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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Editing Photos

Try as you might, it's hard to take perfect pictures. Red eye, poor color fidelity, or plain old bad cropping can render an otherwise decent photo into junk. Although iPhoto can't work miracles or even approach the sophistication of an image-editing program like Adobe Photoshop, its editing tools can save a less-than-perfect image, and make a mediocre one look a lot better.

To edit a photo, you must start in Edit view. You can get there either by clicking the Edit button below the Content pane, or by double-clicking a photo in the Content pane. If you click the Edit view button, iPhoto replaces the page of photos with an enlarged version of the first photo in the current album, and displays editing tools below the photo (see Figure 3.18). Double-clicking a photo displays that image, along with the editing tools.

Figure 3.18Figure 3.18 Edit view shows the enlarged image and a set of editing tools.

You can also work with a photo by opening it in a separate editing window.

Control-click the photo and choose Edit in Separate Window from the contextual menu. The editing window displays the photo and a toolbar with options similar to those in the main Edit view (see Figure 3.19).

Figure 3.19Figure 3.19 The iPhoto editing window contains the photo and a toolbar at the top.

Customize the Editing Environment

iPhoto gives you three choices when it comes to photo editing: work in Edit view, use a separate editing window, or edit in another application. The default, as mentioned earlier, is Edit view. To change the default so that a photo will open in a new window when you double-click it, choose iPhoto -> Preferences and click the Opens Photo In Edit Window radio button, found on the General tab. To use an external application such as Photoshop or GraphicConverter, click Opens Photo In, and then click the Select Application button. iPhoto takes you to the Applications folder, where you can choose an image-editing tool you like. When you save a photo you've edited in an external application, your altered image is available in iPhoto, just as if you had worked on it in Edit view or in the editing window.

The Editing Toolbar. The editing tools available to you in Edit view differ slightly from the set provided in the Edit window. We aren't sure why. You can change that though, adding or removing any tool from the Edit window toolbar. Follow these steps:

  1. Open a photo for editing in a separate window.

  2. Click the Customize button, or if you see an arrow at the right edge of the toolbar, click it and choose Customize Toolbar from the pop-up menu. You can also Control-click on the toolbar and choose Customize. iPhoto displays all available editing tools.

  3. Drag one up to the toolbar to add it, or drag a tool from the toolbar to remove it.

  4. Use the Show pop-up menu and the Use Small Size check box to change the look of the toolbar. Click Done to see your changes. Figure 3.20 shows a toolbar we like better than the original.

Figure 3.20Figure 3.20 We dragged all of the image-tweaking tools onto the toolbar and removed the custom aspect ratio tool, because we won't use it as often.

If you Control-clicked the toolbar to use the Customize command, you probably noticed the other options on the menu, all of which let you resize the toolbar by shrinking the size of the tool buttons (Use Small Size), or by viewing text, icons, or both. Because the toolbar is narrower when you're working on a vertical photo, shrinking the buttons helps you cram more of them onto the toolbar.

Using Editing Tools

We're going to walk you through all of iPhoto's editing tools, and while we're at it, we will point out which ones are available in each editing view by default. First though, a few words about what happens to images you edit, and how to avoid making booboos with your precious photos.

If you are just getting started with image editing, or if you are editing images for specific exporting or printing purposes, you might not want to lose the original. To protect your original, duplicate the image before you edit, working on a copy and renaming it so that you can distinguish the two easily. You can duplicate an image in Organize view or Edit view (Control-click and choose Duplicate).

iPhoto lets you recover from mistakes, too. While you are working on a photo, you always have access to the Revert to Original command from the Photos menu or the contextual menu. Like most other OS X applications in which you edit files, iPhoto also provides Undo and Redo commands on the Edit menu. Use these if you catch an edit you don't like before moving on to another action.

Zoom. In Edit view, use the Size slider (right below the Content pane) to zoom in on your photo. When you enter Edit view, your image is zoomed out as far as it can go. Click the buttons on either side of the slider for minimum zoom (left) and maximum zoom (right). In the Edit window, use the zoom buttons (see Figure 3.21) to zoom in (up arrow) or out (down arrow). You can zoom out much further in the Edit window than you can in Edit view. Although the Edit window lacks the minimum and maximum buttons found in Edit view, you will find the helpful Fit command there—it fits a complete image into the window. Resize the window, click Fit, and you'll get a resized image.

Figure 3.21Figure 3.21 On the Edit toolbar, click the up arrow to zoom in and the down arrow to zoom out.

Rotate. The Rotate command is available in both Organize and Edit view. Click the Rotate button in the Info pane, or Control-click to use the contextual menu. In the Edit window, there's also a Rotate toolbar button.

Crop. When a photo is open in either editing view, your cursor becomes a cross, allowing you to select a portion of the image and work on it. To crop extraneous stuff from a photo, click and drag across the image. iPhoto dims the portion of the photo that's outside the cropping square. Keep dragging until you have selected everything you want to save and then release the mouse. Here are a few cropping tips:

  • To move the cropping area without changing its size, click inside it and drag.

  • To change the area's size and shape, drag one of its edges.

  • To make the selected area a specific proportional size, choose an option from the Constrain pop-up menu. iPhoto adjusts the area accordingly (see Figure 3.22). See the Aspect Ratios section for more on constraining images.

Figure 3.22Figure 3.22 Select the area of a photo you want to use, and click the Crop button to remove the rest.


It's usually quicker to rotate a photo thumbnail in Organize view than it is to do so in either Editing view.

When you're satisfied, click the Crop button. The portion of the photo outside the selection rectangle is removed.

Aspect Ratios. iPhoto provides a menu of aspect ratio options that give you a quick way to crop a photo so that it will fit on a printed page or match some other relative size constraint you might have. Applying an option from the Constrain menu creates a crop area with the relative dimensions of that option. You can drag the selected area around to center it and then click Crop to create a photo with the desired aspect ratio. If you need to crop the photo to remove extraneous material, do so before you choose an aspect ratio and then crop again. To use an aspect ratio that's not on the Constrain menu, open the Edit window and enter width and height constraints in the Custom boxes on the toolbar. To remove an aspect ratio constraint before you crop, choose None from the Constrain menu.

Enhance. Enhance is as close as iPhoto comes to doing magic with your images. When you use this option (available in Edit view and from the contextual menu in the Edit window), iPhoto tries to correct for poor color, brightness, and/or contrast. Some photos benefit greatly, some do not. To try it out, simply click the Enhance button. Keep your eye on the photo to see how iPhoto changes it. To compare the enhanced version to the original, press Control. iPhoto switches to the original image and back again. Figure 3.23 shows before and after versions of an enhanced image.

Figure 3.23Figure 3.23 This image benefited greatly from the Enhance command.


Values on the Constrain menu, and in the Custom boxes are not measurements in inches or pixels, but relative sizes for the photo's two dimensions.

If the Enhance button is grayed out, you have selected a portion of your photo. Choose None from the Constrain menu to remove the selection and then click Enhance.

Brightness/Contrast. Although the Enhance option tries to fix photos with brightness and contrast problems, you can often achieve better-looking results with the more precise brightness and contrast sliders in the Edit view, as seen in Figure 3.24. (You'll need to add the sliders to the Edit window toolbar to use them there.) Start by diagnosing your photo's problem. If the image is too dark, drag the Brightness slider slightly to the right. Watch the photo to see how much difference the change makes. If the photo is still too dark, move the slider again. Similarly, use the Contrast slider to make the photo more or less sharp until you are happy with the image.

Figure 3.24Figure 3.24 We used the Enhance tool first, but got better results with the Brightness and Contrast sliders. Although the photo on the right is better, it remains too dark.

B&W. Why take a perfectly good color photo and render it in black and white? You might have artistic reasons for doing so; something to do with illustrating the starkness of the Arizona landscape, maybe? Whatever the reason, you can make the change with the B&W button in Edit view or the contextual menu in the Edit window. Once again, be sure no part of the photo is selected and then click B&W to convert the image.

Sepia. Whereas unaltered black-and-white images can be stark, sepia-toned images are said to take the edge off. The technique is often used to make newer photos look old-timey. With nothing selected, click the Sepia button in Edit view or choose Sepia from the contextual menu in the Edit window.

Retouch. Whether they're birthmarks, the oily aftermath of a chocolate binge, or a bit of unidentifiable gunk, blemishes sometimes appear on faces and surfaces. The Retouch tool allows you to cover them up. To retouch a portion of an image, click the Retouch button in Edit view or select Retouch from the contextual menu. Click and drag the mouse back and forth over the blemish area. Press Control to view a before-and-after version figure.

Red Eye. Perhaps the most common problem in flash photography, red eye can be removed or reduced with this nifty little tool. To use it, select the (red) eyes of your subject and click the Red Eye button in Edit view, or Control-click to use the Red Eye option on the contextual menu. Figure 3.25 shows ye olde before and after.

Figure 3.25Figure 3.25 Click the Red Eye button to correct the selected eye. We've already fixed the other eye.

Photo Toolbox

Third-party applications that make iPhoto better

iPhoto does a good job of managing photos, but there's always room for improvement. Image editing, better exporting, and advanced library management are a few of the features you can add to your iPhoto toolbox with these free or inexpensive add-ons.

Sidebar Figure 3.1Sidebar Figure 1 To share an iPhoto library with other users on your Mac, change permissions in iPhoto Library Manager.

Image editing tools in iPhoto are somewhat limited. Assuming your budget doesn't include a copy of Adobe Photoshop, try Lemkesoft's GraphicConverter ($30 shareware, http://www.lemkesoft.com), an image editor whose batch processing and file export features make it a powerful sidekick for iPhoto. If you have a scanner, you might also have a copy of Photoshop Elements, a powerful image editing tool. It's also available for $99 from Adobe (http://www.adobe.com).

Sidebar Figure 3.2Sidebar Figure 2 BetterHTMLExport adds a tab to the Export dialog, where you can configure both web pages and images.

Some iPhoto users prefer to manage their photos with multiple libraries, using each to view and work with different groups of images, or to give several users access to a single library. Because iPhoto doesn't support multiple libraries, iPhoto Library Manager (free, homepage.mac.com/bwebster/iphoto-librarymanager.html) does it, and gives you tools to manage user permissions.

ShareAlike from If Then Software (donation, http://www.ifthensoft.com) takes another approach to libraries, letting you share yours with other users of your Mac by changing directory permissions. You can also share an iTunes library.

Need to print custom photo layouts? Try Portraits & Prints ($20, http://www.econtechnologies.com). It's mainly a printing program, but you'll find photo-editing tools, too.

Keyword Assistant (http://homepage.mac.com/kenferry/software.html) is a welcome helper for iPhoto's somewhat clunky keyword interface. Although it won't solve all the problems, installing Keyword Assistant gives you a quick way to enter keywords from a tiny window, and to use a custom menu to control other features. It even auto-completes keywords for you.

iPhoto's web page export is OK, but Drooling Cat Software's BetterHTMLExport (http://www.droolingcat.com/software/betterhtmlexport) is way more flexible. Using templates, this $20 gem adds a tab to the Export dialog, with support for lots of layout options and more HTML tags.

When you edit an image in iPhoto, the image is retained so that you can revert to it. The free iPhoto Diet (pages.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/~fuhrer/personal/freestuff) deletes outdated originals from your library, saving space on your hard drive.

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