iPhoto Takes a Backseat to Music Again

by Derrick Story

Some of my friends were hoping that we'd walk away from the Macworld keynote with iLife '04 boxes in our hands, but alas, not this year. So I ordered my copy last night from the Apple Store to have it as soon as it's released.

Yes, I'm looking forward to playing with GarageBand. It will be handy for pulling together soundtracks to accompany my movies and slideshows. But the app I was most anticipating was the reworking of iPhoto. After spending some time with iPhoto 4 at Macworld (what happened to V3 anyway?), I concluded that iPhoto 4 is almost competent, but not thrilling.

I was hoping that the Apple engineering team would stop treating us like photo neophytes and give us an application that we could bend to imaging needs. They did improve iPhoto's robustness, and apparently did so well. The sample photos in the test applications at Macworld were 2 to 4 megapixels, and they were lots of them in there. I'm confident that most amateur photographers will be happier with its performance. That's worth the upgrade alone.

Some of the other new features are very good too, such as being able to rank photos during the slideshow, Smart Albums, and Rendezvous network sharing. I like all of these and will cover them in detail in upcoming articles for Mac DevCenter.

But I also think iPhoto 4 comes up short in a few areas. Batch Processing could have been so cool, but it's weak. Yes, you can rename a new upload of images and even have a sequential number added. So you can end up with "Vacation -1," "Vacation -2," and so on. But that's not what photographers want.

The original image number, such as "IMG_4571.jpg" is critical for tracking our pictures throughout our various back up and archiving solutions. What would have been cool is to use Batch Processing to replace the "IMG" with our own label thereby retaining the critical file number. So "Vacation_4751.jpg" would be possible. I can't use Batch Processing in iPhoto because it wipes out my original image numbers. Seems so basic to me. Maybe someone will figure out a hack to solve this problem.

Another missed opportunity was providing us with real transitions for our slideshows, as well as other slideshow options such as setting the length of time each image (individually) displays before sequencing to the next. I wouldn't be caught dead using most of the new transitions, except in special cases. And they're aren't enough of them to choose from.

Archiving and back up need some improvement too, as well as built-in tools for managing multiple libraries. Yes the performance is better, but you still can't have a library grow beyond what you're able to archive to DVD. So you need to be able to easily manage multiple libraries. No dice in iPhoto 4. These are real world issues for photographers.

Overall, I feel the iLife suite is a terrific bargain. I have no problem coughing up $49 for it. But I'm disappointed that iPhoto hasn't evolved more, especially for a version 4. GarageBand, for example, seems more on target for its audience, and it's only version one.

I can tell you that the amateur photographers who are using Mac OS X are smarter than Apple realizes. I know this from my classes and from the correspondence I receive. It's time to bring iPhoto up to the level of its customers.


2004-01-14 10:25:36
File name vs. description
Great article, but I think you're mixing up one thing. I don't ever change the name of a file (IMG_0032.jpg, for example). What I'd like to do, however, is have a meaningful description for that file ("Patti and Joe at Bell Rock in Sedona").

Apple could use the Comments section for this, or they could add an additional field for it. It's this *description* that should show up when you export to .Mac's web pages, for example. In iPhoto 2, at least, it's the filename/Title that gets exported to the web page.

2004-01-14 10:45:20
"Back up" and "break up" regularly using iPhoto Library Manager
The missing link in iPhoto

The biggest problem with iPhoto is how slow it is.
If Frodo's bulging eyes are correct, iPhoto 4 should be blazingly fast. In the meantime, keep your library size in check by using Brian Webster's free iPhoto Library Manager.

iPhoto Library Manager allows you point to any number of iPhoto libraries located on your system. You simply select which one is "current" and launch iPhoto. By limiting how many images you have in any given library, you can increase responsiveness greatly.


Frodo: http://www.apple.com/ilife/video/

2004-01-14 10:53:51
GarageBand and iMovie
I would love to hear more about how you plan on using GarageBand for scoring your iMovies. Are you talking about actually creating new music, or organizing existing iTunes tracks?

I have over 220 soundtrack/scores on my iPod. As I listen I write down which ones would be good background music. Later, I then add them to a custom playlist such as "iMovie", or "Slide Show".

Later, in iMovie, I experience a great "Mac moment" (when I select the sound editing panel, and the playlists I created in iTunes magically appears -- ready to be inserted to my soundtrack).

2004-01-14 10:55:07
RE: "Back up" and "break up" regularly using iPhoto Library Manager
Yes, I really like iPhoto Library Manager, and I recommend it in all of my classes.

I haven't tested it yet with iPhoto 4, so I don't know if there will be any compatibility issues. Also, even though I love the work Brian has done with this utility, I think it is a function that needs to be integrated into the application itself.

2004-01-14 11:02:34
File name vs. description
Well, I think it's more of a difference in workflow style than a mixup. This is a beautiful thing about digital photography -- all the various approaches it accommodates.

As for the comments field in iPhoto... I use this function a lot. When I build web pages I can include the text in the comments field automatically with the image on the web page, as well as when sending pictures as email attachments.

But I think your suggestion also implies a more robust use of this data, which I'm all for.

2004-01-14 11:09:29
RE: GarageBand and iMovie
Yeah, you're definitely on the right track, so to speak. One of the new iPhoto features that I like is the ability to choose an entire iTunes playlist to accompany a slideshow. So you can build a custom playlist in iTunes, then tap it in iPhoto. Cool.

With GarageBand, I want to take this a step further. I can easily create music that is copyright free so I can publish my slideshows anywhere without worry of copyright infringement. This is a big deal if you want to share your work with the entire world for fun or for profit.

2004-01-14 11:27:46
needed: iphoto pro
i agree with all the comments in the article. consider, however, that adding a whole bunch of options is how a program goes from being like iphoto to being like photoshop (apple/oranges, i realize...), but my point is that iphoto is a app that's free in the box. something apple wants first-time users to use and have fun with.

also, consider that apple doesn't really have a revenue stream associated with iphoto (the way they do for itunes for example with the ipod).

so in my opinion, the right move would be for apple to offer a $99 "pro" application for people who have large photo collections and want to do lots of things with them.

this would round out the lineup in the following sense: there is idvd and there is dvd studio pro. there is imovie and there is final cut pro. there is even garageband and then that add-on package for it (can't remember what it's called). the only other app that doesn't have a "pro" version is itunes, and it's obviously more than paying for itself in terms of itms sales.

2004-01-14 11:58:47
OpenSource iApps, just like palm did
Apple should borrow a page from the PalmOS book. By that I mean they should opensource or maybe just publish the source for the built in iFamily of apps.

This would serve many purposes:
1) allow the users to satisfy themselves.
2) teach new to apple and young developers, by providing real world "commercial" quality source code as an example/guide.
3) reduce enduser lockin, or even just the perception of lockin.

If apple can take from the opensource community (ie. FreeBSD and Konquerer) perhaps they could give something back to the regular users.


2004-01-14 12:03:00
RE: needed: iphoto pro
Great comments. Thank you. Yes, your approach makes lots of sense. And if we had an "iPhoto Pro" then much of this conversation could go by the wayside. But for now, iPhoto is it.

Your point about Apple's revenue stream is a good one. Yes, iTunes has the iPod. I would add, however, that there are more digital cameras in use that digital music players. And if Apple wants to be the "digital media platform" of choice, then they have to provide great solutions to all areas of the digital hub. They might not be selling digital cameras, but they are selling iBooks, PBs, and desktop Macs.

2004-01-14 12:10:55
RE: OpenSource iApps, just like palm did
Well, as an O'Reilly editor, I'm always in favor of open source solutions. And I agree, the more open, the more vibrant the community that uses the app.

One thing that Apple did do with version 2 of iPhoto is make it AppleScriptable. Since the major problem with v2 was its sluggish performance (that's now been fixed), maybe we can cobble some solutions together for our other desired features via AppleScript.

I would still prefer some of these basic functions, such as multiple library management, to be included in the box. But starting Jan. 16, we'll see what independent developers and smart guys in general come up with to make this popular app as useful as possible.

2004-01-14 12:20:30
Isn't the new file limit 25.000 pictures?
I don't know about you, but for me that's a lot more than the content of a DVD. I usually burn at around 1500 pictures (3-4 megapixels and some unflattened psd files). Unless you're saying the performance is still problematic with large libraries...
2004-01-14 12:29:39
RE: Isn't the new file limit 25.000 pictures?
I think we're trying to say the same thing.

Yes, 25,000 pictures is a lot more than can be fit on one DVD. So even though performance is improved, we still need to manage multiple libraries so we can limit the number of pictures on each to a total size that can be archived to optical media.

2004-01-14 12:48:41
No raw support
I realize that iPhoto is targeted towards the everyday consumer however there are so many features that pro's could use. That is, if only we could import our raw images! How cool would it be for iPhoto to recognize raw images, import them, and then, when you double click on them, prompt photoshop where you can do your edited to a raw image.
2004-01-14 12:59:03
OpenSource iApps, just like palm did
I don't care whether or not Apple open sources the iApps but I would like them to publish a full set of APIs.


2004-01-14 14:14:47
"But that's not what photographers want."
That's part of the problem, you're a photographer. You need more out of your application than the average person needs or cares to use. I don't fault you for it at all, perhaps apple needs to step up to the image management plate ala soundtrack or final cut. Or perhaps there are third party applications which better address your needs, why must the burden sit with apple?
2004-01-14 14:22:28
Reviewing Photos
One of the enhancements that seems most useful to me is to slideshows.

It seems that we will now be able to use the slideshow to correct the orientation of photos and select the shots we wish to keep from those we don't (via ratings keepers = 1-4). At the moment I find it a real chore to manually step through and do these tasks using the organise and edit views.

I'm looking forward to this as a more natural mechanism for doing review and critique of my photos.

I agree with some of the other observations that the Apple software lineup seems to have an obvious ommission: a semi-pro/pro quality content management system for photos, video and music.

The iLife apps have always seemed to me to be an excellent way to draw Mac owners who become interested through iVideo, iPhoto etc into more sophisticated and expensive products.

On another note, what ever happened to the plug-in API? When I first switched 18 months ago it seemed to be a common assumption that this would be made open to encourage niche extensions to iPhoto.


2004-01-14 14:28:09
Re: Reviewing Photos
Aside from the speed improvement, I think the ability to review and rate photos during the slideshow is a real biggie. And it works! I think you'll enjoy that new function.
2004-01-14 14:58:00
RE: "But that's not what photographers want."
I get your point, I do. And yes there are some excellent applications out there that are more robust than iPhoto. iView Media Pro 2 and Extensis Portfolio are two good ones that come to mind.

But iPhoto is Apple's only entry in the digital photography market, and it is a HUGE market that can truly help Apple sell Macs. In all the other areas of digital media Apple offers solid robust solutions for serious users. I like iPhoto a lot, but for a version 4 it should be farther along, photographer or not.

2004-01-14 15:02:45
RE: No raw support
I agree here too. And the use of RAW is a hot topic right now among intermediate to advanced amateur photographers. As you have stated, I don't expect iPhoto to do anything with the files, just recognize and store them. I'll handle the editing on my own.
2004-01-14 15:05:42
needed: iphoto pro
I would argue that Apple would be better off to highlight the professional level photo management apps that already exist, such as iView Media Pro and Photo Mechanic. Unless adding the pro level features to create an iPhoto Pro would be so trivial that the app would essentially be a money making machine for Apple, then they should leave the pro territory to those who are already providing solutions in that segment.

From someone who doesn't think all cool solutions have to come from the Mother Ship...

2004-01-14 15:18:05
RE: "Back up" and "break up" regularly using iPhoto Library Manager
I back up to hard drives, so the DVD barrier is not critical for me. (I do archive subsets to DVD.)

More importantly, can iPhoto 4 import external libraries better than iPhoto 2?

Even from an image CD/DVD iPhoto 2 could import the library, but if you tried to import albums you ended up with duplicate images. So consolidating libraries was very tedious and involved manual album recreation. You also lost all roll information in the move.

2004-01-15 04:09:25
iPhoto Library Manager alternative
You can also use IPhoto Buddy


which also works well.

2004-01-15 06:35:54
4571 vs. 4751?
I don't think that a human, let alone an Apple iPhoto algorithm can figure out what kind of numbering scheme you want going from 4571 to 4751 or vice versa.

It's a completely illogical numbering convention and makes your criticism of their "unrobust batch processing" immature.

2004-01-15 07:34:56
Re: 4571 vs. 4751?
I'm not immature. I just made a mistake. I bet you could have figured out that I accidently transposed the 5 and the 7 if you really wanted to.
2004-01-15 07:36:19
Still won't handle removing movies from cameras...
From what I can tell iPhoto still won't import any small movies you may have taken with your digital camera. I think this is a MAJOR shortcoming (that has been pointed out in previous versions). It ruins the whole one step plug in and import of iPhoto... you also must launch Image Capture. Very messy.

I'm also not a fan of iPhoto's image database format... I like to organize my files in my own way. Regardless, with the performance improvement, I think I'll finally start using iPhoto full time.

2004-01-15 07:44:06
RE: Still won't handle removing movies from cameras...
This is something I talk about a lot in demos, etc. It's odd, because Image Capture, which works in concert with iPhoto for importing, can recognize and upload both QuickTime files (those small movies on your digital camera) and RAW images. But iPhoto still doesn't.

If the concern on Apple's side is, "If we recognize those formats then we have to add features to manipulate them," I wish they would let go of that. Because it isn't necessary.

For RAW files we now have Photoshop CS, which we can call out in the preferences. For those mini movie files, we have QuickTime Pro. All iPhoto has to do is what it does best: provide us with an intelligent, robust digital shoebox to manage all the files that we upload from out digital cameras. We can take it from there with other applications to manipulate them.

2004-01-16 09:22:52
a terrific bargain??
You wrote: 'Overall, I feel the iLife suite is a terrific bargain. I have no problem coughing up $49 for it.'

Maybe, but some of us have Macs that won't run GarageBand or iDVD, and I have no use for iMovie, and iTunes is still a free download. That means that to get the new version of iPhoto I must pay $49 (or whatever the UK price is). That doesn't seem such a bargain to me. I'm not griping at my inability to use the other stuff (though I'd like to se GarageBand), just that I can't even buy iPhoto unbundled for say $10 or $15.


2004-01-16 12:04:39
Resizing in iPhoto 4?
Sorry to ask this rookie question, but I just made the switch and thought this would be an appropriate forum. Is there a way to resize the raw images (imported from my camera) so they are at a respectable size? Respectable meaning anywhere between 75K and 175K? I am used to XP where a built in resizer allowed to quickly change the size of my prints. Also, is there anyway to organize photos other than by date? When i am in my email program (Entourage) and I want to attach a photo, I can't just browse the album to find the pic I am looking for, rather I have to find it by date. Major pain. Thanks for the advice! -Rookie McGee
2004-01-16 13:21:13
RE: Resizing in iPhoto 4?
Yes, it's easy. Just use the Export command in iPhoto (File -> Export then click the "File Export" button) and click the radio button "Scale images to no larger than". You might want to try 640 x 480 and see it that gets you down to a file size you like. BTW: for the Format dropdown menu, I recommend that you select JPG and not Original.

You can export as many photos as you want this way. Just command-click the ones you want to export, and off you go!

2004-01-16 16:48:48
RE: Resizing in iPhoto 4?
Thanks. I'm confused, because then where do I export to if I am saving a whole album? I want to replace the RAW images with the resized ones.


2004-01-17 00:18:43
iPhoto taking back seat to Adobe PS?
Is Apple perhaps defering the photo arena to Adobe? PhotoShop, after all, is an industry standard in photo editing and with the new CS version their photo management seems better. That's my theory anyway.
2004-01-17 14:28:01
Roll info and thumbnails disappearing in iPhoto
When I passed 3000 photos in the previous version of iPhoto, it progressively got slower and slower until it was unworkable. It wouldn't crash, but would just sit and do nothing with the spinning rainbow. I had nearly 5000 photos in it...then when I opened it one day, all the latest rolls (about 2000 photos) had disappeared (both thumbnails and info). After having a coronary, I did find that the photos still existed in the Byzantine, multiple-personality disordered iPhoto Library folder. Only the rolls have been "erased" in the iPhoto display, and iPhoto says I only have 3000 photos. If I try to export, it says I only have 3000 photos...the only way I've found to get the lost photos is to go into the individual Library folders one at a time and open or copy them.
I need to move to a pro app like iView Media Pro or Portforlio, but first I'm trying to find out if I can reconstitute my "rolls" in iPhoto. Otherwise I'll have to go thru each and every Library folder to find the photos, figure out their date, reorganize them into roll groups, etc. This could take days and weeks, because of iPhoto's bizarre filing structure.
I installed iPhoto 4 hoping it would solve my problem. While the new version is way faster, it didn't rediscover my rolls. Though it did start numbering new rolls picking up where it left off...meaning it must sort of remember the numbering of my rolls at least.
Also, what's the difference between Portfolio and iView Media? And do these programs store the photos in the same jumbled library system, or just read them from existing folders? Are there any file formats these programs can't read?
2004-01-18 09:26:45
RE: Roll info and thumbnails disappearing in iPhoto
Well, I'm not surprised that iPhoto 4 couldn't fix your earlier data corruption problem. But my guess is that we will hear fewer of these stories with the current version.

As for iView and Portfolio, I'm most familiar with iView, and it doesn't create the folder structure you expressed dislike for with iPhoto. You have control of the picture folder structure.

iView is a good app, and I speak positively of it often. But personally, I'm not ready to give up on iPhoto, especially with the progress its showing. Yes, I want Apple to move faster with it, but believe me, they're not finished with iPhoto yet, not by a long shot.

2004-01-18 11:24:19
Have you looked at Lightbox?

Someone on Apple's iPhoto forum suggested it. I haven't taken a hard look at it, but I'd be interested in your opinion of it.

2004-01-18 12:05:36
As far as slide show transitions have you looked into Keynote? The best aspect of iPhoto for me is how it allows me to drag and drop visuals for my lectures (art history) from one ap to another. You can then export them as quicktime slide shows or pdfs. The quicktime slideshows don't have variation in individual slide duration, but it does let you run them interactively, in a loop, or from back to front to back, etc. Just a thought.


2004-01-19 16:52:04
File name as Exif Date/Time
I use iView Media Pro. One of the things I like best is being able to run a script that changes all of my file names to date/time info from the Exif data. This means I'll never have to deal with two images with the same name. It also means that the file name will have some meaning without having to create a unique name for it.
2004-01-19 22:02:18
iPhoto 4 rocks
OK look, regarding this whole thing about iPhoto not being "pro" enough: it's not supposed to be! The whole point is that it's a very simple app made for people who are very casual photographers. Yes, Apple could make a more "pro" version, but then that would really piss off Adobe. Apple's pissed off enough developers with making replacements to their apps that are either better or a lot cheaper. Apple really doesn't want to piss off Adobe so much that they stop developing Photoshop or something. In general, Apple has been very annoying recently with taking great ideas from 3rd party apps and incorporating them into a better and/or cheaper app than the apps from 3rd parties, and then bundling it with all new Macs. This was especially ridiculous with the whole Sherlock 3/Watson thing. I mean, come ON, they completely stole Watson, and made it into a far worse app, but since it was free with Jaguar, the developer of Watson lost a lot of potential customers, and he was going to stop developing it for awhile until the loyal Watson users emailed him and told him how bad Sherlock was compared to Watson. BTW, I do use Sherlock; I love Watson, but I just can't justify paying $30 for an app which I don't even really use all that much (usually cause I forget it's there).

Anyway, I digress. I think Apple should just leave the pro photo apps to the 3rd parties, and just keep iPhoto the way it is, which isn't really competing with anything except iView. Now, I don't actually use iPhoto much at all. We have a digital camera, but I never use it (it's really my brother's camera.) I've seen others use it, and I've used it a little to organize photos taken by my brother. It seems like the main problem before was performance, and they seem to have completely fixed that. And the new features are really nice; the Smart Albums and ratings, the yearly organization and the on-screen controls in the Slideshow are just great.

Now, it is debatable whether iPhoto is actually worth $49.95. Every other iLife app is definitely worth $50 on its own. It's just that iPhoto is a bit iffy. I think if you really use it a lot, it is. Yes, iView is $30, and I've never used it, but it seems it's not nearly as good as iPhoto. Right now, we're actually kind of using a friend's copy of iLife (obtained legitimately), but we will most likely buy it ourselves, especially since our family is entitled to the educational discount, and $30 is an amazing deal. We don't use iMovie or iDVD, but iPhoto is such an improvement, and GarageBand is just SO AWESOME, and we will definitely be playing around with that quite a bit. :) $30 is an incredible deal for iPhoto and GarageBand. We don't yet have a MIDI keyboard, but even without that it's really fun to just play with the loops and software instruments using the on-screen keyboard, and for $50 we can get a MIDI keyboard and have a whole lot more fun with it. :)

So yeah, I think iLife '04 is just awesome. It's a great deal even if you only use iMovie, iDVD or GarageBand. If you only use iPhoto, it's slightly pricey, but not horrible, but if you use 2 or more of the apps, it's an incredible deal.

2004-01-20 07:34:55
RE: Roll info and thumbnails disappearing in iPhoto
I have a similar problem. I launched iphoto4 and viewed my pictures, made a new album (sons wedding pictures) and then made the mistake of opening iphotolibrarian 1.1 which "upgraded" my pictures making them all disappear so that when I reopened iphoto, I had 0 pictures. I went to my pictures folder and the album and other pictures are still there under iphotolibrarianQ but that won't open and usually results in iphoto either crashing or hanging up. When I tried to import the pictures into iphoto I got a message the files were unreadable. How can I open these important pictures?? Thanks. Jerry Kuhn
2004-01-20 08:08:05
RE: iPhoto 4 rocks
First of all I agree that iLife '04 is a great deal. I have it on my PowerBook and I really, really like it.

As for iPhoto 4 itself, I want to be clear that this is my digital shoebox of choice. I don't think it needs to compete with Adobe products or anyone else's software. But I do want iPhoto to reach its potential. Apple has done much to evolve its flagship digital photo offering, and I think thanks to conversations like the one we're having here in this forum, it will continue to grow in directions that its user base wants.

2004-01-20 14:11:21
Without the ability to enter my own exposure data ( I scan Slides into the compuyer) iPhoto is useless to me.
2006-03-28 06:46:05
iPhoto Library doubles in size after syncing with iPod Video. This is dumb. Is this normal?