Note: I think I got how to properly add images to the review so they stay around...we'll see I thought I'd take the time to post a quick review on the new Photos extensions available since the general release of OS X El Capitan. Personally speaking, they offer the possibility of a highly effective workflow and the potential for having best-of-breed developers handling key components of image editing. Imagine a world where DXO does your lens corrections, MacPhun handles your BW conversions and Affinity Photo offers its toolkit at your disposal, all from the same centralized framework and all in a non-destructive way, each building on the edits of the previous extension. Awesome! (Spoiler Alert: We’re not there yet) Sidebar: DAMN DAM I am staying away from the DAM tool debate. Lots of people love Lightroom. Others love Capture One. Others have another way that works for them (I'm in that camp). Aperture and LR have never been central to any process I've used except as something my images end up in once I've got them safely on my system already keyworded, rated, culled, renamed and backed up. I tend to focus on one image at a time and I am not an event or otherwise high-volume shooter. With that baseline laid, let's jump in to the review. The Review Out of the gate, we get local edits, layers (MacPhun), more sophisticated noise control (MacPhun), gradient tool (MacPhun), more sophisticated black and white options (MacPhun), functions like dodging, burning, de-haze and a handful of other nuggets (Affinity Photo), image distorto-rama if that's your thing (Pixelmator). Even Iridient has stepped in with a quirky “Edit in Iridient” extension for opening an image in that tool. I’ll be using a really bad image from a trip to the local wildlife refuge where I forgot to take the ball head for my tripod. Bummer! Hand-held, low-light, preference for lower ISO. Not the best of combinations. Activating extensions is relatively straight forward in each of the products. You need to make sure all of your licenses are in and have opened the standalone version at least once to get past the “This is an application downloaded from the internet, etc, etc” sorts of messages. After that, you can either enable them from Photos itself or in the Extensions section of System Preferences. Once enabled, you are ready to go from Photos. Clicking on “Extensions”, you get the list currently installed and can then choose and get to work. For my first (and only) trick, I’ll work with Intensify CK. The extension comes up reasonably quickly. It is displaying the JPEG from the NEF and not the base RAW image, or even a JPEG built off of the base RAW image. The other extensions seem to open my RAW image on initial load (or JPEG off of the base RAW image). Disappointingly though, once you’ve saved your changes from one extension, everything from then on out is editing in JPEG. That said, as you can see above, the extension presents a wide array of tools and for me, what I’ve been looking for since day one is local edits, which I can now do. With Intensify CK, you can choose to make your changes globally by simply adjusting the controls as needed or paint an area with an edit brush to have the changes added for particular parts of the image. With layers, you can apply different edit combinations in different areas to build up the complete image. In the image below, I’ve got a simple Sky layer that applies the gradient tool to pop the sky a bit and a Ground layer to raise the exposure level of the grass area. Overdone for demo purposes. When finished, you simply save the changes and it takes you back to the main Photos screen. No extension I’ve used currently can remember it’s last edits, even though this is possible in the Photos extension API (how well it is implemented, I don’t know). The next time you open the same extension, it won’t remember what you did and you’ll be starting at ground zero and in the case of Affinity (beta) extensions, you literally start at the beginning with the original image. Obviously, this is not a trivial problem to solve but I would love to see the ability to change an edit and have Photos "replay the recipe" from the RAW image to a new (unfortunately at this time) JPEG. The other extensions are similar in behavior and greatly expand what you can do from Photos. Here’s the set I am currently aware of (and there may be more that I am not). Conclusion The good at this very early stage: local edits and powerful features to create great images. The selection of vendors who are stepping up to implement are top-notch from my perspective though I'm sure others have their preferred list. The bad list is a little bit longer and mostly related to the extension interface itself. For me, the biggest negative is that it’s “all JPEG all the time.” Once you save the changes from one extension, you’re working in JPEG from then on out. That’s disappointing. I’d love to see this change but it will have to be Apple that does it as I’ve taken a look at their interface and that’s the only “save to” option currently. Also, I'd love to have at least limited historical capability: Save the changes with extension A and open extension A again and go back to where I was, rather than having to start over. It's a tough problem to solve in general when you have many different vendors but that specific use case should be doable, I'd think. I'd also think that because the JPEG is made up of a series of edits from one or more vendors on top of the original RAW file, the more broad historical capabilities would be doable as well. Let's say I have edits applied by vendors A, B and C (in that order). I should be able to go back to the edits from B, change those, and have the recipe of edits replay to give me my final image. Finally and more generally, there are certainly some “version 1.0” or “beta version” inconsistencies and occasional crashes that will work themselves out over time. Overall though, the experience has been pretty positive and I look forward to more coming on line in the hopefully near future. My currently most anticipated is DXO’s extension and I very much look forward to seeing what they will offer. The tools available for photographers today are pretty amazing. Outside of Adobe’s world, I’m very keen on what the folks at MacPhun (with Nik DNA), Pixelmator and Affinity are doing with their standalone products. Pretty amazing tools and I’d recommend giving them a try and certainly, while Photos gets plenty of disparaging comments, the extensions framework does allow for a fairly sophisticated, reasonably frictionless workflow that some may like. I do. EDIT: Since doing this review, the Affinity Photo team has but a very much revised version of their beta which takes care of the issue of "starting over". Very nice stuff now that you can use it with the other vendors' extensions. This is release candidate one of the beta, so they're on track for getting this out in December.