Enhance images with iPhoto ’11

Steve Paris
12 May, 2011
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Being able to adjust the look of your image is the part of the program that’s changed the most from iPhoto ’09 to ’11. It’s not that new tools have been added; more that the entire interface has been revamped. It actually looks much more like an application for your iPhone or iPad rather than for your Mac (maybe Apple’s engineers are working on an iPhoto version for iOS?). In addition to this, iPhoto’s interface is now designed to work perfectly in full-screen mode, no doubt in anticipation of the release of the next version of Mac OS X Lion – which will focus more on full-screen programs. This tutorial is designed to show you how iPhoto’s revamped tools work, and along the way, you’ll see how to get in and out of the software’s full-screen mode.

1. Go full screen

Launch iPhoto ’11. Just like in iTunes 10, colour slowly drains from the interface and the toolbar is now completely monochrome compared to previous versions. Select an Event or Album of your choice from the sidebar to the left, then go to View > Full Screen (or use the undefined-Option-F keyboard shortcut).

2. Keyboard navigation

The entire screen is taken up with iPhoto so you can focus on your images without distraction. Double-click on a shot to remove the others from view. You can still access them thanks to a dock-like row of thumbnails at the bottom of the screen. Control these with the left and right arrow keys.

3. Edit mode

To reveal your editing tools, either click on the Toolbar’s Edit button (lower right of the interface) or Control-click on the image and select Edit in iPhoto from the contextual menu, or use undefined-E. To access the menu bar, move the cursor to the top of the screen and go to Photos > Edit Photo

4. Quick fix

You have three tabs at the top right of the screen: Quick Fixes, Effects and Adjust. Select the first one. Now you can access iPhoto’s range of quick, or automatic, fixes. For example, Enhance attempts to adjust the image automatically. It works most of the time, but if it doesn’t, make sure you use Edit > Undo.

5. Round it goes

The Rotate button is useful if the orientation is wrong. By default, the rotation is anti-clockwise. To turn it the other way, rather than clicking on that button three times, Option-click on it to move it clockwise (you can also set the default rotation in the Preferences window’s General tab).

6. Ironing out flaws

The other buttons are mostly one-click affairs. To retouch, zoom into your photo using the slider at the lower left of the screen (a navigation window lets you move around the zoomed image), then alter the size of the Retouch tool. Click and drag on your image and watch the imperfection disappear.

7. Adjustment options

Select the Effects tab. Again, these tools are designed to simplify the adjustment process by narrowing down the options, but making it clear what will happen when you click on a specific button. The bottom nine are effects. The more you click on the bottom six, the more intense those effects become

8. Multiplying effect

The more you click on an effect, the higher its number goes. To remove a layer of intensity, click on the arrow to the left of the number (clicking on the right ups the effect). The top six effects work differently. For example, Lighten and Darken, and Warmer and Cooler are joined and balance each other out.

9. No going back

You can also boost the Contrast and Saturation 20 times before you reach iPhoto’s limit, but if you change your mind, there’s no obvious way to reduce either from this part of the interface. Instead, you need to click on the Adjust tab to perform more manual adjustments to your image.

10. Manual changes

The Contrast and Saturation sliders may be near their maximum. You can drag them down to more acceptable levels. You can also work on your Exposure level and there’s a handy tick box to help you avoid over-saturating skin tones. Changes are shown in real time on the coloured-levels graph.

11. Further refinements

The next five sliders help you refine your image further. If you’re not sure what they do, let the cursor hover over one of them for a couple of seconds and a helper menu will appear. You can also experiment by dragging the sliders and seeing what happens.

12. Temperature and tint

The Temperature slider is linked to the Warmer and Cooler buttons in the Effects tab. The tint affects the overall colour of your photo and the eye dropper to its left can help you give colours a more natural look, by selecting areas that should be white or light grey.

13. Levels adjustments

To work with the colour levels, drag the little triangles beneath the graph. Drag the one on the left to increase the dark areas. The one on the right increases the light parts of your photo and the middle triangle affects its midtones. Hold down the Shift key to compare your changes with the original image.

14. Multitouch

If you’re working on a laptop or have a Magic Trackpad, you can use multitouch gestures. To zoom into your image, place two fingers on the trackpad and move them away from each other. To zoom out, bring them closer together. To scroll, use two fingers to move around. To exit full-screen mode, hit Escape.

15. Bonus tip! Using an external editor

If you feel that these adjustment tools aren’t powerful enough for your needs, you can work on your photos in another program. To do this, Control-click on the image and choose Open in External Editor. The downside of working outside of iPhoto is that changes can’t be undone if you change you mind at a later stage. However, your original image isn’t altered; iPhoto creates a duplicate prior to sending it to the other program. Therefore, you can always go back to the original if you want to try something different.

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