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6 Easily Overlooked Features in Photos for OS X

The new Photos for OS X application, which replaces iPhoto and Aperture on the Mac, contains many features that aren't initially apparent. Jeff Carlson, author of Photos for OS X and iOS: Take, Edit, and Share Photos in the Apple Photography Ecosystem, reveals six features that might seem hidden at first.
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Apple's Photos for OS X application is sparse and straight to the point, presenting your photos on a simple white background, but it's actually more capable than it appears. Many features and controls are literally hidden—they don't appear unless your mouse pointer is near them, for example. But working with your photos isn't a secret mission. Here are six features in Photos for OS X that are easily overlooked.

1: How to View Photo Locations

When you capture a photo using an iPhone, the GPS chip in the phone saves the location data in the image file. In Photos for OS X, however, there's no obvious map button.

When you're viewing photo thumbnails in the Moments, Collections, or Years view, click the named location at the top of a group of photos (see Figure 1). The map appears, showing any GPS-tagged images. Note that the photos you see are just the ones in that group, not all photos in that area. To include more photos, you need to switch to the Collections or Years view first, and then click the named location.

Figure 1 Click the name of a location to view the map.

2: How to Access Specific Editing Tools

The editing view in Photos presents several tools: Enhance, Rotate, Crop, Filters, Adjust, and Retouch. Of these, the Adjust tool gives you the most specific controls for changing lighting and color. Initially, though, the Adjust tools include just single sliders for Light, Color, and Black & White.

To access controls that are more specific, click the down-pointing arrow that appears when you move the mouse pointer over the top-right edge of a slider. That action exposes the components of each adjustment, such as Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, and more (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 Expose additional adjustment controls.

Even more adjustments are available if you know where to find them. Click the Add button to reveal a pop-up menu of other controls, such as Vignette, White Balance, Histogram, and Levels (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Bring up editing tools that are normally hidden.

3: How to Share Photos with a Private Group

Photos for OS X has several sharing options for sending images to Facebook, Flickr, and the like, but what if you want to let only a few people see some of your pics? I use iCloud Photo Sharing (not to be confused with iCloud Photo Library, the feature for making your photo library available on any device) to send pictures of my daughter to family members. Instead of hoping email messages go through, or sending multiple text messages, iCloud Photo Sharing lets me add an image to a special album and know that everyone subscribing to that album will receive the photo. It's easy:

  1. Select one or more photos and click the Share button in the toolbar; then choose iCloud Photo Sharing.
  2. Choose a shared album you've created, or click the New Shared Album button to make a new one (see Figure 4). That action will give you the opportunity to invite people you know, using their email addresses.
  3. Click Create to send the invitations and make the shared album.

Soon after you add the photo, your friends will receive notifications on their Macs or iOS devices that they can view your shared image.

Figure 4 Use iCloud Photo Sharing to send an image to a select group of people.

4: How to Play an Instant Slideshow

Although Photos for OS X includes a Slideshow project, which gives you control over how a slideshow is presented, sometimes you might just want to sit back and view an impromptu show of your photos.

In the Moments or Collections views, move your mouse pointer over the group of photos you want to see, which reveals the previously hidden trio of controls at the upper-right corner. Click the Slideshow button, choose a theme (which is previewed in the pop-up that appears), and then click Play Slideshow (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 Play an impromptu slideshow of the photos in a Moment or Collection.

5: How to Restore Deleted Photos

Some photos just don't make the cut. However, I have been known to trash the wrong image occasionally (especially if I'm working late at night), and sometimes I decide to give a deleted image another chance.

In Photos for OS X, you can easily restore the photos you relegated to the rubbish bin, because the application doesn't actually delete them right away. Think of it as Photos looking out for you. However, it's not clear just how to do it. There's no "Deleted" album to open.

Instead, look to the application's menus. Choose File > Show Recently Deleted to see all the photos you've trashed within the last 30–40 days. Photos that stay in the trash beyond that time are actually removed from disk; each shot indicates how much time is left before permanent deletion (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 Recover photos that have been deleted within the past month or so.

To recover photos, select them and click the Recover button. You can also choose permanent deletion for all the photos if you're concerned that they're occupying too much space on disk.

6: How to Identify Faces in Photos

iPhoto and Aperture included a Faces feature, which used facial recognition technology for identification, making it easier to locate shots containing certain people. You might not notice that Faces made the jump to Photos for OS X, because Apple put it in an odd place.

Click the Albums button at the top of the screen to view your albums, which include one called Faces (see Figure 7). This special type of Smart Album has extra functionality.

Figure 7 The Faces feature appears as an album.

When you open the album, Photos presents images that contain people's faces (and sometimes objects that seem only vaguely face-like). Double-click one of the icons under Suggested Faces to identify a person; or, once you've set up a few folks, you can drag a suggested face to a person's name (see Figure 8).

Figure 8 Identify people from the images in which Photos sees faces.

As you're browsing photos, you can also assign faces. Choose View > Show Face Names to reveal a circle over suspected faces, and then click the "unnamed" tag to specify who that person is. You'll notice that as you identify more faces, Photos will automatically assign identities in new photos if it finds matching faces.

Hidden Treasures

In all of these cases, the features haven't been kept out of arm's reach deliberately, but you'll need to poke around to locate them if you're new to the Photos for OS X application. Now you can spend more time enjoying your photos, and less time peering into the corners.

Author and photographer Jeff Carlson (@jeffcarlson, is the author of Photos for OS X and iOS: Take, Edit, and Share Photos in the Apple Photography Ecosystem (Peachpit Press) and Take Control of Your Digital Photos on the Mac (Take Control Books), among many other books. He's also a columnist for the Seattle Times, a contributing editor at TidBITS (, and writes for publications such as Macworld and

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