MACMAN March 29, 2012
The latest iPhoto is a triumph of the new-generation iPad. Photo: Reuters
A photo-enhancing app to rival Photoshop is at your fingertips.
THE iPad's extraordinary utility lies in the closely curated and embracing Apple ecosystem of devices and iCloud connectivity; that, and the software applications that run on it. The array of apps is bewildering: 200,000 for iPad, 500,000 overall.
I have downloaded nearly 200 apps and kept most - games, utilities, calculators, calendars, world clocks (I have three and still run late), Skype, Evernote, Dropbox, JotNot Pro (a great scanner app) and even a colour-blindness test. If boring were an Olympic event, I could win gold talking about the apps.
But the new arrival that takes gold for value is iPhoto for iPad 2, the new iPad and iPhone 4 or later.
Released with the third-generation iPad, the app costs only $5.49 yet it challenges Adobe's Photoshop Express on the Mac. It puts astonishing graphic control power at your fingertips. No keyboard, mouse or trackpad here, just nimble fingers tapping, swiping, pinching, dragging, spreading and, now, rubbing to edit.
Other photo-editing apps have excellent features - Snapseed comes quickly to mind, as does FX Photo Studio - but none covers all the ground this version of iPhoto now does.
If, for example, a portrait has too much in shadow, tap on Edit, then the fan of enhancing and repairing ''brushes'', then the Lighten brush and just rub your finger over the shadowed area to reveal detail.
iPhoto has a learning curve and while it is nothing like climbing Photoshop's slopes, there's still a gradient. A question mark button at the top of the screen produces a host of yellow notes about the 14 groups of tools, each opened with a finger tap, while the Get More Help flag has more.
The ascent negotiated, iPhoto is a revelation. The new user interface is divided into four sections: Albums, Photos, Events and Journals. The first three will be familiar, though redesigned. Albums sit on ''glass shelves'', each conveniently labelled as edited images, favourites (awarded by tapping a rosette on the tool bar), Camera Roll and Photo Stream. The last-named arrived with iCloud; take a picture with one iDevice and it automatically appears on all your others.
With the new Journals feature, you can assemble a storyboard of your recent activities and share it via iCloud on the web. It appears as a montage of images or as a slide show to which you can add music at (you guessed it) the tap of a finger.
In Photos mode, thumbnails of pictures are arranged in a grid beside the image selected for editing. The tools aligned below are powerful and plentiful, ranging from cropping and straightening to a magnifier. Holding a thumbnail brings it into the editing panel alongside another; double-tapping finds similar pictures in your library.
You can tap the fan-of-paintbrushes icon in the toolbar to lighten, darken, sharpen or soften an image.
Red-eye removal is there, of course, along with tools to change saturation or turn your picture into monotone, duotone, vintage, artistic, aura and so on.
You can, by tapping on an enhancement tool, improve the blueness of a sky or select a colour in, say, a flower and apply it elsewhere in the image. For the wearier among us, there's also an auto-enhance button.
With my bratwurst-size fingers, using iPhoto on iPhone 4 is a greater challenge but by no means impossible. Photos can be beamed between iPhone and iPad, posted out of the application to Facebook, Flickr or Twitter and streamed as individual images or a slide show via AirPlay and an Apple TV box to your HD TV.
Photoshop will remain the standard for professionals but even they will find iPhoto and an iPad beckoning among the electronic clouds of our mobile digital world.