iPhoto: Do not use the Revert to Original command after removing or renaming the original

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iPhoto automatically manages both original and working copies of your pictures inside your iPhoto Library. If you interfere with its management by removing or renaming the originals manually or via a third-party utility (such as iPhoto Diet), then you must not use the Revert to Original command.

If you remove the original by moving it somewhere else, the Revert to Original command in iPhoto will replace your working copy with the "nothing" that it finds in the original's place (basically, a zero-K file). If this happens, you will need to re-import the original from wherever you moved it. If you didn't keep a copy of the picture outside of iPhoto, then your only copy is erased (as long as you're not using a secure delete option, an erased file will persist on your disk for an indefinite amount of time, and it might be recoverable by third-party software).

Warning: If you want to try file recovery, stop using the computer immediately and consult the documentation for your third-party file recovery software, or consult a file recovery specialist. By not using the computer, you will increase your chances of recovering the file.

Additionally, iPhoto will unexpectedly quit if you try to edit a RAW photo for which the original has been removed.

To prevent this issue:

  1. Leave the contents of your iPhoto Library folder alone, and allow iPhoto to manage the images as designed.
  2. Update to iPhoto 5.0.1 or later. This update will prevent the loss of non-RAW images, but it does not eliminate issues with RAW files.
  3. Minimize the risk of image loss by keeping good backups:

    If you already have good backup habits and copies of all your images outside of iPhoto, then obviously there is no need to export your current library. For those of you who haven't been backing up, exporting your current library will start you on the right path.

When the original of a non-RAW image is missing in iPhoto 5.0.1, iPhoto will detect this when you use the Revert to Original command, and it will make this command unavailable to that image. If you then edit this surviving image, it will subsequently be copied to the Originals folder, and your new changes will become the edited working copy.

For RAW images, the issues persist as described above (both for image loss and unexpected quitting).

Exporting your current library

This will require that you have free space on your hard disk equivalent to 50 to 100 percent of your iPhoto Library, with the exact amount dependent on the state of your library. If you don't have and can't free up that much space, the next easiest alternative would be to export to an external USB 2.0 or FireWire hard disk, or to another computer via File Sharing.

  1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock.
  2. In the Finder Window, select Desktop.
  3. From the File menu, choose New Folder, and name the folder Exported iPhoto Library.
  4. Open iPhoto, and select your Library from the Source list.
  5. Click the Keywords button.

  6. Check your keywords list for RAW. If RAW is in your keywords list, stop here and review For libraries containing RAW images, below. Otherwise, continue to the next step.
  7. Be sure that no keywords are selected. A selected keyword will be blue or red. Click it to turn it gray (deselected).
  8. From the Share menu, choose Export.
  9. Click the File Export tab.
  10. Set the Format pop-up menu to Original.
  11. Click the Export button.
  12. In the navigation sheet that appears, click Desktop, then click the Exported iPhoto Library folder.
  13. Click OK.

For libraries containing RAW images

If your library contains both RAW and non-RAW images, you will need to export your Library once for each type. This means that you would follow the steps above twice. Do your first pass for the non-RAW images by replacing step 7 with this alternate:

7. To see everything that is not RAW, click the RAW keyword while pressing the Option key on your keyboard. The keyword turns red when you Option-click it, which indicates that you are doing a "not" search.

Do the RAW images on your second pass, by replacing steps 7 and 10 with these alternates:

7. To see only RAW images in a selected album or in your Library, click the RAW keyword in your Keywords list. The keyword will be blue when it is selected.

10. Set the Format pop-up menu to JPEG (this may seem confusing -- see Notes for explanation).


  1. Under normal circumstances, you can export a RAW image as Original (step 10), and you will get a copy of the original RAW file. However, if you have removed any RAW originals, what you will have left is the JPEG working copies with the RAW keyword, so you would not be able to export them as "Original" (doing so would result in a file not found message). This article is geared toward readers who have removed some originals, so setting the menu to JPEG in step 10 ensures that you will get JPEG copies of RAW images for which the original RAW file has been removed. If you are certain that you have not removed any originals, and you just want to start a backup regimen, then it's OK to select Original.

  2. If your situation requires exporting as JPEG, then it's likely that within those RAW-keyworded images you have both missing originals and present originals. After doing the JPEG export to get copies of them all, you can then use the Finder to search your iPhoto Library folder for the present originals, which are identifiable by the filename extension that your camera uses (such as .nef, .cr2, .crw, and so forth). This way you can save the RAW originals that are present without having to negotiate the "file not found" messages in iPhoto.
    1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock.
    2. From the File menu, choose Find.
    3. Set the "Search in" menu to "Specific Places".
    4. Click the Add button.
    5. Navigate to your Pictures folder, and select the iPhoto Library folder.
    6. Click Choose.
    7. Deselect the checkbox for other locations so that only your iPhoto Library is being searched.

    8. Search for items whose name contains the file extension used by your camera (such as .nef or .cr2). This is shown in the picture above.
    9. Click Search.
    10. You can drag the RAW files you find in the results window to another folder in the Finder for safe keeping.

Backing up new photos as you take them

Here are two different ways to go about backing up your photos as you take them. If you like to connect your camera directly to the computer, you could use this method:

  1. Import into iPhoto as you normally would.
  2. In the Source list, select Last Roll.
  3. From the Share menu, choose Export.
  4. Click the File Export tab.
  5. Set the Format pop-up menu to Original.
  6. Click the Export button.
  7. In the navigation sheet that appears, select a location (such as Desktop or Pictures) where you want to make a folder for backing up your latest shoot.
  8. Click the New Folder button, name the folder, and click Create.
  9. Click OK.

If you prefer to use a card reader, try this method:

  1. Use the Finder to copy your images from the card reader to a folder on your computer. (This will be your backup copy.)
  2. In iPhoto, from the File menu, choose Add to Library to import them from the desktop into iPhoto.

Now that you have an extra copy, the safest thing to do is move it to an external hard disk, copy them to another computer via file sharing, or burn a disc. External hard disks (USB 2.0 and FireWire) are nice to have, because they're fast, flexible, and allow you to save pictures until you have enough to fill a DVD. Following this backup strategy will eliminate the risk of losing images due to your management of the iPhoto Library.

Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple's recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.

Published Date: Oct 10, 2016