I noticed that the iPhoto 8.0.2 update had some new UI options, so I asked the Apple mothership what all the update covered. Turns out, it solves a few of my original problems:
The main focus for this update was controls and behavior for Faces, the facial recognition and identification software. I originally groused that it didn't see people's heads when they were tilted. Now, if you notice it's not seeing someone's head, you can right click and ask it to "Detect Missing Faces."
It goes back to the picture and guesses at new potential faces. The upside is, it will probably see the face you want it to see, without you manually marking it. The downside is, it may well see faces where there are none. I tried it, and it worked, but it doesn't make the facial recognition smarter, just less discriminating.
If you use the "Add Missing Face" feature to manually draw a box around a known face, this new software will actually also search that box to see if it can identify the face. This has not immediate impact on your life, but it means that if iPhoto does see a face there, where it didn't before, it will "count" it when doing facial recognition stuff.
When you are using Faces to name people, it now pulls names from your Address Book. This means, when you start to type in a name, you immediately get choices. If you don't like all your friends being so formally listed with first and last name, you can change the tag globally very easily later, on the Faces corkboard home screen.
Another very helpful improvement in Faces is the ability to name other people when confirming shots of a particular individual. Like, say you have a bunch of shots of yourself—if you know a shot isn't you, you right click that shot and choose "Name," then add in whoever that person's name is. It's helpful because before, the choice was either "Yes, this is me" or "No, this is not me."
In Places, the geotagging feature, 8.0.2 brought some minor improvements. If you added geotag information after importing a photo, you can now "Rescan for Location."
And when you go to add a location, the option "New Location" has been renamed to "Find on Map," which makes a lot more sense.
The iPhoto team also added the ability to tag photos directly by using latitude and longitude. I didn't figure out how exactly this works, but I'm not that big a map nerd, so maybe that's the problem. If you care about this, chances are you will figure it out. Or already know about it.
The software update doesn't solve two of my problems: One, which may never go away, is sluggishness when managing Faces. I have a ton of photos, and the function itself requires a lot of background processing, so entering that feature really does slow things down a lot. The other, which will hopefully get fixed, is the automatic tagging of the wrong faces. I visit my Faces catalog only to find the wrong people coming up. It is a concern hopefully grave enough to be addressed in the near future. [iPhoto]