What’s Next for Photos.app

Aug 31, 2022 • Extra Ordinary



I am still reveling the delight of iCloud Shared Photo Library, new to iOS 16 and macOS Ventura. No more AirDropping my wife pictures from a weekend outing. No more digging for a specific picture only to find out later it was in her library all along.

But there’s still much to be done. As I spend many hours curating my photo library, here are the remaining features on my wishlist.

Easier face tagging

I tag the faces of friends and family members extensively. Not only can I find a specific picture remarkably fast if I know everyone who’s in it, but seeing albums of specific people over the years is a really touching way to connect with the photos I have.

This is an old feature of iPhoto — long before iCloud Photo Library of any kind, long before the modern Photos.app launched in OS X Yosemite.1 Apple ran ads on this feature back in 2009.

A feature of iPhoto that was lost in the switch to Photos was a particular view that let you see every face in your photo library that was untagged and/or unnamed. As it stands, you can still tag faces, search by faces and see every tagged face — but you can’t see every untagged face. For all I know, there could be a great picture of a close friend in my library that’s lost in the mix because it isn’t tagged.

Animal tagging

Photos can detect dogs in pictures. You can even search ‘dog’ and see every picture of every dog in all your pictures. It can even detect specific breeds and provide lookup information.

I would love for them to take this one step further and allow me to tag a dog just like I can tag a friend.2 Hell, my dogs are more important to me than most of my friends. Using the search field is far from an exact science — there are a lot of pictures that aren’t correctly classified — so tagging animals would give me a place where I can quickly find every picture of a particular animal.

A fantastic feature is visual search. I can search for ‘computer’ or ‘car’ and get hundreds of results, even the weird ones that hardly resemble computers or cars at all.

Sometimes, a raccoon will appear in a search for a cat, a store will appear in a search for a house or a tripod will appear in a search for a chair. Artificial intelligence is closer to hardly functional than hardly perfect.

I would love to help train the model. Let me long-press on a picture in a search field and reclassify it. This interface already exists for people — if my phone thinks a picture of me is a picture of my brother, I can long-press on it and either change the name or tap “Not this person.”

I would spend even more time happily cleaning up my photo library with any one of these features… maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have it yet.

Footnotes

  1. Photos.app did not ship with OS X Yosemite — it was delayed until the following March. This sort of off-cycle release of a major feature is commonplace now. Pointer support came with iPadOS 13.4 in March; Unlock iPhone with Apple Watch came with iOS 14.5 in April; Universal Control came with iOS 15.4 in March. But the time, it was considered unusual.
  2. This was never an official feature, but there was a workaround allowed in iPhoto that Apple later shut the door on in Photos.app. In iPhoto, you could manually add a tag anywhere in a picture. You could simply add a tag on a cat or dog, and with enough consistency, it would automatically detect the animal in other pictures.

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