Apple Photos Needs Selective Sync

Apple tends to dumb down many of their features, and this is very obvious in their cloud tools. With iCloud Music Library, for example, you can’t choose to not sync certain albums, playlists, or genres; it’s all or nothing. With iCloud Photo Library, it’s the same: you sync everything, or you sync nothing.

It’s problematic with iTunes, but you can always remove the music you don’t want to sync to the cloud. In addition, you don’t pay for cloud storage; iCloud Music Library lets you sync up to 100,000 tracks, more than enough for most people.

With Photos, however, you may have lots of content that you don’t want or need to sync. You may have videos that you don’t need in the cloud. You may have albums of photos that you don’t want to access on other devices. And you may have raw files in your library; these are larger, uncompressed files that you use to create photos to export, but that you don’t need to access in the cloud. Photos pairs raw files and JPEGs shot at the same time, but you generally only need to use the raw files when you are editing photos. (You might want to edit raw files on an iOS device, however.)

With my two cameras, the raw files are 20-50 MB each. Because of this, my Photos library which contains about 2,400 photos, takes up nearly 40 GB.

Photos library

This is a problem for two reasons. The first is that I have to pay for iCloud storage, and I’m getting close to the 50 GB that I currently pay for; the next tier is 200 GB, which I won’t be able to fill for some time. The second is the fact that syncing all these files takes a long time. I only have 1 Mbps upload, and if I shoot a lot of photos, it can take hours for them to sync. And the way iCloud Photo Library works means that if I ever have to sign out of iCloud for troubleshooting – something I’ve had to do in recent months – then sign in again, it uploads everything, even though all the photos are in the cloud. And that takes days with my bandwidth.

Apple could offer an advanced sync option, whereby you would choose to either sync to the cloud certain albums or exclude them (similar to the way you choose to sync or not sync music to an iPod or iOS device), and allow you to choose to not sync videos, raw files, and perhaps other types of photos. Or perhaps only sync favorites, or other types of selections.

Apple has designed iCloud Photo Library for people using iOS devices, who don’t have these issues, but more and more people use Photos to store photos shot with other cameras. The launch of the new Lightroom, which is subscription only, will probably lead a lot more people to look at Photos as a solution for both managing and editing photos. It’s a great tool, but the lack of selective sync hobbles it for many users.

How to Use Selective Color Editing in Apple Photos

The latest version of Apple Photos has added some powerful editing tools. One of the most useful is Selective Color. It lets you select a single, precise color and change it. You may need to do this when you lighting is off, or when colors just don’t look right. (Though you should try adjusting white balance first, if you think the lighting is incorrect.)

To show you how this works, I’m going to use a photo that has a very strong, colorful subject. Here is the photo in the Photos interface in Edit mode.

Selective color1

As you can see to the right of the photo, I’ve opened the Selective Color tool by clicking on the disclosure triangle to the left of its name. To adjust a color, click one of the six color buttons, then move the sliders below. Hue is the actual color itself, such as taking a greenish blue and making it bluer, or changing a yellow to look more or less orange. Saturation adjusts the intensity of the color. And range is how much related colors are affected; a higher range affects a wider band of colors.

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How to Save Full-Quality JPEGs from Apple Photos

Apple’s Photo app is very simple to use. It combines a digital asset manager (DAM), which is essentially a tool that organizes and displays photos, with powerful editing tools. Many photographers are convinced that they need Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop to manage and edit their photos, but Apple’s Photos can do much if not most of what they need. (It’s the tool I use for almost all my photo editing.)

When you edit photos, and want to share them, there are two ways to save files in JPEG format. And these two methods create files of very different quality.

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Straighten Crooked Pictures in Apple Photos

It happens all the time: you want to shoot a photo of something in a hurry, and it’s not straight. Back in the days of film, you’d get your prints back from developing and look at them, and if you wanted them straightened out, you’d have to use scissors. Fortunately, it’s a simple process now. In Apple’s Photos app, you can do this in a few clicks.

Here’s an example. I was on the grass in my garden taking pictures of Rosalind the Cat, and I got a few of her walking toward me. You know that cats won’t sit still, so they were all a bit skewed. This isn’t a problem when the background is less obvious, but here, with the house behind her, it looks a bit odd. (Though some people might actually like that strange angle…)


First, go into Edit mode. To do this, select a photo and press Return. In these screenshots, I’m in Edit mode; you can tell that you’re in this mode because of the black background and the buttons on the right side of the window.

To straighten a photo, you use the Crop tool. In the next screenshot, you’ll see I’ve select that tool in the column of buttons at the right.

When the crop tool is active, you’ll see a frame around the image, and, to its right, a small arc showing numbers like on a clock. If you click anywhere on that arc, you can drop up or down to rotate the image. It moves as you drag, and Photos also displays grid lines to help you align the image.


As you can see above, I’ve aligned the edge of the lawn with one of the grid lines. Photos maintains the aspect ratio – the white frame – and zooms the photo so after cropping it fills the frame (you can see what’s being cropped outside the frame).

When you’ve got the angle you want, press Return and Photos applies the crop. (And it still retains the original photo, and you can revert to it at any time by clicking Revert to Original at the top of the window.)

Here’s the final photo:


Note that you can also do this on an iPhone or iPad; tap the Edit button, and you’ll see the Crop button. It works the same on iOS as on the Mac.

How to Delete Raw Files from Apple Photos

Glenn Fleishmann answered a question on Macworld today in his Mac 911 column. A correspondent has both raw and JPEGs in his Photos library, and wants to delete some of the raw files. He asked:

There are several where I would like to keep only the JPG and would like to delete the raw file entirely. Is there a way to do this without exporting the .jpg file, deleting the pair, and re-importing it?

Glenn’s reply was to export the originals, then delete the files in Photos, and re-import the JPEG, but that’s not the best way to do this. In many cases, you may already have applied edits to the JPEG file, and doing this brings you back to square one. Here’s a better way:

  1. Select the photo for which you want to delete the raw file.
  2. Choose File > Export > Export 1 Photo. This will save the JPEG version of the file, with all your edits.
  3. Next, delete the photo from your Photos library. This deletes both the raw and JPEG files.
  4. Finally, re-add the exported JPEG by dragging it onto the Photos window.

You will lose your editing history; you won’t be able to see the adjustments you’ve made to the photo. But you’ll have the full-quality JPEG, in its final form, and you’ll have gotten rid of the raw file.

Note that if you simply drag the photo from the Photos app to the Finder, it saves a JPEG but in a lower quality than if you go through the export procedure.

Read more about how to work with raw and JPEG files in Apple’s Photos app.