iPhoto: Automatically Import Photos from Your Mac

| TMO Quick Tip

Some time ago, I went over how to add media files to iTunes automatically. What I didn't mention, though, is that iPhoto has pretty much the same special folder. I'm such a stinker.

Anyhow, if you accumulate lots of pictures, this can be a handy feature. Just put everything you want to keep into that folder, and you can import everything at once when you've got a spare moment instead of having to bring the images in one by one or in a few batches. Awesomesauce! The only difficult part is getting to the darned folder in the first place. To do so, start by finding your iPhoto Library. By default, it lives in [Your Home Folder]> Pictures.

(If you see something in there labeled "iPhoto Library.photolibrary" as well, ignore it. That's not what we're looking for.)

Now, right- or Control-click on your iPhoto Library to bring up a contextual menu, and pick Show Package Contents from it.

You should see a bunch of folders afterward, but the one we're looking for is called Auto Import.

Now you can either drag that to the right side of your Dock for dropping stuff into it easily or put it into Finder's sidebar, for example.

You can also hold down the Command and Option keys together as you drag it to the Desktop (or wherever you want). This will create an alias, which behaves just like the original item when you put stuff into it. Neat! 

Make sure not to move the original folder from within the iPhoto Library, or it may not work properly anymore.

After that, anything you drop into that alias or shortcut will get added to iPhoto automatically the next time the app is open. Note that the program keeps that folder clean for you, too—after items have been imported, they're put into their proper location within your Library database and removed from your fancy folder. That's so cool!

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You consistently provide good info and tips.  You’re my new favorite on TMO.

Melissa Holt

Aw, shucks! Thanks, achaar. That means a lot to me.



Thanks! I went through the trouble to create a “Automatically Add to iPhoto” -folder and an Automator Service to do exactly this. But it kept starting iPhoto whenever I placed a file into the folder.

Thanks heaps for informing me of Auto Import, this is much nicer!

I truly hope Apple will implement a “Automatically Add to iPhoto” -folder, just like they currently provide us with “Automatically Add to iTunes”..

Melissa Holt

Hey esaruoho,

You’re welcome! Thanks for reading. :D

iPhoto’s “Auto Import” folder works pretty much the same as the “Automatically Add to iTunes” one. Are there any features it has that you’re missing?



Well, the only “feature” that it’s missing is that it would be great for there to be an official folder for it, instead of going through Show Package Contents. But that’s up to Apple, really.
Thanks for your article!

Melissa Holt

Ah, now I understand. Thanks!

Lee Milstein

Hello…I set this up….all photos from dropbox are dropped into the Auto Importer…however when I open iphoto it doesn’t import the photos….am I missing something?  Thank you

Melissa Holt

Hey there Lee,

I’m not sure. It could be that you’re already importing those photos another way (say, through Photo Stream), and thus iPhoto sees them as duplicates. I’d try opening that Auto Import folder and dragging any image out of it onto the iPhoto icon in your Dock. If it still doesn’t import, then something else is going on.

Hope that helps!

Lee Milstein

Hi Melissa…when I drag a photo out of the auto import folder directly onto the iPhoto icon on my dock…the photo imports like normal.  Looks like just the “auto” part isn’t working for some reason.  Just to make sure I have the right folder….I just clicked on my finder….clicked on “Pictures” on the sidebar…right clicked Iphoto Library…selected “Show Package Contents” and looked for the “Auto Import” folder….that is the right one, correct?  Thank you for your assistance.

Melissa Holt

Hey Lee,

Hmmm.  That IS the right folder. I don’t know why it might be behaving that way, but here’s what I’d do. First of all, if you double-click on that iPhoto Library within your Pictures folder, it does open properly and show you all of the correct stuff, doesn’t it? Just want to verify that iPhoto isn’t opening a different library.

If that works, I’d clear out the Auto Import folder, restart your machine, and then try putting just one JPEG in that folder to see if it imports the way it’s supposed to.

Sorry you’re having trouble!


Lee Milstein

Hi Melissa….still not working…I called Apple and they told me this folder only works when connecting cameras or an iphone and is not supported to perform as otherwise stated.  Still very curious how you are able to get this to work.  Are you using iphoto 11?

Lee Milstein

Hi Melissa…I think I got it….you were right….there was a second iphoto library on my machine that i didn’t realize.  Thanks so much for your help!

Melissa Holt

Hey Lee!

Glad to hear you got it figured out! I’m surprised that Apple told you that, as folks’ve been using the iPhoto Auto Import function for a good long time. I think I first started doing so around 2010! Oh, well. I’m just happy it works for you.


Iain Harley

I know this thread has been dormant for awhile, but is there a similar action for Aperture? I can’t seem to find an Auto Import folder.

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