Photography tools

A detailed guide to all adjustment tools for photos on Mac

Why pay a large sum of money for third-party photo editing apps when your Mac is equipped with all the tools you need to polish your photos? Besides the basic tools like Crop, Rotate, and Filters, you can also enhance your game with the Adjustment tools in the Photos app.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to all of Apple’s built-in Photos app tuning tools.

Photos lets you make light, color, and black-and-white adjustments to your image by dragging various sliders. You can also refine your settings by pressing Options under each adjustment tool to reveal more specific adjustments.

Lighting options

Light in Photos on Mac

This tool adjusts the lighting tones of your image, with the following options:

  • Sparkle makes photos more vivid by bringing out details, adding highlights, and brightening dark areas in photos.
  • Exposure adjusts the darkness or lightness of the whole photo.
  • Strong points adjusts the brightest parts of the image. For example, in an overexposed photo, highlighting reduction can help reveal details in an overexposed image.
  • Shadows adjusts the underexposed parts of the image.
  • Brightness changes the brightness of the photo.

Color options

Color in photos on Mac

This tool enhances the color of your image with the following options:

  • Saturation adjusts the intensity of the photo or the lightness or darkness of the colors.
  • Vibrant helps to even out the saturation of the photo by increasing the intensity of subdued colors.
  • To throw adjusts or corrects the color cast or unwanted tint in an image.

Black and white options

B&W in Photos on Mac

Choosing this option turns your photo into a B&W image and offers these options:

  • Intensity adjusts the intensity of black and white tones.
  • Neutral adjusts the gray areas of the image.
  • Your gives a photo a more or less contrasted appearance.
  • Grain adjusts the amount of film grain in the photo.

During fine adjustment, press and hold the Option to expand the range of values ​​available for the cursor. Double click on the slider to cancel the changes.

Edit photos on Mac

Touching up allows you to remove imperfections like pimples or bruises, dust spots or unwanted little details of the background like wall marks, garbage or even photobombers. In the image above, see how I removed details from the fabric my baby is sitting on.

Use Touching up, drag the slider to your preferred size or press the button Left Bracket ([) or Right Bracket (]) to do it. Click it brush , then click to locate the retouch or click and drag over the area you want to retouch and release after you’ve swept the entire area you want to remove.

Sometimes when you take pictures of people with a flash, their pupils appear red. In the world of photography, this is called red eyes. Click on Auto to automatically remove red-eye. If not, correct it manually by first adjusting the circle to the size of the red pupil using the slider, then positioning the pointer over the area and clicking on it.

White balance in photos on Mac

Sometimes photos will have a color cast from lighting fixtures, window glare, or other lighting conditions where the photo was taken. This makes the white or gray areas appear differently as a different color. Use white balance to balance the overall color of the image and make white areas look whiter.

Click the drop-down menu and choose one of the following options:

  • Neutral gray uses neutral gray colors to balance the warmth of your photo.
  • Complexion uses a person’s skin tone to balance the warmth of your photo.
  • Temperature / Tint adjusts the heat of the photo using color temperatures ranging from blue to yellow or green to magenta.

After choosing one of these three options, you can manually adjust the white balance by clicking or dragging the slider or using the eyedropper. To do this, select the Eyedropper button and click on any area of ​​the photo to automatically adjust the gray area, skin tone, tint or temperature of your image.

Related: How to use the built-in image editing tools in Photos on Mac

Curves-on-Photos-in-Mac-1

Curves, known as tone curves in other photo editing tools, lets you apply specific tonal changes to your whole image or just a part of it. Click on Auto to automatically correct the curves of your image.

Otherwise, adjust them manually by placing a point along the line at a specific location you want to change on the photo. Drag it up to increase the brightness and down to decrease it. Drag it to the left to increase the contrast and to the right to decrease it.

Related: Ways to Brighten Dark Underexposed Photos in Photoshop

Use the eyedropper button to manually change the Black dot, mid tones, and White point. You can also adjust the black and white points by dragging the top and bottom handles of the diagonal line.

Curves is automatically set to Rgb. However, you can precisely change the Red, Blue, and Green colors on your photo. Just click on the context menu under the curves and select the color you want to adjust.

Levels-on-Photos-in-Mac-1

Like curves, levels allow you to change the tones of your photo. You can change the Black dot, Shadows, mid tones, Strong points, and White tip, placed from left to right of the histogram. Simply slide the handles to adjust and hold Option and drag to control the top and bottom handles together.

Levels also allow you to change a specific color cast in the photo. Just click on the context menu under Levels and choose from Luminance, RBG or a particular color you want to change.

Definition adds contrast, allows midtones to appear, and adds more outline and shape to your photos. Click on Auto to allow Photos to automatically improve the definition of your photo or manually drag the slider to your preferred level.

Selective color in photos on Mac

Selective color allows you to change a color on your photo to another color. To store your color change, choose a color from the color frame, then use the eyedropper tool to select a color in your photo that you want to change. With a color selected, drag the sliders to Tint, Saturation, Luminance, and Vary to change it.

Noise refers to the grainy texture or smudges that appear in pictures taken in low light conditions. The noise reduction feature allows you to reduce noise in your photos by simply clicking or dragging the slider.

Thumbnail on Photos on Mac

Adding a vignette can emphasize the center of your image, especially in portraits, by darkening the edges of your photo. Adjust Strength to modify the darkness or the brightness of your thumbnail, Ray to change the size of the thumbnail, and Candy to adjust its opacity.

With Photos on a Mac, you can directly enhance your photos without needing to upload or edit them through any other tool, making it a seamless photo editing experience. Although Photos looks mediocre at first glance, it is packed with tools of the same caliber as other popular photo editing tools.


Apple Photos logo on a physical photo album.
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