Exporting From iPhoto

Last Modified: Mar 15, 2013 4:57 PM

There are many ways of sharing photos from iPhoto and these are detailed on this User Tip here




The purpose of this tip is to explore the options available when specifically Exporting from iPhoto.


Again, you need to be aware of the basic features of iPhoto. iPhoto is a lossless processor. What does that mean?


Your file is just a container -  a box - for your Photograph. Think of it this way:  In my iTunes Library I have a file called 'Let_it_Be_The_Beatles.mp3'. So what is that, exactly? It's not the song. The Beatles never wrote an mp3. They wrote a tune and lyrics. They recorded it and a copy of that recording is stored in the mp3 file. So the file is just a container for the recording. That container is designed in a specific way attuned to the characteristics and requirements of the data. Hence, mp3.


Similarly, that Jpeg is not your photo, it's a container designed to hold that kind of data. iPhoto is all about the data and not about the container. So, regardless of where you choose to store the file, iPhoto will manage the photo, edit the photo, add metadata to the Photo but never touch the file.


This means that when you come to to export - unless you specifically choose to export the original - iPhoto will export the Photo into a new container - a new file containing the photo.


(This is why, oddly, is sometimes possible to export a photo into a file larger than the one you imported it from. More on that below.)


You invoke the Export dialogue by going File -> Export or using the keyboard shortcut: Shift-Command-E


Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 23.48.45.png


In the File Export tab you have a number of options.



Kind. Your options are Original, Current, Jpeg, Tiff and PNG.


     This option allows you to select the format of the exported file, and the choice you make here has consequences.

  • Original is exactly that. The file you imported from your camera, no changes or edits, no added faces, places etc. Just the Original. If you're exporting Raw or a Movie you use this option.
  • Current is the photo as it is right now in the database. It's the iPhoto Preview, a medium quality jpeg, it won't have all the metadata.     
  • Jpeg: The most common form of image file used. It's lossy, so subsequent editing might cause quality loss. It has excellent metadata support
  • Tiff: an uncompressed format, but file sizes are huge - often in excess of 10 times the Jpeg size.  It has excellent metadata support
  • PNG: a lossless compressed format that many people though would replace Jpeg, but development has stalled and it has poor metadata support.


Depending on which of these you choose, other options are available - or not.


Unsurprisingly, Jpeg Quality refers to Jpegs only. It's where you can change the amount of compression used on the file. If you choose Low (Smallest size) then a lot of compression is used and you will have a small file size (in MB or KB), Maximum Quality means much less compression is used, so the quality is better, but the file size is bigger.


An Aside: If you use the Maximum Quality you will often end up with a Jpeg larger than the Jpeg you imported from. This is not because you've added more data to the file, just that you've not compressed it as much.


Include refers to metadata. This is the Exif and IPTC that travels with the photo in the file. It includes things like date, time, camera model, captions, keywords, GPS location and so on.


Some things to remember: If you export the Original it will have all the metadata that it came with, but nothing you added in iPhoto. You cannot add keywords or Captions that you added in iPhoto to the Original.


If you export the Current it will be missing metadata and you can't add to it.


If you export as Jpeg (regardless of quality) you will get all the metadata that came with the original image plus, if you check the box at 'Title and Keywords' you will get these and captions you have added (called descriptions in iPhoto). If you also check the box at 'Location Information' you will get any Places you added in iPhoto.


(Note: there is no way to export Faces information. There is no agreed standard for sharing this type of information.)


If you export Tiff you have the same options as Jpeg


If you export PNG you have the same options as Current.



Size refers to the Dimensions of the Photo measured in pixels. That's the length by breadth. The options are pretty obvious from small to Full Size, and under Custom you can also specify the maximum Height/Width/Dimension of your image. This can be useful if you're uploading somewhere and they have a limit on the size.


Filename often causes confusion. Your camera assigns a filename when you take a shot, usually something like IMG_1234.jpeg or DSC_1234.jpeg. When iPhoto imports the file it shows you that as the Title of the Photo. If you then change the Title in iPhoto this does not rename the file. Title is metadata and gets written to the metadata of the file. So, if you export, instead of getting 'Dog Running On Beach' you get the IMG_1234.jpg as a filename. This is because the Finder (or File Browser) does not work with Titles, only filenames.


(Aside: the same thing can happen with mp3 files in iTunes, where a file can be named 'Track 1' but show up in the iTunes Window as 'Let it Be'…)


Under Filename you have a number of options:

  • Use Title will name the exported file with the title you added in iPhoto - that's how you get 'Dog Running…' etc, instead of IMG_whatever
  • Use Filename will do exactly that - use the filename the image had coming into iPhoto.
  • Sequential is handy if you're exporting  batch of images. In the 'Prefix for Sequential' box you can input text: say 'Christmas Morning' and then the exported files will be called Christmas Morning 1, Christmas Morning 2, Christmas Morning 3 and so on.
  • Album Name and Number does the same, but is attuned for when you're exporting a whole album of images. Instead of inputting text to the Prefix for Sequential box, it just uses the Album Name and appends a number… This is the option to use if you have dragged images into a specific order in an iPhoto Album, and want that order maintained after export.


Subfolder Format only shows if you're exporting more than one Event at a time. You can choose to export all the images into one folder, or into a number of folders with the Event Name given to the Folder.


Then click Export and choose where you want to export the files to.