Apple Photos: Your photo library is in the cloud

Posted on by Mike Evans

Apple's decision to sideline Aperture must have come as a shock to those amateurs and professionals who had made it their library of choice. For me, in some ways, it is a something of a relief. For years I have vacillated over Lightroom versus Aperture. As a a long-time Apple fan my natural inclination has always been in favour of Aperture. Recently, however, Aperture lagged behind and now we know why. Little has changed in a couple of years and Apple has always been tardy in issuing updates to support individual cameras. 

  It's all in the clouds: Victory or defeat for the prolific photographer?

It's all in the clouds: Victory or defeat for the prolific photographer?

I had already moved everything over to Lightroom (supplied free, courtesy of various Leica cameras I have purchased over the years) and I am now glad that I got a head start on those who stuck resolutely with Aperture until its demise. No longer does any of us need worry about which is the best photo organising and processing tool. Lightroom, together with Photoshop, is the place to be. 

But whither Apple and the new Photos app? Charlie Sorrell, writing in Cult of Mac, sees a glittering destination for Cupertino and its photo management:

With Lightroom Mobile and – soon – Apple’s Photos apps, your library is in the cloud. That is, you don’t just have an out-of-date copy of your pictures sitting on a server somewhere. Instead, you can access, edit and organize those pictures from pretty much any device. This is a fundamental shift. You no longer need to worry about which version of your photo you have on which device, because there is only one version, and it’s everywhere.

This is all well and good for the casual snapper but not so dandy for more serious photographers. There is upload speed to consider for starters. Modern cameras produce large files and the thought of automatically sending everything to Apple's cloud is worrying. Not only that, but affordable cloud storage is still limited to the odd ten or fifty Gigabytes. Users of Apple's Photos will soon discover that is not enough and will face bigger bills, not to mention the need for more expensive memory in future phones, tablets and computers. All this Apple loves, of course. Hook us and we can be milked for storage on the pretext of convenience.

In time, of course, falling cloud storage costs and increasing broadband speeds will make it more sensible to commit large photo libraries to the cloud. Yet despite this possibility, at the moment Apple's cloud is big on convenience and small on controllability and customisation. That could change and no doubt it will. Sometimes, though, iCloud has a mind of its own. How often have you deleted a photo from your iPhone only to have it pop up again on some other device, even on your Apple TV, often weeks or months later?

Even computer geeks sometimes despair of eradicating a file with no possibility of resurrection somewhere, some time. Other cloud solutions, including possibly Adobe's Lightroom synchronisation, might be more amenable and, ultimately, more reliable. That remains to be seen. What is clear is that Apple's task is to pander to the hundreds of millions and has to seek the lowest common denominator.

As a result, professional applications such as Aperture are being dumbed down or eradicated. 

For the foreseeable future serious photographers will stick with Lightroom or one of its many alternatives. They will continue to rely on local storage, which has the advantage of speed, and local backup solutions that need not be as dangerous as some would maintain. Where estate agents cry location, location, location we should be shouting backup, backup, backup. A fool-proof backup strategy is eminently possible, especially now that huge external disks are so inexpensive. It just takes a bit of common sense.

I would think very hard about putting all my apples in Cupertino's alluring basket in the clouds for the time being. If you do, you could find yourself instead in Cloud Cuckoo Land.