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photos app iosLast April, I proclaimed the iPad the best photo sharing device for photographers. Some readers took me to task for my opinion, but I still think its portability and classy design make for a much better photo display album than a laptop or disorganized photo prints. With the release of iOS 5, the Photos app for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch did not receive a major overhaul but it does benefit from the new wireless syncing, an album creation feature, and Twitter integration.

However, if you have just got your hands on an iOS device for the first time, you might find the new Photos app features a little confusing. Apple has made some useful changes, but there some issues you need to know about.

Wireless Syncing

The best iOS 5 upgrade for managing photos in the Photos library is wireless syncing. As with other iOS apps, you can now add and delete photos from your device’s Photos library without a wired connection to iTunes. I’m using the iPad, the first version, to explain the new features, but what I cover will apply to the other iOS devices too.

Whether you are using the iPad for the first time or upgrading from a previous operating system, you can access all of your photos in your iPhoto or Aperture library on your Mac through iTunes without having to use a USB connection.

photos app ios

Simply click on your device in iTunes and then open the Photo section to select your albums and events. If you have lots of photos in the photo library of your computer, you probably would not want to sync all of them to your device because of the limited storage space on your device.


The wireless syncing process unfortunately does not take place on the fly. If, for example, you wanted to remove a few albums from your device, the process will not just focus on your photos. It will also sync any songs, apps, new contacts, and other related content during the process. In addition, your iOS device and iTunes will need to be sharing the same Wi-Fi network in order for the syncing process to occur.

photos on ios

When you’re ready to sync, simply click the Apply button.

Photo Stream

By now, you might be familiar with Photo Stream – another new iOS 5 feature. Photo Stream, if enabled on your device and Mac, stores all of the photos and videos you take with your iOS camera and another camera and are saved to your Camera Roll. So Photo Stream has its own syncing process outside of iTunes.

Photos Library Menu Options

When you launch the Photos library on your iOS device, the user interface for the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch are slightly different because of the differences in size of each device. Nevertheless they share the same menu items – Photos,  (consisting of imported photos and videos you sync from the photo’s app on your Mac or PC), Photo Stream, Albums, Events, Faces, Places, and Slideshow.

photos on ios

These visible menu items are pretty easy to understand, but it’s the hidden/pop-up controls that get a little confusing.

Share Button

In your Photos collection, when you tap on the Share button on the far right of the app, you get the option to add selected photos to an Existing Album or a New Album.

photos on ios

Being able to add photos to a new or existing album is great because you don’t have to rely upon the photo’s app on your computer to do that. Photos can be deleted from your albums, but they will remain in your main Photos library.

However, when you try to delete a photo(s) from your main library, they will also be deleted from any albums you copied it to. You will be asked, “Do you want to delete it everywhere?” but you don’t really have a choice in the matter.

ios photo apps

Your other options include copying selected photos and pasting them in other supporting applications, and sharing through email or print.

ios photo apps

More Sharing Options

When you open a photo in your library, you get more options. A few options have been there since day one, such as emailing and using a photo as wallpaper. New options include tweeting a photo, which requires of course a Twitter account, and assigning a photo to a contact.

ios photo apps


On iOS devices with a built-in camera, you also get the option to edit photos. The editing features includes Auto exposure correction, cropping and rotation, and red-eye removal options.

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The editing features are great, but there are some differences between how your photos are saved. If you edit a photo from your Photos library, ones that originated from the photos app on your computer, the edits will be applied to a copy of that photo and saved to the Camera Roll. So in this case it’s non-destructive editing.

photos app ios

However, if you select and edit a photo you took with say your iPhone camera, those edits are applied to your original photo. So you will have to first duplicate the original photo if you want to retain the original and edited version.

There are 3rd party iOS apps 10 Powerful & Useful iPhone Camera Apps To Help You Take Better Pictures 10 Powerful & Useful iPhone Camera Apps To Help You Take Better Pictures Read More that provide better options The Best 3 Free Photo Editing Apps For The iPad The Best 3 Free Photo Editing Apps For The iPad If you own an iPad camera connection kit, while it's certainly not the same as having access to Photoshop or other robust photo editing programs on your desktop, there's still quite a bit of photo... Read More than what you get with Apple’s setup, but if your photo management needs are not that expansive, these recent iOS enhancements are okay, as long as you’re familiar with the limitations.

Let us know what you think of the Photos library features in iOS 5. Is it helping you manage your photos better?

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  1. MeerkatMac
    December 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    If you photo management needs are more expansive, Photo Shack Pro is a more capable 3rd-party Photos app that runs off of your existing iPad Photos Library without duplicating any files.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Thanks for letting us know about this.

  2. TheNorba
    November 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Really interesting suggestions, I'll share it! :)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 17, 2011 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks for the feedback.