Tips for importing existing photos into iPhoto

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If you do a lot of importing into iPhoto using photos that are already on your Mac—perhaps you’re migrating from another photo management tool, or you just downloaded all 1,500 pictures taken by relatives at the last family reunion—here are a couple of tricks that you can use to control and ease the import process.

You can, of course, use iPhoto’s built-in import tool, but that can be problematic. Consider those 1,500 pictures from the family reunion; perhaps they’re organized into folders in the Finder, and you’d like to drag each of those folders onto a separate, already-existing album within iPhoto. In iPhoto ’09, at least, you can batch process all these folders—just drag them, one after another, onto the albums you’ve set up in iPhoto, and iPhoto will import each folder in sequence. Unfortunately, there’s no sort of batch status indicator, so you can’t tell when the import will be done. But it does work (though I’m not sure if it works in iPhoto ’08).

The second trick is potentially even more useful, as it can be used for a variety of purposes. As you’re probably aware, iPhoto stores its pictures in a bundle, which is a folder that looks like a file in the Finder. Inside this bundle is a special folder that will cause iPhoto to automatically import any images dropped into that folder. We’re going to “borrow” that folder to create our own iPhoto auto-import tool, and it’s amazingly simple to do.

In the Finder, navigate to your iPhoto Library file, which is typically in your user’s Pictures folder. Control-click on the folder and select Show Package Contents from the pop-up menu. In the new window that opens, you’ll see a folder named Auto Import. Hold down Command and Option (which will force the Finder to create an alias) and then drag Auto Import to your Desktop or other convenient storage location. Make sure you see the small arrow icon on the folder while dragging; this indicates that the Finder will, in fact, create an alias when you drop the folder.

Once you’ve dropped the folder, that’s it—feel free to rename the alias (iPhoto Importer or whatever you prefer), but you don’t have to do that. Now, whenever you want to import a photo or photos into iPhoto, just drop it into the alias you created. If iPhoto is running, it will import the dropped files immediately. If it’s not running, the photos will be imported the next time you launch the program. If you get a lot of photos via e-mail or from the web, this is one of the slickest ways of importing them to iPhoto.

Thanks to macosxhints readers Joris de Beer and Rob Campbell for these iPhoto tips.

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