How Faces Changed My Life in 20 Minutes.

As I type this, I am in tears.

I have seen photos of my children that I had been trying to find for months. I have found photos of a dear friend who has passed on, that I did not even know I had.

I am in awe at how much of my life I have recorded on “film”, I am so moved by seeing the past three years of my life in pictures in front of my face… that I can’t stop crying and I will likely run us out of kleenex and use up a couple of rolls of TP before I’m done writing this article.

I had no idea how much of it I’d actually captured until I sat down to play with iPhoto 11 this morning. There were pictures of our road trip to Seattle. Pictures of my husband and I going to buy my MINI Cooper. Pictures of my dog before he passed, snuggling all of my family members, I thought I only had photos of him with my daughter. I found pictures of my son cradling a 6 week old Mugen in his arms that I didn’t know were in my iPhoto library. Times in my life have been hard, but there have been a lot of good days, a lot of them. I had forgotten how good they were.

Apple, I can’t say enough about how moved I am by the power of this tool.

In the past, what I have done with iPhoto is the following:

I plug in my iPhone to sync it to iTunes. I shut iPhoto. I move on with my day. I imported photos into it when I needed a quick, one photo edit job and the rest of it, managing albums and all that crud… well that’s what flickr and facebook were for for me.

Not anymore. With the faces and places features, it’s actually worth it to me to sit down with iPhoto and import all of my photos into it. Rather than having to organize everything by event and time and date, I can click on Susan’s name in the Faces pane and with a paft of magic computer dust, there they are. Every photo in my photo library of Susan. And then I can slap it all into a slideshow that looks something like this:

Slideshows can be exported to mpeg4 format, which both Facebook and Flickr can play without any issues. It’s got some quick and dirty resolution settings for you so you can choose what display size you want the playback to look good in if you choose to save the file in iTunes format. You can further tweak with the MPEG playback settings, but for the sake of my sanity, I went with the defaults. As you can see, the default mp4 video quality looks pretty awful in the Reflections theme and did nothing to show off how neat looking that theme actually is. I’ll have to choose a different theme the next time I decide to use a video that small.

But that’s not the show stopper. For me, the show stopper is the social networking integration. Flickr and Facebook. I was unable to try the Flickr integration today. Flickr seemed to be having some issues and was very bogged down. I suspect it was because a lot of folks were doing exactly what I was trying to do, upload their iPhoto library to Flickr. I’ll update this review in a couple of days when Flickr is less insane.

The Facebook integration, however, is just made of win. It’s SUPER easy. You can select an album, click on the word “Share” and choose how you want to share it, be that via email, or uploading to Facebook. Once you login to Facebook, it starts uploading the album. From there, you can tag, delete, comment… all of it, through iPhoto, without ever having to open your web browser. My family will never complain that I don’t post pictures of my kids again, and this is a complaint they have had with me for over a decade now. I have uploaded over a hundred photos of my kids today and I did it in five minutes flat.

Places is neat, I suppose, if you travel a lot. Since I don’t, and I don’t tend to GPS tag my photos, it’s not all that interesting to me. I have been to like two places in the same state, but it’s nice to be able to find my Seattle Trip Photos based on their GPS tags.

And… that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. I have a lot more playing around to do with iPhoto today, but the fact that I am actually using it and excited about it means it’s a huge step above iPhoto ’08.

If you’re sitting on the fence about upgrading to iLife 11, stop. It’s well worth the price. And realize that I’m just talking about iPhoto. I haven’t even broken open Garage Band yet.

I have been thinking for weeks about how Facebook has changed the world we live in because of all of the people that it connects us with that we never thought we’d see again. But really, the truth is, Faces has done all of that for me and more. Now I can really, truly connect with my family and friends on Facebook in a way that doesn’t require me to spend hours tagging photos with the names of every person in them so that no one feels left out, and then there’s the ability to upload photos to Facebook at a whim.

You’ve done it Apple. You’ve made another product that makes my life with my Mac that much easier.