God have mercy on me. A few months ago I decided I was coming back to Lightroom. Now is the time to actually move my stuff out of Apple Photos and into Lightroom. It’s not so much emptying Apple Photos that concerns me as transferring albums, favorites, and editing over to Lightroom.
I had foreseen the headache, and so I am documenting what I’m doing here first of all for myself (because I might end up abandoning halfway through, as usual, and picking up six months later, having forgotten everything), and also for other poor souls out there who might be in the same situation.
First, the easy part: exporting from Apple Photos.
- One thing I wanted to “export” was my albums. I went through each album I wanted to keep, selected all the photos in it, displayed information and added a keyword like “my cats album” to all the photos. Kludgy and a little tedious, but does the trick.
- When viewing photos Apple lets you display “only edited” photos. This allowed me to export both the edited photo and the unmodified original for photos I had edited in Apple Photos. I then exported the unmodified originals of photographs I hadn’t touched in Apple Photos separately.
- I exported these photos into three separate folders, without any subfolders: “Apple edited”, “Apple originals”, “Apple unedited”. I renamed the edited photos to avoid file name conflicts later on, but left the originals/unedited file names untouched, in the hope it would help Lightroom detect duplicates/updated photos later on.
- For the original files, I told Apple Photos to write IPTC to XMP. This works great for RAW files (Lightroom grabs the metadata from the XMP sidecar) but not for JPG originals (who are not supposed to have a sidecar). After fumbling around I found my solution: a simple command-line command for exiftools. The person posting had pretty much the same problem as I did, and I just used the solution offered as-is. It throws some errors (when XMP files don’t have anything interesting in them, I think) but works fine.
Now for the real fun: importing into Lightroom.
- For this, I used a temporary working catalog, rather than mess up my master catalog directly. I made the working catalog by exporting some photos as a catalog from the master catalog, and then removing those photos from the temporary catalog (not the files though, beware!)
- I started with the edited photos, followed by their original files. I moved them into a month-based folder structure parallel to the one I use for my main library (in a folder called “Apple import”). Upon importing, I gave each batch a keyword to be able to figure out who was who later on (“appleedited” and “master of apple edited”).
- I ran Find Duplicates 2 on those photos and it turned out quite a pile of them. Not that surprising. I decided to have a look, and saw that there were indeed a lot of “edited” photos that were so close to the original (or unimportant) that I wasn’t going to bother importing a bloated redundant JPG of those “edits”.
- I proceeded to cull those “duplicates”. I started out by giving all those photos a keyword to recognise them later (see how I abuse keywords?). I then rejected all the “mess” (screenshots, photos of bank statements…) that comes with exporting photos from your phone.
- I then went painstakingly (but as efficiently as possible) through the unflagged photos and used a label to identify those where I was indeed going to keep both the edited version and the master. I could have skipped this but I figure less bloat is better.
- Amongst the unflagged and unlabeled photos with the “duplicate” keyword, I filtered for those with “edited” in the file name (remember how I renamed the edited photos upon export from Apple Photos? handy; I could also have used the keyword I attributed the edited versions upon export, come to think of it. Oh well.) I rejected all those edited photos I decided not to keep.
- Similarly, I selected the originals for those photos and changed their keyword to indicate they were not a master photo for an edited version anymore. I also removed the duplicate tag and then cleaned up my mess of coloured labels.
- I am not deleting any rejected photos until I get everybody back into my master catalog. Hopefully this will clean up a bit of the “smartphone mess”…or not.
- I then proceeded to import the photos from Apple Photos which hadn’t been edited. Just 20k of them. It was loooooong.
Now… how to merge all this back into the master catalog without losing any information and without multiplying photos excessively… I’m not sure I have the solution, and I’m going to err on the side of not losing data. I can always hunt for duplicates later.
I picked a year where I had only a couple of hundred Apple photos, and exported a working catalog from the Apple import catalog for only that year. I then imported those photos into my master catalog, without moving the files. To my dismay Lightroom didn’t recognize any as duplicates or updated files. After looking at things manually it’s clear there are duplicates and I was very wise to not try and move the files to their right place in the catalog yet (filenames are identical!)
I set Find Duplicates loose on all the photos for that year. As I’ve previously cleaned up my whole catalog of duplicates, and marked “fake duplicates” with a keyword that allows me to filter them out, I end up with a shortlist of duplicates between my newly imported photos and those that were already in the master catalog. The “edited” photos in the duplicates are not much of a problem, as they are strictly speaking “fake duplicates”. The master photographs are more of a problem: I’d like to retain the keywords from the new photo and whatever keywords/ratings were on the old photo. I can do that by manually synchronising metadata, but it’s super tedious.
For the time being I’ll just mark those duplicates “appledupes” until I can figure out what to do with them.
Next in line:
- moving those photos into the “final” folders (will involve renaming the Apple photos)
- trying a year with more photos.