Back in February I wrote about the reasons why I was going to use the new iCloud Photo Library when the new Photos app became available. I got sucked in to the concept of having access to all of my photos from all of my devices.
I thought that sharing photos from the iCloud Photo Library could replace the need for the SmugMug photo site that my wife and I use. She and I often shoot photos of the same events and we post our best shots to a shared SmugMug gallery. Attempting to do this with iCloud Photo Library would be awkward - she would have to share photos from her iCloud Photo Library and I would have to share photos from my iCloud Photo Library. We would need two locations instead of one to share family photos. It would be confusing and needlessly complicated.
Also, our SmugMug photo and video storage is unlimited for $40/year while iCloud storage is limited to 1TB at a cost of $240/year. Double that to $480/year for two iCloud subscriptions, one each for my wife and me. Going the iCloud Photo Library route would cost me more than I pay now.
I currently have 3 iPhoto libraries, one for photos shot from 1992-2010, one for 2011-2012, and one for 2013-2015. With iCloud Photo Library there can be only one library that syncs with all devices so it would be huge. It is possible to manage separate libraries but it’s more complicated and involves designating different libraries as the current System Photos Library that syncs across devices. There is, however, a useful utility app for managing multiple Photos libraries stored on a Mac: PowerPhotos from Fat Cat Software (www.fatcatsoftware.com), the company that makes the popular iPhoto Library Manager.
I contacted the developer of PowerPhotos who told me that when OS X 10.11 El Capitan becomes available there is a good chance that PowerPhotos may be able to merge Photos libraries. This feature would address some of the photo organization issues in the Photos app. With iPhoto it was easy to create separate libraries and merge libraries, as well as to merge and split events and move photos from one event to another. However, the new Photos app organizes photos automatically depending on the date of the photo and the geotag info. It’s (not yet) possible to organize photos in the library manually. Also, some photos are missing the date and geotag information so sometimes the photos in a Photos library are not sorted as expected.
While storing all photos in an iCloud Photo Library makes it possible to edit any photo on any device, I prefer editing photos at my desk on my Mac’s 27-inch screen. Editing photos on an iOS device is more difficult. So editing photos on any of my devices is a feature I wouldn’t use.
At this point in time I’ve tried the Photos app and have learned most of its ins and outs. I am sticking with iPhoto and am holding off on switching to Photos until the new version is available when Apple releases OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The new version will have the ability to assign locations to photos that don’t have geotag data, so Photos libraries should sort more accuately.
Another new feature coming in the new version of Photos will enable plugins so that Photos can easily access features of third party apps.
If you have multiple iPhoto libraries and decide to migrate to the Photos app please be aware that each Photos library will remain separate with its own content, so each library will have its own photo books, calendars, slideshows, etc. Currently there is no way to copy those items from one Photos library to another. Projects also do not sync with iCloud Photo Library. More info about these limitations is available here: click link.
Several books are available about the new Photos app and the iCloud Photo Library:
Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course by Jason Snell
Photos for Mac and iOS: The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider
My Photos for Mac by Michael Grothaus
Photos for OS X and iOS: Take, edit, and share photos in the Apple photography ecosystem by Jeff Carlson
UPDATE 9/9/15: Today Apple announced reduced pricing for iCloud storage. The 1TB tier is now $120/year, reduced from $240. The new price is still three times the cost of a SmugMug subscription, and SmugMug offers unlimited storage.
UPDATE 9/11/15: PowerPhotos can now merge Photos photo libraries on OS X 10.11 El Capitan.