About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

External Editors for Photos

External Editors for Photos

I was browsing the Mac App Store last night looking for Apps which have photos extensions (which is not an easy task) and I came across a very interesting app which immediately got me very excited. The app, which is a basically just a photos edit extension is called "External Editors for Photos" and it does exactly what it says in the title. It addresses one of the biggest shortcomings of Apple's Photos by giving it the ability to use any image editing application as an external editor.

Once installed, the app works as an edit extension for Photos. When you call it from the edit screen in Photos you're presented with a window showing you a large view of your image and a list of all the available applications that can open the file. Simply click on one of these applications to send the image to your chosen editor. Once you've made your changes just save them, and they'll go back to the open extension in Photos. Then you just have to hit the Save Changes button to send the changed version back to photos. It's actually pretty seamless and straight forward, and works really well. Unlike the external editor function of Aperture in the past, you have the ability to use multiple editors without any additional setup. It makes round tripping to an editor such as Photoshop or Affinity Photo extremely simple, and while it should really be a feature of Photos to begin with, this solves the problem nicely.

Image being edited in Affinity Photo

It has a few additional tricks up its sleeve too. If you're working on a Raw file, it will send the raw file to the editor. However this presents a problem, as you can't save the raw file back over itself. The extension gets around this by letting you export your finished edits to a JPEG file, and you can then drag and drop that back on the extension's editor window, which will re-link it back to the corresponding file. It also lets you copy and paste into the thumbnail window to achieve the same result, although I had some trouble getting this to work.

There are a few limitations of the app, although these limitations are partly due to the Photos infrastructure. When you edit an image in an external editor for example it saves back over the original. While you can still "Revert to original" in Photos, you'll loose any intermediate steps. This is due to the way photos works though, and you can get around this problem by duplication the image before you send it to an editor. The app also only seems to send JPEG or RAW files. If you've been working on a Raw image using Apple's own editing tools, and then send it to an editor it will send it as a JPEG. There is no option to send a tiff file for example, so you're limited to editing with an 8 bit JPEG. It should also be noted that if you're working with a Raw file, and you make any edits whatsoever in Photos, it will send a JPEG rather than the Raw file. This is true of all edit extensions in Photos. If you want to make sure you're sending the raw file you need to make sure to Revert to Original first.

All in all "External Editors for Photos" is a very simple app, but it's an essential one, as it fixes one of the most glaring omissions in Photos. While it's not 100% perfect, most of the issues are due to the way photos works rather than any flaw of the app. It's a great little tool and easily worth the money. Speaking of which, I almost forgot to mention. It's just €0.99!

You can find External Editors for Photos on the Mac App Store now. There's more information, and a screencast of the app in use on the developer's website.

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