AMITIAE - Saturday 10 March 2012

Another 24 hours with iPhoto for iOS: Discoveries, Clarifications and Corrections (Amended)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Many apps will work right out of the box. The concept of a new app may be so simple and obvious, or a comparison can be made with similar software, that the moment it is running, everything falls into step. This was not true for iPhoto when I began to use it over the first 24 hours on my iPhone: the installation on the iPad was slightly easier to use. As yet there are no manuals (or even Missing Manuals). Learning however has come via experience. I also took the time to run through the video of the Apple event last Wednesday. Take particular note of the 11-minute demonstration by Randy Ubillos. It is most helpful.

Despite some misgivings I had about certain specifics within the app, overall iPhoto had the feel of a well-made product and will sit perfectly with the other parts of iLife (iMovie and GarageBand) that are already available for iOS. As we had seen with both of those applications, user suggestions (and complaints) have produced updates from Apple although the foundation was already strong.

I cannot recommend the demonstration from Randy Ubillos enough as the confident way he handled the app -- borne of familiarity of course -- is clear evidence of how strong the basis of iPhoto is. There are text outlines of the features on the Apple site, but this needs a demo video to be provided online. There are links to the Keynote presentation. The iPhoto demonstration starts at 1:03:45 and runs for just over 10 minutes.

After writing about the app yesterday, I had already begun to make more discoveries about how it worked, but certain aspects, like non-destriuctive editing, were causing me some concern. It took me a while to answer that aspect, and some others are now far more clear to me.

Installation on the iPhone

The interfacing of iPhoto on the iPhone and the iPad are really quite pleasing to the eye: a subjective judgement of course, but just this view of shelves with photo albums -- eye candy for sure -- is nice to look at. Compared with some of the unattractive interfacing on some platforms, especially in the past, I am pleased that someone is taking the time to think about the user.

The albums are in three colours depending on the source of the images. Five tool icons are at the bottom of the main screen: Albums, Photos (all of them), Events, Journals and Settings.


I had earlier found the interfacing as concerns tools and other icons mixed and confusing. I still think there is room for improvement.

iPad iPhoto

Amendment (11 March 2012): One of the reasons for my confusion is that I have been working mainly on the iPhone. With the iPad, pressing a "?" icon at the top of the screen, brings up a complete range of labels for each of the tools or icons (this is different if in Display or Edit mode), making it perfectly clear what is available. There appears to be no such facility on the iPhone.

iPad iPhoto

I suggested in my earlier article that Beam accessed the wifi network as I could not make this work with a Bluetooth connection. This fits with Apple's increasing reliance on wifi as a method of connecting and synchronising devices. An article by Erica Sadun on TUAW confirms this. It uses technology similar to Bonjour that has been around for a while. Erica's article has a careful look at the way this works and its security aspects.

My main problem with the editing tools on the iPhone was the lack of an obvious Undo tool (clear on the iPad). Using several effects on one image I ended up with a black screen, although the View Original icon showed me the image was not lost. I just was not being allowed to see it. This was so in the Edited Album and also in the original source album which was unexpected as editing is non-destructive: an edited copy should be saved, the original is not changed.

The trick on the iPhone was to access the toolbox and each of the effects one by one. Using the Options panel has a Reset button and that took me back to zero for each of the tools applied. It was a bit long-winded and not immediately obvious. It probably is when you think about it, and I will never need to think about it from now, but initially it did not scream out at me like some controls do. And should.

The tools, however, have a far greater degree of sophistication than I realised with my initial attempts at editing.


  • While I liked the crop tool, which was intuitive, along with the arc at the bottom of the screen that could be used for straightening, there was another trick that the video demo showed me. With some images, when using the Crop tool, a horizon line will be shown. Tapping the button on the right automatically straightens the image. Tapping the X to the left makes the line disappear.

    I also found that pressing on the arc, allowed the image to move depending on how the iPhone was held. This uses the gyroscope like the app Image Straightener I looked at last weekend.

  • The Exposure adjustment has secondary sliders which Ubillos showed were for Shadows, Highlights, Brightness and Contrast. However he also showed that the user could adjust the image by touching the screen and moving the finger up, down, left or right. The sliders moved at the same time.

  • I had seen the same type of onscreen slider with the pallet icon indicating colours. While I had thought the main panel was for colour saturation and the others were RGB, I was not totally correct here as Randy Ubillos' demo showed. The touch tool depends on the main colour in the part of the screen, so while saturation will work on most sections, if the user touches a segment with blue sky then the on-screen arrows are slightly different to indicate this and moving the fingers across the screen, only moves the blue slider.

    This is the same for a scene which is predominantly of grass or trees, when the green slider is used. What I thought was a red slider, is for skin tones. Moving the touch screen arrows to the left or right affects the main color, moving them up or down changes saturation. The difficulty of an app recognizing the colour and selecting the right part of a tool-set for adjustments, is an indication of how carefully this app has been forged.


I had already played with the Journals section, finding it an easy task to upload a few images to iCloud, and I returned to the page I had created in the morning, to add another 25. While waiting for these to upload, refreshing the browser page gave me an "Unavailable" message on a yellow sticker like we see when the Apple Online Store is being updated.

The video demonstration also showed me how simple it was, using an "Add" panel in Edit mode, to add a map or a calendar entry to a journal page, taking metadata from photographs. There was also text entry boxes, Weather, Food and others. These would give a page far more character and meaning than a display of photographs with captions.


The first Journal I made was of a friend's graduation and private. As a demonstration, I have put online some images I took near a railway close to my apartment. Most were taken with the Nikon D7000 and a selection was transferred to the iPhone using Photo Stream, although I did make sure I included at least one taken using the iPhone camera because of the GPS data. The weather data is downloaded from and despite looking around and tapping on the icon, I can find no way to change the Fahrenheit reading to Celsius, even though the weather app on my iPhone is set to the latter.

After editing in Aperture and a slow transfer to Photo Stream, the selected images were available to me in iPhoto on the iPhone. As before, I selected those images I wanted, pressed the Share and then the Journal buttons, adding and reordering the images quite swiftly. After the process of uploading, the URL was available to me.

With this sort of feature and the others (like Photo Stream), it does not matter who produces the browser if you own the web.


Installation on the iPad

The size of the iPad screen makes a difference just because it is easier to handle the larger device. The tools are easier to access (they are displayed differently) and there is less retrying an effect, which happened to me often with the iPhone. Nonetheless at the moment it is the iPhone that I am more likely to have with me at any time. I always take the view that the iPad is for when I am sitting down with some time on my hands. The iPhone is the immediate device, and the first editing I tried with iPhoto was in the back of a taxi to that friend's graduation.


The interface is an example of Apple's best work. It felt initially as if several individuals were responsible for different parts. That feeling has begun to diminish with the little familiarity I now have, but as my biggest strides were made after seeing the demo, it would serve Apple well to provide clear video instructions online -- people learn more easily from seeing a process than reading about it. As a local note, many of the photographs Randy Ubillos used for the demonstration came from a trip to Thailand.

Use of the Journal features within iPhoto will make a difference to the way ordinary users can share images and communicate ideas quite quickly when away from home. While I did most of the work using wifi, it should also be possible with carrier signals in many areas to work with 3G. The Journals feature with iCloud is far simpler than iWeb on Mobile Me. I will take advantage of this ease of use.

Learning the effects and the tools behind each of the icons will not take more than a few days. I have seen some of those icons in Aperture (e.g. Crop). From the point of view of new users, information about the function of each tool or icon via a text popup would be helpful .

And I want a button in Aperture to force an update to Photo Stream.

See Also: iPhoto for iOS: A Curate's Egg (excellent in parts)

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

information Tag information Tag

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page