iPhoto 2: The Missing Manual
Posted: 25-Jul-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly

A

Reviewer: Diane Love $24.95


iPhoto 2: The Missing Manual

By David Pogue, Joseph Schorr and Derrick Story
1st Edition May 2003
0-596-00506-7
336 pages, $24.95 US

What the Book is About
iPhoto is to photographs as iTunes is to mp3 files. I've used iTunes extensively and found it to be perfectly usable without any manual. Isn't iPhoto going to be just as reliable and easy to use?

Well, there are some essential differences between photos and mp3 files:
  1. you are unlikely to be the original artist of your mp3 files but you are most likely the creator of your photos, and if you lose them, they're gone forever; backing up and library management are very important for photos;
  2. you play one mp3 file at a time but can display multiple photos at a time - performance optimization is more of an issue for photos;
  3. unless you are the original artist, you are unlikely to edit your mp3 files and you have limited publishing options; but you are very likely to edit your photos and you have very many methods of publishing them.

iPhoto 2: The Missing Manual sets out to address these issues and more within the following major sections:
Part One: Digital Cameras: The Missing Manual
Part Two: iPhoto Basics
Part Three: Meet Your Public
Part Four: iPhoto Stunts
Part Five: Appendixes

Target Audience
Part One of the book would help someone who has not yet bought a digital camera. It would also help a novice photographer to learn more advanced techniques. I don't think it covers the essentials of exposure for a complete beginner.

Given the expertise of the authors, this section may also be interesting for someone with more knowledge of photography, and of today's digital cameras.

However, the majority of the book is suitable for everyone who uses iPhoto.

What to Expect
Part One starts by evaluating all the features of digital cameras, explaining the costs and benefits of different resolutions, flash media types, batteries and so forth. It then proceeds to a brief discussion of improving composition before launching into about 40 pages devoted to techniques that are "beyond the simple snapshot".

These chapters are impressively thorough and up to date. Disappointingly, the example photos are all in black and white - when discussing exposure, the before and after shots look pretty much the same.

Part 2 starts by building your mental model of how iPhoto stores your photos. It then goes on to explain how to use the organizational features such as Titles, Albums and Keywords, as well as iPhoto's limited editing capabilities. iPhoto offers many choices; the authors evaluate those choices and offer their preferred methods to improve your effectiveness and efficiency. As with other Missing Manuals, they also seek to drill you in the most important key combinations rather than merely listing all of them.

Part 3 covers all the ways you can use iPhoto to share your pictures with family and friends, (such as slideshows, prints from your printer or online, email, printing your own book, Quicktime and DVD) again exploring all the details of the options you face.

Part 4 cover Screen Savers, Desktop Pictures, Applescript and File Management. There is also coverage of the export feature and exporting to a Palm PDA. The most vital topic is the File Management chapter since it explains how to maintain iPhoto libraries so that they can be backed up to optical media, and how and why to work with multiple libraries rather than one big one. It also covers setting up a single library to be accessible to multiple user accounts. While I had arrived at a solution for this myself, I was informed that my chosen method was the "geek's way" and there was a (slightly) less geeky alternative.

Part 5 contains Appendixes on Troubleshooting, Menus and "Where to Go from Here." The Troubleshooting section is almost worth reading before anything else since it builds understanding of the program. The Menus section is much more than a simple list of menu commands, as it explains many detailed aspects of their use. The "Where to Go from Here" section restricts itself to web resources and does not discuss more advanced digital photography applications.

Highlights
One of the immediate benefits of this book is its coverage of everything you can do to optimize iPhoto's performance. On a 500MHZ iBook with a CD-sized library, this made the difference between iPhoto being usable and merely spinning the beachball every time I clicked on anything.

The book offers a comprehensive approach to methods of using multiple libraries. There are some impressively devious ideas in here!.

Further highlights include the discussions of scripting, hacking the book page formats and shareware you can use to get more variety in the print formats.

Mac Guild Grade
A (Outstanding)

Final Words
This book is extremely useful for any iPhoto user. It could be improved by color printing for the photo examples. It would be great if the whole topic of color management had also been covered, although this is arguably outside the scope of the book.

Finally, if you buy this book and like the authors enough to rush out to buy the rest of their published works, think twice about the Digital Photography Pocket Guide - it seems to overlap Part One of iPhoto 2: The Missing Manual. Perhaps the authors didn't want non-Mac people to miss out on their general photography advice.