With an understanding of iPhoto”˜s tools, you can correct problems and make enhancements to your photos with just a few clicks of your mouse. Of course, a caveat to this is that photos you take must be acceptable enough for editing. If photos are too dark or the highlights are blown, no editing program can fix that problem.
If you”˜re new to photography, check out my MUO Guide to Digital Photography and numerous other articles on this site about taking better photos. If you’re working with the ’09 version of iPhoto, check out tips in Jeffry’s how-to article.
With iPhoto ’11, Apple has re-designed the application’s interface so that it provides an even better workflow for processing your images. In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through that process.
Menu Bar & Photo Info
After you get your photos into iPhoto ’11, you definitely want to rate and tag them. Not much has changed in those features. But notice when you open an album of your photos, Apple has set up a menu bar at the bottom of iPhoto.
This where you can click on individual photos and work through the process of fixing, enhancing and then sharing them. Categories are set up just in that order.
The first menu item we see is the Info button. It has nothing do with fixing your images, but don’t overlook it. It not only reveals the keywords and ratings you have given a photo, but it also contains your camera”˜s EXIF data about a selected image. This can help you understand more about your images.
Check out Tim’s article about EXIF photo data for more information on this subject.
While iPhoto is not an advanced image editor, it does provide the basic tools for Mac users who are willing to make a little effort to use the tools. So let’s start with a selected image, acceptable enough to work with.
The editing pane of iPhoto ’11 starts with what is adeptly called “Quick Fixes”. If your photos are shot reasonably well, a few simple clicks in this area may suffice for fixing and enhancing your selected image.
So let”˜s start with the Enhance tool. When I apply it to the above image, notice (see the following image) that it automatically brightens the exposure. I didn’t have to fool with sliders and Levels tools, just one click and it made some improvement to the image. We do notice, however, that the editing took out details in the white shirt. We’ll see about fixing that in an upcoming step.
Note: All the editing changes you make to a photo will apply to the appearance of that selected image in every album, sideshow, and project (e.g., card, calendar, book) that it’s used in. You can always revert back to the original photo, but if you want to edit a photo without changing it, duplicate the photo and then make edits on the duplicate.
The Retouch tool is a little more advanced. It works similarly to the Healing brush tool in Photoshop, but you have far less control over what it does. However it can be useful for some quick retouching in facial areas of a photo.
To use this tool, zoom in and navigate on an area of a subject’s face you want to retouch.
The only thing you can control with the Retouch tool is the size of the brush. You can’t control the amount of retouching it can do. Start with a fairly small size and simply move the brush over the area you want to remove.
If you’re not getting the results you want, drag the brush over a pixel area near the part you want to retouch, and then hold down the Option key as you drag onto the area you want to fix. If you have never used the Retouch tool, it can be a little tricky, but just keep practicing until you get a feel for how it works. You can always click Undo as many times as you need to get back to your previous settings.
Apple has also improved the Crop tool some in iPhoto ’11. Cropping is useful for getting rid of dead space in your photo, as well as for printing and sharing your images.
See my article on the basics of photo cropping for more information about this subject.
The next category of the editing pain in iPhoto ’11 allows you to make a few more advanced tweaks to a selected image. Notice in this area, there’s no sliders and numbers to deal with. You simply click on an effect to see how it changes your image.
The six exposure buttons in this area are about as basic as you can get. If a selected photo is too dark, you might click the Lighten button several times to lighten it up. If you want to warm up and further saturate the overall colors of an image, you click the respective buttons several times until you get the effect you want.
I find the 9 other effects buttons in this area too simplistic for my taste. Notice however, when you apply an effect – except for the B & W and Sepia effects – you can increase and decrease the strength of the edit. You can also apply more than one effect to a photo. If you don’t like the results, simply click None to take you back where you started.
The Adjust tools of the editing pane are as advanced as you’re going to get in iPhoto. If you make exposure adjustments in Quick Fix and Effects panes, they will be reflected in the sliders in the Adjust tools.
Don’t let these tools overwhelm you. Play around with them and you’ll begin to see how they work.
In the top Levels tool, you simply move the sliders to adjust the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows of the area. These sliders will impact the entire image.
In the next section, you can further tweak the exposure, contrast and saturation of an image. Again, play around with them to see what results you get. With Exposure, for example, you’re simply lightening or darkening the image. Saturation affects the colors of the image. The “avoid saturating skin tones” is a useful feature in iPhoto “˜11 because it allows you to boost or soften the colors in other areas of the image without affecting skin tones.
The middle section of tools provide you with even more control. Remember the problem I pointed out about blowing out the highlights in the white shirt? Well, when I move the Highlights slider to the right some, it brings back that detail. It does the same for adjusting the areas in the photos where the flash was pretty strong.
The last tool you will want to apply in this area is the Sharpening tool. It works pretty well, but don’t overdo it. Nearly all digital photos will need some sharpening, especially for those images you plan to print.
You probably won’t use the Temperature sliders too much, but say your photo has an overly warm or cool overcast, you might try selecting the color picker and clicking on a neutral gray or white area in the image to see if it will remove the color cast.
Let us know what you think of the upgrades in iPhoto ’11. How well does it work for you as an image editor?