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March 4th 2014 1:39 am

I ditched iPhoto, and feel much better about it.

I have been an iPhoto user since I got my first Mac in 2006. Since then it has grown, and grown, and today it was sitting at a healthy 33GB. I used iPhoto as an album management solution as well as minor edits (rotation and red eye). I value my photos and have them backed up in time machine and in the cloud using Mozy. Thus it seems my requirements for a photo application could better be served by something more lightweight.

If you open up the file structure of the iPhoto Library, what you will find is likely appalling. I had photos stored in 6 different folders:







Lets take a look at the function of the first three. If you at any point in time used iPhoto 6 to iPhoto 8, you will see these folders. Originals is where photos are initially stored when you import them. That is okay for me. However, if you do any operation to a photo, the “new” version is placed in Modified, and the Original is kept in Originals, happily wasting space.

For each of these photos, there is also a thumbnail version that is stored in the Data folder. The data folder is also home to all of the “faces” iPhoto seems to like to collect. Every face it detects in every photo is stored in its own file. Acckkk. If you have ever taken a screen capture of a text conversation with your face and the recipient’s faces on the sides, iPhoto gladly will make many copies of your contact’s face.

If you upgraded to iPhoto 9, well you just caused a world of hurt on yourself. Original, Modified, and Data were replaced! Now your stuff also resides in Masters, Previews, and Thumbnails.

As far as I can tell, these 3 folders are the exact same as their earlier counterparts, further duplicating some files. I am not sure why all the photos weren’t migrated to the new folders, but it just seems stupid.

The most alarming bit was that fact that while digging through these 6 folders I found copies of photos I thought had been deleted long ago. Like years ago. The types of photos that you realized you shouldn’t have imported into iPhoto. Maybe it is silly of me to think that deleting a photo is actually deleting it.

iPhoto also seems to keep a whole lot of metadata about things. GPS, Faces, what photos are on your iPod or iPhone, and previous library information. All this stuff takes space. It also provides little value based on my usage pattern.

So what did I move to?

I moved to using Lyn (www.lynapp.com/) operating inside of my Microsoft OneDrive folder.

Now, this may sound odd but there is some cleverness behind this. First of all, using raw pictures and folders cuts out all metadata except for EXIF data. Removing the duplicates that iPhoto has created has saved me about 33% of the storage space. I am now down to about 22GB of photo library size. Down from 33GB with the exact same photos- that’s a lot.

Now I am keeping it all in my OneDrive folder for 3 main reasons.

1. Any photo I import goes to the cloud and is immediately stored locally on my laptop and desktop, as well as the cloud.

2. Any photo I take on Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10, or iOS is automatically uploaded to the cloud (and effectively my local computers)

3. OneDrive storage is currently a cheap option compared to Dropbox and extra Google Drive space. I get 30GB free for being a Windows Phone user, and 100GB is only $50/year. There are also other plans available

Another huge advantage is the ability to restore individual photos from your backups. Time Machine and Mozy (and I believe Crashplan) allow you to “restore” your entire iPhoto library package, but it doesn’t let you delve inside. This means that if you want to restore one album, you may need to restore your huge library. With a sane folder structure,

For me it took 3 days to get everything the way I wanted it. I was working with the raw files I found in the folders, instead of exporting each album (which would be the easier way). However now that I am done I am satisfied with the results.

If you have escaped iPhoto, or dream to, post here!

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23 replies

Lynn looks really interesting, and I had no idea OneDrive storage was so cheap! On a similar note there is Darktable which is an open source Lightroom alternative if you want something with a little more power. If you don't mind me asking, how does OneDrive handle sharing images publicly? This is something I feel Picturelife nailed, but Loom really hasn't figured it out yet.

I'm currently in the process of rethinking my workflow with photos, because like you I realized it wasn't exactly ideal. After raving about Picturelife in a previous post I have since abandoned it because it doesn't respect folder hierarchy when doing bulk uploading. I've had to reset my account to basically start from scratch. During this process I also realized I really do not like the auto-upload feature of so many apps out there. It ultimately results in a folder full of useless photos, why there isn't a "Only upload from this folder only" feature is beyond me. I also just picked up an EyeFi card as a way to hopefully cut down on processing time.

I still think Picturelife is the clear winner in the space, for now, but I think I'll need to reduce the automation aspect for now. I'm not very big on on having 300+ photos to sort through because of auto uploading.
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In terms of OneDrive sharing, it seems to operate much like Dropbox did. You can share folders with specific people if you choose and get a link to send them

If social media is more of your flavour, Lyn looks to have support to share to 7 services: Email, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, Picasa, DropBox, and SmugMug

I'll take a look into Darktable before my Lyn trial expires. The nice thing about having a decent folder structure for the photo library is that it shouldn't be too hard in the future to swap between applications
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I use Lightroom mostly along w/ a sophisticated system of rsync to three different backups systems. I have over 30 terabytes of data so no online storage will help. However, iPhoto is still used for Album and final curation.


There is simply no better way of organizing photos out of order. Most system arrange by rating, meta-data, date, file name order sequence. With iPhoto, I can re-arrange photos in any different ways. For example, if you have a wedding and what the highlights first - Ring shot, Champagne Toast, exit of the church, I can re-arrange it in my non linear fashion.

Since it is the final curated albums, my iPhoto libraries are pretty small (10GB or so every year).

If I didn't use LightRoom, iPhoto does have its strengths in it's ability to generate multiple sizes. The author sees it is as duplicates but there is a reason for it. You don't want to store 20MB RAW and large jpegs on your phone when a 2 megapixel rendition is fine. A photoshoot at a kid's birthday party will generate 40-64GB worth of files and no phone/tablet can store just a "day's event" Thus, I'm cool w/ the lower res renditions if it means I can store hundreds of photos of my picts for local access on the phone.
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Having data automatically backed up to the cloud (or anywhere, for that matter) is great, but I ran into one problem in doing so a few years ago.

Bit rot.

It happens, and when it does there is no indication and it automatically gets backed up like normal file change. The only way I could find around it was to do an initial backup of my RAW images to a DVD or B/R disc in the event a file became corrupted somehow. Maybe someone here has a better solution.
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The iphoto tip sounds great. I'm looking to free up space on my computer and have been looking at onedrive so maybe I'll try that as well. There's one thing I haven't been able to get an answer on though. Is onedrive good for storing files so that I can free up space on my computer? Or is it mainly for backing up files that will also have to exist on my computer? I'm looking for the former. More like a cloud storage drive that can be accessed on any of my computers or phones.

In other words, could I upload files to onedrive (and physical external drives for a secondary precaution) and then not keep them on my computer's hard drive? Or when onedrive sees that the file is no longer on my computer will it also delete it from cloud storage to sync the two?

Is something like dropbox best for what I'm looking for? Sorry if I'm deviating from your actual post subject. You just sound like you would know more about it than me so i thought I would ask.

I actually have a mac but icloud is only good for syncing documents. So if one of your devices is overstuffed with files, icloud will make sure that all of your devices are overstuffed with those same files.
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No worries!

Initially, OneDrive duplicates a folder that you have on your Mac or PC. Once everything though is uploaded, you are able to "disconnect" it such that files are only on your OneDrive or certain computers.

In the Mac OS Onerive options, it says this:

"If you don't want to keep everything on your OneDrive on this Mac, you can choose to sync only some folders by clicking the Choose Folders button"

I know that the Windows 8 OneDrive has a similar option
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I've been looking into how to "upgrade" my iphoto workflow so this post is great. I use both iphoto and lightroom so Lyn sounds great but read about it not being able to create albums like iPhoto does? If so have you found any workaround. Is it all in metatags instead? My family likes to create albums from our photos (any mention of "meta" and they gloss over) so being able to keep that feature is important.
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I am simply using folders to contain the same albums that iPhoto had. I name my folders 20XX-XX-XX-SomeDescription to keep them in order via date first and then a small description so I know what the photos are of
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Hi, I like this a lot. What exactly do you mean by "operating inside of my Microsoft OneDrive folder" ?..how does it operate inside ?..I have all my photos ( 45Gb) on Onedrive and have recently sync them with my mac. Would like to use Lyn and am ready to install but would be grateful for any help on how to do it so I get same results as you,thank you
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Oh I just mean that in Lyn, you browse through your different folders, and I have it opened up to my OneDrive folder so I see all my photos in OneDrive
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That's what I thought, many thanks, will give it a try now.
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Can you help me please. How did you integrate Lyn and your Onedrive folder?
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This is all I did-

In Lyn, open up the preferences menu (either by going to the Lyn menu then clicking preferences, or pressing the 'command' and comma key at the same time

In the preferences pane, set your 'initial folder' to wherever your onedrive is located on your system!

That is all!
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I love the ability to name faces in iPhoto. I use that feature all the time. Are you aware of any online storage apps that can do that? Are there any that retain the faces I've already named?
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Not that I know of unfortunately.
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I hate to beat a dead horse, but could you please break down w/ a specific step by step (from the very beginning starting w/ downloading Onedrive and Lyn) for how you transferred/reconfigured your photo library to the cloud? thanks!!
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It's been about 8 months since I did this, but when I get a chance (hopefully in the upcoming week) I'll see if I can remember exactly what I did to try help you out.

In the meantime here are some steps from another site that used the dropbox cloud instead of onedrive. They seem simple enough to get you going if you are okay with using Dropbox

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Thanks for such a fast reply. I just bought the student subscription to Office 365 for $80 (which is effectively a TB of cloud storage for $2 a month for the next 4 years - crazy!). I'm basically unsure about how you restructured your photo library when you switched out of iPhoto. i'm assuming you went into the "Masters" file and manually copied and pasted the individual photos out, creating new folders as you went along? Sounds a bit brutal for my 130 GB photo library, but maybe necessary...
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That is effectively what I did. I copied all the photos out of the 6 folders Originals,Modified,Data,Masters,PreviewsThumbnails to new folders named with the date and event (e.g. 2009-08-09-FolkMusicFestival)

I then used a duplicate detector software (trying to remember which one) to get rid of all duplicates.

It was time consuming unfortunately, but I only had 30-50gb of photos. However, since then I've never looked back. I have better and more simple control over my photo library
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Are you still using Lyn on your desktop? Still figuring out how to integrate that with onedrive (i followed your instructions about changing the initial folder under preference to my onedrive;pictures folder - but I'm not having much success). When you did your initial install of Lyn, did you put it in your main Applications directory of your Mac?
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I sure am using it still. Sounds like you did things correctly. That just makes it so Lyn opens up to your onedrive folder saving you a bit of time.

You also installed it correctly if you put it in applications
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So I've transferred a solid chunk of photos onto OneDrive, but I can't "connect" the library to Lyn. I'm effectively unable to see access my photos through Lyn, but I can get to them directly through onedrive... ever have that issue?
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Hmm perhaps 'connect' was probably a bad word to use. Lyn is effectively a folder viewer, so if you can navigate into your onedrive folder in Lyn, the photos should be there.
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