A Workflow Process Review for iPhoto 08. Part II: Photo Comparisons.


In the previous installment we went through a new Event of photos to delete the bad ones, rate the better ones, hide the questionable ones, and leave the rest alone. Then we assigned keywords to them.Now we’ll move to the more “fun” stuff. That is, we’re going to compare the rated photos and pick out the cream of the crop for further enhancing.

Before we compare the photos it will help to isolate them. Since they’re already in the same event and have one star assigned, this will be easy. Open the Event in iPhoto, and in the control bar at the bottom of the window click the Find icon to select Rating:


Then click the first dot in the find control to select one star:


Now only photos in the Event with at least one star are displayed, so you’re ready to compare them. The assumption is that some photos are of the same subject, pose, etc., and are similar. You’re looking for the “best” of each batch of similar photos. You might be looking for just one photo, or several, but in either case you’re looking for the best of those selected in the initial review performed in the first article.

The ideal way to compare photos is in full screen mode, and there are a couple of options. Which you use depends primarily on how many photos you have for comparison.

Comparing up to eight photos.

In iPhoto you can show up to eight photos at once in full screen mode. If you’re comparing eight photos or less you can just throw them all on the screen at once and pick the best. I have a 24″ monitor, but feel that eight at a time is pushing it, so I tend to limit this method to six.

In the photo at the top of the article you see where I had five photos to compare. To do this simply enter full screen mode (Cmd-Opt-F), click one of them in the photo strip, and then shift- or command-click the others. (You could also just select all five in the Event viewer before entering full screen mode.) Notice in the strip the photos are displayed with a lighter background. Notice also the yellow border photo in the strip corresponds to the white border photo on the screen. In this way you always know which photo is the “active” one.

compare_few_ii_1.jpgWhen you decide to eliminate a photo from contention, click it so that it has the white border, then click the X in the corner. It closes, and the remaining photos re-size to give you a better view (right). Just repeat the process until you have a “winner”, then give it two stars (Cmd-2). Actually, how many stars you use is up to you, I just go to two at this point.

Even as you “eliminate” a photo you may believe it’s still better than some of the one-star photos, so give it two stars before you close it (your “winner” would get three). It’s all up to you. In my case, with only five photos I can pick a winner without any alternates.

Comparing many photos.

What if you have more than a few photos to compare? What if you have, say, 40? Well, you could do five batches of eight and then compare the five “winners” in a final round, but how do you know a “winner” in one round wouldn’t have lost in another? You’d need to perform several rounds of comparisons, keeping close track along the way. I believe if you have a lot of photos to compare you’re better doing them side by side, picking the best of a direct comparison and moving forward from there.

compare_many_1.jpgTo do this, enter full screen mode and click on the first two photos to compare (left). Again, the strip’s light background shows which photos are displayed, and the yellow/white borders show which is “active”. The white border isn’t just to remove a photo from contention, it also allows you to swap the photo for another one. Let’s say I prefer the photo on the right, I select the one on the left and hit the arrow key. The next photo in line now displays for comparison. If I still like the right one best, I hit the arrow key again. At some point I may like the photo on the left best, so I select the one on the right and hit the arrow key. In this manner I’m always comparing a new photo with the “best” one of the bunch so far. Continue until all the photos have been viewed.

As with comparing a few photos, don’t feel you only need one “winner”. If you think a photo you’re passing on is still special, give it more stars before hitting the arrow key. Remember the photo in the white border is active, so hitting Cmd-2 would assign it two stars. Save three for your winner. You may even choose to give all “close” pictures two stars, and then perform a close up comparison of them to assign your “winner.”

Close up (zoomed) comparison.

Another thing to consider when comparing photos is that If you’ve narrowed it down to several potential candidates, you may want to compare the photos zoomed for detail. iPhoto lacks Aperture’s feature to “synch” zoomed photos, but can still do easy zoomed comparisons.

zoom_1_1.jpgLet’s say I had the four “finalists” depicted at right. To compare them with more detail I zoom in using a quick shortcut. Position the pointer over where you want the zoom to occur, and hit 1. You’ll get 100% zoom focused at the pointer. Select the next photo (i.e., make it active) and do the same. You can quickly zoom all four photos a lot faster than I can type this sentence.

zoom_2_1.jpgThe zoom gives you great detail (left). To scroll around a photo, move the navigation box at the middle bottom of the screen, or hold down the space bar (pointer will change to a hand) and drag, or roll the scroll ball of your mouse. I have a Mighty Mouse and its 360 degree scroll ball works perfectly for this. A quick click and roll on each photo is all it takes to compare similar sections. Finally, if 100% is not enough, you can hit 2 for a 200% zoom. With such detailed views side by side, you can easily pick a “winner”.

You now have at least one photo (maybe more) of each subject, pose, etc. identified as “best”, and assigned multiple stars. Now you can utilize iPhoto’s editing techniques to enhance the photos based on your planned usage.