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Make the most of iPhoto for the iPad

Learn the secrets of iPhoto

As recently featured in iPad & iPhone User, we have a series of seven tutorials covering different aspects of iPhoto for the iPhone and iPad. This superb app will make editing your photos a dream.

1. Master Crop and Rotate

For such a simple tool - little more than a digital set of shears - it's surprising how completely cropping can change a photo: it can dramatically shift the focal point and eliminate extraneous details. Even a subtle crop can be a vast improvement, creating a more interesting, dynamic composition.

iPhoto's Cropping menu makes adjusting the framing of photos easy, with a selection of tools for rotating and trimming images, and an intuitive pinch-and-swipe gesture for resizing, rotating and positioning your image within the frame. Meanwhile, a library of standard image proportions enables speedy cropping.

Perhaps the neatest trick of all is the ability to rotate an image by simply tilting the iPad - although it's hard to imagine doing this on an everyday basis, it's still a quirky, fun way of carrying out an image edit.

2. Alter your photos exposure

Exposure offers you a way to enhance even the most humdrum of photos, and if you're aiming for polished images it's an indispensable adjustment. It gives you a level of control over the lighting, helping you to even out photos taken in gloomy or overly bright conditions. It's not a magic bullet - fiddling with the exposure controls won't save photos taken in truly dire conditions - but it can certainly help with most images.

iPhoto's exposure controls are designed with simplicity in mind. While it lacks some of the more sophisticated exposure controls you'll find in full-blown image-editing tools, such as Photoshop's Gamma adjustments, what it does offer is a set of slick, easily controlled tools that allow you to see the impact of your changes as you make them, with an emphasis on subtle results. It's very well designed for the touchscreen interface, offering a high degree of control over the modifications.

3. Manipulate colour balance

The artist's palette icon in iPhoto holds a selection of powerful tools for improving the colour and white balance in your photos.

The colour controls allow you to bolster certain tones or ramp up the colour as a whole, so you can make a blue sky stand out more, bring out the best in skin tones or simply create a more intense look by raising the overall saturation. You can also reduce the colour for a more washed-out feel. Meanwhile, the white balance controls offer a range of presets to help correct for all sorts of lighting conditions.

Used in conjunction with the Exposure tools, these controls can completely transform photos and atone for a multitude of in-camera sins: when used judiciously they can elevate even flat, washed-out photos into something much more presentable.

4. Retouch images

Brushes, iPhoto's retouching toolkit, allows you to paint effects directly on to specific areas of your photos. It won't let you introduce new elements, but instead it enables you to deepen shadows, sharpen edges or pick out details to get your photography picture perfect.

We like Brushes best when used at a fairly low intensity: we've found that when they are turned up to maximum strength, the results quickly look artificial and it becomes obvious that an image has been doctored. It also has to be said that some effects are more effective than others: although theRed-Eye brush is straightforward and self-explanatory, we found its results were patchy and sometimes verged on the bizarre. Similarly, the Repair brush, which appears to be heaven-sent for removing unwanted elements, is far from fail-safe: when used for larger areas, it led to visible blurs on the photos.

Still, this is a powerful toolset which, when used with care and restraint, allows you to bring out the very best in your photos, whether they are arty images or casual snapshots.

5. Get the look with iPhoto effects

You could say the Effects palette is iPhoto's equivalent of the dressing-up box: a cursory rummage reveals options for creating arty black-and-white looks, those Lomography-inspired hipster-ish styles that are so popular with Instagram aficionados, or adorable toytown-seeming tilt-shift effects. You can also mimic the effect of analogue photography by adding grain, or take things truly retro with vignettes.

But Effects isn't all about mimicking the photographic tropes of bygone eras: there are also options that offer real potential for transforming run-of-the-mill photographs into something far more striking through subtle colour modifications. And the results you'll find here will give anything you can find in the Color Balance palette a run for its money.

And while the options don't approach the sophistication of what you can achieve with Photoshop, there's enough choice here to give even quite demanding amateur photographers the power to jazz up their photos. Best of all, Effects are incredibly simple and quick to apply.

6. Get your photos organised

Digital photography is brilliant: it allows you to snap away to your heart's content, taking many hundreds of photos rather than carefully pondering every shot. The downside is that this quickly leads to a large and unwieldy photo collection, with the good photos languishing alongside their more ordinary siblings.

Any useful photo app offers you ways to sort your images in some way, but iPhoto distinguishes itself by being so slick and speedy.

The Flag and Favourites options are a stripped-down way of sorting the wheat from the digital chaff, while the Journals feature offers more traditional album-creation features and social tools. This very simplicity means you're more likely to actually use them.

Handy as the Flag and Favourites features are, they are not entirely intuitive: while the basics are easy enough, some of the more advanced tricks are a little more fiddly - although if you can master them they'll make organising your photos even easier as your image collection grows.

7. Share your masterpieces with the world

Once you've lovingly polished your photos to perfection using iPhoto's image editing tools, you'll want to show them off. And whether you're uploading party shots to Facebook, displaying your arty images on Flickr or sharing photos from a family barbecue with relatives, iPhoto offers quick ways to handle the task.

It even offers slideshow options for displaying your adventures on your TV or iPad as a less-than-subtle way of awing your dinner party guests, and a way of beaming photos wirelessly to other devices you've paired with your iPad.

As with so many iPhoto features, these exporting and sharing tools fall some way short of being fully intuitive - getting familiar with them is just slightly more fiddly than you might expect given Apple's mastery of the user interface in other apps and devices. Once you've got the hang of them, though, you'll find a quick and powerful set of features that make light work of batch-handling your photos and sharing them with ease.


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