Use Multiple iPhoto Libraries to Manage Your Photos

Add different libraries to fine-tune your photo collection

The iPhoto application stores all the images it imports in a single photo library. It works with multiple photo libraries, although only a single photo library can be open at any one time. Even with this limitation, using multiple iPhoto libraries is a great way to organize your images, especially if you have a large collection. Opening large collections of images have been known to slow down iPhoto's performance.

Multiple photo libraries can be a great solution if you need an easier way to manage them. For example, if you run a home-based business, you might want to keep business-related photos in a different photo library than your personal photos.

Back Up Before You Create New Photo Libraries

Creating a new iPhoto library doesn’t affect the current photo library, but it’s always a good idea to have a current backup before manipulating any photo library you use. After all, there's a good chance that the photos in your library aren't easily replaceable.

Follow the instructions in How to Back Up Your iPhoto Library before creating new libraries.

Create a New iPhoto Library

To create a new photo library, quit iPhoto if it's currently running.

  1. Hold down the Option key and keep holding it while you launch iPhoto.

  2. When you see the Choose Library dialog box asking what photo library you want iPhoto to use, release the Option key.

  3. Select Create New.

    The iPhone Choose Library window
  4. Enter a name for your new photo library and click OK.

    The Choose Library window in iPhoto with a new library named

    If you leave all of your photo libraries in the Pictures folder, which is the default location, it's easier to back them up, but you can store some libraries in another location, if you prefer, by selecting it from the Where drop-down menu.

  5. After you click OK, iPhoto opens with the new photo library. To create additional photo libraries, quit iPhoto and repeat the process.

If you have more than one photo library, iPhoto always marks the one you used last as the default. The default photo library is the one that iPhoto opens if you don't choose a different photo library by holding down the Option button when you launch iPhoto.

Choose Which iPhoto Library to Use

Although iPhoto defaults to the last-used library every time you open it, you can change to you other libraries whenever you want. Here's how:

  1. Hold down the Option key when you launch iPhoto.

  2. When you see the Choose Library dialog box that asks which photo library you want iPhoto to use, choose a library in the list and select the Choose Library button.

  3. The iPhoto app launches using the selected photo library and treats it as the default library until the next time you change it.

Where Are the iPhoto Libraries Located?

When you have multiple photo libraries, it's easy to forget where they're located. That’s why keeping them in the default Pictures folder is recommended. However, there are many good reasons for creating a library in a different location, including saving space on your Mac’s startup drive.

Here's how to get iPhoto to tell you where each library is stored.

  1. Quit iPhoto, if the app is already open.

  2. Hold down the Option key and then launch iPhoto. The Choose LIbrary dialog box opens.

  3. When you highlight one of the libraries listed in the dialog box, its location is displayed at the bottom of the dialog box.

    Location of highlighted photo library displayed in Choose Library window

The library path name can’t be pasted, so you'll need to either write it down or take a screenshot to view later.

How to Move Photos From One Library to Another

Unless you're starting from scratch and you're only going to import new photos from your camera into the new libraries, you'll probably want to move some images from the old default library to your new ones.

The process is a bit involved, but this step-by-step guide, Create and Populate Additional iPhoto Libraries, will walk you through the process. Once you've done it once, it will be an easy process to perform again for any other photo libraries you want to create.

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