Where iPhoto Pictures are Located and How to Access the iPhoto Library and Picture Files

Aug 30, 2011 - 25 Comments

iPhoto pictures location iPhoto is a great picture management app, but you may still occasionally want to access the original picture files for a variety of purposes, either to import them into another app or for backup purposes. This is easily done in Mac OS X, but what exactly you are looking for depends on which version of iPhoto you are using. Whether you’re using the latest iPhoto or an earlier version, we’ll show you exactly how to access your raw photos out of the iPhoto app, stored locally on your Mac.

Do note this location will change when iPhoto app turns into Photos app for OS X.

Where iPhoto Pictures Are Stored

iPhoto pictures are stored within the home /Pictures/ directory, in a file called iPhoto Library. But with newer versions of iPhoto, iPhoto Library became a package file rather than a folder, so in order to access the original picture files you have to go one step further in one of two locations:

iPhoto 11 (9.0) Photo Library Storage Location:
In the latest versions of iPhoto you will find your pictures stored in the user library Pictures folder inside a self contained Iphoto library package, that file and location is the following:

~/Pictures/iPhoto Library.photolibrary/Masters/

Inside that directory you will find the originals, sorted by date, and broken into subfolders for additional pictures. This is the same with all new versions of iPhoto.

iPhoto 10 picture library:
~/Pictures/iPhoto Library.photolibrary/Masters/

iPhoto 9 pictures location:
/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Masters/

iPhoto 8 and prior versions pictures location:
/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Originals/

Accessing the iPhoto Picture Files and Originals

You can either access the directory from Go To Folder command within the Mac OS X Desktop by hitting Command+Shift+G or by opening the directory manually:

  • Open /Pictures/ and locate the “iPhoto Library” file
  • Right-Click and select “Show Package Contents”
  • Navigate to “Masters” or “Originals” to find your original iPhoto pictures

Picture Organization by /Year/Month/Date/
Regardless of the version of iPhoto, the pictures are stored and organized by folders based on dates, broken down by year, month, and day. For example, pictures imported on August 30th 2011 would be in the folder “2011” followed by “August” and then within that directory, another named “30”. If you know exactly what import date you are looking for you can specify that as a full path and go directly to it, like so:

/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Masters/2011/August/30/

The precise path format varies slightly in iPhoto versions, and older versions may contain full dates in the directory in the format of “August 30, 2011” but it’s not any more difficult to work with. These directories are also the same regardless of the device the pictures originated from, whether it’s from an iPhone or a digital camera.

Once you’re in the directory, you can copy these files over to elsewhere and it will not impact your iPhoto library assuming the originals remain in the library.


Related articles:

Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Al says:

    Right click on iPhoto icon in Applications, down the menu “Show Package Contents.” Photos should be in there somewhere.

  2. Kyle warrington says:

    I Have just found an old back up of iphotos on a hard drive i had stored.
    I am trying to get these into photo’s app and have no idea how?

    Can anyone help?

    Tried to import and it wont let me.

    Tried google but no luck so far.

  3. Don Ziemski says:

    Migrated iPhoto to Photo. I would like everything look the same and wondering if there is a way I can make the two iPhoto event files into albums in Photo? Also, can I take the daily pics on Photo and put in albums?
    I plan to make a copy of my iPhoto files before doing anything.

  4. Lara Croft says:

    Wish it were written in English (and Proofread).

  5. Mary says:

    Thank you so much!! The transfer to photos in El Capitan only came over with one photo and I could not remigrate because it was already migrated.

    I followed your directions and found all my pictures — years and years of work!!!

    Thank you so much!!!!

  6. Hind says:

    Thanx it was very helpful.

  7. alyson says:

    Is there a way to reverse the “packaging” process to a regular file folder again without opening photos app? I do not have enough disk space to import my library into Photos app, and would like to cancel and return to my regular Finder folder system. I don’t want to “view package contents” anymore.

  8. Alex says:

    AH its ok, I’ve worked out how to locate/import them now through websites. But Still, how can i easily locate them by view all at once without many sub folder in the finder rather than through the photo app?

  9. Alex says:

    Hi. When i I use a website that can import pics, it can’t ‘open up’ the new Photo app library where all my pics are stored. As it sees it as an app rather than a photo album folder. This is an annoyance, as when I was using iPhoto on a previous MAC OS, all the pics could easily be accessed and viewed all at once at thumbnails. This new Photo app has created far too many sub folders automatically, and I’m finding it impossible to locate older pics, that I don’t know the date of. How can i:
    i) Get the photo app to have a short cut on the Finder side bar?
    ii) get access to the photo app library from websites/apps?
    iii) eradicate all of these sub folders?

    I just want to view all the pics in 1 folder, like I used to be with iPhoto.

    Im using OSX 10.11.1

    Thanks for any help you can suggest.

  10. Max Chance says:

    So why, when I delete pictures/videos, doesn’t it free up space on my hard drive? There still have to be files out there somewhere… Right?

    • Tim says:

      You have to empty the trash that is inside iPhoto. iPhoto doesn’t actually move the files to your Mac trash can until you tell it to.

  11. wmz says:

    Thank you sooooo much!! you’ve just saved me wasting 2 more hours trying to find my pictures since my iphoto keeps saying repair but then quits. I was close to swearing off Apple for being so selfish!! lol, God bless you!

  12. Beth says:


  13. Tex says:

    Thanks so much! It was very helpfull!

  14. Matt says:

    Yah, then try deleting files from iPhone and go look at the masters folders. The files are still there. So just what are you deleting…just the thumbnails?

  15. jk says:

    *EVEN* Easier! *Completely* Safe – And *totally* supported!:

    From your Open/Choose File dialog box:

    Media -> iPhoto

    (ie: Don’t go hunting for folders, get to all your iPhoto piccies by choosing ‘Media’ on the LHS of the window).

  16. slamdunk says:

    Even easier, safer and actually supported: File -> Export…

  17. […] ~/Pictures/ and locate the “iPhoto Library” package, the icon looks like the image to the right – do not open the package you will want […]

  18. DD says:

    how would you merge 2 libraries?

  19. bArt says:

    Give users what they want? Phooey! Plain filing systems are belong to Apple. You need obscure library system to be happy.

  20. Ben says:

    Aperture does this too, it kind of annoys me because I like actually having access to my files. Makes me worried that Apple is moving away from that, like iOS.

    • minsterkermy says:

      yea, i agree. i dont see why iphoto, aperture and even picassa have to create a ‘library’ of sorts basically duplicating all your photos. its stupid.

  21. Munas says:

    I think that in text iPhone should be replaced with iPhoto
    “But with newer versions of iPhoto, iPhone Library became a package file rather than a folder, so in order to access the original picture files you have to go one step further in one of two locations”

  22. Mark says:

    Hold option on launch and you can select a new library too, if you want to store it on another hard drive

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