But it was Supposed to be Automatic! Migrating iPhoto Library to Photos for OS X

The problem: 

  • Apple Photos for OS X isn’t automatically finding and importing your iPhoto library

The scenario: 

When the new Apple Photos came out with the release of OS X v.10.10.3 , I was super excited.  iPhoto had become a clunky app that didn’t play well with iOS devices, and finally there was a way for photos and albums to sync between my iPhone, iPad, Laptop, and iCloud seamlessly.  Everything I read on Apple’s new Photos for OS X said that iPhoto would be automatically imported into the new app, so imagine  my horror when I opened Photos for OS X for the first time and saw nothing from my iPhoto library in there!  Further, the “Import” option from the File menu didn’t allow me to select my iPhoto library from the Finder!  Would I have to drag all the photos in manually!?  Fortunately not…

The solution:

The solution for this was in realizing the problem.  Photos for OS X automatically looks for your iPhoto library in the default location, with the default name.  So if you moved your iPhoto library anywhere but the “Pictures” folder within your user home folder, or if you named it anything other than “iPhoto Library,” chances are Photos for OS X didn’t find it and didn’t offer to import it.  To fix this, you don’t have to move or rename your iPhoto library, you just have to give the new Photos app a little nudge in the right direction…

1) If Photos is open on your computer, quit the app.

2) When re-opening Photos, hold down the OPTION key on the keyboard (whether you’re clicking it in the dock or double-clicking it elsewhere in the Finder, be sure to hold down OPTION)

3) You’ll be prompted with the following pop-up that should have found your iPhoto library regardless of where you moved it or what silly name you gave it:

Choose iPhoto Library


4) Select your old iPhoto library from the list, then “Choose Library,” and it’ll bring all your iPhotos and albums into Photos!  As an added bonus, you can continue to use iPhoto to access that old library if you really want to (but unless you have a really good reason, I wouldn’t recommend it).

NOTE: It is best if you caught this problem before you started using Photos for OS X because if you already have a Photos library that you’ve been using and importing things into, it is not possible to merge it with an older iPhoto library.  The iPhoto step has to be done at the creation of your library for Photos.  If you already have been using Photos, all hope is not lost… Photos will still let you switch between your iPhoto library and your Photos library you were using previously — just hold OPTION down every time you open the app in order to choose between the two.  Changes and additions to either library will always be saved, but there’s no way to merge them (yet… hopefully Apple is listening).