Upgraded: New Mac, Setting up iPhoto Library From Multiple Old Backups

Over the years (Jaguar to Snow Leopard), I've had multiple Macs in different locations (work, home) to which I've loaded photos from cameras into multiple iPhoto libraries. As these Macs have died (G4s, G5s), or I've been forced to upgrade, I've made a backup on CDs and DVDs of the iPhoto libraries (different versions of iPhoto over the years).
Now I've got a brand new Macbook Pro and I want to put all these photos into one library on one disk. I don't care much about preserving photos edited in iPhoto (I use Photoshop for serious editing), nor do I have particular album or roll data from these old libraries that matters. I just want to get all the original photos into one library so I can search and access them all in one place.
I have always found the way iPhoto organizes the photos on disk a bit confusing, especailly when it comes to backing up and accessing the files at the Finder level. And now it seems things have gotten even more dumbed away from the user in "package" w/ the latest iPhoto.
I would like to just have my photos in a folder, not a "package," but I would like to be able to search and organize photos and load them to my iPod Touch. (Maybe isn't the best application for me?) I'd also like my iPhoto folder to be on an external HD.
This is one of those grueling tasks I've been putting off for years. So many disks, so many libraries, how to get them all into one. I want to get it right once and for all, so I'll have all my photos on in one place and hopefully in a Finder-level folder that will be easy to back up and easy to port to my next Mac down the road in the future.
Can anyone offer any advice on the best way to proceed? Anyone else been through something like this?
Thanks in advance,
Babz

This is actually more simple than it seems as you
just want to get all the original photos into one library so I can search and access them all in one place.
So, create a Library: Hold down the option (or alt) key key and launch iPhoto. From the resulting menu select 'Create Library' and import the contents of the originals from the other Libraries: (File -> Import, Drag to the iPhoto Window, Drag to the iPhoto icon on the Dock)
That's all your originals in a single Library.
I have always found the way iPhoto organizes the photos on disk a bit confusing, especailly when it comes to backing up and accessing the files at the Finder level.
It's actually quite straightforward, but the key is +you don't access the files at a Finder level+.
And now it seems things have gotten even more dumbed away from the user in "package" w/ the latest iPhoto.
Remember: iPhoto is a Database. Like any database, you need to manipulate the data via the db and not a back door.
Since iPhoto 7 (iLife 08) the old iPhoto Library Folder is now a Package File. This is simply a folder that looks like a file in the Finder. The change was made to the format of the iPhoto library because many users were inadvertently corrupting their library by browsing through it with other software or making changes in it themselves. That's why +you don't access the files at a Finder level+.
Want to see inside: Go to your Pictures Folder and find the iPhoto Library there. Right (or Control-) Click on the icon and select 'Show Package Contents'. A finder window will open with the Library exposed.
Standard Warning: Don't change anything in the iPhoto Library Folder via the Finder or any other application. iPhoto depends on the structure as well as the contents of this folder. Moving things, renaming things or otherwise making changes will prevent iPhoto from working and could even cause you to damage or lose your photos.
How the library is organised: There are various files, which are the Library itself and some ancillary files. Then you have three core folders
Originals are the photos as they were downloaded from your camera or scanner.
(ii) Modified contains edited pics, shots that you have cropped, rotated or changed in any way.
(iii) Data holds the thumbnails the the app needs to show you the photos in the iPhoto Window.
But none of that matters, as you never access the files via the Finder.
*To back up an iPhoto Library* make a copy of the Library on another disk. You can automate this process with Time Machine or many other back up apps like Chronosync or DejaVu. There are many, many other options. Search on MacUpdate.
I would like to just have my photos in a folder, not a "package,"
*How to do it:*
Simply go to iPhoto Menu -> Preferences -> Advanced and uncheck 'Copy Files to the iPhoto Library on Import'.
*What Happens:*
Now iPhoto will not copy the files, but rather simply reference them on your HD. To do this it will create an alias in the Originals Folder that points to your file. It will still create a thumbnail and, if you modify the pics, a Modified version within the iPhoto Library Folder.
*Some things to consider:*
1. Importing and deleting pics are more complex procedures. You have to to put the files where they will be stored before importing them. When you delete them you'll need to remove the files from the HD yourself.
2. You cannot move or rename the files on your system or iPhoto will lose track of them on systems prior to 10.5 and iPhoto 08. Even with the later versions issues can still arise if you move the referenced files to new volumes or between volumes.
3. Most importantly, migrating to a new disk or computer can be much more complex.
4. Because iPhoto has no tools for managing Referenced Files, if, for some reason, the path to the photos changes then you could find yourself resolving aliases for +each photo in the Library+ one by one.
My own opinion:
I've yet to see a good reason to run iPhoto in referenced mode unless you're using two photo organiser
If disk space is an issue, you can run an entire iPhoto Library from an external disk:
1. Quit iPhoto
2. Copy the iPhoto Library from your Pictures Folder to the External Disk.
3. Hold down the option (or alt) key while launching iPhoto. From the resulting menu select 'Choose Library' and navigate to the new location. From that point on this will be the default location of your library.
4. Test the library and when you're sure all is well, trash the one on your internal HD to free up space.
If you're concerned about accessing the files, There are many, many ways to access your files in iPhoto:
*For Users of 10.5 and later*
You can use any Open / Attach / Browse dialogue. On the left there's a Media heading, your pics can be accessed there. Command-Click for selecting multiple pics.
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!
You can access the Library from the New Message Window in Mail:
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!
*For users of 10.4 and later* ...
Many internet sites such as Flickr and SmugMug have plug-ins for accessing the iPhoto Library. If the site you want to use doesn’t then some, one or any of these will also work:
To upload to a site that does not have an iPhoto Export Plug-in the recommended way is to Select the Pic in the iPhoto Window and go File -> Export and export the pic to the desktop, then upload from there. After the upload you can trash the pic on the desktop. It's only a copy and your original is safe in iPhoto.
This is also true for emailing with Web-based services. However, if you're using Gmail you can use iPhoto2GMail
If you use Apple's Mail, Entourage, AOL or Eudora you can email from within iPhoto.
If you use a Cocoa-based Browser such as Safari, you can drag the pics from the iPhoto Window to the Attach window in the browser.
*If you want to access the files with iPhoto not running*:
For users of 10.6 and later:
You can download a free Services component from MacOSXAutomation which will give you access to the iPhoto Library from your Services Menu. Using the Services Preference Pane you can even create a keyboard shortcut for it.
For Users of 10.4 and later:
Create a Media Browser using Automator (takes about 10 seconds) or use this free utility Karelia iMedia Browser
Other options include:
1. *Drag and Drop*: Drag a photo from the iPhoto Window to the desktop, there iPhoto will make a full-sized copy of the pic.
2. *File -> Export*: Select the files in the iPhoto Window and go File -> Export. The dialogue will give you various options, including altering the format, naming the files and changing the size. Again, producing a copy.
3. *Show File*: Right- (or Control-) Click on a pic and in the resulting dialogue choose 'Show File'. A Finder window will pop open with the file already selected.
*To use iPhoto with Photoshop*
You can set Photoshop (or any image editor) as an external editor in iPhoto. (Preferences -> General -> Edit Photo: Choose from the Drop Down Menu.) This way, when you double click a pic to edit in iPhoto it will open automatically in Photoshop or your Image Editor, and when you save it it's sent back to iPhoto automatically. This is the only way that edits made in another application will be displayed in iPhoto.
Note that iPhoto sends a copy+ of the file to Photoshop, so when you save be sure to use the Save command, not Save As... If you use Save As then you're creating a new file and iPhoto has no way of knowing about this new file. iPhoto is preserving your original anyway.
There's a lot of material there. By all means come back for clarification if you need it. But I strongly urge you to think very carefully before running a Referenced Library.
Regards
TD

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