How to Properly Transfer and Import iPhoto Pictures

Have you spent a lot of time editing, naming, and organizing your photos in iPhoto, and now you are wondering how to transfer all this on to a new Mac? In this post I will explain how to properly transfer and import pictures from one Mac iPhoto application to another. These steps should work even if you are using different versions of Mac OSX.

Recently, I purchased a new iMac. One of my priorities was to transfer all the images in iPhoto from my MacBook Pro that was running on Mavericks in to my new iMac that was running on Yosemite.

These were the methods that DID NOT WORK:

  • I backed up my MacBook Pro on an external hard drive and applied it to a separate account on my new iMac. iPhoto worked, but I was using Mavericks and I did not want my old settings with my old applications. I deleted all this and started over.
  • Next I started from scratch on my iMac with Yosemite. I imported the pictures from the earlier backup that I had on my external drive into my new iPhoto. It did not work. It took hours, and all sorts of thumbnails from iPhoto were imported as pictures that I didn't need. This did not work because I was using a backup which was modified for backing up.

I contacted Apple Support, and these are the steps I want to share with you so that you could successfully import your pictures and save your time.

On your computer with the pictures:

Before you begin, you need an external drive with enough memory to contain your pictures.

1. Connect your external drive to the computer with the pictures that you want.

2. Go to your Macintosh Hard Disk (HD) and find the User whose pictures you want. In the User folder, find the folder titled Pictures. Find the icon(s) of the library you want. See below:

3. Copy the icon and paste it into your external drive. The icon must come directly from the User Pictures folder.

4. Safely disconnect your external drive. On a Mac, you can drag the drive icon from the desktop in to the Trash.

On the computer that you want the pictures to be on:

5. Then, connect the external drive to the computer that you want the pictures to be on.

6. Open your external drive and find the iPhoto library icon.

7. Copy or drag and drop the icon in to your desktop.

IMPORTANT: Why can't you just import the photos directly from the external drive to iPhoto? I asked the support specialist this and she explained that issues can occur when files go from an external drive to an application. It's best to safely place it on your desktop first where the computer can "adapt" the files to your computer. 

8. Once the files have been copied on to your desktop, you can now open the iPhoto app (not the icon you just transferred) on your computer.

9. In iPhoto, go to File, then select Import to Library, and find the library icon that you just transferred on to your desktop. Select this icon, and wait for iPhoto to import everything. Any labeled events and albums from your old iPhoto should be named and ordered as you like on your previous computer!

10. iPhoto may prompt you to update the files or download extra files if your pictures came from an older version of iPhoto or Mac OSX. Agree to this so that your photos could properly transfer.