I moved my life over to Apple products over the last few years. I used to use Picasa by Google and Shutterfly for photo books and canvas wraps but over time I've leveraged Apple photos to a greater degree and this post describes my experiences and some tips and tricks.
Apple photos is complicated. For most people, Apple photos is your camera application on your iPhone. With recent iOS upgrades, however, there is a new photos application that is cross platform (I can see my photo stream on my Mac, my iPad, or my iPhone). However, there is a catch. You need to use iCloud and back up your photos to the cloud, rather than just leaving them on your phone.
It took a while to synch up photos across all my Apple devices and I had to google technical support questions a few times and turn on and off iCloud. However, I eventually got them synched up and it has worked great ever since.
There are some great features. One feature is facial recognition. You can select a person and then link them to your contacts and Apple automatically selects all the photos of that individual. For photos where Apple is not sure, they ask you "is this so-and-so" and you can say yes or no, and then it organizes all the photos by individual.
A super-annoying part of this photo recognition, however, is that you have to do it separately for each device. Even though I matched my photos to contacts (individual names) on my iPhone, I still have to do that again for my iPad and my Mac. They should save this meta-data across devices (this is a frequent request in the Apple support section). While this seems like a big pain in the rear, it really isn't a giant deal, it just takes probably a half hour or so on each device depending on how many photos you have loaded in iCloud.
A friend of mine in Portland has an exact twin sister and the facial recognition keeps mixing her photos with those of her sister. That just shows how powerful the software is!
Not only are the photos organized by person, Apple also uses some sort of machine learning to find objects in your photos. This post describes some of the items Apple sorts by, from ATM's to ponds to alcoholic beverages (beer, which has 87 possible matches in my photo stream). Go to albums and type in a letter and you can see all the various options, it is quite humorous and interesting.
Finally, I used to create photo books using Shutterfly but their software became more and more annoying to use until I finally gave up. This is sad because over the years I've probably made a dozen photo books using their service.
I tried making my first photo book using Apple photos, and it turned out great. Unlike Shutterfly, which always seemed to offer deals and coupons, Apple did not seem to have specials readily available. However, the software was easy to use, and they had a lot of great templates to use for photos and you could choose how many on a page, the orientation (portrait and landscape), and whether or not to use captions. I really like how the book turned out and I would recommend it, even if it costs a bit more than the competition.
I also ordered a canvas wrap of a Portland rainbow and I will let you know how that turns out, as well. The last couple canvas wraps I ordered from Shutterfly turned out badly so I finally just abandoned the service, along with their photo books, above. Surprised to see they still have over $1B/ year in revenue. I still use them for holiday cards but maybe next year I will try Apple or someone cheaper.
Cross posted at Chicago Boyz