Unveiled at Apple’s new iPad event in San Francisco on Wednesday, iPhoto – the last of Apple’s iLife suite of user-friendly creative apps to be ported to iOS – is nothing short of brilliant. It’s not Photoshop (Apple has Aperture to compete with other robust desktop clients), but it’s exactly what it ought to be: A remarkably powerful photo touch-up and sharing app that makes the most of iOS gestures and the touchscreen interface. On iPhone it looks sharp and on iPad it gleams.
From launch, the app looks fantastic. All your photo albums are imported, including those from your PhotoStream, and they are arranged into sweet-looking albums on shelves.
Editing individual images is super simple. Select a photo and use the tools from the bottom toolbar to crop and straighten by hand or dial, adjust white balance with a slider, and set color and tone with swipes. Your original image is never altered so you can experiment.
Also in that toolbar is one of the two standout features. We expect photo editors to fix red-eye, saturation, and to lighten, darken, smooth or sharpen, but iPhoto allows you to apply these corrections with brushes. This lets you fix one area of a photograph without changing anything else in an organic and utterly non-technical way.
No good image editor is complete without effects. Apple included a swatch book that offers six sets from black-and-white to vintage to artistic. Sliders control these too, so rather than simply choosing to add warmth, you can watch incremental changes made to the image and stop when you find the desired effect.
My favorite features are those for organizing dozens or even hundreds of images from one event. iPhoto recognizes key elements in a photo, a face for example, and finds similar pictures. The app then allows you to compare each of these shots together so you can select the very best.
iPhoto works with iCloud and AirPlay so slideshows can be seen on a TV, and since the app was designed for the new iPad, the output quality is superb. Another nice touch is photo beaming. You no longer have to rely on PhotoStream or Dropbox for photo imports. Photos taken on any iOS device can be zapped right to iPhoto instantly.
The last facet of this gem is the new Photo Journal creator. The new iPad is aimed at content creators and these easy-to-build super-collages include widgets for maps, calendars, even weather displays that show the conditions where you were at the time. You can share the journal with anyone online as iPhoto provides a dedicated URL for each. And, while Apple’s camera apps only integrate with email and Twitter, iPhoto also supports uploads to Facebook and Flickr.
iPhoto will not replace a desktop, or even a mobile, professional photo-editing suite. But for any level of photographer it makes sorting, organizing, touch-ups and sharing easy and entirely too much fun. At $4.99 it’s a steal. iPhoto just works.