where they have more control. Apple Photos is far superior to Google Photos, so in my opinion, it would be like trading down. I've never seen anyone want to make that switch in the 10 years I've been in business."

What’s Missing From Photos App?

If you want to keep your photos on your iPhone or iPad, you will have to use the Photos app. Alternatives exist, but none of them is as well-integrated as Photos.

Photos has two big problems. Its design—using Apple’s sweep-under-the-rug brand of "minimalism"—makes features like editing recognized faces almost impossible to find.

Photos displayed on two Mac screens.
Tran Mau Tri Tam / Unsplash

The other problem is that basic functionality is completely lacking. But what kinds of things could Apple add?

Family Albums

Apple lets you set up family sharing for calendars, purchases, subscriptions, and even to share iCloud storage. So why isn’t there a family photo album? You can set up a shared photo album and have family members subscribe to that and add pictures, but it’s a workaround at best.

For starters, pictures in shared albums are not "on" your device or even in your library. If the creator deletes a shared album, you lose all access to photos you haven’t specifically saved.

"It's very common nowadays that there are multiple iPhones in a family and that one person (usually Mom) is in charge of consolidating all the family photos," says Guntur.

"This is not an easy task because the Apple universe is meant for one person. Yes, there is album sharing, but in my experience, people get confused about which albums belong to what person. It's messy."

Decent Raw Editing

This is a more specialized feature, but the Photos app already supports raw editing, and the iPhone can shoot raw images, so it should work better. You can add raw photos, and there are some powerful tools, but to do anything, you have to click or tap multiple items to get to the one you need.

"Most users who want out of Apple Photos want to move into Lightroom or another similar software where they have more control."

"Since the loss of Apple’s Aperture software, we have severely lost good, professional editing capabilities," Matt Thorne, of refurbished gadget reseller Reboxed, told Lifewire via email. "I currently have to organize photos in Lightroom, to edit them, then export them into folders that I then have to bring into Photos to see the photos on my devices."

The situation is better on the Mac, which has many more editing tools. Which leads to the question, why aren’t they also available on iOS?

And good luck actually finding those raw files on your iPhone or iPad…

Smart Albums on iOS

Smart Albums are essentially saved searches that run every time you open the album. You might have an album with all the photos taken in a specific city or using a particular lens. You can create these on the Mac, but not on iOS. Worse, they don’t sync, so you can’t even view them on your iPhone or iPad.

Smart albums on the iPad would be a great way to keep track of your RAW images, too, so you could delete them (they’re often much larger than JPGs) when you don’t need them anymore. 

Info

You’re looking at a photo, and you wonder which camera took it. Or which aperture was set on the lens, and so on. On the Mac, you can call up an info panel. On iOS, you have to install a third-party app and access it via Photos’ share sheet. I recommend Exify or Metapho because they’re easy to use and look great. 

Metadata in the Darkroom app.

If you use a photo app like Darkroom to view and edit your photos, you can call up an info panel on the left of the screen, and it stays there while you flip through your images, updating as you go. Photos should do this.

More

You may assume that a feature doesn’t exist in the Photos app, only to find that it is so well-hidden you can’t find it. I know it’s possible to mark an incorrectly identified face, for example, to remove it from an album in the People section. But every time I want to do this, it takes me a few minutes to find the setting.

And did you know you can now add captions on iPhone and iPad? I challenge you to find out how. 

So, Apple could fix that. But there are more missing features that it could add. Better duplicate management, support for printing photo books, parity for editing features across platforms—these are just a few. Photos is a great app already, but it could be so much better.

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