Mac tip: One iPhoto library to rule them all…

Mac tip: One iPhoto library to rule them all…

(Update Aug 27, 07 5:28 pm): I have an update to this tip now that iLife '08 has been released. The change to the way iPhoto stores its library of photos causes some re-thinking, but doesn't completely break the tip.

Not the usual fare here, so I’ll drop the entire post behind the jump, but if you’re a Mac user whose family has several computers and you all want to share all your digital photos, you’ll want to check it out. Mainly I want to keep a record of what I’ve done in case I ever need to recreate it.

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  • oh. my. lord.

    I thought you’d just be impressed if I told you I’d recently converted. I think you’d be impressed if I actually knew what the heck you are talking about! (Analogy: Convert who discovers he or she should take grad theology classes…)

  • Great tip, but I have a few questions if I may. Are you setting up syncing from your wife’s machine back to the server so that changes she makes are captured? I guess I’m thinking of a solution where the server is the central repository, but my wife’s iMac and my MacBookPro could both sync to the server and we would both have each other’s changes. I’m probably asking for too much, but this is where the tip led me.


  • Stephan: I think that in order to do that, you’d need to check the photos in and out, comparing them to one another. And what happens if I edit a photo and she edits the same one? I think that would take much more sophisticated software than what you can cobble together from what’s built-in or downloadable as shareware.


  • Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too. Something like Portfolio Server from Extensis would be needed.

    Thanks for the quick response and the original tip.

  • instead of renaming the folders so they do not have spaces, you could simply put quotes around any argument that has spaces in it.

  • You might want to add the ‘E’ option to your rsync command. This tells rsync to keep all of the Apple specific information that rsync usually ignores. my typical rsync command is:

    rsync -azvE—delete—exclude ‘.DS_Store’ <source> <dest>

  • This is great, but what about sharing iPhoto libraries amongst the users on your machine? I still can’t get my wife’s copy of iPhoto on her account to see my iPhoto library (even though I put it in the Shared directory). Any advice/help is appreciated.

  • D’oh! I don’t even have to pay the $20 since I already own a copy. Just didn’t know it could do something like this. I will check it out.

    At least this way I learned how to do rsync, ssh, passwordless ssh, and a cron job. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Checking out iPhoto Library Manager, I’m not sure it allows synchronization, just duplication, which means I would have to copy the entire iPhoto library folder everytime, which is time consuming. I’d rather just copy what’s change, especially since I don’t make changes to the library ever day.

    Am I missing something?

  • I did it a different way. I have a fileserver where I copied the whole iPhoto library to. Then on each of my mac’s I held the alt key and clicked the iPhoto icon – at that point it asked where the iPhoto library was and I directed it to the network share.

    I did the same on my other mac and bobs your uncle – they both link to the same library.

    This also works for the iTunes library if you didn’t know.

  • It’s not a bad solution, but what happens if you and another person are changing the library at the same time? Since iPhoto is not designed to be a multi-user product, I’m wondering if it could cause major problems to the iPhoto database.

  • Domencio, I don’t know – I’ve never tried. I use it in a slightly different scenario to you as I use it as a way so that both my mac mini and macbook are using the same sources so I can switch between them easily. There’s never been the occasion that both machines have been used at the same time yet as we tend to use the macbook.

    I’ll agree that it could get a bit messy if both machines are making changes to the same file though. 

    Cheers – Nick

  • As far as Stephan’s question goes, if you’ve both edited the file someones changes are going to get overwritten.  Though this is making me think of taking this all a step further and putting the iPhoto Library under subversion control since it’s built in to OS X anyway.  I may have to look at that.

  • You’re not using the networked library as your main iPhoto library. It only shows up as a shared library in your iPhoto so you can copy photos out of the shared library. So you’re not making any changes to it except copying it every night.

  • HI, so if I understand this right, my parents can take their Macbook on the road (without having to connect to the net or the library on the server), update it with photo’s they take on the road. Then when they get home, sync it and the iMac at home will be updated.

    is that correct

  • It should work that way, as long as you set things up according to the version of iPhoto and Mac OS X they have installed.

    Actually, it would be easier for them because they’re only dealing with two computers, not three. In their case, before they leave, they should copy the iMac’s iPhoto library to the Macbook; take pictures and upload them to the Macbook’s iPhoto; and when they get home copy the Macbook’s iPhoto library to the iMac, overwriting the old copy there.

    That’s lots easier than dealing with rsync and all the rest.