I like the simplicity of iPhoto and all the nice ordering features. But, since I like to manage my library myself (folder names etc) I have not selected the option to import my photos to iPhotos' folder structure, but rather prefer to import my photos to iPhoto but keep them where they are (in my own folders).

One drawback to this, is that when I delete a photo from my iPhoto Library, it won't also delete the original file (even if I empty its trash), which makes iPhoto useless for managing my photos (for example, checking a new batch an deleting the ones I don't like). Has anyone managed to work around this stupid feature of iPhoto?

3 Answers 3


iPhoto has an internal file storage system where it saves all the photos for the events, albums etc.

You notice this, when you select an event and click "Show in folder". Then you see the whole folder with all the pictures in it.

You should treat events or albums as your folders. You can give them custom names and everything.

What I have done is:

  • Import all photos to iPhoto
  • Delete original files
  • Just work with iPhoto (when I want to see the photos in a folder structure, I can choose "Show in folder".

Note: I have heard that you can have an external file storage for your photos with Apperture. This is iPhoto with more functionality for 200 USD, in case you do a lot of work with iPhoto this might be interesting.

  • I believe it's the same with iPhoto, you can choose to import photos in their current directory but if you choose that option you can't delete the actual files from within iPhoto and I assume it's the same with Aperture. I'll try it out.
    – Dimitris
    Aug 3, 2010 at 10:16

In iPhoto you're running a Referenced Library - where you store the originals in your own filing system and iPhoto refers to them in that location. In this scenario you've opted to take control of the file management suites, and just like you have to manually move the files to your chosen location for storage, you also have to move them away when you're finished with them.

While on the face of it Referenced Libraries seem attractive to some users, they offer no extra functionality and can be problematic if you migrate to a new system, or even want to move them to a new disk. You really want to think hard before running iPhoto in Referenced Mode.

Aperture has all the tools necessary to run Referenced Libraries, including the option to delete Masters stored elsewhere when trashing from the Library.

FWIW: A Managed Library, is the default setting, and iPhoto copies files into the iPhoto Library when Importing. The files are then stored in the Library package   For a fuller discussion of the implications of running a Referenced Library in iPhoto see



I found a workaround. For instance you can look at your photos and while you are doing it "flag" the ones you want to delete (see iPhoto's Menu-->Photos-->Flag Photo for a shortcut). Once you have "flagged" all the photos you want to delete, then go ahead and select them all (in the left hand column of the iPhoto window there is a "Flagged" icon, right above the "Trash" icon - click on it and you'll see al your flagged photos on the display window). Do a simple Edit-->Select All and then mouse-right-click on one of them and select "Show File". This will open a window with the folder where your originals are located, and in this case the ones you want to delete will be already and conveniently selected for you. Then simply go ahead and trash them with your mouse or with the "Delete" icon on the Toolbar and voilá!. (if the Toolbar is not showing then simply select from the Finder menu View-->Show Toolbar). You can save your $200 from Aperture.

  • Does this still work with current iPhoto versions? I cannot really find the "flagged" feature in the toolbar, but anyway, if I select any photo in the library I can do "Show referenced file in Finder" on the context menu, but whenever I select 2 or more files, this option is grayed out :( Has somebody thought about using the "Edit with..." and just putting a "rm" shell command in it? Not sure how to do that in Mac though. Jan 31, 2019 at 10:55

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