Apple’s iPhoto is the default photo management program that comes standard on every Mac computer. Everyone who gets a Mac uses iPhoto, at least at the beginning. Many people however, realize that once you start using iPhoto, you can’t make any changes to the folder structure where your photos are saved. Once you realize this and decide to use another software that would give you the freedom you need, there are a few steps you have to perform in order to “free” your pictures. Keep reading and see these simple steps you can take in order to move away from iPhoto.
iPhoto takes your digital photos captive
iPhoto is probably the only photo management software that takes your photos captive and doesn’t let them go without a fight. Once you start using iPhoto (and everyone who has a Mac uses iPhoto to some degree or another), iPhoto will store your photos in the locked iPhoto Library folder (Read The good, the bad and the ugly of iPhoto).
As a consequence, you cannot simply move your Photo Library sub-folders and afterwards delete them. The reason is that iPhoto locks the iPhoto library and this means you cannot see or change what is inside the iPhoto library.
What do you do then? How do you get your pictures out of iPhoto so you can rename the folders so that they make sense and help you?
The first thing you should do is to start using iPhoto efficiently and prepare your events for export. This is the easiest way to get prepared since you are already familiar with iPhoto. If you don’t cleanup your events with iPhoto, then you must start organizing your events after you export with whatever program you decide to use (Picasa or Lightroom for example).
Secondly, it would be great if you can decide if you want to keep your events still in iPhoto in addition to exporting them. This essentially creates two copies of your photos and they will fill up your hard drive very quickly. However, if you are nervous about deleting your photos from iPhoto, you can keep them in both places until you decide.
Thirdly, when ready to export your event, follow the steps in this article in order to export your events from iPhoto the right way and avoid a lot of work afterwards. The goal is to create an organized set of event folders on your hard drive which are easy to find and visually navigate. Then you can use any other software (like Picasa or Lightroom) to view them without taking them captive.
Step 1: Create a tag to keep track of exported photos
If you decided to delete your events from iPhoto (step 3), then you don’t need this step. If however, you decide to export your events AND keep them in the iPhoto library, you need a way to keep track of the photos you have exported.
In iPhoto create a tag called “exported”. As you complete the following steps and export your events tag the exported event folders with this tag so you can keep track of what you have exported already.
Unfortunately, tagging an event does not tag the event itself but all the photos in the event.
Enter photo metadata using the Info panel in iPhoto
To assign keywords to one or more photos follow these steps:
- Make sure iPhoto displays your keywords. On the iPhoto toolbar on top click the View Menu and then select Keywords. Or you can simply click the “Info” button on the bottom right of the screen. The Info panel with a place to enter keywords will appear.
- Select an Event. Add the keyword “exported” to the event. A keyword that’s added to an Event will be added to all the photos in the Event.
- If you want to apply keywords to individual photos select a photo or group of photos. If you select multiple photos, then the keywords you enter will be applied to all the photos.
- Click the Info button in the toolbar to open the Information pane.
- In the Information pane, click Keywords, click “Add a keyword,” and then type your keyword into the Keywords field.
- Press Return.
Step 2: Export your events from iPhoto
Once you added the keyword “exported” to the event, you are ready to export it. The very first thing you have to do is to establish another main folder as the new place for your digital photos. Using Finder, inside your
Pictures folder create a sub-folder called
FROM-IPHOTO. This way you can make a distinction between new photos from your camera and the ones from iPhoto.
Export your events from iPhoto where you can control them
Secondly, use iPhoto and export your event folders to this new folder. You can select all your iPhoto events (which are just logical categories…nothing on your hard drive) and choose the export function.
You must export the entire event. So, you must be in the Events view in iPhoto and select the event you want to export.
Then choose File / Export to folder, choose “JPEG” in “File type” (or “kind”) (if you have created image metadata see my next note) and then click “Export” and then choose your destination folder which is
FROM-IPHOTO. It might take a while.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have created keywords and places in iPhoto you Must choose JPEG in the export screen. If you choose “Original” in “file type”, iPhoto will NOT embed the keywords and GPS data in your exported photos. The only way to embed meta data in your photos with iPhoto is to export them as JPEG. This means that your photos will be re-compressed and the quality of your photos will decrease…not much, but the JPEG compression algorithm will be applied again upon export.
Make sure you have enough room on your hard drive before doing this operation because this procedure will create another copy of ALL your pictures. If you don’t have enough space, just export a few albums from iPhoto and then delete them…and repeat.
Step 3: Delete your exported event folders from iPhoto
At this point you have created another copy of all your photos. IPhoto holds one copy in its Photo Library and in addition you have just created another copy by exporting your event to the
FROM-IPHOTO folder. So the next step is easy!
Once you exported (essentially copy) all your photo albums from iPhoto to another folder, you can simply go in iPhoto and delete all your albums.
To delete an even in iPhoto select the event then hit
Command + Delete or simply drag the event in the iPhoto trash bin at the bottom of the left panel. The event folder and photos will be deleted even though the thumbnails will still show up maybe in iPhoto.
This operation should successfully remove all your pictures from the Library folder that iPhoto uses as the main place for putting all your pictures.
Important note: If you are nervous to remove all your photos from iPhoto, then you can do this step last after you have migrated and organized everything in your folders outside of iPhoto.
Step 4: Make iPhoto play “nice” with your photos
While iPhoto does take your digital photos captive by default, it does provide some simple settings that make it play nicely with other software you might want to use for managing your photos.
There are two settings that you have to perform in order to make iPhoto leave you and your digital photos alone.
Tell iPhoto to be quiet
Normally iPhoto comes up every time you connect your phone or camera to your Mac. If it is a camera it will also start downloading your new photos to your Mac. This is very annoying especially if you are using a different program for managing your photos.
Simply open iPhoto, click on the iPhoto menu option in the upper left corner of your screen. Then Preferences, and at the bottom of the first menu it pulls up you’ll see an option that says Connecting camera opens. Chances are it’s set to iPhoto, which is why it opens all the time. Just change it to No application.
Set up your Mac so that iPhoto does not come up automatically
Keep in mind that, while this settings prevents iPhoto from opening automatically, your connected devices will still show up when you open the program manually. And you can still bring up iPhoto manually and transfer your photos.
Setup iPhoto to leave your photos alone
Here is how you can set up iPhoto so that it can just look at your own photo folders instead of imprisoning your photos in the locked iPhoto Library folder.
Bring up iPhoto then File – – > Preferences – – > Advanced / Importing / Uncheck the “Copy items to the iPhoto Library” check box.
Now iPhoto will not be copying all photos to its locked storage folder and you become responsible for transferring photos from your camera to your computer. And iPhoto will leave you alone.
If you have chosen not to save your files to the iPhoto Library then you become responsible for storing your photos to your hard drive and backing them up. You are on your own now, so if you don’t know how to store and organize your photos maybe you shouldn’t do this.
If you are uneasy about moving your files out of iPhoto, you can first learn how to use iPhoto somewhat efficiently. Then, once you learn how to cleanup your events in iPhoto, you can move away from iPhoto confidently.
Step 5: Set up your new software to use the new folder when transferring new pictures
Whatever software you decide to use instead of iPhoto (like Picasa for example, or Lightroom), make sure that you only use that software for importing new photos…instead of iPhoto.
Once you have exported your organized events from iPhoto make sure you setup another folder to help you with transferring new photos from your cameras. In other words, once you get your photos out of iPhoto, stop using iPhotos. Otherwise, you will have to repeat this procedure.
Setup that software so that it will transfer your new digital photos from your camera to the new folder you have created…the one you used for exporting (
Whether you use Picasa, Lightroom or Aperture, set it up so all new photos will use the new TRANSFER folder as the destination for photo transfer.
At the end of the entire procedure your folder structure would look something like this:
Pictures TRANSFER FROM-IPHOTO ...lots of sub-folders from iPhoto.
Once your pictures have been exported, examine the folder names you have in your new folder structure. If you have not used iPhoto to cleanup and organize your events prior to exporting them, you must start organizing these events that you have exported (Read Tutorial 2 – Creating an efficient folder structure).
For examples how to setup your photo transfer with Picasa, read this article.
Conclusion about moving away from iPhoto
iPhoto is a powerful program for managing your digital photos. Unfortunately, Apple has made some decisions for the sake of simplifying your digital life, but with these decisions they have essentially taken your digital photos captive.
The good thing is that you can export your pictures out of iPhoto and use something else…anything else that will allow you to rename your folders to something significant.
Resources for moving away from iPhotos
If you are comfortable paying a yearly subscription, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom instead of Photos. It has excellent user interface and imagery editing capabilities. Yes, it forces you into a certain work flow and you have to learn to keep your catalogs in sync with your hard drive. However, Adobe Lightroom makes most sense especially when you do lots of image editing. You can get the last standalone Lightroom 6 version or annual Creative Cloud Subscription
If however, you would rather not pay a yearly subscription and just pay one time, then ACDSee for Mac is a great solution for organizing your media on the Mac. It has a very fast browser, beautiful image editing capabilities and you don’t work with catalogs at all. ACDSee for Mac is a great alternative to Lightroom.
Make sure you have an inexpensive and reliable external hard drive for backing everything up. It is absolutely essential you backup your media regularly.