How can I share an iPhoto Library between two Macs on a Network?

Jack C January 6, 2014
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I want to share a single iPhoto library between two Mac computers. I would like to store the iPhoto library on the network because both Macs may not be connected at the same time.

After reading the article Save Space On Your Mac By Storing iPhoto & iTunes Libraries Remotely Save Space On Your Mac By Storing iPhoto & iTunes Libraries Remotely With my head held low with shame, I publicly admitted last week that I'm a digital hoarder. My once blazingly fast Mac is now left with just 100GB of a 1TB drive left. I've already... Read More on MakeUseOf,  there is a comment there by Pierre and answer by James saying it’s not possible to for two Macs to use the same iPhoto library concurrently. Is there a way to get around this?

The other thing is, the office is all Windows apart from these two Macs, so I also need recommendations on network solution as the iPhoto library won’t open when on a non-mac formatted network share file system (I.e Windows Server).

Any suggestions?

  1. Jan F
    January 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    The main problem is that iPhoto is purely client-sided. There is no "server" or "database" back-end therefor there is no safe way to use it on multiple systems simultaneously.
    Yes, if both Macs are running the same iPhoto version and the Library is stored on a central storage (e.g. external disk or a server) then both clients can use the same iPhoto Library in turns ~ I wouldn't recommend doing at the same time.

    Then you hit the already mentioned problems of it being a OS X only application and being "unique".
    On Windows you will never truly be able to use all the (meta)data you store within iPhoto. Basically you can only use the actual photos. And yes, this means you can access the iPhoto Library using Windows - it's actually just a file and folder structure. It is some "magic" within OS X that makes it look like a single large library file.

    As for the storage:
    I don't recommend anything other than HFS+. iPhoto stores certain (meta)data in a way only HFS+ supports it. On NTFS or FAT32 you will get regular problems and errors, rarely data loss.
    So if you attempt to do this at all it should be a Mac playing AFP and SMB server for both systems.

    In your case I would start looking into a cross-platform Digital Asset Management.
    I don't have any experience or knowledge of some of the freeware options here. For payed options there would be Canto and Celum. But they both start in the four-digits as far as I remember.

  2. Hovsep A
    January 6, 2014 at 10:55 am
  3. Oron J
    January 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Apple actually have a support article on this topic at In a nutshell, you can move the iPhoto Library to a file server, but as you rightly mention in your question, access from both Macs at once could lead to unpredictable results. You _could_ use a Windows server, but Windows machines still won't be able to access the photos as the library uses a proprietary format.

    In terms of alternatives, it would help to have some context so we can make suggestions. What are you trying to achieve? How big are the libraries? Does everyone need access to the photos, or only a few users? Does everyone need to be able to upload photos, or just one or two people? Are the photos for viewing only/downloading/something else?

    • Jack C
      January 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Hello Oron,

      Thanks for your reply. I did come across that article. Putting the iPhoto library on a network share, does not work, like you said because the file system is of a different format.

      The context:
      - Two Mac laptops
      - Wanting to share the same iPhoto library and meta data added to the photo's
      - Both users will need to access and be able add photo's and meta data to the library
      - Library to be used to assist with creating content with Pages for Mac (so viewing, downloading and adding to applications)
      - Library to be accessed by a select few people only in a network
      - If possible, have photo and meta data access from Windows machines as well
      - Libraries currently would store around 10000 photo's+ (estimate)
      - Apparently to import images to Pages for Mac, they images need to be in a iPhoto library - I am yet to try drag and drop