What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The Macintosh

It’s been a little over a week now since WWDC. Here’s what I think WWDC tells us about photography and the Macintosh, at least from the Apple product universe.

Photography Is More Important Than Ever To Apple

Apple sold over 43 million iPhones in the second quarter of 2014. Nearly 20 million iPads, too. Each of those devices has a camera inside. While professional and serious amateur photographers love our DSLR and perhaps mirror less cameras, it’s clear that Apple is one of the largest vendors in the world of photography equipment.

I know what you’re thinking.  Cell phone cameras, right? Nothing but tiny things for countless duck face selfies. You can’t take them seriously. They can’t even shoot in low light. Well, not very well. Right?

What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The MacintoshI took this photo at the Club Tropicana show in Cuba earlier this year with my iPhone 5s. Doesn’t suck for a cell phone photo in low light with lots of action on the stage. These crappy little phone cameras are getting better all the time.

Ever growing millions of users are taking photos to capture moments in their lives. They want to share those photos, but they also want to organize the images in a way that they can easily find them later. You can imagine the conversation.

Honey, you remember that trip we took to Cuba? Show Bob here all those dancers in the skimpy outfits.

In a few flicks of the screen, you can find those images.  Google does it Apple does it. That’s about all the multi-millions of camera-phone photographers really want from organization. They want quick and easy search for a lifetime of photos without having to actually use space on their phone.

Welcome to Apple’s photography market.

Who Needs Aperture or Lightroom?

The large portion of people who love photographs don’t want, and now don’t need, digital asset management tools like Aperture or Lightroom. If you follow the money, the biggest share of it leads to the folks who take pictures with their iPhone or Android phone.

As professional and serious amateur photographers, we are most definitely in the minority of the largest revolution in the history of photography. It doesn’t matter that we spend many thousands of dollars on gear. The software we use is becoming anachronistic.

Despite that major shift, I don’t foresee the death of either Aperture or Lightroom. As I mentioned earlier, photography is increasingly important in the modern world. People still love wonderfully crafted images. Serious photographers are still thought leaders who mostly choose to work on the Mac platform. That isn’t an audience that you just toss aside.

Adobe has a large announcement coming up for Creative Cloud on June 18th.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see some useful updates, perhaps even version 6, of Lightroom, come out of that announcement. What about Aperture users, though?

Does Aperture Have A Future?

It certainly isn’t dead. Last year, there was a frenzy of speculation about the next version of Aperture. Early in the year, people noted an upcoming book title for “Aperture X”, thinking that it would be like Final Cut X.  Didn’t happen, and I’m not terribly surprised. Aperture featured prominently in the marketing for the current batch of MacBook Pro models, though it wasn’t called out by name. Finally, the introduction of the Mac Pro had a brief moment when Phil Schiller spoke about a new version of Aperture coming out that would take advantage of features in OS X Mavericks.

Didn’t happen, either.  All we got was a very minor update with some bug fixes and no new features.

Despite not having a major new version of Aperture, I’ve noted before that it’s had twice as many updates as Lightroom, including the introduction of some new features. The price dropped to $79 and all of those updates were free.  On top of that, it’s still a very useful digital asset manager.

Where it was once better than Lightroom at photo development, it’s now second to the Adobe processing engine.  Aperture has had updates to its processing engine and still does a fine job at processing photos, but I would give the edge to Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW now for better tweaks.

When you ask Aperture users what they want, features rattle off like lens correction, improved noise reduction, etc.

Apple doesn’t really think in terms of features, though. Instead, Apple has a history of working on overall usability rather than checking off feature lists. I think the demonstration at WWDC of the new Photos app for iOS and Mac is a perfect example of that kind of concentration.

With that in mind, it now seems very clear to me why there hasn’t been a major update to Aperture. The developers have had their hands full with other tasks, from working on software development kits to creating an entirely new Photos application – one we won’t see on the Mac until 2015, according to the WWDC presentation.

Continuity For iOS and Mac

One of the demonstrations I really liked from WWDC was Continuity, the ability to start something one one device and then work on it using another one. iPhone, iPad or Mac – they can all work on the same content through their connection via iCloud. Apple went out of its way to show how much iCloud will play a role in its ecosystem between devices.

What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The Macintosh

Around 1:17 in the presentation for iOS, we see this slide showing the cooperation of Photos and iCloud. All of your images available to you online. That’s nice.  It’s not exactly new.  We see that now with iCloud, Dropbox, Google+ and probably other services. However, a later slide showed something very interesting.

What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The MacintoshAll of your photos and videos.  OK, that makes sense. iOS devices shoot photos and video. It’s the middle line that intrigues me about original format and resolution. I take that as an implication that Photos will support RAW files from other cameras.

Apple knows it has a community of photographers who need to manage a large collection of photos in RAW format. Maybe nowhere near as many as the iOS photo crowd, but we’re here and not going away. Why would they want to store that data for us?

Because holding a user’s data is a wonderful way of keeping them in your ecosystem. Once they have it, it’s damn hard and expensive to pull data out of the cloud and support it yourself. Some of those millions of iPhone photographers are going to buy a DSLR and want to manage their photos with the same easy tools they used on their iOS device.

Continuity between Photos on the Mac and iOS keeps those customers in the fold, so to speak. That data is going to grow, which is why we saw the next slide.

What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The MacintoshTiers available up to 1 gigabyte. You’re not going to upload your RAW files to iCloud on your iPad. Instead, you need a tool on your Mac that speaks to the service. Hence, Photos for the Mac.

What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The Macintosh

At first glance, Photos seems to be a replacement for iPhoto. Maybe a consolidation of Photos on iOS and iPhoto on the Mac for the sake of consistency and continuity. The editing controls shown in the demo were very easy to use, yet quite powerful. Exactly what you would expect from a consumer photo app from Apple.

What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The Macintosh

Note the controls along the right side. Very simple. Nothing that would overwhelm the casual photographer. Nothing at all that suggests Photos is a replacement for Aperture, either.

Yet, I can’t let go of a few things.  Such as when Apple merged the iPhoto and Aperture database structure. There’s no reason to suspect that a new photo tool from Apple would be incompatible with a future version of Aperture. Add that to the line about “original format and resolution. If the storage format is compatible, it seems reasonable that those RAW files could go from the Mac to iCloud.

Now toss in the competition. Photographers have been trying to find a way to include the iPad in their photo management and editing workflow for a few years. Adobe recently dropped its Lightroom Mobile app to tackle that desire. I doubt that Apple is ignorant of this desire, which in turn is a nice tool to sell more iPads.

I don’t think the Photos continuity between Mac and iOS is going to look quite like Lightroom Mobile. Instead of syncing photo profiles from your computer, I think Apple wants you to have your photo library online so all of it is accessible anytime, anywhere you have a network connection to iCloud.

With that in mind, I suspect we’ll either see some very interesting changes to Aperture or an entirely new digital asset manager released sometime in 2015.

Here’s What WWDC Tells Us About Photography And The Macintosh

A number of people have been delivering the eulogy for Aperture for a long time. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I don’t see Apple letting it die without a successor. While consumer photography is a bigger market, there’s still an opportunity to keep us in the fold, and to keep them in the same Apple ecosystem, as they grow beyond iOS photography into DSLR or Mirrorless photography.

We’re living in an age photography is an overwhelming and easily accessible part of every Apple customer’s life. Looking at all of the features mentioned at WWDC, I seriously doubt that Apple is going to let that market slip away when it’s clearly increasing in value.

iOS users are getting more control in iOS 8 to use the exposure triangle, create time-lapse images and have greater control of their photography. That’s going to be a wonderful boon to increase the creative aspects of photography for iOS users. These developments aren’t the actions of a company that seems ready to kill off any part of its photography business.

At least that’s what I think?  How do you feel about the future of photography and the Macintosh?






  1. says

    Photos for iOS and Mac both appear to be geared to the iPhone-ographer. We both probably know a lot of people where their iPhone is their only camera, and they keep every image. Photos for Mac looks to be just the desktop version of the iOS app.

    Some of the WWDC sessions (available online) talk about some of the new developer tools specific to photography that Apple has updated – many including features that would bring Aperture on par with Lr (i.e. lens and perspective correction).

    Aperture continues to be one of the highest grossing app’s in the app store, and is usually the number one app for photography. So….if Apple were to dump it, they’d be dumping one of their most successful app’s.

    As to keeping RAW images in iCloud – it’d be really easy to quickly max out whatever size limit you chose. Moose Peterson noted back in April why he doesn’t use cloud storage. When your average shoot produces over a terabyte of RAW images, it ain’t practical.

    • says

      I don’t think even 1 TB is sufficient storage for professionals and serious amateurs who shoot large volumes. However, it’s fine for a lot of amateurs or casual photographers. Once again, the consumers outweigh us in the market. They’re the larger customer base and this fits for the casual photographer, and cloud storage is viable for someone who doesn’t shoot a lot of images with a 36MP camera.

      That said, it’s still an interesting service for professionals who travel. It could be a safety net for images while on the road. The trick is getting sufficient bandwidth to upload them. That will improve over time.

  2. Ric says

    “Early 2015.” Gee, isn’t the PPA Convention February 1-3, 2015, in Nashville? Hmm. Then there’s the Consumer Electronics show, January 6-9, in Vegas.

    I think this will turn out to be a “They killed [Final Cut Pro/Logic Pro]!” moment. Those programs were finally updated — not without some controversy, much of it knee jerk but some justified — and are now really good, forward-looking programs.

    Aperture, as we’ve know it, may be EOL, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Photo Pro X, with a new way of doing things (probably controversially as well), but which is still very powerful. I just hope they retain all the DAM goodness of Aperture.

    After viewing the WWDC, reading some thoughtful comments by yourself and others, and thinking this through clearly, I’m quite willing to wait and see what Apple delivers. My instinct says that this might turn out well.

    Yes, it’s just another means to enforce Apple’s velvet prison, but the way things are going — at least if you want really good apps — is you’re going to live in someone’s prison. (And on that score, I really wish the Linux world could get it together … but ain’t gonna happen, so …)

  3. says

    Check out the WWDC videos at https://developer.apple.com/videos/wwdc/2014/

    In the video entitled Advances in Core Image, around 42:13 you’ll see new Noise Reduction. The video also shows lens correction, and improved highlights and shadows.

    While it is not clear if we’ll be using Aperture, Photos, or some yet to be branded software, it is becoming clear that, not only is Apple more invested in photography than ever, as you pointed out, but also in raw development, specifically.

    I was just about to jump ship to LR until I watched the noise disappear in that video demonstration. I am now very happy to wait until 2015 to see what Apple has got for us.

  4. says

    Cloud storage etc is great in theory… until you figure out that even after culling a set of wedding photographs down to maybe 800 useable ones the total file size of the upload to what ever cloud is just stupid.

    Canon 5D3 RAW files come out at around 25Mb each. 800 RAW files x 25Mb average = 20,000Mb. That is a lot of bandwidth that needs to uploaded and downloaded to each device the use has.

    In my case that would be 2 x iMacs and 1 x MBP plus iPad and iPhone. 20k Mb upload from one mac and 20k Mb download to three other main editing devices? Bang goes my purchased bandwidth for a month from just one wedding. (And I have to pay for the storage space as well.)

    The concept and idea is cool. The reality methinks is totally different, especially when I’m currently a wedding photography struggling on 1Mbs in a rural but gorgeous part of South Wales (UK). I’m sure I’m not alone in this!

    Great article though…


  5. Tom Rose says

    Mobile phones may become ever more capable photographic machines, but they have several fundamental features that limits their use for professional photography:

    Tiny lens (hence tiny absolute aperture) make it difficult to throw backgrounds out of focus in portraits, and causes image deterioration through diffraction at large f-numbers

    Tiny sensor will always be more susceptible to random chroma-noise than the large sensors of equally recent SLRs, mirrorless and compact cameras

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