Photos Tips and Tricks: Fade Filter with Adjustments / by Adrian Galli

In 2014, Apple announced iPhoto and Aperture would not longer be developed. iPhoto was released in 2002 and weighed in at well over a gigabyte. It was an old, slow, and clunky application. While it served many of us well for many years, technology is about new ventures and evolution, not stagnation and rigidity. Aperture was newer, much more powerful in both editing and organizing than iPhoto but also a bit more of a learning curve. But, alas, these applications gave way to a new, singular, more powerful, more efficient, and intuitive application: Photos.

No doubt this ruffled some feathers. People dislike change but when it comes to technology, change is most definitely the constant. Even for technology wizards like my colleagues and I, we still have to learn these new tools. Personally, I was excited. I love to learn a new application, see what it does, how it was designed, and how it will fit into my life.

This was not without growing pains. I had used Aperture since before the public; I beta tested it and was one of three selected to champion it. I wrote training curriculums, taught classes, and used it both personally and professionally; hand to hand, I would put my knowledge of Aperture up against anyones. It was powerful and had some really impressive editing tools. I loved Aperture, as did many others. The end was near, however, for Aperture, so when Photos was announced, I quickly made my way to beta testing it.

The challenge: use Photos exclusively, from day one, and do everything photographic with it for six months. It was time to explore and venture into the unknown and put it to the test. As those who know and follow me, I love a challenge with my creative tools. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I prefer limitations and challenges; it makes me more creative, try harder, innovate, and push my technology and self to new limits.

It little time to feel comfortable with the application as it works nearly identically to its iOS sibling. Photos on OS X is definitely more powerful within the realm of editing and organization but the general functions are the same. If one knows Photos for iOS, one knows Photos for OS X. One might then ask, “How did you fare, Adrian, having used a set of tools that wasn’t as powerful as Aperture’s?"

It was a challenge as first but, while photos starts out with a simple editing toolset, one can expand the tools for more control. It makes general adjustments simple for users looking for quick and easy editing while more advance editors can take a deeper dive. I found that Photos was getting a bad wrap because there were some really powerful tools, some of which aren’t even in Photoshop, and with a little creativity and ingenuity, there was real opportunity to do some great work.

One of these toolsets is Filter. There are eight total: five color and three black and white. On first approach, these filters seem rather simplistic; they emulate certain film stocks, polaroid, or film processing technique, etc. Initially one might question the validity as they can be rather “bold” in their adjustments to a photo (though, I really like Noir). And when it comes to filters, eight is child play. VSCO has dozens. Instagram, Afterlight, Enlight, and many other also give tons of filters for one’s photo filtering needs. But, there in lies the problem; these apps give people a false assumption of how one could work in Photos. Generally, filters in apps are tap and go and maybe with a little extra fine-tuning; find your photo, add a filter, share it. Done. In Photos, one needs to be a little more creative and leave behind the simplistic nature of a lot of that general mobile photo editing app experience. (Note: there are plenty of iOS editing apps that are very powerful. I write this in general terms.)

Photos Tips and Tricks is a series launched from this very observation. The tools available to us in Photos are not just to be used in exclusivity but in tandem with others. And that Photos is, in fact, much more powerful than iPhoto, and a lot can be accomplished if one actually takes advantage of the tools. So let us start with the inaugural tip: Fade Filter with Adjustments.

This filter became a favorite of mine but I didn’t care much for it when I first applied it and generally find it too plain when applied alone. I needed to take my editing into the Adjustments section of Photos to make it work.

Down and to the Right (original), Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 14mm f2.5 at f5.6

Down and to the Right (original), Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 14mm f2.5 at f5.6

Fade Filter with Color Adjustment

Above is the original image for Down and to the Right. It was shot using the Olympus E-M5 with a Panasonic 14mm f2.5 lens at f5.6. The image itself is rather flat and needs some processing to make it pop so let’s start with the Fade Filter.

Step 1
Entering the edit mode by clicking on Edit in the upper right corner of Photos' window, a list of tools will appear on the right. The fourth toolset it filters.

Step 2
Clicking on the Fade filter, the image loses a fair amount of its color. It does not appear to be a simply reduction of saturation; the color values seem to roll off with the characteristics of being on a curve. Some colors, like green, also fade more with a shift toward yellow.

Image with Fade applied.

Image with Fade applied.

Step 3
With the Fade applied, switch to the Adjustments toolset. This is the very next button below Filters. Initially, you’ll only see a few adjustments: Light, Color, and Black and White. You may notice this looks much like the tools in Photos for iOS. Try dragging the color adjustment to the right. You can make significant inroad with the slider and the photo will hold up.

Image with Color Adjustment applied.

Image with Color Adjustment applied.

The above photo is processed with Fade plus a 60-70% increase to the Color Adjustment. The enhanced photo has a whole new appeal to it; a little filmic, a little more stylized. 

Not all photos should one apply this series of steps. Photos with a lot of blues, indigos, violets, don’t hold up well to this method; those colors tend to over saturate with the Color Adjustment, however, it is possible to fine-tune that as well with the Color Contrast adjustment. That is the beauty of such a creative workflow; it opens one to exploring other options and integrating one tool into another. And this doesn't have to be the end of the editing process. Levels, quarter tones, definition, exposure, etc. are all other tools available for continued processing of a photo.

Feel free to explore the editing possibilities. This is only the start of what can be accomplished in Photos. The best news is, one, Photos never adjusts the original image so playing with a photo, it can always be reverted back to the master. Two, while Photos does have more power than many will give it credit, as with all tools, it does have limits. If more manipulations are needed, Photos in El Capitan (OS 10.11) supports extensions and thus, other editing applications can build into Photos expanding its capabilities. The Mac App store has a section for Photography where extensible apps can be found.

I hope this simple but powerful tip help you edit your images. I hope that I have dispelled a few myths that Photos isn't powerful. It greatly eclipses iPhoto's editing tools and allows for much more flexibility.

I would love to hear your feedback on this tip and if you have any you'd like to share, reader would also welcome your insight. Visit again soon other Photos Tips and Tricks posts.