I have a dream!

I wish I could import my photos in Lightroom, process them and add them to several different collections/published collections that would then show up as events in iPhoto. Think "Italy 2009", "Wedding", "The Children" and so on.

I can get part of the way today but some very important steps remain to solve.

  1. I import my photos into Lightroom
  2. I organize and edit them into published collections
  3. I publish the collection to disk
  4. I import it into iPhoto and I have very nice event that I can sync with my iOS devices

Here is what I can't do after this step

  1. Edit an image and re-publish and have iPhoto replace it's version with the new one (if possible really replace it so that metadata like faces and locations remains)
  2. Delete an image from the collection and have it removed from iPhoto, including all original/master copies. I have my original i Lightroom so unless it's a part of a currently published collection it shouldn't be in iPhoto. At all.
  3. Have the (temporary) directory removed. I don't need to store this image in more places, Lightroom and iPhoto is enough.

So I guess the question is: can anyone solve any of my 3 problems or improve on the overall workflow?

  • (and as I can't add tags on apple yet, if someone likes to add Lightroom as a tag that would be nice) Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


While it is far from an ideal solution, when I want to put the Lightroom-created JPEGs in iPhoto, I've been using the following to solve #1:

  1. Publish to a Hard Drive folder from Lightroom, each folder named according to the events I want them to have in iPhoto
  2. Uncheck the "Copy Items to the iPhoto Library" box in iPhoto's Preferences>Advanced menu
  3. Import the folders to iPhoto

This will import these pictures by reference only; all the photos stay in their existing folder. (I usually re-check the box afterwards, so later pictures from sources other than Lightroom are actually copied). But you can set all the usually iPhoto metadata, reorganize into different events, browse thumbnails, etc.

If you modify anything in Lightroom, and republish the changes, those changes will be visible immediately when you open the picture in iPhoto. Note however, that unfortunately iPhoto does not update the thumbnail. And iPhoto uses the thumbnail for the zooming-in animation. So not only when you view it in the event display, but for a moment in the zoom-in animation, you will see the original version. But on the plus side, any metadata changes that you make will be preserved, because iPhoto stores these in the database. Only the image is external.

Also, since I don't like having another folder outside of the iPhoto database, I actually have Lightroom publish to a folder that is within the iPhoto database package. iPhoto doesn't delete anything in there that it didn't originally create, as far as I can tell. I have tried to use the "repair library" option to see if it can pull in the files (it claims to be able to recover orphans), but no luck there.

Unfortunately, iPhoto does not check when the files are removed. So it doesn't solve #2. It sort of solves #3, in that there is no additional copy.

Anyways, like I said, it's a very imperfect solution, but I've found it to work reasonably well for myself, and it's the best that I've come up with. There is a plugin that purports to be a Lightroom Publish Service for iPhoto, but it doesn't work at all (it's basically an export; it doesn't update photos).

Best of luck!

  • Thank you for your answer. I've seen Automator Scripts that does this kind of things and I think this might be the best solution out there. It's a shame those two applications can't work together but I guess Apple would like ppl to move to Aperture. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 18:43

As a Lightroom user I, too, would love to get something like this working. The only thing I have found so far that might possibly keep the two in sync is to work in the opposite direction, as unattractive as that may sound.

If you import and organize using iPhoto, you'll have your Events in order. You can then in iPhoto under Perferences | Advanced | Edit Photos: select In application... and navigate to Lightroom.app. Also check the Use RAW when using external editor box. Editing in Lightroom will bring you to the import window which allows you to add tags and all that stuff.

Personally, I don't know if this is the workflow I'd choose because I'm used to the way Lightroom organizes things, but I thought I'd share in case it does work for you. Perhaps going this route for just the photos/events you know you'll want to have in iPhoto and your normal workflow for other images.

I'll continue looking and report back if I find something better.

  • 1
    Not really an option. I don't trust the way iPhoto stores the images and hides everything inside it's own database. I just wanna be able to do Faces and Albums inside iPhoto to be able to transfer the iPad and to use inside other iLife programs. Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 5:58
  • Thanks for the bounty? How'd that happen?
    – user21985
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 12:23
  • Better used on the one answer I got than waste it. Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 4:59

Forget about it, there is just no way to do what you want. There are no solutions for your three problems. These are two different apps that have no mutual understanding and run quite independently of each other. Neither has any understanding of the other's database.

The nearest thing to a "solution" is to forget about both Lightroom and iPhoto and just use Aperture, which has all the features that you actually want. Though I imagine that you've chosen Lightroom over Aperture for other reasons.

Couple of comments: You don't need to import to iPhoto to sync with iOS devices. You can sync folders from the Finder.

Using Lightroom as an external editor in iPhoto doesn't work as there is no way to get the processed image back from Lightroom without exporting from Lightroom and then importing it as a new image. Even if you hack and overwrite the original image in the iPhoto Library you still won't update the thumbnail.

iPhoto doesn't hide anything, they're just stored in a package and you can set it to store Masters in the Finder just like Lightroom. I wouldn't do it, but it is perfectly possible.

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