iPhoto '11 Calendars, a Review

Last October, Apple held the “Back to The Mac” event and announced a new version of iPhoto — among other things like new iMovie, Mac App Store and MacBook Air but it was the iPhoto announcement that caught my attention.

Apple introduced a new interface for creating Books, Calendars and Cards in iPhoto ‘11. The new interface looked a lot better than the old one, both in appearance and function so I was keen to try it out.

Just as a side note, this is how I recall the iPhoto demo at “Back to The Mac”.

“We’ve got this amazing new interface for iPhoto, oh my god it’s sooo good. It’s crammed full of multitouch awesomeness and look at that, when you swipe it turns around! Oh and it’s smart, iPhoto uses magic to organise the photos for you! You don’t have to do any work, just click “Buy Book” and you’re done. It’s that easy. Did I mention it looks amazing? Isn’t this sexy? I just want to go to bed with it and lick it. Mmm, so tasty.”

And this is how Phil Schiller actually demoed iPhoto ‘11 — trimmed down of course.

“And what if I want to create one of these great new books that you just heard about? … Well now I just click “Create”, select “Book” … this [full screen view] is the Carousel. … I can pick a theme for my book but before I [choose a theme] [the] photos are already laid out in the book … Now when I click create, iPhoto has made that book for me, … and I can go and edit it. But before I do that I’ll point out a few of the really intelligent things iPhoto’s done. … [iPhoto has] used my key photo for the album as the cover, … It also uses ratings, if I rated a photo highly … those will be the photos [used] for the bigger spreads … And when I’m done I click “Buy Book” … It’s that easy to make a book.”

So yeah, that’s the Reality Distortion Field at work right there.

Anyway, after that mind blowing demo I decided to create something in iPhoto, either a Book or a Calendar. In the end I settled on a Calendar because it was nearly 2011 and I though a calendar would be easier to make — all I needed was a minimum of twelve photos, easy as. So what follows is an overview of what it’s like to make a calendar in iPhoto.

Multitouch Awesomeness

First up when creating a Calendar in iPhoto ‘11 is a new interface for picking themes called Carousel. It’s essentially eye candy, I think the Cover Flow guy had some spare time between picking his nose and doing nothing.

That being said, it’s actually a good interface. It’s easy to compare themes because they’re all next to each other. Underneath the carousel is a small preview of the photo layouts the selected theme uses.

To the lower left is the calendar dimensions and prices, so you know what you’re going to pay before you get stuck into creating a calendar. All calendars cost AU $26.99 for 12 months, extra months can be added for AU $1.99 per month. Shipping and handling costs are worked out when an order is placed.


Now if you’re clever and well organised, iPhoto will use Magic to lay out your photos on the calendar. If you set a photo as a key photo for an album or event, that photo will be used as the cover. If you went through and rated your photos to sort out the best ones, iPhoto will pick the five-star photos to fill the larger slots.

If however you’re like me and just grabbed a whole bunch of photos you’ll run into trouble. iPhoto’s calendar interface can only handle so many photos at a time, so don’t drop in 13,000+ photos and expect it to work.

iPhoto also needs those key photos and star-ratings in order to work it’s magic. Without them it will try to autofill the calendar as best it can, which in my opinion was pretty lousy. The layout you see to the left was delicately hand-crafted by my own expert drag-and-drop skills.

If you don’t lay the groundwork for iPhoto it won’t be able to do the work for you. Luckily, arranging photos is really easy.

To arrange photos, simply drag and drop photos from the panel on the right onto the place holder slots on the top page. The layout of the slots can be changed by switching to the “Design” panel where you can pick anything from a single photo layout to a seven photo layout. There’s enough layout variations to do a different layout for each month.

The calendar text can also be changed from the Design panel. When the bottom page is selected the Design panel switches to text-mode. The fonts, size, style and alignment can be changed from here. If you’re really strange you can use a different font for each month but normal people click the “Change Everywhere” button underneath (clicking the button results in a Windows Vista UAC style dialog box popping up. So make sure you know what you’re doing).

No I’m not kidding, clicking that button really does result in a Windows Vista UAC dialog box.

When creating a calendar, iPhoto will ask you if you want to add information like birthdays — which are pulled from your Address Book — or Public Holidays. Checking these options will populate your calendar with Public Holidays and birthdays automatically. Any extra information can be added later by clicking on a day and typing it in yourself. For example, I added entries for South Australian School Holidays. It’s a good idea to add as much information to the calendar before you get it printed because you won’t want to write all over it.

Buy Book

Once your happy with the layout and text of your calendar, click the big “Buy Calendar” button down the bottom, confirm payment and wait for it to turn up at your doorstep.

The print quality of the finished calendar is superb, I got quite a thrill from seeing my photos printed up. I’m just so used to seeing them on a screen, a big printed photo is something else altogether. Below are three pages from my calendar so you can get an idea of the print quality.

The only time the print quality looks slightly less than superb is when I’ve used a photo taken with my old Kodak EasyShare DX6340, which only has a 3.1 Megapixel sensor. The DX6340 was never any good at capturing detail, especially distant objects which tended to look blotchy. This blotchyness really shows up in the finished print; compare the original photo on the left to the printed photo on the right.

All the photos taken with my Lumix TZ cameras turned out fine so it was definitely the camera’s fault and not the printer’s. If you take a few steps back it’s hard to notice any flaws, overall I’m really happy with finished product.

It’s That Easy

Creating a calendar in iPhoto is really easy and the end result is really satisfying. They make great Christmas or birthday gifts. My calendar was a Christmas present for my family and they are very impressed with it.

Below are screenshots of my calendar in iPhoto. I picked out four places I’ve been from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

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