iPhoto 6 First Impressions

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Derrick Story

Derrick Story
Jan. 19, 2006 03:26 PM

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My first impression of iPhoto 6 could be summed up in one word: "Wow!" My second and third impressions aren't bad either.

iPhoto 6 has reached maturity. And Apple has brought this lovely image management tool to this point without destroying its friendliness or charm. I'm going to highlight just a few of my favorite features here today. I'll be drilling down into more detail in future articles, and of course in, "iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual."

But for now, I want to start with Apple's claim that performance is improved. It is. I'm sure mileage will vary, but on my PowerBook 1.5 GHz, everything improved from scrolling through thumbnails to editing Raw files.

iPhoto 6 Interface

Speaking of Raw files, Apple has introduced a new advanced preference called Use Raw files with external editor. This enables me to double-click on a thumbnail for a Raw file and have the image open in Adobe's Camera Raw. If I prefer to use Apple's Adjust palette for editing, I can either change the preference, Option double-click on the thumb, or right-click on the thumbnail and make the appropriate editing selection. I have a brief tutorial on iPhoto 6 Raw options that you can read for more detail.

This conversation can't go any further without mentioning Full Screen mode editing. Just click once on any thumbnail, tap the Full Screen button, and watch your image fill up the screen against a black background. You have all of your editing tools hiding on the bottom and the thumbnails hiding on top. A simple mouse-over reveals them.

CMD-click up to 8 images in thumbnail mode, then tap the Full Screen button and compare them all at once. You can magnify each image using the slider at the bottom of the screen, or by simply pressing the 1 key (100%), 2 key (200%), or the 0 key to return to "fit in screen" size. You can rate your photos using the floating info box (and add comments too). Everything works great in full screen mode. If you have really big Photoshop images, they may take a few seconds to reach full resolution. But for my cameras, including the Canon 5D, the performance was excellent.

While I'm on editing, the new Effects palette is useful. It provides you with one-click enhancements, enabling you to return to the original at any time by clicking on the center tile in the palette. I particularly like the "Edge Blur" effect for portraits. It's quite professional looking.

And did you notice that you can now have iPhoto point to existing images that you have organized on your hard drive... without actually importing them into the managed library? It's true, if you uncheck the box labeled "Copy files to iPhoto Library folder when adding to library," you can have iPhoto point to your original photo files instead of duplicating them in iPhoto's library -- and still make full use of iPhoto's tools. The option is under Advanced in the preferences dialog box.

While you're there, you might also notice that you can now use a ColorSync profile for viewing photos. I'm going to be testing this option for sure.

All of this, and I still haven't touched on Photocasts, 16-bit Tiffs, iWeb compatibility, greeting cards, calendars, or the improved interface. iPhoto 6 is a steal as part of the iLife '06 suite for $79. More reporting to come. But for now, I recommend this upgrade, wholeheartedly.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit www.thedigitalstory.com.