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The Ups and Downs of iPhoto on iOS

iPhoto iPad

I’ve been looking for a single app to be the photo editing kit on my iPhone and iPad, and – to my surprise – iPhoto might just be that app. There’s definitely quite a learning curve to iPhoto on iOS, but I really like how the app focuses more on slider controls than quick-fix presets. I don’t have anything against apps like Instagram and PhotoToaster (I think they’re great, actually), but there are just a few too many app candidates out there that are overly eager to head butt me right out of the photo editing process. I appreciate photo apps saving me time and adding pizazz to my pictures in a single tap, but there’s also something refreshing about iPhoto’s take on sliders controls (you can opt to use sliders or gesture right over the photo). The only app that I’ve seen come close to this approach is Snapseed, and Snapseed’s controls are just a little too spread out for me.

As confusing as iPhoto’s control scheme can be, there are some really great portions in the UI. Cropping and straightening work wonderfully and it makes a lot of sense to group these two functions together. iPhoto also makes it very clear which pictures I’ve already edited by adding a small icon to the bottom of an edited thumbnail, as well as adding all edited photos to a special “edited” album within the app.

Then there’s the way that iPhoto shows me all of my Camera Roll and Photo Stream in the context of the photo editor. Most every other photo editing app I’ve used requires me to select photos from tiny thumbnails first and then edit them on a separate screen. iPhoto simplifies this by combining the picture selection screen with the photo editor, and it feels more streamlined for it. Thumbnails can also be resized on the iPad, which is great, since it can be difficult to tell the difference between certain shots when thumbnails are tiny.

Another major reason I’m enjoying iPhoto is the inclusion of brushes (which are actually absent from the desktop version of the app). I love being able to saturate the colour on a very particular portion of a picture and then selectively softening the focus on another.

Direct Camera Roll Access, Please

One of the things I’m really hoping Apple will address in a future update is the way that iPhoto currently accesses the Camera Roll. I appreciate iPhoto’s non-destructive editing capabilities – which allow me to restore the original picture, should I mess up an edit – but there’s a pretty major bug or oversight in the app that simply doesn’t allow for multiple pictures to be exported to the Camera Roll.

This means that the only way to export pictures is one painstaking picture at a time. This would be acceptable if iPhoto was quick to save, but certain edits (especially with brushes) can take nearly 20 seconds to save, and every time a new picture is saved, iPhoto’s own database has to refresh to reflect the newly-added picture. All of this means that there’s simply no way to rapidly edit and export multiple pictures within the app, which is completely ridiculous.

It’s also a little strange that iPhoto can’t delete pictures from the iPhone – only delete them from its own database. This is inconsistent with how iPhoto works on the desktop, where Apple encourages users to make iPhoto the place to view and manage pictures (and even video, to some extent). I think that iPhoto on iOS could only get better if Apple allowed it to replace the Photos app’s spot on the home screen, at least for viewing, editing, and deleting pictures. Deleting pictures from the incredibly basic Photos app is just too roundabout a way of doing things.


I list my set of ups and downs for iPhoto in the hopes that it might help someone else make a decision about whether to use the app, or simply ignore it for something simpler or more streamlined. When I started writing this piece I already had a conclusion in mind: iPhoto is fun, but it’s so strangely (or stupidly) limited in its current design, that you’ll probably spend more time wishing it did a given thing than you will actually using the app.

However, now that I’ve actually written all of this down, I find that iPhoto is still on the first home screen of both my iPhone and my iPad. I’ve clearly got a number of complaints about the app, but there just seems to be something about its all-too-clever interface that has me strangely hooked.

I suppose the up-side to all of this is that if Apple really doesn’t get the big picture after a few months or updates, there are about a billion other photo apps out there that likely will.


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  • yumax

    I see you your pains. I have the same questions with iPhoto. I would also want Apple to make it simpler for me to delete edited photos in the “Edited” album. If I’ve edited it, shared it and saved some in my Camera Roll (one by one, like you), now I want to delete it and empty my “Edited Album”. I don’t want those pics in there anymore, not just hide them, but actually delete and remove them from the album.

  • Kristine

    The other feature – not even in the editing part – is that the photos in the folders are now sorted by date – a feature totally missing from the photo app. This means that I can get rid of PhotoMgrPro, a good app but a REAL memory hog.

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