Not sure I understand importing in iPhoto

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by moveright, Apr 29, 2012.

  1. moveright macrumors member

    Apr 18, 2012
    mac newbie.

    Here's what I am used to in Windows.

    1. open a folder with pictures in it
    2. double click any picture
    3. now I see that picture and can hit the right or left arrows and it automatically shows the next/previous picture.

    Before I changed the default image program to iPhoto, if I double clicked an image, Preview would open it. Fine, but I had to x out and double click another image to see the next one.

    What happens when I "import" photos to iPhoto? I mean, EXACTLY what takes place? i.e. where does the original file go? where is my imported file? how does this work in terms of backups such as sugar sync?

    Maybe I'm asking for cake and to eat it too but what I would love is to be able to store pictures on my mac, look at them any time easily, and have them automatically backed up so that if anything happened to my machine, I could get the pics again.

  2. EstrlM3 macrumors 6502

    Apr 16, 2010
    You can open iphoto and view ALL of the pictures by person, date, event, etc. or..

    you can easily open teh folder wher ethey are located and you can clcik the spacebar with the file highlighted and it will bring up preview and then you can easily clcik left and right arrows to scroll between photos in taht folder.
  3. tekno, Apr 29, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2012

    tekno macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2011
    The way Macs work is very counter-intuitive until you get used to it. I messed-up my first Mac so badly that I had to completely wipe it and start again after a week.

    When you import into iPhoto your computer copies all your photos into the iPhoto database. It creates a load of folders and sub-folders that, in theory, you should never need to open as iPhoto becomes the interface between you and all those folders and files. This allows you to search, view, edit etc. within the iPhoto application without having to worry about filenames and folders and where you saved that photo of your holiday.

    Once the photos are imported, you need to delete the originals. If you import 1GB of photos but don't delete the originals, you'll be wasting 1GB of your harddrive with all the duplicates.

    It's odd, but that's Macs for you.

    If you really want to see the imported JPEG files, open a Finder window and click on Pictures, then two-finger tap (or command-click) on iPhoto and select "Show Package Contents" from the sub-menu. The folder called Masters contains all your original files sorted into year, then month, then day.
  4. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    iPhoto does not need to import pictures. It can handle them in place while the user manages photographs within the Finder. Also, just because imported photographs are copied to the iPhoto Library does not mean that you need to delete the originals. The originals occupy capacity and have no other ill effects. This is an issue only if your hard drive is running low on free capacity.
  5. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    A person can do this - but I don't recommend it. Any photos that are "managed" outside of iPhoto can become 'lost' or corrupted. The iPhoto database makes notes of everything it knows about the image in the database. This includes any edits made. And everything it knows about the image is based on the version that was imported originally. Because iPhoto itself never makes a change to the original image it assumes that nothing will change with that image (except when it has passed that image to an external editor- but in that case it knows what is happening).
    This is also correct.... But I recommend deleting the originals in any case because it can become confusing as to which photo you want since you know have 2 of everything.

    Also - iPhoto should be set to do the importing from the camera. This eliminates an unnecessary step and eliminates the duplication of images. The image goes direct from the camera to the iPhoto Library. Once in iPhoto you can then the iPhoto tools to search for and view your images, create slideshows, books, cards, etc

  6. tekno macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2011
    This is exactly how I messed-up my Mac. If the user then moves a photo into a different folder or renames a photo, iPhoto can no longer see it.


    You're correct here. In fact, if you have plenty of space on your HDD and storage is so cheap these days, I'd recommend making seventeen copies of each photo and have them in various different folders around your Mac. After all, if you've got the free space, why not?
  7. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    You can do it that way quite easily. Open the folder and select all the pictures. Hit the spacebar to open the first in Quicklook, then use the arrow keys.
  8. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I assume you're being sarcastic. Fair enough.

    It's certainly true, as you point out, that if iPhoto only knows about the set of images you've pointed it at, and you make changes there, you've got a problem. But this is never a problem if you let iPhoto copy the images into its own library.

    Not everybody wants to hand over 100% of image management to an application -- any application -- and Time Machine or no Time Machine, it's never a bad idea to have an independent image store.

    I'd never say that my way is the only way or even the best way, but it's worked well for me since I switched to Mac (2006) and I've never lost one of my 15K+ images, having gone through who knows how many iterations of iPhoto and three versions of OS X.

    I've never let iPhoto unload my cameras (Nikon D200, then D300, and soon a D800), and I don't use Nikon's software either .

    I use Finder to copy images from the camera into a folder not on my system drive (I use a Mac Pro, but if I didn't I'd use an external drive for this). I don't rename them; the only organization in this folder is by year and (sometimes) by month. It's my archive.

    True, some cameras can't be made visible in Finder, in which case you're stuck using iPhoto. Not that using iPhoto is a bad thing. I'm not saying that at all.

    I manage the CF cards in my camera myself, which is a trivially easy task. Why turn it over to iPhoto, where a bit of inattention could result in having iPhoto delete what's on the CF card?

    When I want my images in iPhoto, I have it import them and I have it set to copy the images to its library. I don't import every image from my image store.

    Thus I have two sets of images. iPhoto manages a subset and I manage the full set.

    Time Machine takes care of backing up the ones iPhoto manages, and I back up my image store either onto an external or onto my NAS, or both.

    This way isn't for everybody, but it works well for me. Yeah, I have plenty of disk space, but these days who (apart from Air users) doesn't?

    Now as for the D800's RAW images -- I'll see. They are huge.
  9. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    Then don't do that. I mean seriously. No matter how you manage your photographs, there may be times when you need a copy of the file under a different name or in a different location. If you manage your photographs using iPhoto then you must export the photographs that you need. This creates a new copy of each exported photograph. If you are managing your photographs in the Finder, then there is no reason that you cannot manually create the copies you need with the names you need in the locations that you need. Is this concept really that difficult?
  10. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    If it works well for you, then I will not try to change what you do. But for someone just starting your workflow adds unnecessary steps. There is no reason to not let iPhoto manage your images. The images are stored untouched in its library and can be retrieved when needed. One can also do a backup independent of TM. In fact I recommend it. I clone my HHDs every night. Occasionally I swap one of those cloned copies into a safety deposit box for off-site storage.

    I agree that you should manage memory cards yourself. I never format my cards until at least the next day when I know I've got both the TM and the cloned backup. It's no extra work to just let iPhoto not delete images from the card.

    It is vitally important to make sure the iPhoto database is backed up frequently. If the iPhoto database gets borked all you've got now are duplicates (in the iPhoto library) of the images as in your photo store.... the ones you were keeping for safe keeping.
  11. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I think there's very little disagreement between us (but it would be OK if there were).

    Thinking about the OP -- isn't it true that "Copy items to the iPhoto Library" isn't the default? If that's checked off (as it is with me) then indeed the images are stored untouched.

    But if it's not checked off, then doesn't teckno's problem become a serious one? That is, if you move images around in such a way that iPhoto no longer knows where they are, or if you modify the images yourself (with an external application), then iPhoto cannot manage your images and it could be bad.

    So I'd suggest that the OP make sure the "Copy items . . ." preference is checked.
  12. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    "Copy items to the iPhoto Library" is the default, and for good reason. Chances are it's checked for the OP, since they would have needed to change that setting themselves for it to be unchecked.

  13. matrix07 macrumors 601


    Jun 24, 2010
    As someone who just converted to Mac I recommend you following the steps guided by tekno. You must remember iPhoto save pictures you imported on its own library. So the easiest way to work with iPhoto is importing all your photos then delete all the originals (After you checked your iPhoto everything is alright of course). Then back up your mac with Time Machine or any method you prefer so the new iPhoto library is backed up.
    This is the simplest way and you will be less likely confused in the future.
  14. chiefpavvy macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2008
    iPhoto is a different beast, if you are coming in as a long-time Windows user. That said, iPhoto is superior as well. Once you get used to the work flow it becomes second nature and you will start to appreciate how simple and easy the Mac really is.

    The idea of iPhoto is not to spend time worrying about where the files are stored. iPhoto takes care of that. Everything is put in to a master library which can easily be backed up via Time Machine or many other methods. Just import your photos and forget about it.
  15. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    With respect, I disagree. The tools are built into iPhoto so that the times you would ever need to rename/relocate an image are vanishingly small. You can create a virtual copy within iPhoto (Duplicate) if you need to treat a single image in different ways - for example if you want both a B&W and a Colour version. Each version can then be put into the appropriate album and named as you wish.

    Mostly I agree with you. However, it's not a Mac vs Windows thing. The iPhoto application is a Digital Asset Manager - and they also exist for Windows : Lightroom and Capture One are the two best known ones. The difference is that Lr and C1 are intended (and priced accordingly) for the very serious and professional market so most casual Windows users don't have experience with a DAM.

    What Apple has done is bring the DAM application to the masses through iPhoto.

    And - once you start using a DAM effectively, as you've noticed, your photographic life gets a lot easier - once the learning curve has been travelled. I've moved on to Lr, but I love what it has enabled me to do - which is mostly to save time to go shooting more (oh, who am I kidding ... to post more on MR :rolleyes: ) and to combine my images in ways I would not have thought of under the old way of organizing (pre DAM).
  16. moveright thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 18, 2012

    Ok, so, first off, sorry for being a total mac noob and creating a fertile warzone. Thankfully my experiences on these forums have been positive thus far. Had this been some sort of elitist gaming forum, I could have been charged with trolling!

    Thanks for all the motivated input though!

    <ahem> ok. so, I understand the importation of pics into iPhoto now. I guess I have a bit of trouble giving full say-so to the program to manage things for me although, it sounds like that is pretty much the implication in this thread based on the replies. So, I'm going to just import my pictures to iPhoto and have faith.

    And, from there, I suppose I need to look into some sort of backup like time machine or skydrive, etc. right?

    So, to recap, I'm totally safe to import pictures and then get rid of the originals? The reason I was so skeptical about this is because nearly every experience I've ever had with iTunes has been a bad one. I feel like any time I've imported music to iTunes, I've lost all control of the file. So, with iPhoto, once the whole concept of "importing to library" was thrown out there, I freaked.
  17. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    In my opinion - yes perfectly safe. iPhoto works like this. It has a catalogue (database) where it keeps notes about your photos - everything it knows and does. And it has a folder structure where it keeps the original images. By default the folder structure is hidden from the user inside the library, but it's not hard to get to if you really needed.

    When iPhoto moves your images into it's own folder structure - that is the last time it actually touches your images. After that your original images just sit there. iPhoto never touches them or changes them. If you made a copy of your image and tucked it away before importing, you would then be storing two identical copies of the photo. Even after heavily editing the image, the two files would be identical.

    The second part of iPhoto is that catalogue, a database. For everything you do to the image a note is made in the database. Keywords, albums, captions etc. Also, all of edits. Just notations in the database. When you want to look at the image, iPhoto merely pulls up the original (untouched) image and applies the edits that are noted in the catalogue.

    An exception to this hands-off approach is when you pass an image off to an external editor, using iPhoto to invoke that editor. In that case iPhoto makes a copy of the original (untouched still) image, applies your edits and gives that copy to the external editor. When the external editor passes the finished image back - the edited image - is now a separate image from the original and is "imported" back into iPhoto. The edited image is put into iPhoto's folder structure, and a database entry created for it. And I think it's also virtually linked back to the original (still untouched) photos. And I believe the edited image also inherits all of the metadata entries (captions, etc). I'm more familiar Lightroom (Lr) now, so I may be recalling these iPhoto specifics not quite correctly.

    The weak link in this whole process is the database, because it can be corrupted. That is why it must be backed up regularly. And of course the images as well. Backing up the iPhoto Library catches both, I believe. In Lr the database and images are often saved in separate locations. But I think the default for iPhoto is to tuck everything into the library. However.... even if the database is totally lost .... the images are still just sitting there - untouched.

    A Digital Asset Management system is very powerful tool, but it can take a real mental shift to use it efficiently. If you feel you are fighting it, then to quote a popular saying " you are (probably) doing it wrong." Obviously, for some people, the iPhoto workflow won't ever feel comfortable... but in my experience those people who adopt the recommended way of doing things will find a DAM system makes their lives a DAM sight easier (pun intended). One of the hardest things to do is to let the DAM do the hard work. There's no point, with a DAM, to renaming photos and slotting them into named folders for storage. Let iPhoto do its thing. Where you need to do the work is to set the albums, events, keywords. And then learn to use Smart Albums.... one of the best features of a DAM.

    Basically, you don't try to decide any more if a photo goes into "Birthday Party", or "June", or "Becky", or "Family", or "Becky's friends".... it goes into all of them. You set up Smart Albums that search for photos with each of those keywords. When you import the photos you merely add those keywords, and now those photos appear in each Smart Album. A variation is to create a folder for number of Smart Albums, and call the folder "Family" (for example) instead of creating a separate SA for "Family". Put the SA Becky (and others) into the Family folder. Now whenever you need to find photos of Becky you just go to the Family folder, and peer inside Becky. Every photo of Becky is there.

    SAs update themselves on the fly. Import some new photos, and use "Becky" as a keyword, and the images can immediately be found in the SA Becky. Even if you don't create a SA for keyword it can be used. You can open the Becky SA and do a search on the keyword "Birthday", for example to just locate images of Becky at Birthday Parties.

    But wait, there's more.... Once you have identified all the photos you want to work with for a project, create a regular album and drag all of the images to this album. Regular albums don't update themselves on the fly (as do SAs) - you must put images into the album, where they'll stay until you pull them out. Now you can create a book, a calendar, order prints, create a slideshow, export them for mailing, upload them to Facebook, etc etc. Becky would love a book with the pictures from her birthday party, by the way.

    And since all of this is happening only in the database, your storage requirements haven't gone up by more than a few text lines in the catalogue.
  18. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    You are talking about managing photographs within iPhoto. I am talking about using photographs in PowerPoint presentations and departmental brochures. It is true that some applications can see photographs inside the iPhoto Library bundle, but many others cannot.
  19. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Yes, in this case it can become a bit kludgely. But when I need those photos I identify the ones I need (in Lr in my case) and export them to a temporary folder - at the resolution I need. I then have access to the photos in whatever application I'm using. Once I'm done I just delete the temporary folder, or archive it if I need it archived. On the one hand a bit of kludge, on the other hand you can use iPhoto to find the photos you are looking for very quickly.

    (Disclosure: I no longer use iPhoto, but have moved on to Lightroom... but the theory is the same.)
  20. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    I had similar apprehensions when I first switched from Windows. In Windows, you have to rely on the file system much more than on a Mac. When you first make the switch, it seems unnatural to do everything within an application, even unsafe. After you use it for a while, you will learn to trust it. In the end, you will find that it is much easier than the old way on Windows.

    Your experience with iTunes reflects that. A lot of people say that iTunes works better on the Mac. They're wrong. It works exactly the same on a Mac. The difference is that once they've used a Mac for a while, they become less apprehensive about giving up organizational control to the application.

    To answer your questions...

    Yes, you are safe to import the pictures and get rid of the originals. If you ever need the pictures outside of iPhoto all you have to do is select them, then drag them to your desktop. That creates a copy that you can do anything you want with and won't touch the one that's in iPhoto.

    Inside iPhoto, you'll see that your pictures are organized in "Events". These are essentially folders created automatically based on the dates in the photo, or the dates they were imported. You can drag and drop photos together within iPhoto to create or consolidate events.

    If you have, let's say 150 photos that you import from a party, it will organize them into a single event based on that date. You can then rename that event anything you like.

    Now, you may want to keep all of those photos, but you realize that only about 35 of them are actually good pictures or are worthy of sharing. Now, you can create an album by selecting the ones you like and choosing "Create -> New Album". This allows you to keep all of the pictures from that event, but you can choose to only view the good ones by looking at the album instead of the event.

    Even from within an album you can drag and drop to the desktop to create a copy you can use somewhere else if you so desire.

    As for backups, the Mac has the easiest backup tool imaginable. It's simple, it's free, and it's already included on your Mac. Use Time Machine. It's the little clock icon on the top right of your display. All you need is an external drive attached to your computer or your network. Click on the clock icon, choose "Time Machine Preferences" and then "Select Disk". Your drives will show up, pick one and then slide the switch to "On".

    It backs up everything. Literally everything. If your computer dies and you get a new one, or you do something stupid (like I did the other night) and need to do a system restore, you simply choose "Restore from Time Machine Backup" and it will restore your machine exactly as it was--even the windows that were open during the backup will be open in exactly the same place.

    I'm sure there are more specific backup applications out there if you just want to backup photos, but quite honestly, Time Machine is a complete program that works as described. It's hard to foresee a situation that would cause you to lose all of your photos but not everything else.
  21. notalot macrumors newbie


    May 11, 2010
    Thank you!! No more lost photos...why oh why doesn't 'import' mean just that? I mean, when I import a photo I assume a copy is in iPhoto but no, a box has to be ticked. Thanks to this tip I've ticked the box :)

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