I don’t trust iPhoto

I like iPhoto as it’s a quick and easy way to manage and retouch my thousands of photos (and I also like using Galerie to produce lovely web albums from it). However I don’t like the idea of trusting my entire photo library to an application that stores its data in a proprietary format. For example, when I rename a photo from “DSCN1234.JPG” to “On The Beach”, the “On The Beach” name is only stored inside iPhoto’s proprietary database. The original JPEG file in the iPhoto Library folder is still called “DSCN1234.JPG”.

So if iPhoto freaks out and corrupts its database (an alltoocommon occurrence from what I’ve read), all my photo titles will be lost. And naming those photos was almost as much work as taking them! Not good.

My workaround for now is to rename all my photo filenames before I import the photos into iPhoto. That way, if iPhoto corrupts its database, at least I’ll have preserved my photo titles. Even doing this is pretty tricky, as Preview doesn’t let you rename files. So I’m sort of muddling along by viewing the photos in Preview, and renaming them in Finder. It’s not particularly elegant, but at least my photo titles are safe.

(Also, in Finder, how come I can rename “DSCN1234.JPG” to either “On The Beach.JPG” or “On The Beach”, but when I look at the directory in Terminal it’s always called “On The Beach.JPG”? Very confusing! Oh, and why does Finder’s Get Info show you pretty much all the EXIF data except the one thing you really need – when the photo was taken!? Grr…)

I already have some photos in iPhoto that I didn’t rename before import. What to do with these? Well I’m going to go through these and export them from iPhoto (selecting the “Use title for the filename” option), then re-import them. With a bit of luck, the image files will then be stored in iPhoto with the correct titles for the filenames.

I also think I’m regularly going to export my photos from iPhoto and burn them to CD, just to be on the safe side. iPhoto hasn’t crashed yet, but if it does I don’t want it taking my whole photo library with it. Call me paranoid, but photos are pretty much irreplaceable, and I’d like at least some of them to survive so my grandkids can laugh at my hairstyle! 😉

Anyone else have any tips for managing/protecting your iPhoto library?

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10 Responses to “I don’t trust iPhoto”

  1. Si Says:

    I don’t trust it either. I had a very weird occurrence a little while ago where it just started losing it’s mappings to original photos, and coming up with grey exclamation points instead. The photos are *probably* still there, but I have yet to find some.

    Given that the basic task of software like iPhoto is to catalogue your photo library without losing any photos or causing undue stress, it’s lost my confidence. Without that, a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system is nothing.

    The new regime is to implement a completely new file system organised manually by date. So I’m trawling iPhoto’s *insane* file structure from 2003 onwards, re-sorting all 10,000 photos into year and month directory structures. It’s going to take weeks, weeding out duplicates that iphoto has added, and checking each folder for EXIF info to know where to file it (no, you can’t use the creation date, because when you upgrade iPhoto, it modifies them to that date).

    When I have the new structure in place, I’m going to invest in some proper DAM software to catalog and tag it, which doesn’t make changes to my structure. The only name on the list so far is iView Media Pro (http://www.iview-multimedia.com/). Shame it’s just been sold to Microsoft. Still, it has an exit strategy for the metadata, and it’ll get me through the next couple of years.

    si xx

  2. mattdoyle Says:

    Photos: good! Grey exclamation marks: not good!

    “So I’m trawling iPhoto’s *insane* file structure from 2003 onwards, re-sorting all 10,000 photos into year and month directory structures.” – Can you not just pick a roll or album that’s in a particular year or month, then use the Export feature to export the selected photos to the relevant year/month folder? Or are you trawling the iPhoto Library folder itself because iPhoto’s lost some of the mappings, and you want to be sure you’re getting all the pics?

    Also my iPhoto Library folder seems relatively sanely ordered – at least it’s by year then by roll name. Although the Original/Modified thing must make it hard to find stuff. Maybe yours is more chaotic because it was created in an older version of iPhoto?

    I do find iPhoto a very quick way to zip through a roll of photos and do basic processing – cropping, levels etc. However, much like you I think I’m going to export each roll once it’s done (using the method above) into a year/month folder structure, and keep that as my “gold master”, rather than relying on iPhoto to not cock things up!


  3. Si Says:

    “Or are you trawling the iPhoto Library folder itself because iPhoto’s lost some of the mappings, and you want to be sure you’re getting all the pics?”

    Exactly that. I don’t trust it to automate it.

    I have upgraded iPhoto three times, and only 06 has the relatively ordered structure you see on yours. You really don’t want to see what it does with the older ones!


  4. mattdoyle Says:

    You’re right – I don’t!

    Sounds terrifying…


  5. JT Says:

    Now it is Feb. 2008… The problem still exists with iPhoto–**Not dependable!!!**

    I lost an important photo simply after I renamed it. The blasted Exclamation point keeps showing up, no matter what I tried to do to retrieve it. The stupid thing was that after I imported the picture from my camera to iPhoto library I clicked on the “Erase Original” button option thinking that iPhoto is a solid product; it is NOT!

    I am a new Mac user who got sold into the idea that Macs are better… no virus, easy to manipulate around, no crashes, user-friendly, cool, etc.. It is turning out to be a mistake because there are many quirks (not friendly for a PC user and not intuitive either), freezes, and abrupt closing of applications. Now this lost photo really, really annoys me! I had spent more than $2000.00 on this 24″ iMac :{

  6. Matt Says:

    JT, that sucks. Sorry to hear about your iPhoto grief – I hope you manage to get the photo back from a backup somewhere.

    I’ve ended up using Adobe Bridge to manage my photos. It’s quick, simple, and it lets me keep my photo files and folders organized how *I* want. It does pretty much all the things I need a photo management app to do.

    If I ever want to use iPhoto features such as slideshows and iMovie photo importing, I simply import the relevant photos folder into iPhoto with the “Copy files to iPhoto Library folder when adding to library” option *unchecked* in iPhoto prefs. That way iPhoto just creates aliases to my photos, rather than copying them into its own folders, which saves a lot of disk space, and means I know exactly where my original photos are at all times!

  7. Looby Says:

    I share your grief. I used the first versions of iPhoto on an iBook. Those early versions said you could put in thousands of photos, but after about 1,000, things started choking. iPhoto dumped my roll info and lots of meta-data. On two different occasions. The individual photos were all still there, but scattered in umpteen jillion separate folders in a way that was unintelligible. iPhoto was definitely not ready for prime time. A friend found an extraction program to get them all out, but I had to sort thru them one by one and reconstitute the “rolls”. Bottom line is things can and will go wrong, either from hardware, software, upgrades, or user mistakes. The files need to be in a structure that you can go in and understand and back up easily. Use iView Media Pro to read your own file structure. The one other program I want to check out is Lightroom, which I think can read your own structure. The only thing I use iPhoto for is to batch process many photos. I really, really want to like iPhoto, but that file structure has screwed me over one time too many.

    So if you uncheck the “Copy files to iPhoto Library folder when adding to library” option, will this just reference your own file structure and eliminate potential trouble?

  8. Matt Says:

    Sounds like a nightmare Looby!

    Unchecking that option certainly references your photos, rather than copying them into its own file structure. Whether that eliminates all iPhoto corruption problems, I don’t know! I think it leaves the originals untouched though, so you should be pretty safe. (Famous last words probably!)

  9. markus941 Says:

    I totally agree with you. It seems Apple is very keen on locking you into its proprietary file formats. This is the one reason I won’t be using iPhoto.

  10. Lucas Says:

    I don`t like iphoto either. Recently I got an ipod and I had an option to sync with ipod or a folder. I choose the second option cause on finder I have the idea of control and its important when you want your pics safe.