Mastering albums in iPhoto for iOS

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If you’ve spent any time with iPhoto for iOS, you’ve probably accumulated a few albums on your library shelves. Chances are good you didn’t try to create any of them. They just started showing up, and in a variety of colors at that.

There’s actually a method to this madness. And once you figure it out, those various albums can actually help you manage the pictures inside. To take full advantage of this, it’s best to first familiarize yourself with a couple of iPhoto’s tagging tools, then learn the logic behind its album creation and organization.

Photo tags and albums

Image tags are directly linked to two types of albums in iPhoto: Flagged and Favorites.

When viewing an image in iPhoto, you can Flag it or mark it as a Favorite. Reveal these options by browsing the photo and tapping the Edit button in the upper right corner. Up springs a tool bar at the bottom of the window. If you tap the flag once, the image will get marked. If you hold your finger on the flag icon, more options are revealed, such as Flag All, Last 24 Hours, and more.

If you tap on the ribbon icon, you’ve marked the picture as a Favorite. Tap on the icon again to remove the denotation. Keep in mind that you can use Flags and Favorites for any type of sorting. They are merely a way to help you organize your library.

Images can appear in multiple albums. So consider these techniques as organizational tools, not necessarily image residencies. To get a feel for this organization, let’s walk though the process where albums begin to appear on your library shelf.

Blue albums

When you first start using iPhoto, you’ll most likely only see blue albums. They are created by iPhoto and include images from your Camera Roll, Photo Stream, and imported images, such as via the Camera Connection Kit.

When you first start working in iPhoto, this might be all you see on your library shelves.

At first, blue albums will reside at the top of the shelf, in alphabetical order. Once you start working on individual images in iPhoto, the application will then create a new tan album titled, Edited, and position it in the upper left side of the top shelf, pushing the blue albums to the right.

You don’t have much control over blue albums. They can’t be moved around, nor can you choose the key photo for their covers. The Camera Roll displays the last image as the key photo, and Photo Stream shows the first picture.

Tan albums

Once you’ve tagged an image by using one of the organizational tools, or by applying image edits, iPhoto will create a tan colored album to contain those pictures. That collection now goes to the top of the shelf. There are three types of tan albums: Edited, Flagged, and Favorites. Any image that you’ve altered in iPhoto will be stored in the Edited album. That includes adding a caption to it. Flagged and Favorites get there own books too.

Once you edit an picture, iPhoto creates a tan album and puts it on the top shelf of the library.

So if you’re pulling together a collection of portraits from your camera roll, you can flag them and they will automatically appear in their own tan album. (An easy way to flag multiple images is to hold your finger down on the flag icon, tap on Choose, then tap all of the thumbnails you want to tag. Tap Done when finished.)

Another tan album called Photo Box gets created only when you change your mind about an edit. Say you remove a photo’s edits, caption, favorite tag, or delete the photo from a journal, iPhoto moves the photo to the Photo Box album.

Gray albums

If you want to take control and create an album composed of shots that you choose, gray is the assigned color. There are two basic ways to create gray albums: Build an album in iPhoto or Aperture, and then sync it with the iPad via iTunes (more on that soon); or create an album in the Photos app on the iPad.

If you create your own albums in the Photos app, or sync with Aperture or iPhoto on the Mac, you can have gray albums too.

Let’s start with creating an album on the iPad itself. Tap on the Photos tab in the Photos app. (That’s right, the Photos App. You have to go outside iPhoto for a minute to get this done.) Then tap on the Share icon in the upper right corner. Tap on the images that you want to collect. A blue checkmark will appear on the thumbnails that you’ve selected. Tap on the Add To button, then tap on the Add to New Album popup. Enter the name of the new album and tap Save. The Photos app will then take you to the Albums view that includes your new collection. Now leave the Photos app and launch iPhoto. Lo and behold, the album you just created in Photos appears trimmed in gray on your library shelf in iPhoto.

And since it’s a gray album, you get to choose the key photo. Open the album and tap on the image you want featured. If you're not already in Edit mode, tap the Edit button. Then tap on the gear icon in the lower right corner and select Set as Key Photo. Now, when you go back to the library shelf, your selected image with grace the cover of the gray album.

Syncing with Aperture or iPhoto

If you have images in iPhoto or Aperture that you’d like to reside on your iPad, you can make that connection through iTunes. Here’s how you do it.

1. Create an album in iPhoto or Aperture with the images you want.

2. Open iTunes and select your iPad from the Devices list in the left column. If you’re using WiFi syncing, the iPad will be there. Otherwise connect the device via its USB cord.

3. Click on the Photos tab and check the box: Sync Photos from (Aperture or iPhoto).

4. Click the radio button: Selected albums, Events, and Faces… and no Events from the pop-up menu.

5. Check the Album(s) that you want to sync.

6. Click the Apply button.

Your images from the Mac will now appear in two places on the iPad. They will appear under the Albums tab in your Photos app, and you’ll see them on the Library shelf as a gray album in iPhoto. You can add multiple albums from your Mac to iPhoto for iOS in this manner.

iTunes on your Mac facilitates album syncing between Aperture and iPhoto and your iPad.

If you decide that you want to remove an album, but retain a photo or two from it, just make some sort of image edit to the shots you want to keep on the iPad. This could be something as simple as adding a caption. Once you do so, the picture will also live in the tan Edited album, even after you’ve disconnected the source album from your iPad.

By no means is iPhoto for iOS as powerful as Aperture for the Mac. But, by mastering these few simple techniques, you can bring a semblance of image organization to your iPad.

[Senior Contributor Derrick Story teaches digital photography on and runs a virtual camera club at The Digital Story.]

This story, "Mastering albums in iPhoto for iOS" was originally published by Macworld.

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