We’ve covered the anatomy of the iPhoto interface, the ways and means of importing and viewing images, and the mechanics of iCloud’s Photo Stream feature. This is all important information, but I know that many of you have suffered through these lessons with this single thought: “Let’s cut to the chase, already. Show me how to edit my pictures!”
I hear and obey.
Before I dig in, allow me to preface the following with this: I am a photo dabbler. As such, I’ll explain what I can from the perspective of such a dabbler. There are far more powerful applications you can use to edit your images and more interesting (and, in some cases, convoluted) ways to adjust them. Consider the following the first steps in image editing. I’ll leave it to the pros to offer more-advanced techniques and tools.
The Effects tab
The Effects tab holds controls for making quick adjustments to exposure, contrast, temperature, and saturation. In addition, you can apply a variety of effects to “vintage-ize” your images. The tab’s included elements are:
Lighten and Darken: With each click of these buttons, the image’s exposure setting increases or decreases, respectively, by 0.10 on a scale of +/– 3.0. The setting adjusts only the image’s exposure, not its highlights or shadows.
The Adjust tab
Apple places the Adjust tab at the end of your edit options because many iPhoto users prefer the easier adjustment options found in the Quick Fixes and Effects tabs that precede it. Were they to see the Adjust pane first thing after revealing the Edit area, they might be scared off and immediately click away with a “Holy smokes! That’s too complicated for me!”
I assure you that it’s not. Let’s take a peek, section by section.
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In our long look at iPhoto, we’ve covered the interface basics, along with importing and viewing images. During those two lessons I took pains to do little more than mention Photo Stream as an option for viewing images. I avoided getting into the details, but now it’s time to dive in.
Your photos: Here, there, and everywhere
Photo Stream is a component of Apple’s iCloud service. We can safely classify it as part of iCloud’s syncing services. The general idea is pretty simple. Once you’ve signed up for an iCloud account and configured it properly, you can sync any images on a device associated with your Apple ID with other devices that use that same ID. So, for example, if you’ve taken a picture with your iPhone, that picture can also appear on your iPad, your Apple TV, and (within iPhoto) your Mac. And it will do so without your having to select the image, tap a Share button, and choose to share it. It just happens in the background.
Sharing photo streams
As much fun as it is to share photos with yourself, there’s something to be said for sharing your photos with others (and, in turn, viewing their shared photos). This is all possible with Photo Stream. It works like this.
iPhoto: In iPhoto select an album, event, face, place, or group of selected photos and choose Share > Photo Stream. In the window that appears at the bottom-right of the iPhoto window, click New Photo Stream. A New Shared Photo Stream sheet appears. In the sheet’s To field, enter the email addresses (separated by commas) of others you want to share the photo stream with. Enter a name for the stream in the Name field if you like. If a person you want to share the stream with doesn’t have an Apple device (and that includes a Mac), enable the Public Website option so that they can view your pictures via a Web browser.
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Last week we took a long look at iPhoto’s interface. Now that we’ve got our bearings, it’s time to use the application for something worthwhile. And what could be more worthwhile than adding images to iPhoto’s library and then viewing them? We’ll start with the traditional method of importing images—connecting your iOS device, camera, or storage media to your computer and copying images between the two.
Stringing you along
Apple tries to make pulling images off your digital camera or iOS device as easy as possible. In the best of all worlds, when you string a USB cable between your Mac and your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or switched-on camera, iPhoto launches and offers to import images from the device. (I’ll provide the gritty details shortly.) I say “best of all worlds” because, while this almost unfailingly occurs when you use an iOS device, it doesn’t work with all cameras.
Viewing your images
Once the images are in iPhoto, you can perform all the magic you’d expect—viewing, editing, and sharing them. For the moment, let’s concentrate on viewing.
To view an image so that it takes up most of the iPhoto window—or the Mac’s screen if you’ve chosen View > Enter Full Screen (Command-Control-F)—just double-click it. Once it has expanded in this way, you can move between images by using the Mac’s left and right arrow keys, clicking the arrow keys at the top of the window, or (if you’re using a trackpad or Magic Mouse) swiping two fingers to the left or right.
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After some 42 lessons, we’ve tackled most of the parts of OS X that are relevant to new Mac users. But, as they say in the late-night-commercial racket, “But wait, there’s more!” And by more, I mean the iLife applications bundled with each new Mac: iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand.
These applications, respectively, help you catalog, edit, and share digital images; capture and edit digital videos; and create and edit musical scores, podcasts, and video soundtracks. Although you may not think of yourself as a photographer, filmmaker, or musician, there’s absolutely no shame in being an enthusiastic dabbler. Your Mac and these applications can make that possible. As almost everyone has some variety of digital camera—whether it’s a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex), a point-and-shoot, or a mobile phone—we’ll start our iLife explorations with iPhoto.
The iPhoto interface
Unlike with most other Apple applications, iPhoto’s toolbar sits at the bottom of the window. It bears a feature for searching your library, controls for increasing or decreasing the size of thumbnails and images in the main viewing window, the Slideshow button that I’ve mentioned, and—in most views—Info, Edit, Create, Add To, and Share items. Let’s run through them.
Search: Click the Search button, and a field appears where you can search for images by title, description, date, keyword, or rating.
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As a newish Mac user, you may wonder what allows your computer to display pictures and play music and movies. Wonder no longer. This bit of media magic is performed by something called QuickTime. Originally developed in 1991 as a multimedia technology that accompanied the System 6 operating system, QuickTime has been built in to every version of the Mac’s operating system since.
Before we take another step, let’s a peer a little more carefully into what QuickTime is and isn’t. As I’ve outlined up to this point, QuickTime is a technology rather than an application. If you think of the Mac OS as a series of blocks, each of which is part of the sturdy wall that is the Macintosh computing experience, QuickTime would be one layer of those blocks. When the operating system needs to play media, it looks to this QuickTime layer to do the job.
However, when you hear people talking about QuickTime on their Mac, they’re invariably speaking of the QuickTime Player application. Before iTunes came along, QuickTime Player is how most people watched movies on their Macs. And that player what we’ll talk about in this lesson.
If you ask old-time Mac users who once edited movies in the earlier QuickTime Player Pro, they’ll tell you that QuickTime Player X’s editing features are pretty weak. (And as one of those old-timers, I agree with them.) But editing isn’t entirely missing from the current version of QuickTime Player.
To begin with, you can trim your movie. This means that you can remove material from the beginning and end of a selected movie (or clip within that movie). This is helpful if you want to remove the two minutes of you begging little Jo-Jo to stop mugging for the camera in the family’s What I Did On Summer Vacation video.
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If you flip back through your course notes, you’ll see that last week we explored using Preview to edit and annotate images. But as I explained in that lesson, Preview has powers beyond images. It’s also Apple’s default PDF reader. And while it’s no substitute for Adobe Acrobat Pro as a PDF document creator and editor, it has some useful talents of its own. We’ll explore those talents now.
Note: Throughout this discussion we’ll be talking about unencrypted PDF files. When dealing with encrypted PDFs, you may not be able to perform some of these tasks.
Navigating and viewing PDFs
Annotating PDF files
In our last lesson I described how to annotate image files—and many of those tools also work with PDF files. You can append rectangles, ovals, lines, arrows, text fields, and word- and thought-bubbles to your PDFs, just as you can images. But Preview provides some additional tools designed specifically with PDFs in mind.
The first is the Markup tool, which you can access most easily by clicking the toolbar button whose icon looks like a highlighter. The icon is appropriate because this tool works almost exactly like a highlighting pen. Just choose a color from the menu and then drag your mouse pointer over the text that you want to highlight. The background immediately around that text will adopt that color, and a new entry will appear in the Highlights & Notes pane. The Markup tool menu also includes Underline and Strikethrough commands, which do what they say. All of these options can be slathered on together. You can highlight a paragraph in purple, choose Underline and drag again to underline the text, and then choose Strikethrough and drag yet again to add strikethrough marks to the text.
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By now you’ve accumulated plenty of documents—music, movie, image, text, and PDF files—and at this point you may want to do something with those files beyond flinging them into folders. One of the best ways to get any such doing done is to double-click them. Try it and their default application opens. In the case of pictures and PDFs, that default application is Apple’s Preview.
As its name implies, Preview is designed to let you view documents. But it doesn’t have mystical all-seeing powers. Rather, it confines its talents to image and PDF files.
Preview’s ability to open image files is very broad. The application supports the major image formats—including those that bear the bmp, gif, jpeg, pict, png, and tiff extensions—as well as rarer file types. And it can export images to most major file types. In addition, you can use Preview to lightly edit these files. For instance, if you need to cut Cousin Jo-Jo out of a photo, you can use the Crop tool to do just that. You can also rotate images, adjust their color and size, annotate them, and select specific portions of them (everyone but Cousin Jo-Jo, for example).
About selection tools
You don’t have to use a rectangular selection tool, however. If you’ve exposed the toolbar, you’ll see five selection tools listed along the top-right of the toolbar: Rectangle, Elliptical, Lasso, Smart Lasso, and Instant Alpha. Elliptical is straightforward—you use this to create an oval or circular selection. (If you wish to force a perfect circle, hold down the Shift key while making your selection.) The other three selection tools require a bit more explanation.
A Lasso selection lets you draw a selection that exactly matches the contours of the object that you wish to select, much as you might trace around the edges of a magazine’s picture with a pencil or pen. But a Lasso selection isn’t complete until the two ends meet; you must end your selection where you began it.
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