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. 

A Quick Look at Photos in High Sierra

A Quick Look at Photos in High Sierra

Apple’s High Sierra operating system is now available, and with it comes some changes to Apple’s Phots application. Most of these were previously announced, so not much of this will probably be a surprise at this stage. However, as I’ve just upgraded my laptop, I thought I’d take it for a quick spin to see if anything stood out. I’ve only been using it for a few hours now, so I’ve probably missed a few things, but anyway, here it goes…

Edit With

Probably one of the most sought after features is the “edit with” command that lets you use Photos with an external editor. You can now properly round-trip to an external editor without having to use any of the workarounds that you previously did, such as the “External Editors” extension. While this has been much requested and eagerly anticipated, unfortunately the implementation is a little bit buggy at the moment.

When you right click on a photo you get a sub menu option (also choosable from the Image menu) that gives you a list of available applications. Unfortunately, for some reason it only shows a few apps by default, and Photoshop wasn’t even showing there. This seems like an odd bug. You do have an “other” option that allows you to select any application. I thought that maybe after I selected photoshop using this method it would be added to the menu, but no luck. It’s possible that this is just a bug related to indexing of my hard drive, and that maybe after a day or so this will have been resolved, but after several hours it’s still the same. It seems odd that they wouldn’t make sure the most likely option wouldn’t be visible in the main menu.

One other interesting things about the way this works, is that when you’re working on a RAW file and want to edit that in an external editor, Phots will send the RAW file rather than flattening out the way Lightroom does, which is good, but when you go to save it back, obviously you can’t save over the raw file. There’s no clear instructions what to do, but if you save a PSD (or other format) into the same folder it seems to work ok, and will re-link back to Photos.

The one really stupid thing about the external editor functionality is that it doesn’t work when in the “editing” mode. You have to get back out of it into browse mode before the menu command becomes available. This seems a bit silly to me, and I suspect is an oversight.

Editing Interface

The main editing interface has been given a fairly significant makeover. The toolbar which was down the side, which let you switch between the filter, adjustments, and cropping tools is now across the top. There are a few new filters in the filters panel. The button to access the menu to use extensions is now in a much easier to reach part of the interface, living on the top toolbar when in editing mode.

The main changes come to the adjustments themselves, with the addition of some new tools. The new additions include a much needed curves tool, and selective colour (hue saturation controls). The curves tool works pretty much as expected and is pretty responsive. The same goes for the hue and saturation selective editing controls

One other change to the interface is that all of the adjustments are now on the interface all the time. In the old version of Photos, you could enable or disable certain adjustments. You can still turn them on and off, but they’re now always visible on the interface. Some of them do allow you to collapse their options though to make the interface a bit simpler.


Another feature, that may be only a small thing, but will actually make a big difference is the ability to filter your view in the current selection. So, in other words, if you’re viewing an album for example, you can now filter it to just show favourites. Previously the only way to do this was to go to the special favourites album.

Things that have’t been fixed:

There are still plenty of things that bug me about Photos. Many of these are little things that could be easily fixed if Apple wanted to. There’s still no way to batch change RAW + Jpeg pairs to be either RAW or JPEG. If you’re importing from a card with RAW + Jpeg pairs this is still a pain. Drag and drop from the application to another application still doesn’t work either. If you try and drop an image from the Photos browser onto another application it does nothing.


In terms of the upgrade, I noticed that the app seems a little faster overall, and the new sorting modes are really welcome. The overall design of the interface has been tweaked to make it look a bit more like iTunes with the big Helvetica fonts, which you may or may not like.

The updates to Photos in High Sierra are certainly welcome, but some of the limitations and silly way certain things work are still really annoying. I know this is a free application, but I wish Apple would either put more resources into t, or at least put someone over the team who would, in the words of the late Steve Jobs “Sweat the details”. I get that Photos s never going to be Aperture, but it’s the inconsistencies and stupid things that drive me mad, because otherwise, if you took it at face value, it would be a great consumer app.

Extra Notes

Just a few extra notes on High Sierra. I’ve had a few minor issues since updating. When waking my MacBook Pro from sleep the display was garbled until I quit Photoshop. I’m not saying that photoshop was the culprit, but there’s something funky going on there.

Also, if you have a Wacom Tablet, make sure to read this warning before updating.

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A Warning about High Sierra for Wacom Users

A Warning about High Sierra for Wacom Users