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iPhoto – How useful is it?

Friday 4 December 2009

I use Apple’s iPhoto everyday. I don’t know where I’d be without it. It’s the easiest visual library I have seen and used and, in typical Mac fashion, it is intuitive. Is it perfect? – no, not for all my photography, but it is FREE and fills the library/catalogue niche quite well. I have used Picasa and am teaching non-Mac users about it, but it is a far cry from the elegance and simplicity of iPhoto.

For those you who are Windows users – iPhoto is part of Apple’s iLife suite of applications which come free with every Mac:

  • iPhoto for digital photography
  • iWeb for creating web sites
  • iMovie for digital video
  • Garage Band for digital music making

iTunes and iDVD (for creating DVDs) are also free apps that come with every Mac, but they are not part of the iLife suite. Not to confuse you, but there is also iWork – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – which are for intuitive and elegant word processing/page layout, spreadsheets and presentations, similar to Office, but only $79 (USD)

So, how do I use iPhoto and why is it not perfect for me? iPhoto is the ideal app for keeping track of digital photos. It may seem excessive, but I have different iPhoto Libraries based on where I’ve lived and visited – Canada, UK, Europe, Tanzania, South Africa, USA – plus some odds and ends Libraries for clip art and classroom photos. This is how I stay organized – it may not be your routine.


From any iPhoto Library, I can:

  • create “Events” – sets of photos from a particular day/trip/occasion;
  • create Albums of images from different events;
  • find photos using keywords I have assigned. It doesn’t get much easier!
  • create slideshows synched to music;
  • easily and seamlessly email photos;
  • create photo pages in iWeb
  • create online galleries for my MobileMe account
  • post photos to Flickr or PicasaWeb
  • print photos to my printer;
  • create stunning slide shows, and
  • create very professional photo books.

That’s all from within iPhoto. If I am sending files to WordPress or Panoramio it’s as easy as File > Export. If I want to send images to JAlbum, I just run iPhoto to JAlbum Exporter. I’m sure there is a Facebook export option, too, but I don’t use Facebook. When I want enlargements bigger than my printer can make, I simply export the photo(s) and upload them to FotoSource and pick them up at my local photo shop.

Some background… like many of you, I lead a dual photo life of fine art and travel photography mixed with family photography.

I do all my fine art & travel photography using a dSLR (Olympus E-30) and always, always, always shoot in RAW format (read why here). I process my RAW images through  Adobe Camera Raw 5.x. With ACR it’s like being back in the darkroom except I can process photos sitting in my Poang in the family room. I happen to use Photoshop CS4 and Bridge, but ACR and Bridge come with Photoshop Elements which is much more affordable. ACR also comes with Lightroom. (Aside: If I didn’t get Photoshop with my job, I would probably buy Lightroom or Apples’s Aperture, but still use iPhoto).

My family shots are made with a point-and-shoot. These I upload directly to iPhoto where I make any tweaks and cropping that might be needed. I’ve decided to completely by-pass the software that came with the camera. To learn the ins and outs of yet another application is not time well spent. Besides, iPhoto will work with any camera attached, whether it is mine or a friend’s.

So if I don’t process RAW photos using iPhoto – why bother with it? Simple – iPhoto is my digital library where my family shots and my fine art photographs are together in one place and easy to find. I convert the best of my RAW images to full resolution, high quality  jpegs which I upload to iPhoto. Now I can easily find them for all the uses listed above. RAW files are large and having everyone of the variations of each photograph takes up a huge amount of disk space. So I keep the processed RAW images stored on an external hard drives and on DVDs and, from time to time I go to them and re-process them as needed. But for the majority of my uses, having a high quality jpeg on my laptop is all I need. All my images are at my fingertips, easy to locate and easy to use – which is the whole point of going digital in the first place – it’s supposed to make life easier and iPhoto does just that. Thanks Apple!

Are their limitations to iPhoto? Of course there are – you can’t expect everything for free! I find ACR better for raw images and iPhoto doesn’t keep track of where the original files are (i.e. on which DVD like some digital asset management (DAM) applications do). But all my images have unique and useful filenames (YYYYMMDD-##-TitleLocation), they are kept in folders with unique and useful nemas (YYYYMMDD-Location) and all my DVDs are labelled. But even with a DAM app, I would need to do all this. So, again, iPhoto fills the niche .

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday 6 August 2013 4:51pm

    Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!


  1. iPhoto – How useful is it? « luxBorealis | I AM OSX
  2. Making Photo Books with iPhoto « luxBorealis

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