How to Move Your Photo Library (and keep your sanity)

We all spend a lot of time taking, downloading, uploading, tagging, purging, rating and organizing photos.

But, what happens when it is time to move your photos to a new computer or software system?

Whether you have bought a new computer, added a new external hard drive, need to recover from a disaster, hard drive crash or just want a fresh start, how can you be sure that the work you have already put into your photos library can be preserved?

Step 1: Review where your photos are now.

As much as you’d like to think all your photo are in one place, they usually aren’t!

I created this handy checklist for you to use to note down where your photos are.

When you discover photos that weren’t part of my main folder system, be sure to consolidate them one place so it’s easier for you to move your photo library.

Make a note of how many files there are in the library (32,364) and/or the size of the folders on paper, so that you can check on that after the big move.

Step 2: Write metadata to file.

Metadata is all of the dates, captions, tags, star ratings, camera settings and location data that you need to make sense of your photos. For photo (JPEG) files the metadata can be written within the files themselves. When you move to a new computer or system we want to keep all of this intact.

To avoid having to re-do your work, simply write your metadata to the photo files.

Most photo management software can write your metadata directly to the files, so you won’t need to migrate the catalog or database that your software uses.

This is simple in Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, and ACDSee. Here’s a quick video to show you how to do it in PSE.

iPhoto is a bit different, as it manages the files for you and you never directly access the file. So if you are moving from Mac to PC you may need to follow a tutorial like this. However, migrating from one Mac to another will keep the metadata intact.

If you have used Windows Live Photo Gallery or Picasa, it will generally write the metadata as you add it (with the exception of Faces in Picasa).

If you use Windows Explorer File Properties or the Finder to add metadata to your photos, that is also written instantly to your files.

Step 3: Backup your computer.

If possible, be sure all your back ups are up to date before you move your photo library. Even with the best of intentions we can miss something!

If you need more convincing to backup, here’s Heddy’s take.

Step 4: Copy your photo library.

Copying your photos rather than moving them will mean that you keep your original library and can easily double check that the photos have transferred properly. Both Windows and Mac OS will copy files when you drag them to a different drive.

Step 5: Import your photos.

Before you import your photos, be sure you’ve unplugged or disconnected any external drives, SD cards or cameras, so that are are sure to be importing the correct copy of your photos.

If you are using photo management software, you can now go ahead an import your photos.

Step 6: Verify your library.

Remember that note from step 1? Now’s the time to check that you have 32,364 photos in your new photo library.

Step 7: Set up your backup.

Be sure that your new photo library is being backed up, if you are using an online system, be sure that the location of your new library is one of the selected folders to be backed up.

Step 8: Delete the original photo library.

Once you have been using your photos for a week or two and you are sure nothing has been missed, it’s time to delete the old copy.

If you don’t remove the library, you’ll risk confusing where the current photos are stored. Especially if you have been using one EHD for a while, you’ll find yourself automatically searching on that old drive for your new photos.

Save yourself the confusion and either delete the original photo library or put it aside for safekeeping. Remember, it’s not truly a backup any more, as your latest photos are not there.

Now you can relax, your photo library is safe and secure and ready to enjoy!

PS If you help making your photo library less of a chore and more
fun, why not have me guide you through the process with Get Organized: Photos right here at the Daily Digi.