Photography Related news from Apple's WWDC
Apple’s annual developer conference started this week and last night (my time) Apple held the WWDC keynote. There were a few announcements in the presentation that were of interest to photographers, especially if you use an iPad or an iPhone for photography. The announcements also leave some unanswered questions over the fate of iPhoto and Aperture, but more on that in a minute.
The first big reveal was the way that iCloud will be further integrated into the iOS photography solution. From now on Apple will store all your images on iCloud depending on the space. You will have up to 5GB of space for free, with paid tiers of storage at new lower (and pretty reasonable prices). Images you take on one device will be available almost instantly on your other devices. Not only that but the new photos and camera app allow you to make more advanced edits, functionality which was previously part of the iPhoto app. (Actually, it’s even more advanced than what was in iPhoto for iOS) These edits appear to be non-destructive and will also sync across devices. The whole solution creates a pretty seamless experience, or at least it will if it all works the way they demonstrated. The camera app also gins some interesting new features not mentioned in the keynote, including a time-lapse function and a timer.
However, it is in the area of third party development, where iOS 8 and photography really starts to get interesting. Apple is finally allowing apps to not only communicate with each other but also to extend other apps. This will allow apps on iOS to function almost as plug-ins. The demo that was given showed filters from third party app being applied directly in the photos app. Interestingly, while not directly demonstrated, one of the tools to show up as an extension in the demo was VSCO, meaning that at some point in the future you may be able to apply VSCO filters directly in the photos, or potentially other apps.
This extensibility doesn’t just apply to making things like filters either. The share sheet is now finally extensible, meaning it will be easier to share to third party services from any app. The demo showed this functionality using Pinterest as an example, but imagine being able to post to other services, such as 500px directly from the photos app. This also means that developers of third party camera software won’t have to hard code sharing to individual services into their apps any more. The sharing services themselves can create system wide sharing options. I know this has been available on Android for some time, so its a relief to finally see it coming to iOS.
Speaking of third party camera apps, the biggest news for photographers out of all the announcements may be two off the cuff comments made near the end of the iOS 8 presentation, and that involved new camera APIs available to developers. In iOS 8 Apple will finally allow manual control over exposure and white balance. Finally. This has to be the most frustrating aspect of using an iPhone for photography and has led to some ridiculous workarounds over the years. This should make third party camera apps much more powerful.
Another important camera related feature for developers is that Apps can now write directly to the photo library on iOS devices, so there will be no more “send to camera roll” from within photo apps to get the photos back out of the Apps.
With all the iCloud related announcements regarding photos on iOS, you may be wondering where does that leave the Mac? Well, Apple sort of answered that too. It was announced that a newly developed “from the ground up” photos solution will be available on the mac starting next year. They showed a brief demo of the work in progress on this new app, called “Photos”. Basically, in its current form it seems like a mac version of the iOS photos app, however this does present a lot of interesting questions.
First of all, it’s not a new version of iPhoto. I doubt that Apple are going to create yet another photo application, so I suspect that the current version of iPhoto will be the last. It also makes me wonder what the future of Aperture will be. Aperture hasn’t seen a major update in over 4 years, and while there are some diehards out there who cling to the belief that Apple is still developing Aperture, given the tone of the keynote, I find it unlikely. It just doesn’t seem to fit in with Apple’s strategy any more. Also, the way that the new Photos app was described: as “A new grounds up photo solution for the mac, built with iCloud in mind” implies that it will be replacing Apple’s existing “Photo Solutions”.
Anyway, some people are pretty passionate about Aperture and won’t want to accept this, and they could well be right, but in my opinion the writing is on the wall for the software. Having watched the related part of the presentation a few times now, I think the language was very carefully chosen to say something without saying something if you know what I mean. Again, that’s just my opinion. Well, actually, it’s not just mine. Before the keynote yesterday John Gruber coincidentally (yeah, right) nailed Apple’s photo announcements. Here’s what he wrote:
To that end, here’s what I’d like to see: a ground up rewrite of iPhoto, designed as a client for an iCloud-centric photo library. You can keep all your photos on your Mac, but they can all be on iCloud too, and thus accessible from your iOS devices anywhere with a network connection. The goal should be to make it such that an iCloud-using iPhone or iPad user will never lose a photo because they’re lost or broken their device, nor should they ever feel the need to permanently delete photos just because they’ve run out of storage space on the device.
Here’s what he said about Aperture:
Apple might as well get rid of Aperture while they’re at it, and focus on making iPhoto good enough for everyone short of true professional photographers — most of whom, I think, have settled on Adobe Lightroom. The writing has been on the wall for a while. If Apple still sees the need to separate truly expert features from the basic features most people need, they could do something like make the new iPhoto free for all users, and sell “iPhoto Pro” as an in-app purchase.
This way Mac users would have one system standard photo library, just like iOS users have, and third-party Mac apps could have access to it the same way they do on iOS.
I think he’s right. It’s crazy having two photography apps that essentially do the same thing, yet alone a third. I think the fact that Aperture and iPhoto moved to a shared library format recently coupled with the fact that the new app is being called “Photos” and not iPhoto means that Aperture and iPhoto will make way for this brand new solution. Whether that has features fro Pros or not remains to be seen, but I really think that’s where the future lies. I’m sure some people will angrily disagree with that assessment, but there you have it.