Migrating _away_ from Photos with a 300GB library

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by jamesraward, Dec 11, 2016.

  1. jamesraward macrumors regular


    May 18, 2009
    I have been searching around for a solution for this, but surprisingly I've not found any sensible advice.

    I moved to Photos when it was released and it was ok, the benefits (easy, kinda works without thinking about it) outweighed the drawbacks (massively limited UX and access speed).

    Now, however, with a library that dominates my hard drive, I need to do something about it but I can't see any obvious sensible solution. Here seem to be my options:
    1 - move to online photo library for £7/m
    2 - move my library to external HD
    3 - move my library to my NAS
    4 - Export to a new bit of software (Aperture or similar)

    All of these are answers, but they're all going to make an already slow experience slower - I also tried the online library crushingly slow and it crippled my photo experience on my phone.

    I would ideally like to archive my library's originals and have newer stuff on my laptop and older stuff on my NAS - but I don't see that as an option in Photos. I used to use Aperture and that would work well with 2 libraries, I guess, but having never juggled more than one library I don't know what that experience is like.

    I can't be alone in not wanting to move everything to the cloud for full resolution photos (I use Google photos for low quality redundancy and ease of access), or indeed in this situation - any advice?
  2. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    Forget about the cloud. It would take a year to upload 300GB. Aperture is dead too. Forget about it.

    I use Lightroom and keep one year of images on my internal hard drive. I have a 5 GIG external USB hard drive connected to my TimeCapsule and once a year i move the previous years images from the hard drive to the 5 Gig external. I do this from within Lightroom and the process is seamless. The wireless connection is fast enough that I can still edit stuff that is on the external when I need to and frankly, I don't notice a difference. (You could do the same by connecting the external drive to an Airport Extreme.)

    When I move the images from the hard drive to the external, I make a second backup on another hard drive of those images and the Lightroom catalogue.
  3. jamesraward thread starter macrumors regular


    May 18, 2009
    I've heard a lot about Lightroom (though I take issue with a subscription software model when I can't see the benefit).

    What version do you run? I have 2 sources of images - iPhone (Photostream must works - and it's the only thing that's really keeping me with Photos) and SLR - how does moving to this increase the manual side of backing photos up?
  4. JohnDS, Dec 11, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016

    JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    I have a purchased copy of LR5 and have just upgraded to the subscription version because I wanted Photoshop too. The price is not unreasonable when you consider it includes Photoshop as well as Lightroom and some mobile apps (which I probably won't use, but you might find useful for your phone.)
    You don't have to subscribe to LR. You can buy it: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod..._65237402_photoshop_lightroom_6_download.html

    As far as back up goes, the photos on my internal drive are backed up automatically using Time Machine. When I move them off my internal drive, I make a second backup to a different external drive.

    LR is much more powerful for post-processing than Photos and I also think it is better for organizing photos.

    I switched from Aperture a couple of years ago when it became apparent that Apple was abandoning it. I didn't make any attempt to move the existing photos from the Aperture library to Lightroom. I just left them in Aperture and put all new photos into Lightroom.

    The other reason I went with the subscription model is to avoid having to pay for a upgrade every time LR is upgraded. Once LR upgrades to a new version, they stop issuing raw profile and lens profile updates for the old version. In my case, I have pre-ordered an Olympus OMD EM-1 Mk II and I would have had to purchase LR 6 anyway to get an updated raw profile for my new camera.
  5. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Yes, you've pretty much exhausted the capabilities of Photos.

    Lr references all the photos it imports, and shows the Finder folders they're in. So it's much easier to move things from say boot drive to NAS to thumbdrive or whatever. And it does smart previews: so you can work on images that are offline. And Lr Mobile has come a LONG way; I used some images in Photos just so I could use iCloud Photo Library as a gallery, but now I find Lr Mobile is better for that since I have more control. You might look at Mylio as well for synching.

    The benefit of the Adobe CC sub is that it's WAY cheaper than Lr and Photoshop were pre-subscription. Of course if you aren't a Photoshop user that value diminishes, but I still found it cheaper and better than say Capture One, and you get the benefit of Lr Mobile. There are other alternatives too, like On1, Photo Supreme, Aftershot, etc.
  6. thingstoponder macrumors 6502


    Oct 23, 2014
    You can have referenced files in Photos also. Just uncheck the "add to Photo Library" preference.
  7. jamesraward thread starter macrumors regular


    May 18, 2009
    This is news to me, what happens when the storage locations are offline?

    Sadly doesn't help with my immediate situation where I basically need to chuck my 300GB of photos in my current library on my NAS and then have the actual library on the computer.

    I guess I could just export them all to an external USB and then delete the library and reimport but leave the files on the NAS file structure - but that will lose all the changes, faces etc I presume?
  8. jamesraward thread starter macrumors regular


    May 18, 2009
    Tried this, thankfully on a small selection, but the way it handles referenced files is awful:
    Which makes it unusable away from my NAS.

    I'll try LR - such a shame Photos doesn't sensibly allow large libraries.

    Attached Files:

  9. iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016

    sorry for "re-floating" this post but I am mostly in the same situation and want to know if you finally found a solution.

    I currently have a 322GB photo library on a MacBook Pro with 512GB, so I have sometimes storage problems on it. I have also iCloud enabled and pay 10€/month for 2TB. I hope this fall this space can be shared along my family and we can share the payments too.

    Anyway, I don't want to rely only on iCloud and "optimize storage" on my Mac because if you do that, you are no longer having original copies of your pictures and Time Machine will not back them up.

    So my ideas are:

    - Use two separate photo libraries and "change" the system photo library from time to time. I mean, I would storage one photo library on an external drive / NAS, make it "system library" and sync to iCloud. Then, I would copy this library to my local SSD and make it "system library". After that, I would check the option "optimize storage" and by doing this I would have a local copy on the NAS / HDD and the storage "optimized" on my local SSD. From time to time, I would change system libraries to have a local updated copy at home. I think, by doing this, every time you "switch" from system library, the library has to "re-check" against iCloud and it takes some time and bandwidth.

    - Other idea is to buy an SSD like Samsung T3 and have the library on that unit. In the past I had a MacBook Air 11,6" with only 128GB storage, and used a Samsung T1 for the photos. It worked well, and also I had Time Machine copies of the external unit. The problem is that you have another accessory and you have to remember to take it always. Also you have to remember to plug it sometimes to get your local backups with TimeMachine done.

    - Third idea was to "reference" files to some folders of my NAS but I have forgotten the idea since I have read your last post :)

    - Last one was to buy and old Mac mini and use it as a server at home, Plug it behind any shelf and put 1 or 2 TB of space on it. Configure the Mac mini with my iCloud account and have it running with the photo library synced. This could be a good idea and it can replace my NAS. I am nowadays mostly using the NAS as a Time Machine unit, so I could deploy a Mac mini server and do the copies on it too, but I don't know if power consumption could be higher with the Mac than with a Synology NAS. Also I can buy an iMac to use it at home and "opitmize" storage on the MacBook Pro, but I prefer neither of those choices because I love to have only one computer. In the past I had up to seven PC's / Macs at home and nowadays I realized that I live better with only one :)

    What do you think? Do you have any other thoughts, ideas or solutions?

    Problem is that the library will increase further and it will never become smaller!


  10. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    If you want to have all your images on a storage system you own and not the cloud and you don't want them on you MacBook then you need some kind of local storage, The Synology NAS is really good but even with gigabytes Ethernet is is not nearly as fast as a Thunderbolt or USB-C SSD.

    If you are only ever going to user the files with your Mac,buy a really big and fast external drive. SSD with thunderbolt or USB-C is as fast is the internal SSD. But the NAS allows you to access your files from any device on the network or even anyplace in the world via the Internet. So you must choose access or speed.

    If you were to use Adobe Lightroom you could keep a full copy of the thumbnails on the Mac and access the full size files over the network. Access to the library would be very fast. Then terminate the iCloud account and pay the same money to Adobe and use their cloud to store images.

    You will still need a backup system.
  11. steve123 macrumors 6502

    Aug 26, 2007
    I have heard that MacPhun is working on a DAM for their Luminar product. I am anxiously waiting for that to arrive. Macphun promised back in 2016 in a blog post that we would see the DAM in 2017. Unfortunately, there have been no further updates since that time so I do not know if they are still on track to do so. :-(
  12. kenoh macrumors demi-god


    Jul 18, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
  13. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Until they provide something more concrete, I consider this just vaporware. I think DAM is one sector that is largely untapped. Perhaps because of the dominance of Lightroom, regardless of the reason, I think there's room for more competition.
  14. steve123 macrumors 6502

    Aug 26, 2007
    I absolutely agree. I am surprised someone hasn't made a deal to spin off Aperture from Apple.
  15. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    That would have been a great idea, but I think Apple wouldn't be open to that. They wanted their Aperture users to transition to Photos, by selling the rights to the Aperture, they would have created a competitor.

    Still, that's a great idea :)
  16. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Take a look at https://www.fatcatsoftware.com/powerphotos/ since it might help with merging and switching libraries if you go that route.

    Another idea is Mylio, since it gives you MUCH more control over synching across devices than Photos. But it's not an online storage service although it can be used with them.

    If you could separate out images into more usable chunks it might help, since then you could different libraries for different purposes, unless there's some reason why every single image has to be in iCloud Photo Library.

    Or switch to a different kind of cloud storage. There are plenty that could handle that many images, and you'd manage them kinda like you manage any other files. Photos/iPL basically gives you auto sync, but kinda at the expense of finer control and customization.
  17. MDMachiavelli macrumors regular


    Mar 14, 2015
    1,000 Mil From Nowhere

    Have you thought about a external HD that is tied to the network, acts as you and your families "cloud" and can be accessed from anywhere with just about any device.

    I think that is what I'm gonna do. I think you can do 3TB Personal Cloud for about $200.00
  18. iso667, Aug 6, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017

    iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016
    Hi guys,

    First of all thanks to all of you for taking a moment to answer to my questions.

    I will try to explain a little bit why I want to keep using iCloud and photos on my mac.

    - I have a mac, an iPhone and an iPad, so it is amazing how it works and syncs between devices. I don't have to worry about moving photos from on device to another. And also if I use my DSLR and import pictures into the mac, all of them appear automatically on the iPhone and the iPad.
    - iPhone and iPad have "optimize storage" option set so I don't have a local copy here.
    - I have the iCloud family activated and I share a lot of pictures with family using the shared album. I have also another albums shared with family and friends. Last year we gifted an iPad to my wife's grand mother and, while we are traveling or doing anything, we put some pictures on the shared album. She can see the pictures instantly and she loves that, she is an old woman that can barely move from home so it is a relief for her.
    - I also love the albums "places" and "faces". I have sorted all my pictures for my whole entire life (almost) geo-located and sorted with people. I can search very quickly about pictures of anyone. It is very useful sometimes.
    - If I change any picture or delete it, modify, etc, the change is synced on all my devices instantly.

    So for me, at least at this moment, it is not a choice to move out from photos and iCloud.

    My problem is that I have a 512GB MacBook Pro and a 322GB photo library, so I am close to not being able of taking any further picture :)

    So as I said before I am thinking about these choices:

    - buying a Mac mini/iMac to have it at home with 2-3TB of hard drive, and have my "master" copy on it and "optimise storage" on the MacBook Pro. I don't like this choice a lot because it implies to spend some money and also to struggle with two computers. As I said I prefer to use only one.
    - maybe I could "replace" my actual NAS (Synoloy DS213) with a mac server. Synology is being used mostly for time machine backups nowAdays, in the past it was my private cloud since I moved to iCloud.

    - buying an external drive of 2-3TB or an ssd unit and place my library there. It could be a good choice, I have worked this way before, but you have to remember to bring the hdd with you always, and also you have to plug it to the computer from time to time and leave it plugged for several minutes/hours for time machine to copy everything to your backuP unit. Also it has to be fast enough to work with pictures without suffering. A Samsung T3 or similar unit could be a good choice.

    - placing my photo library into the Nas at home (but continue using photos an iCloud) this has the problem that when i am far from home, i couldn't access to the pictures or at least not as fast as I can do now. Also the speed of a nas is worse than the speed of the internal ssd unit.

    Having all of this into account, my only problem is related to storage space and backup. I want to save space one my mac, so the quick win here will be to activate the "optimize storage" option on it, and I will be happy again, but doing that has consequences...

    - you will no longer have a local copy of your pictures so you will need internet access to watch them and also the user experience could be compromised depending on the speed of the connection.
    - time machine copies will automatically stop backing up your library. Even apple recommends you not to rely only on iCloud. They recommend you to backup your library. Even if you are paying for an iCloud subscription, they don't guarantee you any of your data to be safe. They will only do their "best effort", but if something bad happen, you could lost everything, so this is because I want a local copy.

    Given all of this, I was wondering what could be the best choice or if there is another one. Maybe there is a "magic" service that copy your iCloud photos to another cloud and you can have two copies not having a local one... I don't know! And because of that I have come here to ask you if anyone of you are in a similar situation :)

    I was wondering also if I could have two system photo libraries working this way:

    - one library in my local ssd with "optimize storage" checked and being used while I am on the go with my mac.
    - another library with the original items placed on my NAS or on an external drive.
    - I will mark my local library as system library, but from time to time I will switch to the secondary library and set it as system library to sync everything with iCloud.
    - I think this could work, it every time you change your system library, it does a full synchronisation with iCloud, or at least it checks picture by picture if everything is on sync. This could be a "resource eater" to my processor and take so much time every time I switch between libraries. I don't know if anyone does anything similar to this.

    If I finally take a decision I will tell you the final one :) thank you for your time and patience!

    Best regards and have a great day!


    P.D. Sorry guys but it think I will continue here because this other post has more sense and more relation with my actual problem, I think I have also found a working solution... We will see :) thanks!

  19. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    You can only have one system library that syncs with iPL. I assume they're keyed to Apple IDs; maybe another family members Apple ID could be used to then store images and share back in the other direction. You have to designate the system library; it isn't a matter of just opening another and making THAT your system library, as that would destroy the synch. If you indeed have over 300GB of photos, image the hassle of doing a "full" synch, even assuming it works. Seems like asking for disaster.

    I'd just prune down. Move some images to another non-system library that doesn't synch, maybe a referenced one, and just move them back and forth between libraries as needed with Power Photos.
  20. iso667 macrumors newbie

    Dec 10, 2016
    Thanks for your answer too!

    It is not that bad, I have done it couple of times. It is possible to change your system library to another one.

    Once I had problems with a third application trying to delete some duplicates and I ended breaking my library. I restored it from time machine. When you do that the app does something like a full sync but in reality it only checks that the pictures are there and copied to iCloud. But it takes some time and processor cycles of course ;)

    Another time while I was using my Samsung T1 with my MacBook Air, I moved (copying) several times my library from my local HDD to my external unit changing system library from one place to the other with not a lot of issues. Same process than before.

    Maybe it can fail, but it is something that can be done! Only wanted to clarify that. But of course not the best solution.

    I think I will give a try to the Synology DS Photo backup solution and I will coment my thoughts later.

    Best regards!

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