How to Edit Your Pictures Using macOS’ Photos

Lots of Mac users use Photos for sorting and browsing photo collections. It syncs easily with your iPhone, recognizes faces, and even sorts your photos into Memories. What you might not know is that Photos is also now a decent tool for editing photos.

Once upon a time Photos could only do superficial edits, but in the fall of 2017, Apple added enough new editing features to make it useful for the vast majority of users. It’s simple, but powerful. And if you already have more powerful photo editing software that you love, Photos also allows you to open your pictures using that. Let’s check out the built-in tool, then show you how to use your own app if that’s not good enough.

Using Photos’ Tools To Edit

The editing functionality in Photos isn’t hidden: just head to any photo you like, and then click the “Edit” button at top-right.

The window frame change from gray to black, indicating that you’re now in Edit mode.

You start in the Adjust tab, where you’ll see a variety of tools for adjusting things like the light and the color balance, and for removing red-eye. All of the tools are simple to learn, so play around. You can always click the “Revert to Original” button at top-right if you don’t like what you end up with.

The Filters tab gives you Instagram-style filters, which change the look of your photo in one click. It’s a quick way to transform a photo completely.

Finally there’s the Crop tab, which lets you straighten up your photo and crop out parts you don’t want.

None of this functionality is going to replace something like Photoshop, but it’s a fair bit of power in an interface that manages to stay user friendly.

Use Markup With Photos

You might be wondering where basic image editing tools, like a pencil or the ability to add text, is hiding. Turns out the editing mode offers Markup, and it works just like it works in Preview. It’s a little hidden, though.

Open a photo in the Editing tool, like we did above, and then click the Extensions button.

On the popup menu, click the “Markup” option.

You can now use all of the Markup tools to edit your photo.

Take notice of my subtle enhancements here, and feel free to apply them to your own artwork.

Using an External Image Editor

If all of this seems a little…basic for you, then there’s good news: you can use an external editor instead. You could check out our best free photo editors for macOS, or cave in and buy Photoshop like everyone else.

To edit any image using an external editor, right-click the image, point to the “Edit With” menu, and then choose the app you want to use.

If your preferred application doesn’t show up, click “Other” on that same menu, and then browse to the app in the Finder. You can use any app to edit your photos.

If you’re a professional photographer, you’re probably not storing stuff in Photos, but every once in a while, you might want to use your tools to edit stuff synced over from your phone, and this makes it easy.

Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.