What is the iPhoto importer, and what do I do if I'm seeing an error message?

On August 22, 2016, the iPhoto importer will no longer be available. Learn more.

The iPhoto importer tool allows you to perform a one time copy of all of your photos in your iPhoto library into your Dropbox folder. The pictures will be organized by the events in your iPhoto library and will be saved to a folder in Dropbox called "Photos from iPhoto."

The iPhoto importer is a one time import, which means that further changes you make to your iPhoto library will not be automatically synced to Dropbox. If you need the new changes to be uploaded to your Dropbox, you can run the iPhoto importer tool again and it will only import the new photos.

Click here to learn more about the iPhoto import feature. For FAQs, and to troubleshoot issues with iPhoto importer, please select from these quick links:

Dropbox iPhoto importer frequently asked questions

FAQ quick links:

Can I use the iPhoto importer with Dropbox Business?

The iPhoto importer is only available for personal Dropbox accounts, and not for Dropbox Business. This is so that users are better able to separate personal files from business files.

Will photos I take with my mobile device automatically upload to Dropbox?

If you would like Dropbox to continuously update your account with the latest photos you take on your mobile device, or add photos to your computer from a camera, you can turn on Camera Upload. With Camera Upload, the photos and videos you take with your camera, phone, or tablet will be automatically uploaded to Dropbox—meaning they'll be safely backed up and viewable anywhere.

Any photos you add using the Camera Upload tool will be uploaded to a folder in Dropbox called "Camera Uploads." Click here to learn more about the Camera Uploads feature.

Will the iPhoto importer preserve metadata?

Yes, the iPhoto importer will import original EXIF (exchangable image file) metadata such as GPS coordinates or Rating tags.

However, the iPhoto importer will not preserve metadata you may have added using iPhoto:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Keywords
  • Flags
  • Ratings
  • GPS coordinates
  • Faces

Will the iPhoto importer preserve a photo date and time stamp?

The iPhoto importer always preserves the EXIF date, which is the date set by your camera at the moment the photo was shot. This date is stored in the EXIF tags named "Date/Time Original" or "Create Date."

The iPhoto date—the date that appears in the Info pane when the photo is selected in iPhoto—is the date Dropbox uses for the filename. Usually these two dates are the same. However, the dates will differ when you use iPhoto to fix the photo date and forget to check the "Modify original files" option. Then the EXIF tags won't be updated and the new date will only be saved in iPhoto's internal database.

In this instance Dropbox will use the fixed date for the filename, but the original incorrect date will remain in the EXIF tags. This can occasionally cause problems, as most photo tools rely on the EXIF tags to get the photo date.

Can I import albums with the iPhoto importer?

Photo albums are ignored by the iPhoto importer. Only individual events (photos) are imported.

Does iPhoto need to be running during an import?

No, iPhoto does not need to be running during an import. However, be carefull not to add, edit, or remove photos during the import.

Are both original and modified photos imported?

If you have edited a photo, only the modified version will be imported. If you haven't edited the photo, the original will be imported.

Can I use the iPhoto importer tool on multiple computers with different iPhoto libraries?

We do not recommend using the importer tool on more than one library at a time. If you choose to open a second library in iPhoto and run the importer again, the importer will detect the new photos, but will copy them to the old folders from the first library import. Even if you clear the "Photos from iPhoto" folder it will recreate the subfolders with the old event names. For this reason, it's safer to stay single-library for now.

Can I use the iPhoto importer tool if I also have an aperture library?

No. The iPhoto importer tool will not work with an aperture library, due to the way Apple stores photo libraries.

Dropbox iPhoto importer troubleshooting

Occasionally the iPhoto importer tool produces an error message saying "Sorry, an error occurred. Please try again later..." If this occurs, there may be several different causes. Here are the most common:

Troubleshooting quick links:

My Dropbox or my hard drive is out of space

When you use the iPhoto importer tool, Dropbox makes a copy of your photo files in the Dropbox folder on your computer so that it can upload those files to the Dropbox website. This means that you need space on your hard drive to accommodate the photo copies that Dropbox will have to create from iPhoto. Once the upload is complete, you can turn on selective sync for your photos so that they don't take up space on your hard drive (note: you'll need to sync your photos to Dropbox first before you can activate selective sync).

If you are encountering an issue due to insufficient disk space, you can try these solutions:

Make room on your computer so that Dropbox can make a copy of your photo library from iPhoto. You can either migrate data to an external hard drive, or use selective sync in order to sync files to the Dropbox web app only and reclaim hard drive space. This is the easiest approach and will allow you to use the iPhoto importer tool to upload your photos.

Migrate your photos in chunks and selectively sync your iPhoto "Events" as you go along. This avoids using the iPhoto importer tool and will still result in having your photos added to Dropbox so you can view, share, and store them safely.

Note that this is a workaround and does not utilize the iPhoto Importer tool. If you opt to migrate photos in chunks you'll need to continue doing so going forward rather than running the importer tool again. The first option listed above is preferred.

If you would still like to use this method, follow these steps:

  1. Open iPhoto and the Dropbox folder on your computer
  2. Create a folder in your Dropbox called "Photos Part 1"
  3. Double click on the first Event in iPhoto
  4. Go to Edit, then Select all to highlight all of the photos in that Event
  5. Click and drag that group of photos into the "Photos Part 1" folder you created in Dropbox
  6. Repeat that process for several Events in iPhoto (until you have added a good deal of photos)

You can then selectively sync the "Photos Part 1" folder, and create a new folder (called "Photos Part 2") to keep moving through your library. To turn on Selective Sync for the folder you've created with some of your photos, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Dropbox icon in the menu bar at the top of your screen
  2. Click the gear icon
  3. Select Preferences
  4. Go to the Account tab
  5. Select "Change Settings..."
  6. Uncheck the "Photos Part 1" folder

Please do not turn on selective sync for the folder until it appears with a green check mark, indicating that the files have been synced successfully with Dropbox. Depending on how large your iPhoto library is, and how much space you have left on your hard drive, you may need to move your library in smaller chunks. This will help you avoid filling your hard drive as Dropbox creates copies of the files before you selectively sync them.

I have previously used selectively sync on the “Photos from iPhoto” folder

If you have already selectively synced your “Photos from iPhoto” folder (you can check this by viewing your preferences: click the Dropbox icon, and then the gear icon), you will not be able to run the iPhoto importer again. This is because Dropbox recognizes the folder (at dropbox.com) but not in the Dropbox desktop application.

To solve this issue:

  • Don't selectively sync the entire "Photos from iPhoto" folder; instead selectively sync its subfolders
  • Or, rename the existing "Photos from iPhoto" folder at dropbox.com, and then re-run the iPhoto importer tool; a new "Photos from iPhoto" folder will be created, and your entire library will re-import

The "Photos from iPhoto" folder was accidentally renamed

If the "Photos from iPhoto" folder is renamed the tool will not be able to import new events—Dropbox will not be able to find the original "Photos from iPhoto" folder to continue the import. If this happens, you can either restore the original folder name to continue the import, or you'll need to re-import the entire photo library.

To restart the import:

  1. Change the folder name back to "Photos from iPhoto"
  2. Re-run the iPhoto import and the tool will begin importing new events from iPhoto

If you'd like to re-import of all your photos, you will first have to remove the "photo.dbx" file in the "~/.dropbox" folder. You can access this folder by following the instructions below:

  1. Quit the Dropbox desktop application. Do this by clicking on the Dropbox icon in your menu bar, clicking the gear icon and selecting “Quit”
  2. Go to the Finder menu
  3. In the menu bar, click “Go” and then choose “Go to Folder”
  4. Paste in the following: ~/.dropbox
  5. Navigate to the “Instance1” folder, and delete the file called 'photo.dbx'. (Do not delete any other files in this location)
  6. Restart Dropbox from your Applications folder

You should now be able to do a full re-import of your photos.

An existing iPhoto library was manually added to Dropbox

If you have previously added your iPhoto library to your Dropbox, please note that you can only store one iPhoto library in your Dropbox at a time. Please remove the previous iPhoto library from your Dropbox to use the iPhoto importer tool.

The iPhoto library is not stored on my hard drive (it is on an external drive)

The iPhoto importer tool will only work if the iPhoto library is stored in the default location:

  • USERNAME/Photos/iPhoto Library

If you have moved the library from this default location, you can either move it back to its default location, or you can drag and drop photos directly to Dropbox.

Note that this method is a workaround and does not utilize the iPhoto Importer tool. If you opt to migrate photos in chunks you'll need to continue doing so going forward rather than running the importer tool again.

  1. Create a folder in your Dropbox account through the desktop application for a particular event
  2. Open that event in your iPhoto library
  3. Select all of the photos in that event, and drag the photos into the Dropbox folder you just created; this will make a copy of those photos in your Dropbox
  4. Let the files sync, and once complete, you'll be able to view these photos in the "Photos" tab at dropbox.com and within the folder you created

I'm seeing duplicate photos in the folder

If you import photos from your iPhoto library, and then also use the Camera Uploads feature (in other words, you have the same photos in your iPhoto library and on your iPhone), duplicates of these photos will occur since the iPhoto import tool is a one-time importer and not a sync. One version of the photo will be in the "Photos from iPhoto" folder, and the other in the "Camera Uploads" folder.

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