We have 200+ gigs of pictures and home videos on both me and my wife's laptops. This is getting unmanageable as well as taking up too much hard drive space on both of our laptops.

I am thinking about getting a Mac mini that will acts as an iPhoto server, and setting up an iPhoto share so that our laptops can still browse the pictures as well as our Apple TV always having access to that stream of photos. That way our Apple TV is not dependent on our laptops being powered on.

Is this a good idea? Anyone have a better suggestion?


You can happily place the library and have it share out. You will need to have iPhoto running at all times in order to have the library visible to other users tho.

When you connect to the library from another Mac, you will not be able to use the same Events/Albums views that you have locally. Some of it is available, but mainly it just throws a huge list of all your stuff that is not organised in the same way as you would expect if it was local. Also, it's SLOW, in that it seems to almost cache the contents each time you connect which can take a while, and subsequent navigation is not quick either.

Another way to do this, is to share out the folder that the iPhoto data resides in, rather than opening iPhoto and sharing your library via the app. This has the advantage that iPhoto does not need to be running on the Mini, although the disadvantage is your Apple TV won't connect. This will however open the library in the same way as if it were local (in essence it is local, just on a network drive). You can test this out by holding OPTION down as you start iPhoto, it will let you connect to a different library.

All in all, it's not a great solution either way. I long for a sensible way of sharing in iPhoto and iTunes that does not require the apps to be running at the time (just a background sharing daemon would be great), that allows you to navigate and modify as if they were local, but it does't really exist for either app, and any solution is substandard to your local install workflows.


I've also been wondering about this for some time. I think Apple is missing the boat on this. It would be a great way to sell more Mac mini Servers if Mac OS X Server had a iPhoto Server... and an iTunes Server. Simply running iPhoto and iTunes on a designated home computer is the best idea that I can think of but it requires that you 'move' items off of your laptop and on to the server on a regular basis.

The idea is that once in a while, you copy a bunch of items from your personal use laptop to the 'server' by going to the server and looking at your laptop's shared library and dragging items across. Once you've confirmed that the copy was successful, you may go back to the laptop and delete them. This keeps the library on your laptop lean and mean while still giving you access to the 'archive' from both your laptop and your Apple TV.

Ultimately, I'd love to see this type of thing built in to both iPhoto and iTunes so that you could 'archive' items to your 'Server' as a PUSH instead of physically going to your server and PULLING them across.

  • 1
    This is not really an answer, as it's more a commentary and less assistance. However, it's too long to be a comment and it's quite good. So, now you know: this sort of thing tends to get deleted around here. – Cajunluke Sep 26 '12 at 23:32
  • I guess my answer is that what the OP is proposing is the best idea that I can think of and then I outlined the steps that I would take to implement it... and then I added my commentary. Thnx for not deleting it. – Kristin Green Oct 9 '12 at 19:51

I am personally considering this same idea, I think that the Wi-Fi sharing features of the Apple TV make this setup convenient and easy to maintain. You keep the Mac mini on as a photo server and this Mac becomes the "master" library where you will download your different photos coming from point-and-shoot and SLR cameras.

The only caveat I see is when you have iPhones, because iPhones sync their picture libraries with iPhoto after each iTunes sync. That would send your pictures back to each individual laptop's iPhoto library rather than to your Mac mini's "master" photo library. This means that you may have to keep iTunes from doing this by disabling picture sync on iTunes.

Then, when you have enough pictures in each one of your iPhones, you would need to sync them with the "master" iPhoto library in the Mac mini the same you would an ordinary camera--by connecting it to the Mac mini. I still think is a viable setup, though. Hope this helps and good luck.


I have just recently found myself in the same situation, but I also wanted to share my pictures with family over the internet, so my solution is a bit different: I dedicated an external drive to storing photos and videos, in a simple file structure: Year-Month - Occasion (e.g. "2011-08 - Orlando Vacation").

Now for the sharing part: I am using the free PhotoShow gallery running on my Mac Mini's web server. The main advantage and the number-one reason I chose this software is because it takes the library directly from the hard drive, you don't need to generate galleries, thumbnails, etc. All you have to do is point it to the root of the folder structure holding your photos, and - voila! - instant photo sharing with galleries, thumbnails, ability to save the full-sized picture to the client computer, and if you have a decent internet connection and a static public IP address you can use a free DNS service to have a user-friendly website address like "myphotosite.freedomainservice.org"

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    Hello, and welcome to Ask Different! One of the principles of this site is to stay close to the original question asked when answering. If you describe a totally alternate setup to the one the OP asked about, you should also provide a reasoning on why you consider it superior, and what its pros and cons are relatively to OP’s planned iPhoto setup are. – kopischke Oct 28 '12 at 22:09

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