It’s been brewing for awhile now, the wait will be soon over…
head image: playing with a Singh-Ray Blue/Gold polariser on a Singapore bus arriving at the stop. Image created on February 28th, 2015 with Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS at 33mm. ISO 100, f/8, 0.3s, Evaluative metering +1/3.
…while most are looking forward to the 9th March Apple event “Spring Forward” for the Apple Watch, I expect too that we’ll get some additional information about Photos, the new photo manager that will be released in Spring to replace both iPhoto and Aperture (Boy, have I been wrong in the past).
Most users will be very happy with the new Photos, from what I’ve seen it’ll be easier than any existing apps, but Photos for iPhone, will look much slicker and will be more evolutive than all the available alternatives combined. In fact Apple is coming up with a new ecosystem where the foundations are brought by Apple and can be extended by 3rd party applications. These 3rd party applications, similar to what exists on the phone today, will be available via the Mac AppStore, some free some not, and this will undoubtably create opportunities for many developers and create an unprecedented choice of image processing market place.
I played recently with a few photo editing apps on my iPhone 6 and could, in just a few minutes, get a very decent result.
That’s what can be expected with the upcoming Photos: a reasonable basic feature set provided by Apple and a multitude of photo editing apps bringing, noise correction, filters, image optimisation, multi exposure, etc… I bet that the list will, over time, become quite impressive — with its unavoidable pile of crappy apps we’ve been accustomed to with stores like the App Store — and will potentially give every user the freedom to be an artist without the burden of the technical aspect.
Unfortunately, this is not good news for all. Enthusiasts and pro photographers are likely to find that Photos, at least in its first iteration, will fell very short of expectations and that the tools they need and want won’t be available to them. Amongst the missing features are all advanced — some would say essentials — digital asset management functions: rating, tagging, flagging, keywords and in general management of the whole set of IPTC fields. For common users these functions are non essentials, because most users will create a limited number of images and/or won’t mind spending some time to locate images, especially if those are just food photo which are meant to appear on a Facebook feed and then be forgotten for ever. That’s not the case for those creating thousands of images, dealing with multiple terabytes of image library(-ies) and for whom finding an image requires the proper technologies. The contrast between common , and there is nothing negative implied by my use of “common”, and pro users is clearly seen with Photos views such as the year view: with certain libraries having multiple 10’000s images per year, I wonder how the “compact view” would look like… no doubt it wasn’t designed with the pro in mind.
A key benefit from solid digital asset management is that it integrates naturally the photographer’s workflow. Ideally, it’s about culling, tagging, cataloging and importing before handling the post-processing phase. In more practical terms, before importing the images of a shoot the photographer will do a first culling to remove the “bad shoots” and identify the “wow shoots”, setting the IPTC keywords and importing the selected images into the library. Aperture is very good in this area, though not the best, while Photos does not seem to have any equivalent feature and Lightroom is rather weak.
Photos is centred around Apple cloud service iCloud which will allow users to synchronise their library on all their devices. That’s great for a few thousands JPEG images but what about libraries in the 10’000s or even 100’000s of RAW images? 1Tb costs USD 240 annually, that’s twice as much as one year of Adobe Creative Cloud Photography, and Apple does not offer options for more than 1Tb. Scalability for serious photographers is very questionable here. In fact, when it comes to large libraries, even Aperture does not play well with NAS and that has never been fixed by Apple…
Now we could have a surprise at the upcoming Apple event, additional features could be unveiled with the addition of a new “Premium” version which would have all functionalities that matter to pro photographers. But I’m dreaming… It might be that 2, 3 years from now the new platform will have developed toward a true professional environment, especially with the 3rd party developers contributing to create a rich ecosystem around Photos but I doubt that we will get anything like that anytime soon and in the meantime Adobe has become even more ubiquitous in the Photography market, is it realistic to see Apple and the 3rd party developers taking back Adobe’s advance in 2 or 3 years time? I don’t see it happening.
Today Aperture still works on OS X Yosemite and Apple promised support for this and next version of OS X, after that it will be over. There is thus no urgency to flee the Aperture camp until we know for sure. But I’m getting ready. I’ve been testing Photo Mechanic, that’ll be the subject of another post, and playing with Lightroom for several months now. I’m not ready to move yet, I don’t want to tempt chance and do a migration work twice if a miracle unveils at Apple event next week, but I see a lot of Adobe Lightroom in my future…