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Using Apple Photos as a DAM - don’t diss it till you try it.

Les Hall

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I used to use LR, but like many others I gave up on Adobe products after they went subscription after having spent thousands over the years on every version of Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Pagemaker etc. I would buy the suite version.

I did though, on the whole, like LR for cataloging files and processing RAW.

I feel like I’ve tried every alternative and always end up just using Apple Photos. It’s free and gets failry regular updates.

I keep all my images in folders on an external SSD which is backed up to other SSD’s daily. The images are all referenced into Photos, but not physically moved to the Photos library. You can do that and have the library (of referenced files) on an external disk.

Like many Apple apps it has powers that are not always explained up front. One feature that I just discovered was in using the search function. I can’t remember why I was looking for “beer” but I typed that in and a bunch of photographs were found. All of them, except one, had either glasses of beer or beer bottles. There was one foto that had neither in them. I enlarged the image and there, on a piece of paper was the tiny word “beer”. And it was on a creased part of the paper shot at an angle. I guess this is a benefit of Apple’s newish technology that can find, and copy, words in images.

Count me impressed.

I also use the edit feature, but don’t use the Photos edit engine per se. I select an image and press enter which opens Photos Edit and from there, in the three dots in a circle icon, I select the RAW processor of my choice. I typically use RAWPower, which is a $30 (I think) app written by one of the lead engineers on Apple Aperture - a much beloved DAM and RAW processor sadly missed by the cognnoscenti. You can also pick Affinity Photo or whatever other foto editing app appears in the pop-up menu.

I used to think an Affinity DAM would be cool. I would like to give those guys my money, but I no longer feel that is necessary. Although I would still buy it if they did release such a beast.

Cast aside any opinions you might have about Apple Photos and give it a try.

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I‘m trying Apple Photos based on similar reasons, but not yet came to an conclusions. 


My concerns

  1. Ignores some industry-standards like star-rating, and uses Apple proprietary instead (colors, love/heart symbol). Makes it hard to switch in future.
  2. Photo has some default settings making your live harder (well that at least is a good fit to Serif apps, having the same issue)
    1. saving low-res versions locally, 
    2. shared libraries use low-res versions, making it useless for data exchange
  3. limited search and filter criteria (e.g. when having raw and processed files)
  4. Apple is infamous for abandoning good apps any time, leaving „heavy invested (time spend)“ users in the desert



Mac mini M1 A2348

LG34WK950U-W, calibrated to DCI-P3 with LG Calibration Studio / Spider 5

iPad Air Gen 5 (2022) A2589

Special interest into procedural texture filter, edit alpha channel, RGB/16 and RGB/32 color formats, stacking, finding root causes for misbehaving files, finding creative solutions for unsolvable tasks, finding bugs in Apps.


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4 hours ago, NotMyFault said:

2. Photo has some default settings making your live harder (well that at least is a good fit to Serif apps, having the same issue)

  1. saving low-res versions locally, 
  2. shared libraries use low-res versions, making it useless for data exchange


That's a matter of used export settings like size & quality etc., for JPGs for example set the quality to maximum and size to original and you should be fine.


☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.6 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.6 ◆ Affinity Publisher 1.10.6 ◆ OSX El Capitan
☛ Affinity V2 apps still not installed and thus momentary not in use under MacOS

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I don’t use shared libraries so that’s a moot point with me. As for exporting, as v_kyr said you can export any size you want, up to your images maximum size. 

Also you can export as “Original” which will export a RAW or JPEG depending on what you imported in the first place. 

It’s not Pro level but, if you are like me with under 20k images, it works well.

I look forward to getting home to my Mac so that I can try out that new app with the catchy name that I have already forgotten… 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have been using Apple photos in iCloud for years, people have no idea how powerful it is, I have over 56'000 images, many of the RAW and I can access them on my Macbook, my Mac Mini, my iPad and on my iPhone.

Incredible features :-

1. Search is fab, search for trees lighthouses cats dogs etc no problem

2. Facial recognition, once you have told it who a person is it collects all images of that person making managing family photos a breeze.

3. The editor is pretty good AND is non-destructive. So I can edit my RAW and a JPG is displayed but at any time I can revert the image back to the original RAW and start again.

3a. Edits can be copied and pasted in bulk to a whole stack of images directly

4. Built in duplicate image finder

5. Images can be placed in as many albums as you like but only a single image is stored.

6. If you have location information on your images you get a world map showing where all your images were taken, you can zoom in on map and all the photo you took in that location are at your fingertips

7. You can view your images in so many ways, by date, by type panoramas, raw etc 

8. Single long press on image with people or objects in and it will lift the main subjects off and you can save to another image, similar to making a selection in affinity then duplicating the selection, but automatically. See cool demo below, single finger press.

9. In iCloud with optimise storage it saves so much space that even my ancient 256GB Macbook and 64GB iPhone X can see all 56'000 images without running into space problems.

10. Have a photo of a plant, animal etc you will get a small * attached to the information button which will tell you what it thinks the plant is.

11. You can adjust the metadata directly to add location, correct date on scanned images etc

12. Built in OCR, if your image has text in it you can copy and paste somewhere else

13. Can also handle video files and can even edit those as well including trimming starts and finishes etc

14. To pickup the STAR rating issues, because are albums are all virtual collections, I have virtual albums named *, **,***,****,***** and simply add images to those folders.

15. You can right click any image and select Edit in Affinity Photo, do all your edits, then select Document -> Flatten in Affinity then File -> Save directly back into Apple Photos. At any time you can right click an edited image by any editor and select Revert to Original to undo all edits.

Edited by Paul Mudditt
Added 15 Round trip to affinity and back


My dad always told me, a bad workman always blames their tools….

Just waiting for Ronny Pickering…..

Affinity Photo, Designer, Publisher 1.10 and 2.2 beta on macOS Sonoma 14.0 Beta on M1 Mac Mini 16GB 1TB
Affinity Photo, Designer, Publisher 1.10 and 2.2 beta  on Windows 10 Pro.
Affinity Photo, Designer, Publisher 2.2 beta on M1 iPad Pro 11” on iPadOS 17.0 beta 



The hardest link to find https://affinity.help

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