How to: Find original photo files in iPhoto

If you use iPhoto on your Mac (ok you use it, because it is the most commonly used application in iLife suite and comes pre-installed with any new Mac), you’ve noticed that iPhoto keeps all your photos in a file called iPhoto library. The point is that iPhoto library is a package, not a single file. To view its contents and find your original photo files:

  1. Left-click (or ctrl+click) the iPhoto library file which is in your user>pictures folder, select show package contents and 
  2. iphoto 1
  3. Navigate to “originals” folder and that’s it! You can now view, edit, move or delete your original photo files!

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26 thoughts on “How to: Find original photo files in iPhoto

  1. David Newman

    Neat tip, thanks.

    I’m getting started with Lightroom and would like to import originals from iPhoto. How to do that?

    thanks again

  2. Nikos Typpz Post author

    @David: Find the original files as I described above, select them all and import them to Lightroom. I do not have Lightroom on my Mac (I use Aperture), so there may be an option from automating import your photos from iPhoto! Hope I helped!

  3. Fred Hamann

    This is great, thanks! But what if I edited my photos with iPhoto on Mac #1 and now I want to transfer them to Mac #2? How can I transfer the photos *and* preserve my edits? … Both Macs are running the same version of iPhoto (7.1.5).

    Thanks!

  4. katie

    For some reason I don’t have a modified file for 2009 – so now if I try to view these images on iphoto i can see a thumbnail but can’t open the file, it just shows an exclamation mark. Please help!

  5. Nikos Typpz Post author

    @Katie: that probably means that the files have changed location and that they are no longer in your iphoto folder! The best solution is to scan again your mac for images!

  6. Harry Singer

    Hi, I get a similar issue to katie. I can see thumbnails of my modified files, but when I try to open them the iPhoto viewer goes black. Examining the image files in the iPhoto modified folder, they show with a generic .bmp icon and are all 0 bytes! What’s that all about?

  7. Nikos Typpz Post author

    @Harry: Launch iPhoto and click iPhoto—>Preferences—>Advanced. Make sure that “copy items to iphoto library” is checked. If it isn’t, check it and scan your mac for images one more time ;-)

  8. Aaron

    When importing older photos to iPhoto the original date and time taken file info is replaced by the date and time the import occurred. It’s as if a new file is created and there is no indication when the original photo was taken. Is there a way to find the original time and date in the file info somewhere?

    1. Nikos Typpz Post author

      No there isn’t but this was an iPhoto bug. Photo info is stored within the photo file. Update your iPhoto installation and this should be solved! Hope I helped!

  9. Pingback: How to: Find original photo files in iPhoto (updated for iPhoto ’11)

  10. Pingback: How to copy photos from Mac to external drive?

  11. Kas

    I do not have an originals folder, how can I find the images so I can move them to usb for transfer to pc etc? I have looked in show package contents there are lots of folders but not originals. Thanks

  12. Mac Newbie

    A recently I made the switch from PC to Mac. When I imported my original photos from my PC to my Mac when switching computers, all the pictures were organized into Events in Iphoto, but I can’t seem to find where these folders are in the Mac.

    I just ran out of disk space on my Mac and need to move my pictures to an external hard drive. The only place I can seem to find actual photo locations is in “All Images” in Finder. But this is just the pictures! They are not in organized folders! Obviously, I’d like to keep the Events/folders so my pictures are organized. Where are they? Thanks for the help

  13. Nikos Typpz Post author

    @Kas follow the above tutorial and you will find the originals! Be sure that you do not have also Aperture installed. If you have, iPhoto and Aperture may share the same database, so you should check Aperture’s too (aperture library>show package contents)!

  14. Nikos Typpz Post author

    @Mac Newbie Find a photo in iPhoto, righ click or cmd+click>reveal in finder. This will show you the original file. Otherwise navigate to your pictures folder, usually located under machdd/username/pictures, find the iPhoto Library icon, right click it>show package contents. There should be all your photos organised in folders. If not check the iphoto preferences if there is any option like “consolidate/organize library” and make sure you have this checked. Hope I helped.

  15. Thomas Strand

    Thank you-This was the only legitimate answer to this problem I found.
    Why Apple insists on making it so difficult to access these things is beyond me.

  16. Molly

    I’m having the problem of not being able to find any of my photo files (I’m using iPhoto ’11). I followed the steps above and I seem to be missing the Originals Folder. It’s just not there. I have a Masters Folder but it only has photos for 2012, where could my photos possibly be stored and more importantly accessed by me.

    Also, when I try to upload photos to MixBook.com (a photo book company) when I select Pictures Folder my iPhoto Library is dimmed – it won’t allow me to access any of my photos through the Picture Folder. Any ideas?

    1. Nikos Typpz Post author

      @Molly navigate to your pictures folder under your user’s folder, find iPhoto library, cmd+click and select “show package contents”. There should be all your original photos.

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