Posted Friday, January 20, 2006

iPhoto 6 Tip: Subscribe to Flickr RSS Feeds in iPhoto

As many of you know, I'm what might be termed "fond" of the Flickr photo-sharing service.

Okay, I'm obsessed with it.

So imagine my delight when I stumble upon a blog entry that says you can subscribe to a Flickr RSS feed using iPhoto 6.

I'm not sure you can imagine that degree of delight.

It's a cool trick, and when you think it about, it makes perfect sense: if the new photocasting feature in iPhoto 6 lets you subscribe to an RSS feed of someone else's iPhoto albums, why wouldn't iPhoto 6 also let you subscribe to a Flickr feed?

It does, and it makes possible some seriously cool photo gymnastics.

Why Bother?
There are a few noteworthy angles to this tip, but let's step back and ask the greater question first: why bother?

Stay current. Are you fond of a certain Flickr group? A certain tag? A certain someone? Flickr provides RSS feeds for groups, tags, and Flickr members. Subscribe to a feed, and iPhoto 6 updates it for you whenever you like—every hour, every day, every week, or whenever you ask.

Have fun with the photos. You can subscribe to Flickr photo feeds using a newsreader, but what does your newsreader know about photos? Does it have a slide show feature? Can it create postcards? Does it let you order prints?

I didn't think so.

When you use iPhoto 6 to subscribe to a feed—whether it's someone else's iPhoto photocast or a Flickr feed—that feed's photos appear right in your iPhoto window. And that means you can bring iPhoto's sharing features to bear. Create a slide show. Create a book or a calendar or a greeting card. Print the photo on your own printer.

You get the idea: iPhoto 6 sets a photo feed free.

The Basic Technique
Subscribing to a Flickr feed in iPhoto 6 is a cinch. Note: You must be using Mac OS 10.4.4 to subscribe to RSS feeds in iPhoto 6.

Step 1. Copy the link. On Flickr, locate the link for the RSS feed to which you want to subscribe. (This link is usually near the bottom of a Flickr page, and begins with a phrase such as Subscribe to the feed....) Control-click on the RSS 2.0 link, and copy the link to the Clipboard.

Step 2. Paste the link in iPhoto 6. Choose File > Subscribe to Photocast. In the box that appears, paste the link that you copied in Step 1.

Step 3. Click the Subscribe button. iPhoto immediately begins loading the thumbnail images for the feed to which you subscribed. It's that easy.

View More Info
After iPhoto has loaded the photos from Flickr, you can view the photos as well as information about them. Want to see the title that the Flickr subscriber assigned to the photo? Choose View > Titles.

iPhoto 6 loads only the small thumbnail version of the photo. But if you open the Information pane (click the "i" button near the lower-left corner of iPhoto's window), you'll see a link to the original photo on Flickr. Click that link, and your browser displays the photo's page.

Seeking Higher Resolution
The fact that iPhoto displays only the low-rez version of a photo is a major drawback. After all, if your photos measure 240 by 180 pixels, how can you print them or display a slide show?

Ah, Web geeks to the rescue. John Evans has created a simple tool that takes the feed you copied in Step 1 and mashes it up in a way that causes iPhoto 6 to load the full-resolution version of each photo in a feed.

After copying the feed's URL in Step 1, head over to this site and paste the link into the box. The site does its magic, and within moments, iPhoto 6 begins loading the highest-resolution version of each photo in the feed.

That takes a while, of course, depending on the photos' resolution and on the speed of your Internet connection. But once the photos have loaded, you can print them, use them in slide shows, and add them to books or calendars.

If you're feeling recursive, you can even post them back to Flickr, though posting someone else's photos in your photostream is decidedly uncool.

Side Effects
When it comes to subscribing to Flickr feeds with iPhoto 6, I've noticed some interesting strangeness. (Not to be confused with strange interestingness, a lame joke that only fellow Flickrers will understand.) I'm still trying to sort them out, so I'll write about them in future posts.

And speaking of future posts, I've got a great tip in the oven right now. It deals with printing your own custom iPhoto 6 calendar pages on a wide-format printer. Tune in next week, and have a photo-filled weekend.