Smarter iPhoto archives

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Reader Ann Duran could benefit from the judicious use of iPhoto’s Smart Albums. She writes:

My library has become overburdened with the 3000+ photos from my digital life documentary. I read “ Trimmer iPhoto Library ” from your August magazine, but what I really want to do is remove sections of photos and put on my back up drive or a CD. There are events/photos that are now old enough to archive leaving room for the future. I hear from tech talk shows that altering the library is a dangerous proposition. Can you give me a safe method for removing groups of photos from the active library?

As I suggested, the trick to doing this is a Smart Album. To begin, find some way to identify the pictures you want to archive and then delete from your library. If you wish to archive older pictures, this is a cinch. Just select File > New Smart Album and configure the resulting sheet to read Date is Before whenever , where whenever is the date you’ve determined as the dividing line between those photos you want to keep on your Mac and those you wish to archive. iPhoto will create a smart album that contains the photos you’ll archive.

If you’re hoping to archive photos not by date, but by content, you’ll have to find another way to sort them. One way is to use ratings, another is to use keywords.

To assign ratings to a group of photos, select the photos that will be archived, Control-click, and choose the rating you want from the Rating command in the contextual menu. (This is not a good way to go if you routinely rate you pictures as some you don’t want archived will likely end up in the mix.)

To assign keywords to a batch of photos, select those photos, click the Keyword icon (the small key) at the bottom left of the iPhoto window, and drag the photos to the keyword you wish to assign. If there’s no appropriate keyword there, make one of your own by choosing iPhoto > Preferences, clicking the Keywords tab in the resulting Preferences window, clicking Add, and creating an appropriate keyword.

Now create a smart album based on that keyword or rating. With the photos in the smart album, select that album and choose Share > Burn Disc. You’ll be prompted for a blank disc. Click Burn when you’re ready to go and iPhoto will burn your photos to the blank disc (or discs, if more than one is required).

Note: If these photos are precious to you, I’d suggest backing them up more than once—and to media other than CD-R or DVD-R. The Export command in the Share menu allows you to save your files to a hard drive. Word to the wise as CD-R and DVD-R are not the “forever” media some have claimed.

With your photos safely archived, you can now delete them from your iPhoto library. To do so, select all the photos in your smart folder and choose Photos > Move to Trash. Your photos will be placed in iPhoto’s Trash. To delete them from your drive (you’re really, really sure you’ve backed them up properly, yes?), Control-click on iPhoto’s Trash entry in the Source list and choose Empty Trash.

Update: In the first revision of this entry I indicated that when you delete photos from a standard album (versus a smart album), the image remains in iPhoto’s library. Macworld forum visitor swaltner piped in with the word that you could delete pictures from a standard album and iPhoto’s library by selecting the photo (or photos) and pressing Command-Option-Delete. Doing so removes the photo from the library and from every album, slideshow, and book where it appears, so use it carefully.

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