I’ve been quietly seething since Apple announced that they would no longer be updating Aperture – shortly after I’d finally got around to buying it. I’d been living with the woefully inadequate iPhoto for so long, I was almost in denial about how much quicker an alternative app might be. I simply couldn’t believe that Aperture’s ability to deal with a large-ish photo library would be superior in every way.
I wasn’t all that interested in the advanced editing tools in Aperture (or Lightroom, or Photoshop, for that matter). I’m a snapshot snapper who likes to compose the shot in the camera and my interest in tweaking the resulting photos is restricted to a quick boost here and a quick crop there. I don’t shoot raw and I barely have time to deal with quick edits of the number of photos I take, let alone spend time titivating them. In Aperture, I mostly stuck to the built in pre-sets and I didn’t delve too deeply into its options. I was just grateful to be able to scroll through the library without stuttering.
We’ve all been dealing with this digital photo legacy. Back in the days of negatives and prints, you’d end up with shelves full of photo albums and boxes full of those envelopes that Truprint would send you, and hundreds of negatives that you kept forever without any intention of using them again. With digital photos, that endless storage of negatives has become the endless storage of sub-par snaps, items you should have deleted more or less immediately after import, but kept – simply because you have a life-long photo hoarding habit.
It’s all a bit messy. I’ve got multiple iPhoto libraries dotted about, not even safely backed up, and even in the short time I’ve been using Aperture I’ve accumulated about 60 projects and a dozen albums and the prospect of ever going through them all and organising them fills me with dread.
So to Photos, Apple’s annoyingly generically named replacement for both iPhoto and Aperture. It has been reviewed and discussed widely. It’s okay. Like recent versions of iMovie, it’s stripped back in ways guaranteed to infuriate at times. For example, instead of being able to quickly rate imported photos based on gut reaction between one and five stars, you now only have the option to mark them as favourites – or not. My use of the star rating was fairly precise. Four stars and over might get uploaded to Flickr. One stars would be deleted immediately. Two stars, maybe deleted later. Three stars remained in limbo. Five stars? Well…
Photos does have some decent editing options. Nothing like Aperture, but okay. What I’m missing are the Aperture presets, which were my main way of quickly tweaking pictures. Photos gives you the auto-enhance option, or you can use the same filters you get on your phone – or you can delve into manual settings, which takes more time than I’d like.
When you first launch it, you’re offered the chance to use iCloud storage for all your photos, and having the option to optimise the storage on your devices. But Apple are notoriously expensive for this kind of thing. Why? Because they can, I think. Their core customers are not the kind of people who know or care about what other companies offer. I currently pay £7.49 per year for 20GB of iCloud storage. I pay for this so I can use Pages, Numbers and Keynote and access documents from any of my devices. To accommodate my photos, I’d need to pay £6.99 per month for 500GB. That’s nearly £84 per year, fact fans. Amazon are similarly expensive, but they dangle unlimited photo storage for Prime customers, which is £79 per year, close, but gives you video streaming and free one-day delivery on Amazon orders. Dropbox gives you a terabyte for less than the price of Apple’s 500GB.
I almost went for Apple’s rip-off, but stayed my hand. I thought about it. Do I want to be able to see all my photos on all my devices? Why would I want to do that? I barely look at photos on my phone as it is. I take ’em, I Instagram ’em, and I edit them on my Mac and upload to Flickr. What else? I’ve more or less abandoned the iPad. So if I paid, it would be about having my precious photos safely stored.
But how many of them are really precious? Let’s return to those five-star photos in Aperture. What do I do with them? I print books. For the past few years I’ve paid for (expensive) Apple hardcover photo books – in the largest size. For 20 pages, you end up paying in excess of £35, but you’ve now got something you can keep forever (and hope to rescue should your house burn down). Doing the maths, I can afford to get a couple of these printed per year and still come in under the £84 for iCloud storage. And iCloud storage doesn’t help you deal with the fact that 90% of the photos you’re storing are probably not worth keeping.
So my decision was made: I’d up my book production from one per year (sometimes more than the 20 pages, so more expensive) to two per year, and I’d go on doing what anybody who wants to preserve photos should be doing, which is printing them.
So it was back to Photos and into the Create Book option. There are some new templates to choose from. The process of getting a project started was much more fiddly than in either iPhoto or Aperture. In fact, the process sucked. It’s much harder to get the photos you want to print (from various albums and imports) in one place. When you do finally manage that, and you select the Create Book option, the software automatically populates the pages – at a rate of one photo per page. So you end up with something that would cost a lot more than the (already expensive) £36 or so. Why do this? I think for the same reasons that they rip people off for cloud storage: they’re counting on people not noticing how much more expensive their book just got than the base price on the Choose Template screen.
But the store is unavailable. For updates? But then that message disappears, and you can agree to the terms. But then the Buy Book option is greyed out. When I try to re-add my shipping address, I’m told I live in an Unsupported Country.
I wonder if the store really is closed for updates. I do a search and find the Status page. It’s Green to Go, according to Apple themselves. I try again, and then I give up and open Aperture. I go through the process of re-creating a version of the book in Aperture. I realise I’d never got around to creating an Aperture book. All my previous books were done through iPhoto. Aperture gives you much more control over the editing of pages and content in terms of size, fit, and cropping. I do all this just to test whether the Store is actually down.
And it’s not. So I order the book in Aperture. And then I decide I’ll go on using Aperture till it dies and Apple can fuck off with Photos.