Mac Tutorials

How to Edit Photos on Mac?

According to field research by Resply, the average person in the US takes 20.2 photos every day. But what can you do if you want to make them look better when you get home?  


You can invest in plenty of image-editing tools, such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. However, what can you use if you want a Mac image editor that doesn’t require you to pay money? The Photos app might not be the first thing you think of, but it has plenty of handy tools.  


In this article, I’ll show you how to edit pictures on Mac using Photos and Preview. You’ll learn about making basic adjustments, such as cropping—along with how to alter colors and more.


Before we begin


One common annoyance that many photographers run into is having duplicate images on their Mac. Over time, these extra files can take up significant space on your device. The best way to get rid of them is by using a tool like MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder. Follow these instructions:  

  1. Download MacKeeper
  2. Go to Cleaning > Duplicates Finder
  3. Select Start Scan  
  4. Tick the Similar Photos and Screenshots boxes  
  5. Click on Remove Selected.

How to edit pictures on Mac using Photos?

Before you can retouch photos on your Mac, you’ll first need to open your image. Follow these steps:  


1. Open the Photos app and go to File > Import

import image into photos app

2. Choose the picture(s) you want to edit, before clicking on the blue Import button.  

select images for import

When you’ve imported your images into the Photos app, you can change multiple aspects using sliders. These are:  

  • Light
  • White balance
  • Vignette
  • Definition
  • Selective color
  • Levels
  • Curves
  • Black and white
  • Color.

Rotating your photo

When you edit photos on your Mac, you might only want to make simple changes, such as rotating, cropping, straightening, and flipping your image. Doing all of these won’t require too much effort. First, let’s look at how you can rotate a picture:  


1. Go to the rotation icon in the top right-hand corner  

 rotate icon photos app

2. Keep clicking on Rotate Anticlockwise until you’ve achieved your desired result.

Cropping your image

Next, I’ll show you how to crop an image. You can crop freehand, but you also have the option to select preset ratios. You’ll find these especially useful if you’re publishing your content on social media—for example, Instagram Stories require a 16:9 format, while posts (excluding Reels) are better as 4:5.  


To crop your picture using a freeform ratio:  


1. Click on the Crop tab at the top of your screen

crop tab in photos app

2. Select Freeform from the options on the right-hand side  

freeform crop in photos app

3. Once you’ve finished cropping, select the Done button in the top right.

select done photo in photos app

To choose a preset ratio, you can go to the Crop tab and pick one of the ratios under Aspect.  

preset aspect ratios

Alternatively, select Custom and enter your own dimensions.  

choose custom settings for image dimensions

How to straighten images

Sometimes, you’ll take photos that aren’t straightened properly. Fortunately, fixing this issue in the Photos app is pretty simple. I’ll show you how to improve this aspect of your image below:  


1. In the Photos app, select the Crop tab  

crop tab in photos app

2. At the top, you’ll see a tool called Straighten. Drag the slider to the left or right until you achieve the result you’re looking for

straighten image in photos app

3. Once you’ve finished straightening your picture, hit the Done button in the top right-hand corner.  


For those that want to spend more time editing images on their Mac, consider checking out the best Mac for photo editing.  

How to use the Flip tool  

Sometimes, you might want to flip your photo so that it looks effectively the opposite of how you took it. To do this, go to Crop > Flip.  

flip image in photos app

Correction lighting and exposure  

Once you’ve implemented the basic settings, you might want to change how your photo looks and feels. You can start off by adjusting the lighting and exposure:  


1. Go to Edit > Adjust and look for the Light section on the right-hand side of the screen  

light section on mac

2. To make overall lighting corrections, slide to the left or right until you’re happy. Alternatively, click on Auto to automatically make adjustments.  

adjust lighting in photos app

In some cases, you might want to specifically alter the exposure. To do this, follow these instructions:  


1. Expand the Light section and look for the Exposure slider  

exposure slider

2. Move the Exposure slider until you’re happy with your end result.  

Correcting red eyes in a photo

If you’ve ever taken photos of people or pets before, you’ll likely know how annoying getting red eyes in your pictures is. Luckily, you can easily make the required changes in the Photo app, and I’ll show you how to do it below.  


1. Go to Edit > Red-Eye

find red eye on mac

2. Change the size of the brush via the slider  

Red-Eye Brush Slider

3. Once you’ve got the right slider size, go to your picture and make your desired changes.  

red-eye corrections

Once you’ve edited photos of people, you might want to create slideshows. Here’s how to make a slideshow on Mac.

Reduce noise on a photo

Noise can occur for several reasons, but it’s largely down to your exposure triangle being out of balance. Provided that the damage isn’t too serious, you can make corrections in the Photos app:  


1. Go to Edit > Adjust and look for Noise Reduction

noise reduction tab on mac

2. Expand the tab. You can either move the slider however you want or click on Auto.  

noise reduction options

Change color balance setting

Adjusting the color is also an important part of making your photos look great. Here’s how to alter this area of your picture:  


1. Go to Edit > Adjust and select Color

color settings in photos app

2. Expand the Color menu. Here, you’ll have access to three sliders: Saturation, Vibrancy, and Cast. Drag these until you’re happy with the result. You can also drag the overall slider or select Auto.

photo color settings expanded

Use Selective Color options  

Like in tools like Lightroom, you can adjust specific colors within your image. Below, you’ll find the steps you need to follow for this:  


1. Go to Edit > Adjust and look for the Selective Color tab  

macos selective color tab

2. Expand the menu and choose the colors you want to edit. You can choose from Hue, Saturation, Luminance, and Range.

adjust selective colors mac

Add filters and effects to photo

You can also make more widespread changes to your image by adding filters and effects. Doing so is easy:  


1. Go to Edit > Filters

 select filters tab on mac

2. After completing the steps listed above, you’ll find multiple options in the Filters tab on the right-hand side. Choose whichever you prefer the most

filters in photos app

3. To reduce the intensity, move your slider to the left.

use filter slider

Compare or revert the changes

The more you edit your picture, the less recognizable it may be compared to the original. Keeping track of these changes is wise, and you can do this by clicking on the icon with two squares in the top left of your editing window.  

compare photos on mac

If you want to start again, you can select Revert to Original. Once you’ve done this, your image will return to the state it was in when you imported it.  

revert photo to original mac

How to edit photos in Preview?

To make basic changes, such as cropping an image, adding an arrow, or including text, you can use the Preview app instead.  


1. Open Preview and pick the picture you want to adjust. Then, select Open

open a photo in preview

2. Click on the Markup tool to expand the menu you need

select markup tool in preview

3. Once you’ve made your necessary adjustments, go to File > Save.

save image in preview

Batch resize images in Preview

Quickly realizing your photos in Preview doesn’t require a huge effort. After importing your images into the app, follow these instructions.  


1. Make sure you’ve selected both of your photos, before going to Tools > Adjust Size

adjust size in preview app

2. Change the dimensions of your image however you feel necessary. Once you’re finished, click on the OK button.

change dimensions in preview

Make your photos look better without expensive software

Using a Mac image editor is excellent for making your photos look more professional. You can use the tool with images from your camera and those you took on your smartphone. For beginners looking to adjust their photos, but not willing to pay for something like Lightroom, Photos and Preview will do the trick.


For those that want to get more serious about editing their images, I’d recommend investing in something more sophisticated. Nonetheless, these apps are a reasonable stopgap. Just remember that you’ll likely end up with duplicates as you edit more, and using MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder is a good idea.  

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