10 essential tips for photo editing in iPhoto and Preview

Do you really need expensive creativity apps like Photoshop to edit images? Probably not - your Mac comes with iPhoto and Preview, both of which pack enough image editing power in by default and they're free. Here's everything you need to know about the hidden features in both.

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  • iPhoto Preview Free photo editing
  • previewinfo Get image info
  • iphotoinfo iPhoto image info
  • iphotocrop Cropping
  • previewresize Resize images
  • iphotostraighten Rotate
  • previewselect Lasso and Instant Alpha
  • previewcolour Adjust colours
  • iphotocolour Colour adjustments
  • iPhoto effects Add effects
  • iPhoto copy adjustments Adjustments
  • iphotoredeye Red eye removal
  • iphotoretouch iPhoto retouch
  • More stories
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Free photo editing on a Mac

Do you really need expensive creativity apps like Photoshop to edit images? Unless you’re a professional photographer, an enthusiastic amateur or a designer the answer is probably no. Not when your Mac comes with enough imaging editing power by default, for free.

We’re not kidding. iPhoto comes bundled with new Macs (at least for now - it will be replaced with Photos for Mac from early 2015) so, chances are, you probably already have it. If you don’t, it costs just £10.49 from the app store  - which is not far off what you would have pay for a Photoshop CC subscription every month.

Combine iPhoto with the selection and image enhancement tools that are hidden away in Preview and you have all the basic tools you need to adjust photos, resize them and even do a bit of rudimentary retouching.

Here’s everything you need to know about the hidden features in iPhoto and Preview that could save you a fortune.

Read:

Everything you need to know about Apple's decision to kill Aperture and iPhoto iPhoto reviewiPhoto for Mac tips

Read: How to set up Photos for OS X, tips for using Photos for Mac

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Next Prev iPhoto Preview

Do you really need expensive creativity apps like Photoshop to edit images? Unless you’re a professional photographer, an enthusiastic amateur or a designer the answer is probably no. Not when your Mac comes with enough imaging editing power by default, for free.

We’re not kidding. iPhoto comes bundled with new Macs (at least for now - it will be replaced with Photos for Mac from early 2015) so, chances are, you probably already have it. If you don’t, it costs just £10.49 from the app store  - which is not far off what you would have pay for a Photoshop CC subscription every month.

Combine iPhoto with the selection and image enhancement tools that are hidden away in Preview and you have all the basic tools you need to adjust photos, resize them and even do a bit of rudimentary retouching.

Here’s everything you need to know about the hidden features in iPhoto and Preview that could save you a fortune.

Read:

Everything you need to know about Apple's decision to kill Aperture and iPhoto iPhoto reviewiPhoto for Mac tips

Read: How to set up Photos for OS X, tips for using Photos for Mac

 

Step 2 of 13: Get information about an image in Preview

Every photo you take has useful information embedded inside it. From image size to “colour space” (information that will come in handy when printing or editing in other packages).

There are three ways to get at the hidden information in the image on your Mac using the Finder, Preview and iPhoto (see the next slide).

OS X’s Finder can pull some information direct from an image file. CTRL click on the file to bring up the contextual menu and choose “Get Info”. You’ll be able to see basic information about the photo, including its file size, colour space and bit depth.

Read: How to show hidden files and folders in Mac OS X Finder

To find this information in Preview, open an image in the Preview app and you can get access to more of that metadata. Hit COMMAND and I (or choose Tools > Show Inspector from the main menu). You’ll find pretty much the same information under “General Information” as you can glean from “Get Info” in Finder. Click on the “More Info” tab to drill down much deeper. You should see a number of new tabs, but the exact options will depend on the file type. “EXIF” data, will tell you what camera was used to take the image and at what settings.  If a mobile phone was used to take the photo, there may even be embedded GPS data!

Read: Best photo filters for Mac

 

Step 3 of 13: Get information about an image in iPhoto

To get the image date for your photo from iPhoto, select the photo you want information for then click the “Info” icon.

You don’t get quite as much data as you do from Preview, but it’s formatted in a friendlier way so you can tell at a glance what camera was used, whether flash was used, whether focus was manual, the aperture size and so on.

Read

 

Step 4 of 13: Cropping in Preview & iPhoto

Cropping is a handy photo editing feature, whether you’re changing the dimensions of an image or improving  the composition of a photo.

Preview can be used for basic cropping. Open an image and click the “Show Edit Toolbar” icon to make it visible. Choose the rectangular selection tool. You can select any part of the image then click the “Crop” button to crop into the selection. Holding down SHIFT as you select constrains the selection to a square.

iPhoto gives you more control over cropping, by allowing you to constrain the selection to a specific ratio or size. If you need to print photographs or produce content for the web, you’ll know how useful that can be.

You’ll find iPhoto’s crop tool in the Edit section. Click the “Constrain” box and choose a set of dimensions from the dropdown menu. In iPhoto, the cropping selection is an adjustable box, with a three by three grid to help you select a better composition. Click “Done” when you’re happy with your crop.

Read: Advice for shooting time-lapse video on the iPhone

 

Step 5 of 13: Resize images in Preview & iPhoto

If the top of your head gets cut-off in your Facebook profile picture, the image needs resizing. You may also need to resize images to upload them to blogs or share them on social media.

In Preview there’s the “Adjust Size” icon at the end of the toolbar. Clicking it opens the Image Dimensions dialogue. You can choose preset sizes for the image to fit into or enter pixel dimensions manually. Leave the “Scale proportionately” box ticked or the resized image may look squashed.

Funnily enough, you can’t resize images in iPhoto, unless you export them to another format. Go to File > Export. In the Export dialogue there’s an option to choose a custom size. We’d advise using Preview instead though.

 

Step 6 of 13: Rotate in Preview & iPhoto

Both Preview and iPhoto enable you to rotate images easily.

In Preview you just hit COMMAND and R to rotate 90 degrees clockwise or COMMAND and L to rotate the image 90 degrees  anti-clockwise. To flip an image horizontally or vertically you’ll need to go to the menu and choose Tools.

In iPhoto the shortcut is slightly different. COMMAND and R rotates an image 90 degrees anti-clockwise or hold down SHIFT with COMMAND and R to rotate clockwise.

There’s no command to flip images - but you can straighten them. You’ll find the tool in the Edit sidebar; it’s a slider that gently rotates your images with a grid overlay.

 

Step 7 of 13: Using the Lasso and Instant Alpha in Preview

We’ve already used rectangular selections to crop an image down to size. Preview enables you make more complex selections so that you can cut and paste picture elements from one image to another - or simply remove parts of a picture.

Preview gives you three tools to do this; the traditional “Lasso”, the “Smart Lasso” and “Instant Alpha”. To see these tools you need to 'Show Edit Toolbar' click on the pencil icon to reveal the various tools and then click on the first icon on the left.

When working with objects that have well defined edges, choose the Smart Lasso,  then paint carefully within the object you want to select. When you want to select an area with distinct, continuous colour try dragging the “Instant Alpha” tool over it. The tool automatically selects areas of similar colour. You’ll find it next to the other selection tools.

If edges are not distinct and the background is too complex, then you’ll have to go back to the old fashioned Lasso tool. With a steady hand, you can still trace carefully around any object to make a selection. Unfortunately, you can’t refine selections, add or subtract from them.

Once a selection has been made you can copy and paste it, delete the selection or invert it (which means, select all the unselected pixels instead).

 

Step 8 of 13: Adjust colours in Preview

You’ll find the “Adjust Colours” icon in Preview’s Edit Toolbar. It’s a sophisticated dialogue with sliders for exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, saturation, colour temperature, tint, sharpness and sepia.

There are are also separate histogram controls that enable you tweak colours at dark, light and medium parts of the RGB spectrum.

Try Auto Levels first, then experiment with the sliders for best results. Your changes are non-destructive and you can reset all your adjustments at any time.

 

Step 9 of 13: Colour adjustments in iPhoto

iPhoto’s colour adjustment tools are very similar to Preview's. You’ll find them in the Edit sidebar under their own “Adjust” tab - and will find a familiar set of sliders.

The biggest difference is that iPhoto offers a bit of extra help with preset adjustments. Ticking a box stops skin tones from getting too saturated, enabling you to brighten up images without blowing out the light reflecting off faces.

A “denoise” control helps to clean up dust, scratches or graininess from low light.

Read:

 

Step 10 of 13: Add effects to photos in iPhoto

iPhoto takes colour adjustment a bit further, with a series of additional controls in the Effects tab. Some of these simply repeat the functionality of the Adjust tab - but with nice, big buttons instead of sliders. So, an image can be lightened with a few taps and warmed (with orangey hues) with a few more.

This section also has a bunch of presets similar to those you’ll find in photo-sharing tools like Instagram. You can apply vignettes or blurry edges to an image. The intensity of the effect can be increased with from 0 to 9 by clicking on the arrows beneath the effect icon.

 

Step 11 of 13: Cut and Paste Adjustments in iPhoto

One of iPhoto’s coolest features is hidden away in the contextual menu. Let’s say you’ve spent some time adjusting an image - tweaking the exposure settings and getting the saturation just right. Now you have half a dozen other images taken at the same time that need the same treatment.

With iPhoto you can CTRL click on the photo you’ve been editing and choose “Copy Adjustments”. Switch to the next photo in the album CTRL click on it and apply all the same settings to it by choosing “Paste Adjustments”. It’s a nice, hidden time-saver - a bit like Photoshop Actions.

 

Step 12 of 13: Remove red-eye in iPhoto

Red eye is a common side effect of using flash with a point and shoot camera. Caused by light bouncing of the retina and back through the lens of the eye, It’s so common that red-eye removal is often built into image editing tools as a feature.

In iPhoto, you can make very short work of red-eye. Just select the afflicted image, then click the “Fix Red Eye” button in the “Quick Fixes” section of the sidebar. You can try ticking the “Auto-fix red-eye” box first.

If this doesn’t have the exact effect you desire, try the manual method. Set the Size slider so that the cross-hair is slightly larger than the pupil you want to fix, then click once on each each affected eye, making sure you cover the pupil accurately.

 

Step 13 of 13: Quick retouch in iPhoto

iPhoto can even be used to do a bit of modest retouching. In the “Quick Fixes” section of the Edit sidebar, the “Retouch” brush works a bit like Photoshop’s self-heal tool - sampling colour and texture from the area around the brush.

To remove spots, wrinkles and skin blemishes, choose the Retouch brush then carefully resize it so that it’s a little larger than the blemish you want to remove.

One click on the precise area you want to retouch should do the trick. A series of clicks can be used to remove lines and stray hairs.

In some circumstances, it actually works better than Photoshop’s version of the same tool.

We also have a number of other articles about sharing photos. Read the following:

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