Can I Merge Photo Libraries Mac

PowerPhotos lets you organize your Photos libraries on the Mac. You can split a library into smaller ones, merge libraries together, find duplicate photos, and more.

44 33 likes 79,334 views Last modified Mar 3, 2019 2:29 AM
  1. Apr 01, 2020  Designate a System Photo Library in Photos If you have multiple photo libraries on your Mac, you can choose one to be the System Photo Library. The System Photo Library is the only library that can be used with iCloud Photos, Shared Albums, and My Photo Stream.
  2. How to Combine Multiple Photos Libraries Into a Single Library Saturday, July 1st, 2017 Author: Tom Nelson. If you’ve been working with the Mac’s Photos app (or even the older iPhoto or Aperture apps) for any length of time, there’s a good chance you have multiple image libraries to.

This user tip has been moved to: Notes on Merging Photos Libraries, 2019 Version

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The older version can no longer be edited without destroying the formatting.


When merging two photo libraries we usually want a lossless merge:The original photos and the edited versions should be merged into the merged library as master-version pairs, so it will be possible to revert edited photos to the original.The library structure with albums, smart albums should be preserved in the merged library.All metadata, including the faces labels should be migrated.The products (books, cards, calendars, slideshows) should be migrated.

Written for Photos 2.0 on macOS 10.12.4 or older:There is currently no completely lossless way to merge Photos Libraries, because Photos does not support importing one Photos Library into another library. All work-around methods are compromises. There is no lossless merging of Photos Libraries other than iCloud Photo Library, and even the merging in iCloud will not include the faces albums and the print products.

If you are planning to migrate your photo libraries from Aperture or iPhoto to Photos and own Aperture 3.6, merge your libraries in Aperture before the migration while you still can use Aperture as described here: Aperture 3.3: How to use Aperture to merge iPhoto libraries - Apple SupportMake backup copies of the libraries before you try that.

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  1. The options in Photos are:Merge the libraries in iCloud by uploading them to the same iCloud Photo Library: Merging in iCloud is the only way to preserve the master-version pairs, so you can revert edited photos to the original versions. Your albums and folders will migrate, keywords, titles, and other metadata. All edited images will be paired with their originals, so you can undo the edits and revert to the original. The searchable faces names will upload (only on Photos 1.5 or older, not on Photos 2.0), but not the faces thumbnails and albums. Photos will scan for duplicates while merging. It is the best way to migrate libraries you invested much work into, but uploading large libraries to iCloud requires a paid subscription for more storage than the free 5GB - for at least a month, and it is slow. My library with 40000 photos took a full week to upload. To merge in iCloud enable the smaller of the two libraries as your iCloud Photo Library.Wait for all photos to upload; that can take a very long time, a week ore more, depending on the size of the library. Photos will merge the the library into the library that is already in iCloud.Now enable the larger library as your iCloud Photo Library. This library will be merged into the library in iCloud too, creating a merged library in iCloud. The merged library will sync back to your larger Photos Library. The merge will not include the Faces albums and projects from the first library you uploaded. That is why I recommend to start with the smaller library. The download will be like to a different Mac, see: Use Photos and iCloud Photo Library on multiple Mac computers - Apple SupportTo sync the faces names with iCloud Photo Library, I apply keywords with the names of the persons to all photos in a people album.Merge the libraries by exporting the photos (edited versions and originals) from one library and reimporting them into the other library. This is the most tedious way and only feasible for very small libraries. You would have to export the edited versions and the originals separately and they would no longer be paired. On Yosemite or El Capitan - even if you export the originals with XMP sidecar files to preserve the IPTC metadata, the metadata from the sidecar file will not be applied to the originals when reimporting. Your metadata will be gone, unless you export the edited versions as JPEGS. So there is no help for it but to export both, the originals and the edited versions, and to deal with the duplicates. Photos 2.0 on Sierra can read the sidecar files on import - so exporting with XMP files will transfer the metadata to the new library.

You will have to recreate the albums as well.Merge the libraries with PowerPhotos: PowerPhotos is a tool to manage Photos Libraries. You can easily browse libraries in turn and move photos between libraries. Merging with PowerPhotos is fast ( It will migrate the metadata and the albums, but you have to decide, if you want to use the originals or the edited versions. So you will either lose the editing work or the high quality originals or create redundancy by merging twice in two passes, once to transfer the originals, and then the edited versions. You will have to add a pass to remove duplicates afterward. See chapter six in the PowerPhotos manual: : option would by to keep both libraries separate and use PowerPhotos to browse the libraries and to transfer selected albums as you go.iCloud Photo Library would be the best option. Merging with PowerPhotos the second best.Update for Photos 3.0 on macOS 10.13:Photos 3.0 will also sync the recognized faces when you merge two Photos 3.0 libraries in iCloud. projects do still not sync to iCloud.


Merging Photos libraries

Update (11/3/2015): PowerPhotos 1.1 now supports library merging!

Unlike iPhoto Library Manager, PowerPhotos does not yet have the capability to merge libraries together. This is something I’d like to add to PowerPhotos, though I can’t make any concrete promises, since doing so partially depends on whether Photos itself adds a few necessary enhancements. In the meantime, since I get asked about this a lot, I thought I’d put up a quick summary of the existing methods to get your content all together into a single Photos library.

Merge your iPhoto libraries beforehand

At this point, most people looking to merge libraries together have existing iPhoto or Aperture libraries that they’re either planning to migrate to Photos, or have already done so. Since merging options with Photos itself are very limited, if you do want to merge your libraries, it will be much easier to first merge everything together as iPhoto libraries, then take the resulting merged iPhoto library and migrate *that* to Photos afterward.

If you haven’t migrated any of your existing libraries yet, then simply use iPhoto Library Manager to merge the libraries together first, then open the merged library in Photos to let it perform the migration (Aperture can also be used to merge iPhoto libraries, though it doesn’t perform duplicate detection like iPLM does). If you have already migrated some/all of your iPhoto libraries though, you may still be able to follow this route. Photos leaves the original iPhoto library intact after performing the migration, so as long as you haven’t deleted the iPhoto library yourself, you should be able to go back and perform the merge, then migrate the merged library to Photos.

To migrate an iPhoto library a second time, the easiest way is to use the File > Migrate iPhoto Libraries command in PowerPhotos. Just check the box next to the iPhoto library and click Migrate, and PowerPhotos will take care of the details. To do it without PowerPhotos, you’ll need to open the library in iPhoto first, and it should give you a brief messing saying that the library has been migrated to Photos already. Click the “Open in iPhoto” button, then close the library back up. Then, take the iPhoto library and drop it on the Photos icon in the dock, and it will perform the migration a second time.

If you have imported any newer photos into Photos since you performed your first migration, those photos will not have been imported into iPhoto, and thus will be missing from the merged library. If this is the case, you’ll just need to either export those photos from the first Photos library that you migrated, then import them into the second library, or just reimport/redownload them from your iPhone or wherever they may have come from.

Can I Merge Photo Libraries Machine

Use iCloud to merge your content

The other technique that can be used here is to merge everything together by uploading it into your iCloud Photo Library. This will work with any Photos library, whether it was migrated from iPhoto originally or not, and can be used to merge libraries on different Macs (though they must be using the same iCloud account). The basic workflow for this is:

  1. First, you’ll want to choose which one of your libraries you want to ultimately be the merged library, that will ultimately hold all the content.
  2. Open that library in Photos, open the preferences window, and click the “Use as System Photo Library” button. Then, in the iCloud section of the preferences, enable iCloud Photo Library. Make sure that the “Download Original to this Mac” option is enabled.
  3. Photos will start syncing your library with iCloud, uploading all of the full size photos from your Photos library.
  4. If you already have other devices with iCloud Photo Library enabled (e.g. your iPhone or iPad), in addition to uploading all the photos in your Photos library, it will also download any photos that have already been synced with those devices.
  5. Once that library has been fully synced (this may take quite some time if the library is large, even multiple days), open a different library in Photos, and repeat the same steps. The content from the second library will be added to what’s already in iCloud Photo Library.
  6. By default, syncing the second library with iCloud will also download all the content from the first library into the second library onto your Mac. However, if you enable the “Optimize Mac Storage” option in the iCloud preferences in Photos, that will only initially download smaller thumbnail versions of each photo, which can speed up this part of the process and use less disk space and bandwidth.
  7. If you have more than two libraries, repeat the same steps for each library you want to merge.
  8. Once you’ve processed the rest of the libraries, open the first one up again, enable iCloud Photo Library on it, and let it redownload all the full sized photos that were uploaded from the other libraries.

While this is an effective way to get your libraries merged together, there are a few significant downsides:

  1. If you have a significant amount of photos that you need to merge together, it’s going to take a lot of time, bandwidth, and disk space to perform all of this uploading and downloading from iCloud. For really large collections, you may be looking at a project spanning multiple days or even weeks.
  2. iCloud only provides 5 GB of storage for free, so if your collection exceeds that (which is not difficult), you’ll need to purchase one of Apple’s larger storage plans, at least while you’re doing all the syncing. If you’re not interested in using iCloud Photo Library in the long run, it is possible to bump up your storage for a short time, remove the photos from iCloud once you’ve gotten everything downloaded back to your Mac, then move your account back down to the basic storage plan.
  3. If you have an iOS device also synced with iCloud, it will start to download all the content that you’re uploading, which can sometimes eat up bandwidth and battery life. You may want to enable the “optimize storage” option in the Photos section of the Settings app on your iOS device before starting, or just turn off iCloud Photo Library altogether if you want to prevent that.
  4. There are a few limitations to what will sync through iCloud, which you can read about here

Free Merge Photo

Those are the main two techniques that can be used to merge your photos together into a single Photos library. Each of them has its downsides, but hopefully if you want to get all your photos in one place, one of this options will work for you.