We need to talk about Photos, Microsoft. It sucks.
In Windows 10, Photos debuted as a photo viewer and photo editor. It was a landing platform for Story Remix 3D effects that users pointed out, but shouldn’t have. It was, and still can be, one of those Windows tools that fused productivity and creativity. I can’t stop it.
But I want it, because Photos is just too frustrating to use, and its many flaws take away its usefulness. I hate using terms like ‘sucks’ in print because it sounds juvenile and reactionary. But Photos sucks at the moment. It sucks! And Microsoft owes its users to fix it.
Crash, crash, crash
Like any app, Photos occasionally crashed in Windows 10, in the case of Photos, after editing a photo and then trying to save it. In Windows 11, the application crashes even more frequently for various reasons. Somewhere between opening a file, editing it, and then saving the edited photo, Photos crashes or just hangs, forcing you to start the editing process over.
Sometimes my changes will actually be saved. Sometimes they won’t. It all adds a bit of mystery! Why can’t I just automatically save the edited photo as a new file? Why do I have to “save a copy” and then find the duplicate? Why can a multi-megabyte Excel spreadsheet automatically save to the cloud, but Photos not? Why can I connect my smartphone to OneDrive, automatically download photos in the backgroundâ¦ then wait a few minutes for Photos to connect to the cloud and find them? It’s all part of the fun.
Either way, something goes wrong often enough that I almost expect it to be due to using Photos. Did I just spend five minutes thoroughly removing dust spots from a product photo using Photos’ “spot correction” tool? Of course I have. And then there are Photos, curled up like a cat next to a very expensive vase.
Photos offers a number of handy features that you’d expect to find elsewhere: crop, zoom, filters, ways to change lighting, contrast, and tint. But tools like “one-off fix” are excuses you can’t help but accept for its other flaws. Photos’ “enhance your photo” tool and its “spot correction” make Photos shine, even though these specific tools haven’t been added or updated in years. But they’re there, free, right in front of you in Windows, waiting to be enjoyed.
“Enhance Your Photo” evaluates your photo and algorithmically applies enhancements in one fell swoop, which can include a number of separate adjustments, all applied simultaneously. It’s a bit aggressive – I can and often reduce its effects via a scroll bar – but the tool can “fix” a photo in seconds. (There was a time when Microsoft inexplicably removed this ability from Photos, and then quietly added it, probably just to bother us.)
Mark Hachman / IDG
Another underrated feature is “Spot fix”. I can dust off a review laptop, take a photo with my phone, edit it, and discover several specks of dust I’ve never noticed before. Point correction allows you to circle a point with the tool, click, and then “remove” it from the image. This is a quick and convenient edit that cleans up a photo, when it is working, about 90% of the time. In the remaining 10% or so, Photos believes the speck of dust is Assumed to be there, and will refuse to remove it. He’ll even apply it occasionally to other “spots” you’re trying to fix.
The new “thumbnails” feature, however, is still broken, at least with my workflow. Thumbnails are supposed to apply a small line of thumbnails below the image you’ve opened and are editing, allowing you to flip back and forth like a video stream. A related feature allows you to highlight and compare multiple photos.
I typically use Photos as part of a specific workflow: I take multiple photos of an event or product for a news or review with my phone, which are automatically uploaded to the Microsoft OneDrive cloud and the “film” folder. I’ve set up Photos to connect to OneDrive, where I can view thumbnails of the photos I just took. Back at my desk, I’ll go through each photo, select the best representative images, and then edit them using Photos’s built-in tools. I will then usually save them to my local PC for possible upload to our content management system, or CMS.
Maybe it’s the fact that the photos need to be loaded from OneDrive, but the thumbnails barely work on Windows 11. Not only do the thumbnails rarely appear, but if they do, switching between them is just fine. another opportunity for Photos to crash. The only time I found the thumbnails to work consistently was when I left the Photos window open overnight, so the app has an extended period to download them from. OneDrive. As it stands, it’s a hoop that I’m not ready to cross.
I’ve written before about Paint 3D’s Magic Select tool – Microsoft’s version of Photoshop Magic Wand – and how it can be used to algorithmically clip backgrounds in an image, and how it is frustrating that microsoft has not applied the technology to it. his other tools. You would think that applying Magic Select to Photos would be obvious, especially in the context of a Photos update for Windows 11! It was just there.
For now, I’m stuck on Photos. My employer was never very keen on paying for a full-fledged Adobe Creative Cloud license or even a Photoshop license for a single app at $ 33 per month (?!). Photoshop Elements is another option (currently on sale for $ 69.99 on the Microsoft Store), but users seem to consistently complain that it opens slowly, and at a destination screen at that. I haven’t had time to delve into open source image editors like GIMP yet, although our 2019 âGIMP for Beginnersâ story is a great place to start. And honestly, I like the photos.
I just don’t care about the Mica or the rounded corners or whatever Microsoft has to do to create photos for Windows 11. Aesthetics matter! New features matter! But first, the damn thing has to work.
As senior editor of PCWorld, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other things. He previously wrote for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.