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Steps to reproduce:

  • Migrate large photos library from a MacBook 2016 running Photos Mojave to a MacBook 2020 running Photos Catalina (in my case 120,000+ photos)

  • A subset of photos (in my case 10,000+ photos from 2016/2017) cannot be edited: when you click on the edit button you get "Cannot start editing: Photos cannot load adjustments for this image"

  • Hypothesis: it is likely that the affected photos where previously edited with Aperture and/or earlier versions of iPhoto.

  • I have already tried all of the following: repair library, boot in safe mode. Nothing helped.

Related discussion forum threads (all of these threads were closed due to lack of activity, cannot be re-opened, and offer no solution)

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250932769

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250852440

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250870058

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250771558

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/251094038

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/251245094

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/251602029

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/251036700

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/251382514

Maybe it is related to this: "In June 2014, Apple announced that development of Aperture has been discontinued. Since then, Apple has released six major macOS upgrades. For technical reasons, macOS Mojave is the last version of macOS to run Aperture. Starting with macOS Catalina, Aperture is no longer compatible with macOS."

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209594

I suspect (but am not 100% sure) that the affected photos in migrated photo library were at some point edited by Aperture.

Just to be clear: I am not trying to edit any photos using Aperture on Catalina. I had already migrated all my photos from Aperture to Photos back on Mojave (or earlier) before I migrated from Photos on Mojave to Photos on Catalina.

Update 1: Apple tech support has escalated this issue to Apple engineering on 13-Aug-2020

Update 2: I was able to determine a difference in the plist for a "bad" photo (= affected by the issue) and a "good" photo (= not affected by the issue):

Good photo:

adjustmentEditorBundleID = com.apple.Photos (upper case P)
adjustmentFormatVersion = 1.5

Bad photo:

adjustmentEditorBundleID = com.apple.photos (lower case p)
adjustmentFormatVersion = 1.4

Hypothesis: the photos that were edited in Aperture and migrated to Photos (years before the migration from Mojave to Catelina) have adjustmentFormatVersion 1.4 and I suspect that Catalina Photos cannot parse adjustmentFormatVersion 1.4 since support for Apterture was removed.

Or maybe, Photos is confused by the uppercase P versus lowecase p (see https://stackoverflow.com/questions/7688379/is-bundle-id-case-sensitive)

Update 3:

While debugging the issue, I discovered another and likely more important difference between "good" and "bad" post-migration photos on the new MacBook 2020 running Catalina:

  • "good" photos have a JPEG file somewhere in the originals directory in the Photos library.

  • "bad" photos do NOT have a JPEG file somewhere in the originals directory in the Photos library.

Also, I found some interesting differences in the pre-migration photos on the old MacBook 2016 running Mojave:

  • "good" photos have:

    • path = empty
    • ismissing = True
  • "bad" photos have:

    • path = a fully qualified path pointing somewhere into the Masters/<year>/<month>/<day>/<timestamp>/... directory in the photos library
    • ismissing = False
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  • So this is happening for me with a jpeg I just now imported into Photos. Nor did I migrate a library; I only have iCloud Photos on.
    – Calion
    Nov 13, 2020 at 20:31

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