This is our ongoing complete guide to setting up and using Photos on the Mac.

Here we cover all elements of Photos for OS X, including: coverting from iPhoto and Aperture to Photos; whether to sign up for iCloud Photo Library; how to use Photos for Mac; Shared Photos; building Books, Calendar, Card, Slideshow and Prints; navigating through photos; switching to Edit mode and making non-destructive edits; using the editing tools: enhance, rotate, crop, filter, adjust, retouch; making adjustments; Facial Recognition; importing the facial recognition from iPhoto; fixing Face Redognition errors; and Creating Slideshows.

We also have the lowdown on all the updates to Photos in OS X El Capitan, including Live Photos, Using extensions in El Capitan, editing a photo's location, and other updates in the new verison of OS X.

Read next: Which Mac do I have: How to identify model, year and serial number and How to check your Mac's tech specs

What is Photos for OS X?

The goal of the all-new Photos app is twofold:

1. To bring to your Mac the same simple yet powerful photo management experience that we’re all used to on the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, not only in functionality but also in terminology – Photos understands HDR, for example, and applies an icon label to each to the HDR versions of your snapshots. And to bring to your Mac iCloud Photo Library, which syncs your snapshots harmoniously and invisibly via the cloud.

2. To make Photos a reality, Apple has killed-off not only its iPhoto line but also the enthusiast/pro-level Aperture app. You can still keep these installed alongside Photos but they’re banished from sale via the Mac App Store and won’t be updated with bug fixes or new features (pro tip: you’ll continue find them under the Purchases heading in the Mac App Store if you really need to reinstall them for any reason). 

Photos also brings photo management fully into line with recent OS X innovations, such as the Share Sheet system that lets you quickly and easily share items with your Facebook, Twitter or photo sharing services like Flickr, via the share button at the top right. Options on this list are setup system-wide via the Internet Accounts icon within System Preferences.

Read more: How to use iCloud Photo sharing and iCloud Photo Library | Best cheap Mac photo-editing software | How to move from iPhoto to Photo | Photos for Mac review

Photos lets you share your photos and albums using the same built-in OS X technology by which you can share files or snippets of text

How to convert your library from iPhoto or Aperture to Photos

When you start Photos for the first time it will ask if it should convert your existing photo library from iPhoto or Aperture. If in doubt choose the iPhoto option, because there’s a good chance Aperture was also using this photo library if you’d used iPhoto prior to installing it.

Converting simply makes your existing library Photos compatible while retaining backwards compatibility with the older apps, although should you subsequently use iPhoto or Aperture to edit or add photos then this won’t be synced to the Photos app. In other words, from this point onwards it’s best to avoid iPhoto or Aperture.

It’s best to avoid using iPhoto or Aperture once you’ve upgraded to Photos because edits or changes won’t be synced

Conversion takes a few minutes to complete during which you’ll see a progress display. If you choose not to convert there and then don’t worry because holding down Alt (Option on some keyboards) when starting Photos lets you switch to and subsequently convert other libraries. However, right now there doesn’t appear to be any way to merge your various older libraries into a consolidated whole. Here’s hoping that’ll come with Photos v2.0.   

Should you use iCloud Photo Library?

Although Photo Streams still stick around, of which more in a moment, Photos will next ask if you want to also use iCloud Photo Library. If you decide to make the switch you may need to enable the identical option within the Photos & Camera section of the Settings app of your iOS devices too. Pro tip: You can access your iCloud Photo Library via the iCloud website – just click the Photos icon.

iCloud Photo Library simply stores all your photos online, regardless of how you come about them. They might be new pics you take with your iPhone, or photos you import from a dedicated camera via the Photos app on your Mac. It’s kind of like a backup of your entire photo library, combined with ease of access from any of your Apple hardware.

Should you select to use iCloud Photo Library, Photos will attempt to sync all the photos in your existing library. Unless you only ever take photos at birthdays and weddings you’re probably going to have to upgrade your iCloud storage to make space, and Photos will very kindly prompt you to do so if needed. On our test setup we had to upgrade to the £2.99 per month 200GB option, for example. This is only the cost of a cup of coffee every month but, whatever your needs, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be able to use iCloud Photo Library without paying Apple a monthly subscription.

Uploading your existing snapshots to iCloud Photo Library is likely to take a very long time!

Note that syncing your entire library with iCloud Photo Library when you setup Photos is likely to take a very long time, especially considering nearly all UK users have slow upload speeds as part of their broadband packages. Put it this way: we used Photos for the first time a week ago and it’s still syncing. Additionally, on our test MacBook Pro setup the machine frequently got hot enough for the fans to spin wildly. The iCloud section of Photos’ preferences dialog offers an syncing progress display, as well as the option to pause uploading for a day if you have to do other urgent things via your Internet connection. When the Photos tab is selected you’ll also see an upload count at the bottom of the photos listing.  

Read: How to use iCloud Photo sharing and iCloud Photo Library

How to use Photos on the Mac

So, assuming Photos has converted your existing photos library and you’ve configured iCloud Photo Library, let’s take an eagle eye’s view of Photo’s main interface.  

Running along the top is a thin toolbar that always stays put, although its options might change depending on which of the tabs you have selected, as follows.

Photos interface is simple and splits into four main views: Photos, Shared, Albums and Projects

Photos: This lists your photos by the time they were taken, with the newest at the bottom of the list. They’re further organised by location: if you took some photos across an afternoon within the same general location then Photos will likely bunch them together in one group.

Shared: Here you can view any photo streams you’ve shared or that have been shared with you. However, creating a new shared album or adding photos to an existing stream isn’t handled here. Instead, you must select the photos in either Album or Photos view, then click the Share button at the top right of the program window, before selecting iCloud Photo Sharing.

Albums: You can create your own private albums in which to organise photos, including Smart Albums that automatically contain photos based on certain criteria such as the camera used, or location. Just click the plus button on the toolbar when this tab is selected. However, Photos also comes with several readymade albums that organise photos according certain characteristics. Of particular interest is the All Photos album, that lets you see all your photos listed from old to new, without any kind of organisation, as with the Photos tab.

New albums can be created by clicking the plus icon on the toolbar and selecting from the menu that appears

Projects: Here you can view any photobooks, calendars, cards or collections of prints you’ve created, all of which can be ordered direct from Apple by clicking the plus icon on the toolbar and selecting from the menu. Any slideshows you create also appear here, although you can create impromptu slideshows of pictures by selecting them and clicking the Play button on the toolbar.

The Photos tab in Photos for Mac

The Photos tab gives an eagle’s eye view of your entire library split into the same Years, Collections, and Moments groupings as with the iOS Photos app. There’s no mention of these terms anywhere within Photos on the Mac, however, and that’s perhaps for a good reason because they can be confusing. However, the concept behind them isn’t.

The Years view provides the big picture and arranges your photos into yearly timelines, including a label indicating broadly where they were taken – England, for example, and/or perhaps Portugal if you took photos on holiday.

If you aren't in the Year view already, click the back button at the top left of the toolbar until it greys out to switch to viewing Years.

Navigating between Year, Collection and Moment views is done via the back/forward buttons at the left of the toolbar

Click anywhere on a Year and you’ll zoom into one of many Collections, which cluster your photos by much smaller timelines, and also places. A Collection might group together a series of photographs taken during one week in which you visited Cornwall. The Collection will be labelled by date and location.

Click anyway on a Collection and you’ll zoom into one of many Moments. These split out photos into smaller groups according to individual dates, split further by location. A single Moment might show the evening you spent at a particular restaurant near Lands End, for example, and again the date will be shown along with GPS details, such as the street the restaurant was on. A Moment might contain multiple photographs, or just one.

The Moment view of your photos breaks them down into groups according to individual dates and the location where the photos were taken

How to view a photo in Photos on the Mac OS X

When viewing a Moment you can double-click on any photo to open it for full-screen viewing (and editing, of course), or click the heart icon at the top left of the thumbnail to mark it as one of your favourites. This simply means it gets added to the Favourites album under the Albums view. Hitting Space also opens the currently selected photo for viewing.

When viewing a moment you can click the toolbar button at the right of the back/forward buttons to show a side panel thumbnail view showing other photos in that Moment. This is referred to as Split View, and it can be resized by dragging the bar alongside the thumbnails.

Pro tip: Click and hold the mouse cursor on a thumbnail in Years or Collection view and it’ll expand slightly for ease of viewing.

Clicking the Split View button lets you view thumbnails at the left, and a full-screen photo display at the right

Sharing photos in Photos for OS X: Shared Albums

The Shared tab lets you tune into any Photo Streams you’ve created on your iPhone or iPad, or any Photo Streams that you’ve joined that were created by somebody else. You can also create them within Photos on the Mac. However, once again the terminology varies compared to iOS. Photo Streams are now referred to as Shared Albums.

Double-clicking any Shared Album will open it for viewing, and double-clicking any image will open it for full-screen viewing. However, you won’t be able to edit it until you import it into your library. Photos will offer to do so if you try, or if it’s already been imported then you’ll be prompted to switch to the imported version.

Photos for Mac drops the Photo Stream nomenclature, instead referring to Shared Albums, although they’re functionally exactly the same

This means you will have to re-import the edited version into the Shared Album after you’ve finished your work if you want it to be seen by others. How this is done is again a little clumsy – after clicking the Done button when you’ve finished editing, click the Share button button at the right of the toolbar. Then select iCloud Photo Stream, and select the Shared Album.

This is also how you create a new Shared Album from scratch – select the photos in one of Photos’ view modes in the usual way by elastic-band selecting, or using Shift/Cmd to select multiple items, and then click the Share button and iCloud Photo Sharing > New Shared Album. You’ll then be invited to fill-in details, including invitees.

To add photos to an existing Shared Album, again select them and either click the Share button and follow the instructions earlier, or switch to the Shared Album in question and click the Add Photos and Videos link.

Pro tip: To put a Shared Album online via a web link, select the Shared Album icon at the top right (it’s that of a face in a circle), and then click Public Website. You can only do this with Shared Albums you’ve created.  

Creating a Shared Album means filling in the same details as you might be used to on iOS, such as inviting people by email address

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Organising Albums in Photos for Mac OS X

To organise your photos outside of the date/location ordering of the main Photos view, you can create an album. These are viewed by selecting the Albums tab.

Notably, albums are virtual. In other words, it’s not like copying a file from one place to another. It’s more like creating an alias. This means a photo can be used in several albums, for example, and deleting an album won’t delete the photos in it.

To create an album, select the photos in either Photos or Shared views, and click the Add button, before selecting Album from the dropdown list.

The Albums view includes not only albums you create yourself and also several automatic albums containing pictures of a certain type

Photos contains a handful of readymade albums managed by the app itself. As you might expect, All Photos lists all your photos, from oldest to newest, in order but without the location ordering present in the Photos view. Faces splits photos into groupings according to facial recognition. Last Import shows which photos were imported last (but not including those automatically added to your library via iCloud Photo Library). Favorites shows any photos you’ve marked as being favourites by clicking the heart icon at the top left of their thumbnails.

Panoramas, Videos, Slo-Mo, Time Lapse and Bursts show any photos in your library taken using the iPhone or iPad Camera app with those picture modes selected.  
 
Folders can be created to hold multiple Albums but this option is only found on the File menu. Albums can be placed in folders (and removed from them) by dragging and dropping.

Smart Albums can also be created via the Add dropdown list, and let you create albums from photos in your library that match certain criteria, such as focal length, or camera used to take them. This feature is virtually identical to the same feature in the older iPhoto.

Albums can be organised into folders but that option’s only available on the File menu

Books, Calendar, Card, Slideshow and Prints: Photos for Mac Projects

The Add dropdown list also includes options to create a Book, Calendar, Card, Slideshow and Prints. All but the Slideshow option involve ordering a physical artefact direct from Apple, and the process is similar to that of creating an Album as mentioned earlier – first select the photos you wish to be included via Photos or Album views, and then click the option you want from the Add menu. You’ll then be walked through the process of creating the item, including agreeing to the price (orders are charged to your Apple ID in the same way as iTunes or App Store purchases).

Slideshows can in fact be created ad hoc and at any time by selecting photos and clicking the Play button either on the toolbar if viewing an Album, or at the right of a Collection. However, creating a slideshow from the Add menu allows you to not only create a slideshow for later playback, but also output it as a movie file in up to 1080p HD resolution – just click the Export button at the top right of the program window.

Ad hoc slideshows can be created from Moments by clicking the play button on the floating toolbar at the right of each

How to navigate through photos in Photos for Mac

When using Photos view, the back and forward buttons on the toolbar don’t always work like those in a browser. If you’re viewing a Moment then clicking the back button takes you to your Collections, and clicking it again will take you to the Years view. Similarly, clicking the Forward button will move you to your Collection, and clicking again will move to your Moments.

If other tabs are selected the back/forward buttons work more like traditional browser buttons – select to view a shared photo stream, for example, and clicking back will take you to the complete listing of streams.

Note too the zoom button at the top left of the window, which makes the thumbnails larger or smaller, such as those in a Moment or album – but NOT when viewing Collections or Years, for reasons known best to Apple. If viewing a photo full-screen this will also let you zoom in and out.

Pro tip: If you’re using a MacBook or have a Magic Trackpad, the pinch-expand gesture will zoom in and out to and from Years, Collections, Moments and individual photo views.

Switching to Edit mode in Photos for Mac

To edit a photo you’ll first need to double-click its thumbnail to open it for viewing, and then click the Edit button at the top right. Note that if you open for editing a photo in a Shared Album you’ll be told it needs to be imported into your photo library first, and that imported photo will be the one you’ll edit rather than the shared version.

Because every inch of screen space matters when you’re editing photos, switching to full screen mode makes sense (click View > Full Screen, or the green blob). Pro tip: You might notice the toolbar slides off the top of the screen along with the menu. To fix this, click View > Always Show Toolbar in Full Screen.

The screen goes black to indicate Edit mode is activated and the toolkit appears at the right of the program window, while a zoom control appears at the top left. When zoomed you can navigate around the image by clicking and dragging, or via a two-fingered scroll if using a trackpad. Pro tip: Holding down Cmd while tapping plus and minus on the keyboard lets you zoom in and out without using the mouse/trackpad.

The zoom control at the top left lets you look closely at an image, and clicking and dragging will scroll around

Non-destructive editing of photos on the Mac

Photos uses non-destructive editing, which means the original is always stored alongside your edits, no matter how extensive these are – or even if you quit the app after making them. Just open the photo for editing at any time and click Revert to Original.

Warning: Undoing individual actions in Photos via Ctrl+Z, or Edit > Undo, isn’t quite the same as other apps. Undos when editing an image are limited to the current tool you’re working in. For example, if you alter the brightness and then switch to the Retouch tool, you won’t be able to undo the brightness alterations you just made other than reverting to the original image as described above.  

If you find you’re unhappy with any edits you can click Revert to Original at any time — even after you’ve finished editing, or even restarted your Mac

Using the editing tools: enhance, rotate, crop, filter, adjust, & retouch

There are six icons in the toolkit at the right of the screen and you can see what they are by hovering the mouse cursor over each. Some work via a single click, while others open an additional set of tools. All are pretty simple to use, though.

Enhance: Auto-adjusts the colour balance, brightness and contrast of your image. You’re not given control over this. To control brightness, contrast, colour etc you’ll need the Adjust tool, discussed below.  

Rotate: Turns the image counter-clockwise 90 degrees. Holding down the Alt key (Option on some keyboards) switches it so it rotates clockwise 90 degrees. It’s not possible to flip the image vertically or horizontally here, although these options are available on the Image main menu and in the Crop tool, described below.

Crop: The least-accurately named of all the tools because, as well as dragging the frame to crop the image, this tool also lets you rotate the image to various small degrees – just click and drag the dial at the right of the image. You can also flip it and adjust it to fit particular aspect ratios such as 3:2 or simply “square” by clicking the Flip or Aspect buttons at the bottom right. Adjusting the aspect ratio can help crop a photo slightly for printing via commercial photo printing outfits – the popular 6x4in print size is 3:2 ratio, for example, while a standard iPhone image is slightly larger at 16:9. The Auto button will attempt to automatically rotate and crop the image so lines within it (horizons, poles, walls etc) look straight. On other types of images, such as portraits, it has no effect.

The Crop tool also lets you rotate an image by small degrees, as well as flip it and adjust its aspect ratio

Filters: Various readymade one-click filters that apply visual styles to your image, such as Mono, Instant, Chrome, and so on. Again, you have no control over any of them.

Adjust: The meat of the editing tools, and discussed in more depth below.

Retouch: Known as the “heal tool” in image editors like Photoshop, this lets you click (or click and drag over a wider area) to remove elements from an image such as skin blemishes. How it works is magical, as are the results, which are usually extremely impressive. However if you find it doesn’t work quite as it should then holding down Alt (Option on some keyboards) and selecting a nearby point in the image for a sample will improve accuracy. Clicking the Reset button at the bottom of the screen undoes any edits you’ve made using the Retouch tool.

Making adjustments to your image using Light, Colour & Black & White

Clicking the Adjust tool opens a new set of controls alongside the image. By default three are shown: Light (combined brightness and contrast control), Colour, and Black & White. Clicking and dragging the white bar within each control lets you make adjustments, although if you hover the mouse cursor over each you’ll see an Auto button appear. This attempts to auto-adjust to the best settings based on the image data, as well as the Histogram graph shown above. Hovering the mouse cursor over the control also shows a down arrow that, when clicked, reveals more fine-grained options — under the Light slider you’ll see additional sliders for Exposure, Highlights, Shadows and so on.

Clicking the Add button at the top right lets you reveal even more tools including some to sharpen the image, remove noise, and add a vignette effect. Perhaps the most useful for those used to Aperture or other pro-level tools is the Levels tool. Drag the handles beneath the levels histogram to adjust the darkest, lightest and mid-points of the image.

Clicking the down arrow alongside each control’s heading shows finer-grained controls

Advanced editing tricks in Photos

Right-clicking on the image lets you copy to the clipboard the current set of edits you’ve made, and you can then paste them onto a different image in the same way by right-clicking. This is useful if you find yourself correcting many images with a similar low-light fault, for example.

Perhaps one of the best advanced tricks for using Photos is to hold down Alt (Option on some keyboards) while using any of the tools. Doing so while adjusting the cropping box will cause it to resize in a different way, for example, and doing so whilst adjusting the rotation dial will decrease the severity of your drag. Just give it a try!

Edits made on one image and be copied and then “pasted” onto a different image – just right-click and select the option

Getting started with facial recognition in Photos

Photos includes a handful of automatic tools that can organise your images and one of the most useful is facial recognition. Theoretically this feature is automatic in that Photos will create albums of people once you’ve told it who an individual is, but for best results it needs constant training and checking.

Facial recognition is accessed via the Faces album, which is accessible by clicking the Albums tab.

When the Faces album is opened for the first time you’ll have to click the Get Started button. Subsequently circular thumbnails will appear along the bottom of the program window, showing a range of faces that Photos has spotted within your existing library. You’ll need to tell Photos who each one is.

The Faces feature within Photos recognises people in photos, although you’ll need to constantly train it

Training facial recognition in Photos

You’ll probably need to return to this thumbnail listing in the future as you import new images, but right now just double-click one of the faces and then type their name in the dialog box that appears at the top of the Photos window. This dialog is tied into your contacts database and suggestions will appear automatically when you start typing, but if the individual isn’t in your address book then just type their full name.

Select a thumbnail of an individual and type their name. If they’re in your contacts book their name will appear automatically

Once an individual has been identified in the way described above, further photos will appear showing images that Photos thinks are the same person. Photos is usually spookily good at this but you should click any that aren’t the person. This will unselect them. If there’s any confusion – perhaps caused by the individual appearing blurrily in the background of an image – then hover the mouse cursor over the recognition circle surrounding their head and it’ll temporarily enlarge.

Once you’ve initially identified an individual, you’ll be shown lots more images of what Photos thinks is the same person

Click the Add and Continue button and you’ll probably see yet more photos of that person. Keep going until either you get bored – in which case you can click the Finish Later button – or all the photos suggested for that individual have been recognised. Then move onto the next individual by clicking their thumbnail back in the Faces album view.

It can take quite a while to train Photos, and it’s impossible to say how much is needed. In our tests after a few screens Photos had usually got somewhere near 95% accuracy.  

Manually identifying a face

The Faces album isn’t the only way to identify faces and there’s a handful of more immediate methods for doing so. If you’ve just added a batch of images from your camera, or via iCloud Library, them open any photo for viewing by double-clicking it and either (a) click View > Show Face Names, or (b) click the (i) icon at the top right of the toolbar to open the Info window. Then click the Add Faces button.

Whichever method you choose, Photos will add a circle to where it thinks the face(s) are in the picture, and each can be expanded by dragging the handle at the right if they’re too small. Underneath the recognition circle you can type the name of the individual.

If Photos makes a mistake and places a circle around something that’s clearly not a face – a a t-shirt design, for example – then just click the X button at the left of the recognition circle to dismiss it.

People can be manually recognised within images using the Inspector window that appears when you tap the (i) icon on the toolbar

Importing iPhoto recognition in toPhotos

On our test Mac the Photos app had previously imported its library from iPhoto, where we’d already spent some time training iPhoto to recognising faces. Rather oddly, Photos didn’t automatically create entries in the Faces album for these people, although images for them did appear when we typed their name into the search field. There didn’t appear to be any way to convert these search results into an entry in the Faces album. The only way of doing so appeared to be to use the Info window, as discussed above, to re-recognise the images from scratch.

Facial recognition on the iOS version of Photos

Facial recognition can only be carried out on the Mac version of Photos, and there’s no way to view the Faces album on your iOS devices either. This is true even if you have iCloud Photo Library activated.

However, it’s not entirely bad news: the search field in Photos on iOS will work in the same way described above, so typing somebody’s name will offer an option to show “faces” of that individual, allowing the quick creation of albums and slideshows.

Dealing with face recognition problems in Photos

Photos’ facial recognition is pretty good, but it’s not bulletproof and you might run into some problems, as follows:

Faces that aren’t faces: When you’re viewing the circular thumbnails in the Faces album, Photos might sometimes think something’s a face when it isn’t. In our tests it thought a desktop fan and a cup of tea were faces, for example, as well as the queen’s head on a banknote that appeared in a photo. The solution is to right-click the circular thumbnail and select Ignore This Face.

If Photos recognises something that isn’t actually a face, such as a desktop fan in our example, then right-click it and click Ignore This Face

Multiple instances of the same person: It’s likely that people will appear many times in the Suggested Faces list in the Faces album, even after you’ve initially recognised them. The solution is to click their thumbnail and type their name as you would with anybody else, in which case they’ll be added to the existing Faces entry.

Miss-clicking: Reviewing photos for facial recognition becomes a little hypnotic and you may well accidentally allow through a photo that isn’t actually that person. There’s no way to undo this there and then The solution is to open the Faces album of that person, locate the photo, then right-click it and select the option at the bottom of the menu that appears. This can also be used to remove any photos that Photos has misrecognised automatically.

If you allow through a photo that isn’t that particular individual, opening their Faces album for viewing lets you fix the error

Creating a Slideshow in Photos for Mac

A brilliant new feature of Photos for Mac is the Projects tab that lets you create print products, manufactured by Apple itself, as well as slideshows that you can export as HD movie files.

To create a new project, select the images you want to use via the Photos tab – you’ll need to hold down Cmd or Shift to select multiple images – then click the plus button at the top right of the Photos program window and select the type of project you want. Once created, any new project will subsequently be listed when you click the Projects tab.

A slideshow is perhaps the simplest kind of project because it doesn’t involve buying from Apple and the results are immediate.

Slideshow projects can be created by clicking the plus button at the top right of Photos’ program window

The first choice upon choosing to create a slideshow is to give it a name. Anything will do, although this text will appear within the opening frames of the slideshow. Instead of creating a new slideshow, you can also choose via this dialog box to add the photos to a slideshow you’ve already created, selectable from the Slideshow dropdown list.

The layout of Photos’ slideshow construction window is pretty simple – the photos are listed along the bottom, while dominating the screen is a preview of the slideshow. Clicking the Preview button will start it playing within the Photos window.

At the right of the program window are three icons that let you choose the Theme, Music, and Duration. When any of them are clicked a slide-out panel will appear showing options.

The icons to the right of the slideshow preview allow you to configure various aspects, such as its theme

Choosing a slideshow theme in Photos for Mac

Six slideshow themes are available. These not only add interest to a slideshow via motion effects but also let you make better use of photos that might be shot in portrait mode, or other aspect ratios – the individual frames of some slideshows involve multiple photographs better disposed to portrait shots, for example.

The themes are as follows:

Ken Burns: Each photo displayed is either slowly zoomed into, or zoomed out of (a technique pioneered by documentary maker Ken Burns). You can set the start and end zoom points in each photo by selecting it within the thumbnails at the bottom of the program window, and clicking the square icon the bottom left of the large preview above. Selecting either the start or end icon will show a zoom slider.

Origami: Photos in the slideshow seem to fold into view from the side of the screen.

Reflections: Photos appear to be sitting on a shiny surface that reflects their contents.

Sliding Panels: Photos slide into and out of view – from the sides, top, bottom and out from the middle of the screen.

Vintage Prints: Photos are shown as a series of virtual photographic prints, as if stacked on top of each other. A similar effect to that in the Ken Burns slideshow is used to zoom slowly in and out in order to add interest although no control is offered over the zoom effect.

Classic: The traditional slideshow in which individual photos fill the screen, and briefly crossfade into each other.

Magazine: Somewhat similar to the Origami and Sliding Panels except the transition between slideshow frames is quicker and there’s a more dynamic feel to match a supposed magazine layout.

The Ken Burns theme zooms in and out of photos slowly, and you can set the start and end zoom points using the slider controls

In most themes the thumbnails at the bottom show how the photos will be arranged when two or more appear in a single slideshow frame, and clicking and dragging individual photos within the thumbnails will rearrange their order. Clicking and dragging photos within the large preview above will allow you to centre each individual picture within its frame in the slideshow.

Pro tip: The title of the slideshow can be edited by clicking it in the first frame of the large preview, and the font can also be changed by tapping Cmd+T to bring up the fonts palette. Unfortunately, although the palette includes controls for change the text colour and shadow, these don’t appear to have any bearing on the text.

The text in any on-screen captions in a slideshow can be modified by bringing up the Fonts palette – just hit Cmd+T

Adding text to a slideshow in Photos for Mac

In addition to the title text, which is added automatically based on what you type, you can also add individual captions to each image. This is done by clicking the plus button at the right of the thumbnail listing and typing into the text box. Unfortunately, the text box is fixed and can’t be moved around.  

Changing a slideshow’s theme and duration in Photos for Mac

Each slideshow has a unique piece of music that plays while it runs, but you can choose your own song from your iTunes library by clicking the Music icon at the right-hand side and expanding the Music Library heading. You can also select Theme Songs from the dropdown list to mix and match any of the seven theme songs with your slideshow.

The Duration control works in concert with the music (if you’ll pardon the pun) because you can make the slideshow last as long as the music, or choose set times for each frame.

Exporting a slideshow as a movie in Photos for Mac

As you progress creating your slideshow it’ll automatically be saved under the Projects tab but you can also choose to export it as a QuickTime (MP4) movie file, playable on all Apple devices and most modern computers/handhelds. Three resolution options are available: Standard Definition (640x480), High Resolution 720p (1280x720), and High Resolution 1080p (1980x1080).  

Slideshows can be exported as movie files in a range of formats, but be aware that you’ll end up with large files if choosing High Definition 1080p!

Live Photos capabilities in Photos for El Capitan

Introduced with the iPhone 6S range, Live Photos is an option within the Camera app that augments snapshots by niftily recording a second or two of movie footage before and after the shutter is tapped. It’s saved as a single image file that looks like any other, including syncing via iCloud.  

To view the Live Photo’s movie component you simply tap and hold the photo within the Photos app on the iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.  

When viewing a Live Photo’s thumbnail within the main photos listing or an album view of Photos on your Mac hover the mouse cursor over it to start the Live Photo playback. After clicking to open the photo you’ll need to hover the mouse cursor over the Live icon at the bottom left to trigger playback.  

To trigger a Live Photo you’ll need to hover the mouse cursor over the Live Photo icon at the bottom left of the image

As on iOS devices, should you edit a Live Photo in Photos on the Mac then you’ll disable the movie component and it’ll turn into a basic snapshot like any other (you’ll be warned of this first, of course). However, as with any edit you can always click the Revert To Original button at the top right when editing to restore the Live Photo component, even after you’ve made significant edits and/or saved the photo/closed the Photos app.

Live Photos also become regular image files should they be copied out of Photos to a Finder window or the desktop.

Using extensions (plugins) with Photos for El Capitan

Photos in El Capitan addresses the issue of a lack of extensive editing tools within the app by letting app developers create add-ons that appear under an Extensions heading when you click the Edit button while viewing a photo. Just look to the bottom of the tool list at the right of the screen and click the Extensions heading to make your choice.

Some developers have chosen to create dedicated extensions. A good example is Noiseless from MacPhun, that aims to improve images taken in the dark. Others developers, like the people behind the Pixelmator image editing app, let users access one or more functions from their app within Photos.

As with all OS X extensions those for Photos can be activated, deactivated and listed within System Preferences. Just click the Extensions icon and then the Photos entry in the list. Remove the tick alongside any you want to disable within Photos. Extensions are installed by either downloading the installation package directly from the developer's website, as with any app, or by downloading offerings found within the Mac App Store.

Extensions allow you to enhance the editing power of Photos using third-party add-ons

Unfortunately, the extensions used with Photos are incompatible with those used in other image editing apps like Adobe Photoshop.

Editing a photo’s location in El Capitan

Thanks to built-in location services, snapshots taken with an iOS device have the location recorded with them. To view this in Photos on your Mac just select the photo and click Window > Info, or tap Cmd+I and look at the map at the bottom of the window that appears.  

New to Photos in El Capitan is the ability to both edit existing location info, or add a location to photos for which such information isn’t present. Simply click in the text area above the map if one is present, or click Assign a Location if no map is shown. In both cases you should then type the location as a postcode, address or place name. Photos will autocomplete with fuller place suggestions as soon as you start typing and once you hit Enter will show the location as a map beneath.

Photos in El Capitan lets you edit an existing location attached to a photo, and assign one to a snapshot that lacks such data

You can assign a location to several images at one fell swoop by simply selecting them all, then clicking Windows > Info, or taping Cmd+I. Then fill in the information as described previously.  

Minor updates within Photos for El Capitan

The same multiple-selection trick as discussed above also lets you add a title, description, and keywords to multiple files in one fell swoop. Just select the files, click Window > Info (or tap Cmd+I), then type in the various fields of the info dialog box that appears.

Also new to El Capitan, but perhaps less worthy of headlines, is the ability to sort albums and also the pictures within them via a new Sort option on the VIew menu, which offers three options: By Name; By Oldest First; and By Newest First.  

To sort albums, open the sidebar (View > Show Sidebar), then select the Albums heading. Then click the aforementioned menu. To sort the contents of an album open it for viewing and again click the relevant menu entry.

El Capitan’s Photos app brings the ability to sort photos by date or name, and also to sort album contents by the same criteria

Another small but welcome addition is an improved process making it quicker and easier to build up albums of individuals within the Faces section of Photos. You can now multiple-select from the Suggested Faces listing at the bottom of the screen when viewing the Faces albums in order to drag them onto one of the entries above.  

Multiple faces thumbnails can now be added to Faces albums in order to build-up collections of individuals’ snapshots

Also read: 

Apple Photos vs Google Photos

Set up Photo Stream on your iPhone and Mac

How to get the photos off of your iPhone and on to your Mac