I use Aperture for photo editing and processing, but prefer iPhoto for keeping a gallery of my pictures. For a long time, I used the built-in tools in iPhoto to "Import from Aperture Library". What I didn't know was that this only imports the preview image, which is at a quarter resolution and badly compressed. I now have a couple of years worth of albums with lots of metadata but crappy image quality. I'd like to replace the images with higher-quality versions from Aperture, without losing all of the metadata (tags, descriptions, faces, etc). What's the easiest way to do this?

Related question: is it possible to access/change the image data in iPhoto with AppleScript? I can write a script to match images and replace them, if there's a mechanism to do that.

1 Answer 1


Here's how I eventually solved this problem. It took a few steps, and requires some scripting and command line hackery, but it did the trick.

  1. Export the pictures you want to update from Aperture to a folder, say ~/Pictures/Updates
  2. Open the album in iPhoto
  3. Use this AppleScript to get a list of filenames for the master images

    set output_filename to "/Users/user/Pictures/album.txt"
    tell application "iPhoto"
        set pics to photos in current album
        do shell script "echo \"# Current album contents\" > " & output_filename
        repeat with pic in pics
            set picpath to image path of pic
            do shell script "echo " & picpath & " >> " & output_filename
        end repeat
    end tell
  4. Using any text editor, save the script below to update_pics.sh and mark it executable (chmod 755 update_pics.sh on the command line)

    #! /bin/bash
    # a quick script to parse in a series of filenames, and update them
    if [ "$#" -ne 2 ]; then
            echo "Usage: $0 [folder with new images] [folder for backups]"
            exit 0
    if [ ! -d "$input_folder" ]; then
            echo "Can't read input follder $input_folder"
            exit -1
    if [ ! -d "$backup_folder" ]; then
            mkdir -p "$backup_folder"
    if [ ! -d "$backup_folder" -o ! -w "$backup_folder" ]; then
            echo "Can't write to backup folder $backup_folder"
            exit -1
    while read line; do
            # skip empty lines or comments
            [ -z "$line" -o "${line:0:1}" = "#" ] && continue
            if [ -f "$line" ]; then
                    filename=`basename "$line"`
                    cp "$line" "$backup_folder"
                    if [ -f "$input_file" ]; then
                            echo "Replacing $filename"
                            cp "$input_file" "$line"
                            echo "Could not find input file $input_file"
                    echo "$line does not exist"
  5. To use the script, give it the location of the updated pictures, a folder to put backups (I'm paranoid of losing data) and then pipe in the file generated before. For example:

    update_pics.sh Updates/ Backups/ < album.txt
  6. If you haven't already, close iPhoto. Then restart it while holding down Option and Command. That should give you a dialog to rebuild the iPhoto. You should only need to rebuild the thumbnails, though you may want to rebuild everything else. More info on rebuilding the iPhoto Library from Apple

iPhoto will probably take a long time to rebuild the thumbnails, since it will redo all of them. You have a number of albums to do, it's probably best to update the pictures first, album-by-album, and then rebuild the library. That's what I did, and it worked pretty well.

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