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Lights, Camera, Photocast: Sharing Photos with iPhoto 6

Photocasting is one of the biggest new features in iPhoto 6 and it offers a great new way to share your photos with family and friends. But how do you publish a photocast and make certain that anyone with a Mac or PC can view it in spite of the problems reported with some RSS readers? Ryan Faas has all the answers.
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Photocasting is one of the biggest new features in iPhoto 6 and it offers a great new way to share your photos with family and friends. But how do you publish a photocast and make certain that anyone with a Mac or PC can view it in spite of the problems reported with some RSS readers?

What Exactly Is Photocasting—and How Does it Work?

iPhoto has always been designed with ease of use in mind, making it easy to copy photos from your camera, organize them in albums, and share them in a variety of ways—from printing at home to ordering prints and photo books to putting them on the Web. By linking iPhoto with Apple’s .Mac service, you can create slick, professional-looking albums with the mere click of a few buttons.

iPhoto even lets you share photo albums (or your entire iPhoto library) directly with other Mac users, providing you’re on the same home, office, or school network using the Bon Jour/Rendezvous network protocol. Just check the Share My Photos and/or Look For Shared Photos options in the Sharing pane of the iPhoto preferences (found under the iPhoto menu in the menu bar) and you’re set for sharing photos with or viewing photos of any Mac user on the network (see Figure 1). No need to email or upload photos to .Mac (or another Web service) or to go looking for someone else’s pictures online. Everything is simply there in iPhoto.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Setting sharing options in the iPhoto preferences

The reason I mention these two iPhoto features is that the new photocasting option in iPhoto 6 is almost a combination of the two. (iPhoto 6 is part of Apple’s new iLife ’06, which comes free with all new Macs and is a $79 upgrade for existing Mac users.)

iPhoto 6 allows you to share your photo albums with other iPhoto 6 users as photocasts. When someone subscribes to your photocast, the contents of the album are automatically added as a special photocast album to his or her iPhoto library. When you add, change, or delete pictures from the photocast album, subscribers see those changes reflected in the photocast albums in their iPhoto libraries. As with sharing photos using Bon Jour/Rendezvous, there’s no need to email or visit Web sites—the process is almost completely transparent to you as the creator of the photocast and to subscribers.

Photocasts are not just for iPhoto 6 users. Apple designed photocasts using RSS, the technology that’s used to power podcasts, My Yahoo, and many news and blog sites. RSS allows users to subscribe to a feed that contains regularly updated content (such as a blog or a podcast) by using an RSS reader. The RSS reader periodically checks the feed to see whether new content has been posted. When new content is posted, the RSS reader displays either the entire content or an abstract of the content to the user, along with a link to the content in its entirety.

Photocasts are actually RSS feeds that contain photos rather than audio files, text, or Web content. So any user with a recent-version RSS reader can subscribe to a photocast and view the photos it contains. Subscribers using an RSS reader can then print or save the photos in a photocast. If they have an earlier version of iPhoto, they can even add the photos to their iPhoto library manually.

The way in which photocasting actually works is that when you publish an album as a photocast, iPhoto uploads the photos to a section of your iDisk (which is why photocasting requires a .Mac membership). At the same time, iPhoto generates an RSS feed that contains information about where the photos are stored, which is also stored in your iDisk.

You then give people the address of that RSS feed, which iPhoto will tell you once it publishes the photocast (it will even give you the option of sending an announcement email). If your photocast subscribers have iLife ’06, they can subscribe using iPhoto and it will automatically create a photocast album and download the images for them.

If your subscribers don’t have iPhoto 6, they can use another RSS reader. Any time you make changes to the album that is being photocast, iPhoto will automatically update the RSS feed and upload or delete photos from your iDisk, if needed. When iPhoto or another RSS reader detects a change in the RSS feed stored in your iDisk, it will download the appropriate new photos (and delete any that have been removed).

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