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Five favorite things about Apple's iPhoto and iMovie for iOS

March 12, 2013|By Chris O'Brien
  • Apple's iPhoto app lets you create Journals that it hosts online.
Apple's iPhoto app lets you create Journals that it hosts online. (Chris O'Brien )

A few weeks back while speaking at a technology conference, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook stressed that what made Apple superior was not just great gadgets. No, the real advantage was its ability to make it all: hardware, software and services. 

"Apple is in a fairly unique and, in my view, unrivaled position because Apple has skills in software, in hardware, and in services," Cook said in February. "The reality is that the model that grew the PC industry, where someone specialized in one thing, that model is not working for what consumers want today."

That made me realize that as essential as this whole ecosystem seems to be to Apple, I hadn't really gotten around to using two of the more popular pieces: iMovie and iPhoto for iOS. The latest versions actually came out last year, but when it comes to editing video and photos, I default back to my MacBook. I was going with the conventional wisdom that mobile platforms are good for consuming stuff, but not really great for content creation and editing. 

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So I finally downloaded both apps for the iPad and iPhone a few weeks ago and have to admit that my basic assumptions were wrong. Both are incredibly useful for editing that goes beyond just simple stuff. And in fact, one could argue that the mobile version of iPhone might in fact be better than the desktop. Even though iMovie is pretty darn close, for heavy editing and longer videos, the MacBook still gets the nod. 

I'm not going to do a full on review of both. Instead, here are my five favorite things about iPhoto and iMovie for iOS that I've found myself using consistently since installing them: 

1. iPhoto editing tools: 

When it comes to editing photos, I've always felt that iPhoto on the Mac was fine. So I was surprised to find that there are a much richer set of tools to edit and fix photos on the iPhone and iPad version. They are quick and easy to use. This matters because as the camera continues to improve, there still basic things that are hard to adjust for, like lighting. 

Here's a basic example. On the right is a photo taken with my iPhone 5 with backlighting obscuring the subject's face. I opened the photo in iPhoto, touched the tool box, then the brushes button, which provides  a range of options, including "lighten." I tapped this one, then just rubbed my finger across the screen several times to transform the photo on the left. Now I can see her face. This little trick has probably already salvaged a couple of dozen photos and takes only about 30 seconds. (And yes, I'm not claiming my photo skills rival Ansel Adams'.)


2. Journals

This was a new one for me. The iPhoto app offers a way to publish your photos called "Journals." I'd played with various publishing tools on iPhoto on the MacBook to create slide shows, albums and even created photo albums to be printed and given as gifts. 

But on the iPad or the iPhone, you have the option to create journals. Basically, you select a group of photos and name the journal. Then you can add notes, text or a widget that checks the date and location of the photo and tells you what the weather was that day. It will also create a map. See below: 


 You can slide the photos around to adjust the grouping and size. 


Once you're done, you publish it to the Web if you've activated your iCloud account. Apple then creates a Web page at where you can share it. Mine is here

One quibble: When I log into my iCloud account, I wish I could see a list of the journals I've created.

3. Cards

From the iPhoto app, you also have the option of sending any photo as a card. For this, you also have to download Apple's free "Card" app. Select a photo and then publish as a card. This will open the Card app where you select from different card templates. Fill out the address, write a message and then Apple will send it for you, though it costs $2.99 per card. 

4. iMovie: Fast editing

I shot this video entirely on the iPhone 5 and edited most of it there using iMovie. Once I had the footage, it was fairly easy to make cuts on the timeline using a few simple swipes, then add the text on the screen. The trickiest part was moving it to my iPad, where I keep copies of the credits you see at the beginning and the end. I did that through Dropbox, and eventually got it moved over. But even though the video is short, it still put me over the storage limit on by iPad2 (16GB). So I had to turn off my Photo Stream, delete a couple of apps to make some room. I'm sure there's a better workaround. This is the main reason I would say for anything longer, you might still need to go back to the MacBook for serious editing. 

But otherwise, I was quite pleased with the way it turned out:

5. Trailers

Finally, this last one is a bit of goofy fun. The iMovie apps come with a feature called "Trailers," which my kids loved. Basically, these are a few preset templates allowing photos and videos to be made into movie trailers. You can edit the text and then tap to fill in certain slots that suggest the type of content that fits best (i.e., "action shot," "group shot," "close up."). 

Here's one my kids helped me make. (And yes, the third "friend" is an American Girl Doll. What are you going to do?)


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Follow me on Twitter @obrien.

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