How to: Find original photo files in iPhoto

If you use iPhotoon 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!


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

  1. Neat tip, thanks.

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

    thanks again

  2. @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. 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).


  4. 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. @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. 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. @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. 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. 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. My originals are all in the iphoto package where they should be, I think. But they don’t show up on the app….. can you help?

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. @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)!

  13. @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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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 (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. @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.

  16. On using “Show Package Contents” for iPhoto’11 (v9.2.3)(OS 10.6.8) only one folder, Contents, appears. It has Frameworks, Library, PlugIns, Resources, etc but no Originals or Modified folders. iPhoto was/is obviously corrupted as many grayed out — it had been re-built a couple times too.
    There were 11K pic’s, maybe half? backed up to HDrives. I see from Spotlight search there are over 10K “img” files. (Pic’s were both jpg’s & RAW)
    I do have iPhoto Library Manager but haven’t gotten involved /learned it much yet
    Questions 1) Are there any suggestions for using search /spotlight to move transfer those .img & .CR2 files? Any way other than one by one?
    Thanks in advance for any advice & suggestions. Happy Thanksgiving too.

    1. @Scott: This post was written for iPhoto ’09. For iPhoto ’11 you have to choose the image you want and click File>Reveal in Finder>Original file. That will lead you to the folder where all of your original images are stored (actually a subfolder of that folder). If you move one step up to the parent folder you can find all of your original images.

      1. Thank you, NIkos. First time I was aware of that difference. I also discovered all my package contents ARE there and transferable. I had tried “Show Package Contents” from iPhoto under Applications. When I tried again from the Pictures folder, all content showed up. What a relief.
        Thanks again for your time, courtesy & info!

  17. I had a Mac and sold it but before I did I moved my iPhoto file to dropbox On my new PC I can see the file but cannot open it. How can I get these pics?

    1. @Simone: Did you move the entire iPhoto.library folder to dropbox? If yes, try renaming it adding the suffix .zip and open it from your pc. This file is actually a folder containing other folders. Your original photos are within a folder named “master”.

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