Review of Apple's iPhoto Books

Apple – iLife – iPhoto – Books
Background. I had been seeing the ads for Apple’s new iPhoto books and figured they were worth a look-see. My son was about to turn one and I thought it would be nice to have a book printed with pictures of his first year. Also, since the prices were affordable, I decided to have two 6×8 softcover books printed for the grandparents.

Prices. The hardcover book had 38 pages and cost about $50 while the two 6×8 softcover books were 20 pages and cost $10 each. In addition to the printing fee, I needed to upgrade to iPhoto 5 (only available as packaged with iLife), which cost $79.

First impression. I like the idea of these photo books. If you already use iPhoto, then all you do is create a book with an album in iPhoto, organize the pages, add text to some pages (optional), send it to Apple and within two weeks you have your book.

Creating the book. The interface in iPhoto is easy to use, but somewhat limited. You are presented with the option of several themes, all of which have different page types. Once you choose a theme, you can either have iPhoto populate the album for you or you can do it manually. I recommend the manual process because a lot of times you will want to group specific images together.

I have two complaints about the interface.

  1. The number of page layout options is limited. For example, you choose how many pictures you want on a page and then the layout of that page. If you choose to have 6 imaeges, you get just a couple of layout options for those six images and are not allowed to configure your own layout.
  2. It’s not really easy to crop an image to fit within an image placeholder. If you have an image that is horizontal and you want to put it in a verticle box, there are no options in iPhoto for you to choose how that image is cropped to fit the format of the box. The only option you have is to crop the actual image in your album, but that affects the actual image as opposed to just how it is used within the book.

Quality. This is where I really have my problems with these books. The quality is probably good enough for the average consumer, but for me as a photographer, it’s not quite good enough.

I think that the photos are compressed before they are sent to Apple. This is probably done to save on upload time and because iPhoto knows how big the photos are going to be printed and compresses them to be as small as possible and still print well. If this is the case, then I have a problem with this because you’re already dealing with a compressed image and if iPhoto compresses it again, you have a real chance of losing quality. I have emailed Apple about my concerns and will update this section when I found out for sure what’s happening.

Rating. If I had to give a rating, I would say 7 out of 10. As a professional photographer, I can’t say that I’ll be using this service a lot, but for the average consumer, the quality is probably good enough and by limiting the album options, Apple makes the process of creating a book easy and affordable.

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