Merging Photo Libraries

You’ve just arrived home from your photo safari of deepest Kenya. You’re jet-lagged and dusty, but your iBook is bursting at the seams with fresh photo meat. You can’t wait to transfer the new pictures into your main Photo Library—you know, the one on your Power Macintosh G5 with 2 gigs of RAM and a 35-inch Apple Imax Display.

Or, less dramatically, suppose you’ve just upgraded to iPhoto 5. You’re thrilled that you can now fit 25,000 pictures into a single library—but you still have six old iPhoto 2 Library folders containing about 2,000 pictures each.

In both cases, you have the same problem: How are you supposed to merge the libraries into a single, unified one?

How Not to Do It

You certainly can combine the photos of two Macs’ Photo Libraries—just export them from one (Share → Export) and then import them into the other (File → Add to Library). As a result, however, you lose all of your album organization, comments, and keywords.

Your next instinct might be: “Hey, I know! I’ll just drag the iPhoto Library folder from computer #1 into the iPhoto window of computer #2!”

Big mistake. You’ll end up importing not only the photos, but also the tiny thumbnail versions of each photo (which are stored separately in the iPhoto Library folder) and the original versions of any photos that you edited. You’ll wind up with duplicates or triplicates of every photo in the viewing area, in one enormous, unmanageable, uncategorized, sloshing library.

No, merging iPhoto libraries ...

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