Apple's Photos for OS X is more than just a handy tool for keeping your images organized. It offers a rich collection of editing tools for digital photographers, whether you're a beginner or practically a professional.

Editing tools

To get to Apple Photos' tools, double-click an image in your library and then click the Edit button in the top-right corner of the windows. The editing tools appear to the right of the images. Tap a tool on the right to see its options.

If you don't like how your images look after editing, click Revert to Original in the top right corner of the window.

photos tools revert

Enhance

Enhance is a quick way to improve the look of a photo. Enhance automatically adjusts the color and contrast of an image without blowing out the highlights. You can always click Revert to Original if you want more control over your adjustments.

Rotate and crop

If you shot your photo with your phone tilted 90 or 180 degrees, go to Photos' Rotate tool to turn the image right side up. The tool rotates images to the left. Option-click the Rotate button to twirl the image to the right.

The Crop tool lets you make fine adjustments to the orientation of your image. Straighten an image by grabbing the dial to the right of the photo and the dial.

You can also choose an aspect ratio by clicking the Aspect tool, flip your image with the Flip tool, or have the tool take a shot at truing up your image by clicking Auto.

When you crop a photo, the change shows up everywhere, including in albums and projects. If you don't want the change showing up everywhere, first duplicate the photo, then edit the copy.

Photos Crop Rotate

Filters

Change the look of an image by applying one of eight filters, from noir to Instamatic. Filters are nondestructive, so you can apply them to an image but Photos holds onto the original image in case you you aren't happy with the results and want to return to it later.

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Adjust

Use the sliders in the Adjust pane to alter a photo's light and color.

The adjustment tools are deceptively rich. Drag the slider across images to preview preset adjustments. If you click the down arrow to the right, you'll see additional sliders that give you fine control over the look of an image. Hover your pointer over any slider to reveal an Auto button that automatically adjusts the image for that setting. By clicking the Add button, you can find a handful of additional adjustments tools to place in the adjustment editing pane.

photos adjust

Retouch and red-eye

The Retouch tool lets you remove blemishes and small marks from a photo. The Size slider lets you control the size of the area you are repairing. Option-click part of an image to borrow the texture to repair a blemish. The red-eye tool lets you reduce or remove the red in pupils that results from a flash. A slider lets you adjust the size of the tool to match the size of the pupil.

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Extensions

You can also add extensions to Photos to expand your options. Macphun, for example, offers 30 free filters for changing the look of your images, from adding a pen-sketch feel to switching from color to black-and-white. Pixelmator's Photos Extension includes a handful of tools for adjusting your photos.

To add extensions to Photos:

  1. Download an extension, either from the Mac App Store or a website.
  2. Open System Preferences and click Extensions.
  3. Select Photos in the left sidebar and then check the extensions you want turned on.
photosprefsextensions.png

Then to use an extension in Photos:

  1. Open an image and click the Edit button.
  2. At the bottom of the Editing tools panel on the right, click Extensions.
  3. Choose an extension to use with your image.
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Photos for OS X offers a deceptively rich set of editing tools that should appeal to beginners and keep advanced users busy.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.