Why is the MS Photos app soooooo bad?


Back in the day, the Photo Gallery app that came with the Windows Live bundle was actually a very good photo organizer. With it, you could navigate folders, slice and dice, tag, organize and find thousands of photos in almost any way imaginable. The editing options were also pretty decent for the average amateur user.

These days, OneDrive does a great job of uploading all your full resolution photos from your phone, both iOs and Android. If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, with a full terabyte of storage, it’s a great place to keep an entire collection of tens of thousands of photos and possibly the best value in online storage when the rest of O365 is considered part of the bundle.

Until you get to the Windows 10 Photos app. It’s a real stinker! It takes up huge amounts of resources. Navigating folders is nearly impossible. Organizing images in any order other than date is a chore. There’s no manual tagging functionality at all. The suggested tags are mostly a joke. On the plus side, the editing options are OK, i guess.

I believe MS is really missing the boat on photos. Having thousands of images in one service makes that service, whatever it is, incredibly “sticky” for the user. If they overhauled the Photos app, even to just the full functionality of the old Photo Gallery app, I think thousands of users would rejoice.

Meantime, I do keep a copy of the Windows Live bundle around and use the Photo Gallery app. But I’m guessing that, some day, one of the windows 10 updates will kill that option for good.

I’d love to hear Paul and Brad’s take on this.

Comments (28)

28 responses to “Why is the MS Photos app soooooo bad?”

  1. yaddamaster

    it just might have something to do with Microsoft not being a consumer focused company. Just maybe.

  2. jwpear

    You're scratching old wounds. :-) If you have a Mac, consider its Photos app instead.

    I do a lot of photo editing of my kids photos, especially sports photos I've taken with my DSLR. Windows Photos app is a huge PIA. Agree Window Live Photo was great back in the day, but the cloud sync/integration is important for me these days because it is part of my backup strategy. That nixes WLP for me.

    I think Photos started out pretty decent with Windows 8 and I fell in love with using it on my Surface Pro 3. The touch interface and controls for making adjustments to lighting, color, and crop was perfect for my needs--editing 750-1000 photos at a time (my kids and their friends playing sports). I could churn through a weekend of photos in a day or two and it would sync with the cloud as I made edits. I could then share a OneDrive album with team parents and players. Easy.

    I don't remember the exact timing, but they started dumbing down Photos around Windows 10, I believe. They also screwed up the touch interface, making it more taps and hand movement to do things (damn the mouse!). Performance started tanking too. It would kick up the fan on my SP3 any time I used it and things would be incredibly slow. I finally figured out that it just wasn't able to handle 10's of thousands of files (in subfolders), so I started working in small batches in isolated folders. I think it was also indexing photos and building the stupid automatic albums (which I turned off). And I had trouble with it crashing about every 100 or so photos.

    I've reported the usability, performance, and reliability problems of Photos through the feedback hub many times. I'm honestly not sure anyone was listening to that. Or they just didn't care. I've kind of given up.

    In the last year, I've been using Apple's Photos app on my old 2012 Macbook Pro to edit. It provides better fine tuning controls than Microsoft's Photos app and I find it to be much more reliable and perform better. I hate having to "import/export" photos into/out of the app on the Mac, but that's life in Mac-land. I also miss touch, but performance and reliability are more important.

    I've tried other apps on Windows, like Polarr, but I find it to be too complex and cumbersome to use to edit lighting, color, and crop 1000's of photos at a time. It's a great app to do some cool stuff to 1 or 2 photos at a time.

    To answer your question, I think they give the Photos app to the interns. It's simply not an important app to MS.

  3. minke

    In reply to illuminated:

    Google Photos is hugely "sticky" in that it makes it difficult to leave Google, so I doubt it will go away. Though I do worry they will suddenly start charging for it.

  4. jimchamplin

    I have a folder tree containing 145.7 GB in around a million items in several different - all equally slapdash - organization schemes.

    Part of this “Pictures” folder also has some hard disk files for at least three different PC emulators. VirtualBox, PCem, and IBMulator.

    Don’t forget the ISOs of some DVD-based backups from literally college. 16 years ago. I still have the DVDs somewhere too.

    No application can tame this madness.

    • minke

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I've found that uploading all the photos to Google Photos and then using Google search works well for finding things. Google organizes your photos by date taken, which you can see if you do a Takeout and download them. At first I thought this would be awful, but then I realized that finding things by date works well for me. Thinking back to when I took some shot I am interested in almost always gets me pretty close on date, and then I can skim the thumbnails around that time. That's if Google's amazing search doesn't work in the first place. It's also wonderful to be able to quickly find on my phone some photo I took ten years ago that I want to see and share.

  5. red.radar

    I use some of the opensource projects to manage photos. Benefits are low licensing costs (free) and they still support local storage and organization. DigiKam.

    To be honest I find myself using Windows Explorer more than I care to admit. (I know ...I know... that is like saying i compose novels in Notepad) I organize my photos with a file/folder structure that makes it easy to find what I am looking for. My priorities are typically archive and preserve. I am not trying to enable workflow, so I can get away with crude and rudimentary methods. Digikam comes into the picture when I need to manipulate. But most the time when are manipulating the photos its on a printing site like shutter-fly or picmonkey on a photo by photo basis.. So I really don't find myself needing editing functionality too often.

  6. wright_is

    I used to use Lightroom, but I currently have Capture One - it came free with my camera.

    There are a few open source and freeware alternatives.

  7. OurManInNY

    While Google Photos does seem like a much superior product, I have two problems with that: 1 - Full resolution uploads. It's my understanding that GP reduces your image size on upload, which is unacceptable, and; 2 - I already have 1 TB of storage on OneDrive, since our company pays for Office 365. I really don't want to subscribe to yet another service. (as an aside, have you seen the price for cloud storage through Adobe's service? Crazy high!)

    If Photos would just add manual tagging and folder navigation, I'd be a happy camper.

    • minke

      In reply to OurManInNY:

      Google photos is free for uploads at what they call "High Quality," which does reduce file sizes but is amazingly good. It is perfect for uploads of typical 12MP photos from smartphones, but maybe not what you want for large raw files from real cameras. I have personally compared extreme enlargements of smartphone photos and can detect no difference between High Quality and the originals from the phone. For most ordinary people Google Photos is the best choice, and you don't have to worry about losing or having to move all your photos if you decide to stop paying for Office 365. I would never store my personal photos on a company owned Office 365 account.

    • OurManInNY

      In reply to OurManInNY:

      Fair point about a company owned subscription! ... But I own the company and pay for the subscription so it's moot for me.

      Re: using more than one service - I also keep several local updated copies of the OneDrive contents in different physical locations, so I'm thinking I'm reasonably safe from a total cloud meltdown.

    • gregsedwards

      In reply to OurManInNY:

      As an aside, I'd also have a couple of problems with keeping my personal photos on my company's cloud storage. Not only does it potentially violate corporate IT policies regarding data storage, but it could create problems retrieving your content if the company decides to change the subscription or you leave the organization unexpectedly. A personal Office 365 subscription is less than $70/year.

    • Paul Thurrott

      That's not true. You can choose whether to upload at full resolution (which you'll pay for) or to use the high-quality setting. Not sure what to say about having two different services beyond that you should have at least two: These are your memories. If you have Amazon Prime, you should look at Amazon Photos as well.
      • wright_is

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Yes, using one device/service is foolhardy.

        I use my PC, 2 copies, 1 on SSD (in the OneDrive directory), a backup on spinning rust, which in turn goes to Carbonite, and a copy on my NAS, which in turn gets saved to an external drive.

        • minke

          In reply to wright_is:

          I do something similar. All photos are taken with my phone so they reside there, get backed up automatically to Google Photos, and then periodically I download them to my PC and also to a portable hard drive that is stored elsewhere. Every digital photo I've taken for the past 15-16 years has been backed up like this, so I feel pretty secure. Though, I am tempted to also backup to OneDrive, as well as Google Photos. I have run some small tests and it seems you can have your phone automatically back up photos to both. Has anyone done this extensively?

          • gregsedwards

            In reply to Minke:

            Yep, that's pretty much how it works. I've noticed that photos may not sync immediately, depending on whether the app is running in the background and how you have the data allowance configured. For example, OneDrive has an option to backup photos only when you're on a Wi-Fi/non-metered network. There's also the issue with backing up literally every photo you take, including all those random pictures you text to your wife from the grocery store to make sure you're getting the right brand of salsa, which may not get deleted just because you remove them from your phone. Google Photos is pretty good at distinguishing between real photos and these; occasionally, it will prompt me to clean house and suggest some images that I might want to folder or delete.

  8. longhorn

    The desktop/workstation focus was lost with UWP. It was meant to run "everywhere". Hopefully we'll see UWP pick up better desktop functionality.

  9. crp0908

    I agree. I spend a lot more time troubleshooting the Windows 10 Photos app than I have ever spent troubleshooting Windows 7 Photo Viewer app. Windows 10 Photos can sometimes seem to hang on initial start. It will initially take longer to show a photo when double clicking the file than other apps will, especially on older hardware. Sometimes it just shows a black screen instead of the actual photo. Can't help but speculate if UWP is somehow the root cause of the problem.

  10. Daekar

    Huh.... I never noticed a problem, although I don't try to navigate any folder structures within the app... that's the whole point of Explorer.exe.

  11. ErichK

    Fine line, basically, between whether an operating system should only simply exist as a backdrop to run other programs, or be a jack of all trades tool in and of itself.

  12. Winner

    Just another Win10 regression.

    I have changed to use the default Win 7 Photo Viewer instead.

  13. codymesh

    Photo management has changed dramatically with most people taking photos on phones these days. I find that the Photos app does a competent job of showing both your online and on-device collections.

    IIRC, Google Photos doesn't have folders either. It just has albums.

    In the Windows 10 Photos app, you can organize your photos in Albums and/or Folders (both local and OneDrive folders), and you can browse photos by either as well. While the main "Collection" view is sorted by Date only, you can view Albums in alphabetical order.

    Google Photos doesn't have manual photo tagging either, it's all automatically done with AI (they recently just added manual people tagging)

    The Photos app also uses AI to recognize people, objects, landmarks, buildings, sky/horizons, memes, screenshots, text, etc for all your photos. All of this is similar to Google Photos - and the old Photo Gallery don't have these kind of smarts.

    If your Photos app isn't doing OCR properly, you may need to install the "Photos Media Engine Add-on": microsoft.com/en-us/p/photos-media-engine-add-on/9plk42wd0rc0

    If anything, what I want from Microsoft is for them to bring the Photos app to Android.

    • trevorl

      In reply to codymesh:

      Extra vote for bringing the Photos app to Android!

        • codymesh

          In reply to paul-thurrott:

          the same way the Google Photos app makes sense, a Microsoft Photos app would be way better than using the OneDrive app to browse and organize uploaded photos and the Camera Roll. Right now the experience Microsoft gives us is to hop between whatever the OEM's Gallery app is and the OneDrive app.

          • darkgrayknight

            In reply to codymesh:

            This would only be appropriate if the Photos app implemented the Photo Gallery capabilities. There were so many ways to view the photos from various date (daily, monthly, etc.), tags, albums, folders, etc. -- This could be useful on the phone if viewing OneDrive photos (or even other cloud storage providers).

  14. willc

    Just use Google Photos instead, it’s far superior. And Google actually cares about consumers, so it’s constantly being improved.

    • miamimauler

      In reply to willc:

      I agree that Google Photos is far superior than Microsoft Photos but to claim Google cares about consumers and Microsoft doesn't is ridiculous.

      Neither of them care about consumers. They both only care about profits as does every other multinational company on the planet.

      Both of these two companies screw over loyal consumers on a regular basis by killing products and services that have many users but aren't profitable.

  15. thejoefin

    The Photos app is a wreck. At work we take high speed video and the easiest way to trim, crop, and skew the video is to save it out as a .mp4 and edit it on my iPhone. It truly is an embarrassment that the photos app on iOS is so much better than what is on Windows.