Today I got my copy of iLife ’09 and installed it. I’ll start playing around with iMovie and iDVD eventually, I’m sure my older son will get interested in those programs and in GarageBand and iWeb, but my immediate interest was in iPhoto. So far it’s been a series of disappointments.

I’ve never been a big fan of iPhoto and still won’t use it with the photos I take for work—they need a specific type of project-based organization and separation that iPhoto will never provide—but I have started using it for my personal photos. I’ve been using whatever version came with my Intel iMac a couple of years ago, and wanted to upgrade to iPhoto ’09 for four reasons:

  1. Geotagging my photos with Places. I don’t have a GPS-equipped camera, but I like the idea of having the location of the photo attached to it, even if I have to do it “by hand.”
  2. Handling RAW images. My camera does have the ability to shoot RAW, and there are times when I’d like to make use of that.
  3. Uploading directly from iPhoto to Flickr. The uploader program from Flickr is kind of clunky.
  4. Straightening photos without using an external editor. I have a tendency to tilt the camera a bit when composing a shot, and I’d like to correct for that within iPhoto itself. My older version couldn’t do that.

I haven’t tried anything with RAW images yet. The straightening function seems to work very smoothly. As for geotagging and Flickr uploading, they’ve been a real disappointment. Geotagging by hand simply doesn’t work, and Flickr support is sort of half-assed by design.

Let’s start with Flickr, because it’s easier to explain. When you choose some photos and click on the Flickr button, this sheet pops out of the titlebar:

The first problem is that the name of the photo I’m uploading isn’t “Dec 23, 2008”—that’s the date on which it was taken. So the heading at the top of the sheet is misleading. More important, though, is that iPhoto is going to create a new Flickr set to put the uploaded photo into. There’s no opportunity for me to select an existing set. If I want the picture in an existing set—or a new set with a name other than “Dec 23, 2008”—I’ll have to go to my Flickr Organizr and do all that manually. Same for adding photos to groups. This is really annoying, as it makes it seem like you’re doing everything twice.

iPhoto does upload its metadata—title, keywords (tags), description—to Flickr, but there are some downsides to that. You can’t, for example, use different tags for iPhoto than you use for Flickr, because iPhoto establishes a permanent two-way connection between the two. This automatic syncing may be just what you want, but there are situations where you’d probably want different tags. Pictures of your kids, for example, would probably be tagged with their names in your personal iPhoto library, but you may prefer a more generic “kids” tag on a public site.

Frazier Spears discussed these shortcomings and others in a blog post written shortly after iPhoto ’09 came out. I saw links to the post back then but didn’t think to check it out when I was making the decision to buy iLife ’09. Spears is the developer of FlickrExport, an iPhoto plugin that does exactly what you’d think. It’s true that he’s hardly a disinterested party, but it’s also true that he’s spent a lot of time thinking about how Flickr exporting should be done. His appraisal of iPhoto’s Flickr uploader seems pretty fair to me.

The problem with geotagging is worse, but it seems to be due to a bug, not a design decision. When you try to set the location of an image through the Add New Place map, you cannot scroll the map to the right spot by dragging it around.

Instead of scrolling, the tiles of the map turn to ghost images as you click and drag them. It’s reminiscent of the way images on a web page become ghost-like as you drag them out of Safari and onto the Desktop.

Apparently that resemblance is not a coincidence. In this thread on Apple’s discussion site, several people have mentioned this problem and said it only arose after they upgraded to Safari 4—before that, the maps could be dragged just they can in Google Maps. At first, you may think that a web browser upgrade would have nothing to do with iPhoto, but I think the connection is reasonable. Much of the Safari upgrade consists of changes to the underlying WebKit infrastructure, an infrastructure that many applications use. OmniFocus had some problems during the Safari 4 beta phase. It only makes sense that iPhoto would be using WebKit to access and display data from Google Maps.

The most important thing I got from the Apple discussion thread is that I wasn’t nuts. The map is supposed to be draggable and in fact was draggable until recently for all those people.

Almost everyone on the thread has filed a bug report. I filed one myself this evening. It would be nice if Apple came out and told us if this really is related to Safari and when we can expect—ah hahahahahahahahahaha heeheeeheeheeee hohohohohoho haaaaa hahahahahahaha, oh man, I kill me sometimes. Anyway, maybe we’ll get one of those “assorted bug fixes and feature enhancements” updates and the problem will go away.

Update 6/17/09
Apparently I have more influence at Apple than I thought. Just one day later, Apple has issued Safari update 4.0.1, which “addresses incompatibilities between Safari 4.0 and certain features in iPhoto ’09, including Places and Facebook publishing.”1 I don’t know anything about the Facebook publishing part, but the Places problem is gone. The map can now be scrolled by clicking and dragging and you can set a photo’s location to wherever you want.

I must learn to harness this newfound power and ensure that it is used for good rather than evil.


  1. I even shamed them into giving a proper description of the fix instead of the usual mumblemumble.