Photos is baked into iOS — it is the default image editor and one of the few apps you cannot delete. It is also the hub for all photos and videos across devices.
Like I wrote in my iOS 13 wishes for the Camera app, Photos is powerful because of its simplicity. It offers just enough power and the convenience makes it my go-to editing app.
As someone who uses it daily, there are a few things I’d like to see changed, in particular when it comes to managing files on device and using video files.
On Demand Downloading
One of the most frustrating aspects of the Photos app is not knowing what is on your device and what isn’t. Photos is designed in a way where everything should “just work,” but unfortunately, it always doesn't.
If you turn on the Optimize iPhone Storage setting, Photos will only download images and videos as needed. If you are loading a file that wasn’t recently taken on that decline to edit or share, it most likely needs to download from iCloud. This can become a problem when you’re editing a video, espically one with lots of clips. Even a photo is downloaded, it’s hard to know when and how long it will stay in the device.
Like the Files and Music apps, I’d like to have a way to choose which photos are downloaded and stay on the device. You can do this by album, Moment or individually. This would be helpful for photos you are working with regularly in apps and videos you are editing.
Basic video editing
Editing videos is a whole different beast than photos, but the options that Photos offer are slim to none. Currently, Photos allows you to only trim a video, which is nice to cut out the sections where you are telling people to get into frame. But if you accidentally shot it vertically instead of horizontally, you’re in a world of hurt.
You can technically do this using Apple software if you have iMovie installed. Open a video and hit the edit button. Press the circle with three dots in the middle and you will see an iMovie icon. It will then open up a window with some limited options to trim the clip, add a filter, text or music. To rotate it you have to use two fingers and flip the video image — this took me a minute or so to figure out.
Once you’re done, iMovie will save a new video, but it will take a while — for a 12 second video it took nearly 3 minutes to export on an iPhone XS. I doubt most people keep iMovie installed, and if they do, they wouldn’t find it intuitive to rotate the video.
Photos should offer a more simple and quick way to edit videos. Having the ability to tone the video or adjust audio would be nice, but being able to rotate videos is at the top of my list.
Move Photos functions outside of the Share Sheet
A couple of months ago, I was playing around with the Live Photo animations and wanted to see how each one looked. I asked myself: how do I duplicate an image?
Turns out, it’s in the Share Sheet. Apple Photos has several different application actions that it keeps there. This doesn’t make sense. To add to an album, duplicate an image, hide an image or run a slideshow, you need to open the share sheet and choose an action extension. To add a photo to a Shared Album, there’s an action on the top share extension.
I can’t think of many apps that have functions like this in the share sheet. It makes sense for the simplistic design, but moving these functions within the app to make it easier to use.
Built in duplicate and similar photos search
I love shooting in Smart HDR, but sometimes the computational photography falls flat and looks strange. That’s why I always have the setting enabled to keep the original and HDR image. However, this makes duplicates of almost every image I shoot. I’d like to see Apple Photos have a built in duplicate and similar image search to help manage your library, similar to what Google Photos offer. It would be nice to see a prompt in the For You section to review and delete duplicate and/or similar images.
Handoff support for syncing iCloud Photo libraries
I take a lot of photos and videos on my iPhone and edit them on my iPad and Mac. While my libraries are almost always in sync, if I come back from a video shoot, it takes a while for the files to upload to iCloud and then appear on my other devices. I don’t know if this is technically possible, but I would love to see faster syncing of iCloud Photo Library using Bluetooth and WIFI when the devices are near each other. Currently, if I’m in a time crunch, I’ll AirDrop the files to my iPad or Mac, but I often worry that it will cause syncing issues.
General iCloud Photo Library improvements
iCloud Photo Library has come far since it was introduced in iOS 8, but there are general improvements I’d like to see:
Syncing more metadata: Privacy is one of the reasons why I continue to choose Apple products, and their stance on keeping photo data on device is great. But when you get a new device, it can take a very long time for everything to be recognized (especially with a larger library, like mine). Also, when I search for something on one device, I don’t know if I will be able to get that on another one. I really like the notifications for memories and sharing suggestions, but they seem to vary depending on the device I’m using. I would love to see Apple scan images and videos on device and then add it to an area of the metadata that cannot leave the Photos app.
General speed improvements: Photos has gotten a lot faster, but there are times where it lags and slows everything down. For instance, when I take some photos, it can take several minutes for them to appear within the app. And then when I edit those photos, it can take up to a minute to load them on my iPhone XS.
Smart Albums on iOS: This is a feature I use a whole lot on my Mac and would love to see it come to iOS (although I bet it never will). Smart Albums are a great way to view certain photos and perform weekly purges / reviews of my photo library.
Photos in iOS 13
With improvements to the iPad, Apple Arcade, Marzipan for MacOS and dark mode on iOS, I don’t know how much time Photos or Camera will get, but as a flagship feature of iPhone and iOS, I hope some improvements are made to make a quicker and more straightforward experience.