iPhoto 5 Books

As many of you will already know, I recently came back from a trip to Vietnam. Some will even have seen the pictures. Others, however, do not like looking at pictures on a computer screen and always insist that I get prints. This time I decided to go one better and get a book.

Those still wallowing in the PC world may not be aware of a Macintosh application called iPhoto. It’s a bit like Adobe Photoshop Album if you’re familiar with that. It allows you to catalogue photos, categorise and label them and perform some minor edits such as red-eye removal, cropping and simple colour adjustment, although I normally use Photoshop for this kind of thing. I mention it here as one extra feature that I’ve never used before was its ability to make custom books. I normally use Photobox for my prints but this seemed like a much easier option.

I’m pleased to report that it was simple to do. I selected the book size and template and iPhoto automatically distributed the images in the book. I picked the “Travel” theme which is on the good side of slightly tacky. Then I added and subtracted a few, changed the order and altered the layouts, putting my favourite pictures on their own page and sequences of shots on a spread. I also wrote an introductory text for the first page. They allow the pictures in a variety of formats: a single shot taking the whole page, with borders and a number of different pictures per page. I think I used all of the various formats in the book at some point and they all work well.

It was all drag and drop (except for the typing!), just working as you’d expect with no need for a manual or even the on-line help. The first surprise was when I tried to order it. Firstly there were more pages than the default. It must have automatically created enough pages to show all the pictures, which is fair enough but I was a little shocked when I saw a higher price than I was expecting. And secondly I found that I had to enable One-Click ordering. I don’t like to have that switched on normally ? I like to be inconvenienced a little when there’s impulse buying ? to be done!

It took about a week to be delivered. First impressions are good, it is well packaged, appears to be nicely bound, and the cover has a hole in it revealing the title page. In my case this is a slightly Photoshopped sign I took (“Welcome to Vietnam”) and a small picture of myself. Opening up the book I find the introduction text. It’s clear and sharp, unlike my writing, but I note that they’ve not changed the quotes into “smart quotes,” which is a little un-Apple-like in the sense that it’s a small addition that would make it look that little bit more professional.

I confess that my most serious criticism is one that most people slowly nod their head and agree to in a patronising and not entirely convincing manner. Despite the gorgeous presentation, I feel that the image quality is not especially good. It’s not shockingly bad ? as we can see from the response of other people to my comment ? but it lacks adequate resolution and looks to be dithered. The colours also appear to be aiming for saturation at the expense of realism although this may, to some extent, be affected by the resolution.

In Apple’s defence I would say that they have a difficult balance to strike. Even at the resolution they used the book, which included just over forty images, was in excess of a 20Mb upload which takes some time even on my ADSL link. By contrast prints I get individually are normally between two and four megabytes each. Plus this is their consumer application. Maybe Aperture or iPhoto6 performs better in this regard?

But overall I am impressed. The book was quick and easy to create, the order was processed and delivered reasonably quickly and the quality is more than adequate for its intended audience. A definite thumbs up and I am very likely to do the same thing again next time I return from a holiday.