iPhoto 4.0 gripes

I’ve been unhappy with iPhoto 3 for a while now but held off on upgrading to iPhoto 4.0 because I wasn’t sure that it would address my complaints. When I found a cheap copy of iLife 4.0 the other day I went ahead and did it. I find that I was right to be skeptical.

The biggest problem I’ve had with iPhoto 3 has been that it’s slow. iPhoto 4 seems to help, but I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly zippy now. I think I got as much improvement by the option-shift-launch iPhoto library rebuild trick as from the upgrade. I may get further improvement if I spring for more memory (an expensive choice — my 12″ Powerbook G4 has only one memory slot so to upgrade from the present 640 Mb I have to buy a full gig), but any way you look at it, iPhoto is a hog.

The other major shortcoming with iPhoto 3 has gotten worse in iPhoto 4: bloated image files when you export to the web. I was accustomed to iPhoto 3 exporting images in web albums that were 50% larger than Photoshop would produce at high quality, 250% larger than Photoshop at medium quality. That forced me every time I exported an album from iPhoto to load all the images back into Photoshop and do a “Save For Web” on each of them to bring them down to an acceptable size. I had hoped that iPhoto 4 would do some decent optimization and save me that tedious step. On the contrary: in iPhoto 4 I’m seeing bloat over Photoshop’s high- and medium-quality exports, respectively, to the tune of 120% and 500%! I don’t know what iPhoto is stuffing into those images, but the lack of image optimization makes it essentially unusable as a web publishing tool.

Finally, among the features Apple touted in iPhoto 4 was keyword support. Like everybody else on the del.icio.us and Flickr bandwagon I’m keen for keywords these days and thought that feature might be just the thing to help me sort out my ungainly photo collection. No such luck. There’s a keyword feature in there all right, and there might be a way to put it to use, but the interface to access it is horribly clunky. It doesn’t show up with the other metadata (title, comments, etc.) in image edit mode, nor in the cmd-i “information” dialogue, but in its own third popup dialogue. And it doesn’t allow free typing but instead requires selection from an (unsorted!) scrolling list. It’s so hard to assign keywords to photos that I probably won’t bother.

Now, of course, Apple has announced iLife 5.0, which includes a new major release of iPhoto. Unless I hear that these specific concerns have been addressed, I won’t bother buying it. As it stands I may have been better off saving 30 bucks and sticking with iPhoto 3.

5 thoughts on “iPhoto 4.0 gripes

  1. I’m really not sure about this, because I haven’t used iPhoto much myself, but I think that it is storing multiple copies of each file–sort of a CVS for JPGs. I’m surprised to hear that the bloat is so great on *uploaded* files though–I would think it would flatten all that out before uploading. I’ve recently discovered PictureSync (http://holocore.com/?PictureSync), and I wonder if that does anything to help.

    I’ve been using Graphic Converter (http://lemkesoft.com/en/graphcon.htm) to manage my photos. The interface isn’t nearly as whizzy, but it gives good hooks to IPTC tagging (which PictureSync uses when uploading) and is generally an indispensible program.

  2. Yeah, I’m not talking about the size of the images as stored in iPhoto’s library, I wouldn’t expect them to be optimized for size. I’m referring to the images produced by the File > Export > Web Page process, where it’s explicit that the images are intended for an environment in which size is important.

    (While I’m at it I could also complain that iPhoto’s web pages have never heard of style.)

    Thanks for the tip about Graphic Converter. I’ve heard other recommendations as well and thought it might be a replacement for Photoshop in the post-iPhoto optimization step, especially since I gather it can do bulk operations. From your description it sounds like it can do much more than that. I need to check it out.

  3. Right you are, old bean — glad somebody’s paying attention! iPhoto 5 needs to offer the user a way to adjust the JPEG compression ratio for all its Export operations; iPhoto 4′s seems to be cranked to 11…

  4. Ugh, isn’t that the truth? When I was shooting jpgs primarily, I used iPhoto pretty exclusively. I like being able to look back through my photos and visually find stuff I shot, but it got so slow once I had 500 or 1000 photos imported, and I’ve got tens of thousands of photos now. I shoot in RAW format primarily these days, which iPhoto only marginally supports, and I use Photoshop to edit them now (definitely not the cheapest option, but the best I’ve found), but whenever I plug in my memory card, iPhoto still opens and slows everything down in the meantime. I can’t figure out how to turn that off anymore. Incidentally, for what it’s worth, the old Linux standby, GIMP, has a Mac OS X photo editor. From the small amount of research I’ve done, it’s a pain to install, but it’s pretty versatile once it’s up and running.

  5. Well of course iPhoto 3 is running slowly for you–it doesn’t exist! Apple’s iPhoto naming scheme
    jumped from version 2 to version 4 with no version 3. Hard to use software that has never been.

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