How to use Photos for iOS & Mac editing extensions and revert to your originals

Photos for iOS gained editing extensions in iOS 8, allowing you to use third-party apps inside Photos to edit. With El Capitan, Photos for Mac can now do the same.

The Why

One of the perks of editing photos this way is sheer simplicity. When you’re browsing photos, it’s simple to look at one, tap edit, call upon the powers of your favorite third-party apps, and you don’t have to leave Photos for quick edits.

Perhaps a more important advantage is you get to use Photos’ automatic backup system. Whether you edit a photo with Photos’ built-in tools or these new editing extensions, Photos invisibly saves the original so you can roll back to it at any time down the road.

The How

Using these extensions is pretty easy. Assuming you have a couple apps installed that offer them. iOS offers no shortage of apps with extensions, and PixelmatorAfterlight, ASCIImator, and Fragment offer a good mix of editing, filters, and playing around. The Mac’s selection isn’t as wide yet, but Pixelmator, Tonality, and Snapheal should get you started.

To enable Photos extensions on iOS:

  • open Photos
  • tap a photo
  • tap Edit
  • tap the (…) button in the row of editing tools
  • in the sheet that appears, tap the More button to see all available extensions
  • enable some, then have at it

On Mac:

  • open System Preferences > Extensions
  • tap or click the Photos category on the left
  • enable the photo extensions you want
  • open Photos, tap a photo
  • tap Edit
  • tap the (…) button
  • have at it

The How to Undo

Once you’ve made an edit and tapped Done, you’ll notice Photos didn’t create a duplicate, it replaced your original with your new edited version. But if you ever want to undo your changes on iOS or Mac, or take another shot, simply tap the photo, tap Edit, then Revert. Warning: as far as I know, there is no way to undo this reversion; your edits are gone.

The Wrap-up

Photos isn’t perfect, but I really like this setup. It offers simple photo organization that syncs to all your devices, thanks to iCloud Photo Library, and it takes the pain out of organizing and editing photos The Old Way. Who wants to manually drag and drop images named 000001453.jpg and 000001453_01_copy.jpg over and over again? Hitler, that’s who. Thankfully, we have Photos instead.