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iPhoto ’09: Face Detection, Place Detection, and Amazing Slideshows

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When highlighting the new updates to iLife ’09 today, Phil Schiller probably spent the most time highlighting the new features in iPhoto. There’s lots to like in this ’09 update and the crowd was definitely “wowing” at some of the cool stuff that was demonstrated.

First up are two brand-new features to help you organize your photos. Apple has had a really positive response to the Events feature in iPhoto ’08 and now Faces and Places will allow you to further organize your pictures by who appears in the picture and where it was taken.


There are two aspects to Faces in iPhoto ’09. The first is face detection which allows iPhoto to automatically discover all the faces that appear in the photo. This allows iPhoto to present the people to you for identification, but also shows up in other features like slideshows where the photos are automatically centered and cropped so that the faces in the frame will be visible and prominent. The tech worked beautifully in the demo we saw at the Keynote.

The second part of Faces is face recognition. iPhoto ’09 will learn to identify people in your photos as you tag the faces in photos. This feature is hard to evaluate without trying on your own photos, but the demo is impressive. Schiller was quick to point out that no facial recognition system is perfect, but Apple feels that they have the best software technology available on the desktop. It was impressive to see how seamlessly it all integrated.

Once you start tracking faces, those people show up on your corkboard organizer with snapshots for each person (centered and cropped to focus on the face detected in the picture, of course).

This feature is going to be great for organizing all my pictures of the kids, but I suspect that iPhoto may get confused by pictures of the same person at different ages, say from age 3 to age 14. We’ll see how it works out in practice.


iPhoto ’09 also lets you organize your pictures by where you took the photo by using geotags from a GPS-enabled camera, or an iPhone 3G. You can also add geotags to photos that do not already have them. This feature is also incredibly well-integrated into the iPhoto app. To add a geotag, you can select a spot on the map or just type in the name of a location. iPhoto will automatically georeference the location to nearby landmarks and the city and country.

You can then use a map or an iTunes-style browser to drill-down and filter photos on locations in your library. Places is integrated into photo books as well. As an example, iPhoto will automatically generate maps with pins for the location of the photos on that page in your book.

Facebook & Flickr Sharing

iPhoto also adds new sharing capabilities that integrate directly with two popular photo sites — Flickr for your good photos and Facebook for all the crappy snapshots of your friends. The Facebook integration is particularly cool. iPhoto uses the face recognition technology to automatically tag your photos with the Facebook profile of your friends. You need to enter their full name and email address so that iPhoto can link them with a Facbook profile. The cool thing is that this feature works both ways. If someone tags a picture on Facebook that you have uploaded from iPhoto, that tag will automatically get synced back down to iPhoto. You can then choose to track that person in Faces and iPhoto will use face recognition to automatically tag pictures in the future.

The Flickr integration is cool as well, and a definite blow to the well-liked FlickrExport from ConnectedFlow.

The Rest

iPhoto also adds some enhanced editing features that look like they were taken from Aperture. The color saturation sliders are particularly helpful in Aperture for bringing out highlights and making the sky look like something that actually resembles blue if you forgot your polarizing filter. I’d love to get some of that power in iPhoto.

There are also new themed slideshows that look absolutely fantastic. Shatter is going to blow your mind when you get chance to see it in action on the keynote video (up later today on They use face detection to automatically center and crop your images so that you don’t end up with people out of the frame or other problems.

A Must Buy

I left the keynote address this morning with my wallet screaming to buy iLife ’09. Honestly, if iPhoto were the only app in the suite, I would probably still want iLife just for that. The face detection and recognition features give me some hope of organizing all my photos so that I can quickly find actual people in my library and geotagging with Places is an OCD dream. Facebook and Flickr pushes it over the top for me as I use those two sites extensively.

Check out the info on and share your impressions below.

21 Responses to “iPhoto ’09: Face Detection, Place Detection, and Amazing Slideshows”

  1. Our company has developed something extremely similar for PCs. We’ve created an desktop photo organizer that uses Facial Recognition to sort your photos by people. You can do photo organizing, editing, and much more.

    We’ve recently created a Facebook application that allows you to Automatically Tag your photos and and upload them to your account picture albums!

  2. Allister

    “iPhoto also adds new sharing capabilities that integrate directly with two popular photo sites — Flickr for your good photos and Facebook for all the crappy snapshots of your friends.”

    Classic! I’ve yet to see any advantages to photos on Facebook other than the fact that people are more likely to look for me there than Flickr. (And Flickr’s really not good for finding people.)

  3. Sherkaner

    Now that they’re borrowing features from Aperture, I hope they return the favor and build the face recognition, geotagging, and flickr/facebook integration into Aperture soon…