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Top Ten iPhoto Tips
Pages: 1, 2

Data Out: Managing iPhoto Files

Tip #6: Limit library size to 650MBs. Every time you upload a photo, your iPhoto library grows a little more. Before too long it can easily swell to a gigabyte or more. Unless you own a DVD burner or you have lots of spare space on a FireWire hard drive, you're going to have a hard time fitting libraries onto standard CDs for backup and portability. Plus, if you hang out in the iPhoto discussion groups you know that performance tends to slow down as libraries grow in size.

You can check the size of your iPhoto library by following this path:
Users -> "Your Name" -> Pictures -> iPhoto Library. Click once on the folder to highlight it, then choose "Show Info" from the "File" dropdown menu (or press the "Apple" and "I" keys). If your library is approaching 650MB, burn it on to CD, then pull it out of your Pictures folder. The next time you launch iPhoto, it will create a brand new library.

Tip #7: Use iPhoto Library Manager to switch between libraries. Brian Webster's nifty piece of freeware enables you to select the iPhoto Library you want to view before you launch the program. If you have three different libraries on your hard disk (each 650MBs or less!), then simply launch iPhoto Library Manager first and select the library you want to load. You can download Brian's software at

Screen shot.
iPhoto Library Manager enables you to easily switch from one iPhoto Library to another.

Note: I recommend that you keep all your iPhoto libraries in your "Pictures" folder. I give each library a descriptive name such as iPhoto Library (Vol 2) to help me keep track of them. I also like to put a ~ at the beginning of the filename so the iPhoto libraries show up at the top of the window when I open my Pictures folder in "list" view.

Tip #8: Create custom albums for better organization and retrieval. Not only will this help you manage your pictures within iPhoto, it forces the application to create readable data that can be retrieved by CD-cataloging applications.

Note: To create an album in iPhoto, just click the "+" button in the lower left corner.

Screen shot.
By creating custom albums in iPhoto, you force the application to create data that can be quickly retrieved by cataloging applications such as CD Finder.

Over time you'll probably end up with dozens of iPhoto libraries stored on dozens of CDs. If you use cataloging software such as CDFinder, it will capture all of those album names you created within each iPhoto library. When you need to find out which CD (iPhoto Library) a group of photos resides on, such as "European Vacation 2001," then just use the "Find" command in your CD-catalog program, and it will tell you which iPhoto library contains those images.

Screen shot.
Cataloging programs such as CDFinder let you search for album names across many CDs. In this instance I searched for albums that had "Wedding" in their title, and CDFinder let me know where to find those albums.

Tip #9: Duplicate photos before editing. When preparing a picture in iPhoto for printing or other specific output, you might want to duplicate it before you start editing. This allows you to keep the pristine, original image for future use right beside the edited version. To duplicate a photo, click on the thumbnail once to highlight it, then press "CMD D" or choose "Duplicate" from the "File" dropdown menu.

If you forget to duplicate and want to restore an edited photo back to its original state, you can select "Revert to Original" from the "File" dropdown menu.

Tip #10: Add titles to important photos. Digital cameras are user friendly in many ways, but the files they produce are not. iPhoto can help you create logical names for your pictures that replace the alphanumeric system the cameras use. This functionality is particularly nice for images that you want to export for other uses outside of iPhoto such as creating Web pages, email attachments, and CD libraries.

First, click once on the iPhoto thumbnail to highlight it, then enter the information you want to use as the filename in the "Title" field. You have to enter each photo's title individually unless you want to opt for one of iPhoto's batch options: "Roll Info," "File Name," or "Date/Time." To use one of these labels to replace the existing filenames for an entire batch of photos, SHIFT-click all the images you want selected, and choose "Set Title To" under the "Edit" dropdown menu.

Most likely though, you're going to want to add filenames that are more descriptive, such as "Eiffel Tower," "Big Ben," or "Crazy Taxi Driver." In that case you highlight the thumbnail, enter the descriptive name in the "Title" field, and press the "Return" key.

Screen shot.
By entering descriptive names in the Title field of iPhoto, you can export those images and use that descriptive title for the new file name.

You might want to enlarge the size of your thumbnails using the slider bar on the lower right side of iPhoto's application window. This will make it easier to identify the picture.

Once you have all of your new titles entered the way you want them, create a new album (by clicking on the "+" button in the lower left side of iPhoto, and drag all the newly named images into the album. Then click once on the album to highlight it, and click on the "Share" button to reveal the "Export" icon in the lower right corner of iPhoto. Click on "Export" and choose "File Export" from the tabbed dialogue box.

In the File Export dialogue box, be sure to click on the "Use Titles" radio button under "Name." Once you've decided the other parameters you want, hit the "Export" button. iPhoto will ask you where you want these images placed on your hard drive. Navigate to the desired folder, click "OK," and iPhoto will export the entire album and include the names you wrote in the "Title" field as the new filenames for the pictures.

Now here's something really cool: If you want to build an iPhoto library that has all descriptive filenames for your JPEGs, and then include them in your Title field too, follow these easy steps:

  • Create a fresh iPhoto Library as described in Tip #6.
  • Choose "Import" from under the "File" menu.
  • Navigate to a folder with renamed images.
  • Import the entire folder.

All of your pictures will retain their descriptive filenames in iPhoto, and those names will also be displayed in the Title field.

Final Thoughts

Today, I've covered only a fraction of the many techniques that you can use to tap the power of iPhoto. For more information, see some of my previous articles by clicking on the iPhoto Tips link located under the Content box on the Mac DevCenter. I'll be adding articles on a regular basis to this area. Also, I've teamed up with David Pogue and Joe Schorr to write, iPhoto: The Missing Manual. This book is brimming with iPhoto tips and tricks, plus three full chapters dedicated to digital photography that will show you the secrets the pros use to capture great images.

Happy shooting!

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

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