iPhoto '09 review

Of the five applications that make up iLife, iPhoto is the one with the broadest appeal.

After all, nearly everyone has photos on their Mac, taken with their own cameras or those of friends and family members. As our libraries grow, so too do the problems with managing our pictures.

With iPhoto ’08, Apple tried to simplify photo management by introducing the concept of events, letting you automatically organize photos based when they were taken. With iPhoto ’09,

Apple has added the who and the where components to this equation - helping you provide more context to your photos - and expanded the options for sharing your work with the social networking sites Facebook and Flickr. While there are some niggling issues here and there, iPhoto ’09 is overall a good upgrade.

Apple hasn't made many interface changes in iPhoto ’09.

The organizational pane (which Apple calls the Source List) now has items for the Faces and Places features, and the Projects area is now called Keepsakes, but the overall structure and operation nearly identical to the last version.

Events are largely unchanged, a good or bad thing depending upon how you felt about them.

Playing with Faces in iPhoto '09

Without question, the snazziest addition is Faces, iPhoto’s face-recognition technology. As you add a photo to your library, it is scanned for areas that resemble faces. If it finds a face (or more than one), iPhoto then tries to match it to the characteristics—shape, eyes, mouth, nose, and more—of similar faces in other photos in your library.

You need to put in some work when you first start using the feature, running through quite a few photos in your library and identifying them appropriately (also known as “tagging”), by clicking on the Name icon at the bottom of the screen, adding their nickname, full name, and email address to their Face record (iPhoto doesn’t link with Apple’s Address Book, which would be useful for filling out the additional information).

When you are browsing photos and click on the Name icon in the toolbar, iPhoto will ask you if a recognized face belongs to someone you’ve already identified in your Faces database.

If you run into a photo that contains a face, but iPhoto for some reason didn’t recognize it—parts of the face might be obscured, for example—you can tag it using the “Add Missing Face” button. This process solely lets you associate the photo with a given individual; for various reasons, iPhoto doesn’t incorporate that selection into the face-recognition algorithms.

Once you’ve got a representative set of names, clicking on the Faces section in the Library panel lets you associate more of your photos with people you have added to your library. The program displays a corkboard-style background, with an icon for every person in your Faces database; double-clicking on an entry shows you all the photos that contain that person, as well as a list of pictures that iPhoto believes might contain them as well.

If you click the Confirm Name icon at the bottom of the screen, each of the thumbnails zoom to the face in question, and clicking on it once accepts the suggestion, while double-clicking on it rejects it.

When you are browsing photos and click on the Name icon in the toolbar, iPhoto will ask you if a recognized face belongs to someone you’ve already identified in your Faces database.

NEXT: Some realistic expectations with Faces


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