Sync multiple photostream accounts to one iPhoto library

This is kind of a random topic but today I set about syncing both my wife’s and my photostream accounts to one iPhoto library.

I tried several approaches but in the end I did this:

On my Mac OS X lion server, I made separate user accounts for both her and I. Each account is tied to our apple ids. On each account, I setup iPhoto to automatically import everything that comes through over photostream to disk. I made sure not to sync stuff to photostream though as that seemed to be making duplicates (kind of an obvious bug, but whatever).

Pretty easy so far. Here’s the tricky bit.

I needed to get those photos into the iPhoto library synced with the apple id that I use for our house media server. So I needed a process of extracting the photos from the user accounts I mentioned above and injecting them into the server iPhoto library. I found a utility called Hazel which could automate this kind of work – it can watch directories for new files and then perform actions on the files. The problem however was that I had no way of marking the files I had just extracted as already imported. I also couldnt remove them. This is because the server account didn’t have permissions to modify the iPhoto directories in the user accounts. I fiddled with this for quite a while modifying permissions here and there with no luck.

What I ended up doing was enabling the root user account, logging into it, and then setting Hazel up there. Works like a charm. The root user account runs with highest permissions, so it can do whatever it wants anywhere in the system. Security wise, kind of a risky thing enabling it but I’m (fairly) confident in my abilities here heh.

So now the root account has a Hazel script that does the following:

Iterates over the iPhoto directories for my wife and I.
If it finds new photos, it copies the files from the iPhoto libraries and places them into the Auto Import directory (inside of the iPhoto library) on the media server user account.
Then it deletes the found photos from my wife’s and my user accounts so that the photos don’t get imported again.

Since my wife’s and my user accounts on the server are only for iPhoto, it doesn’t matter if the photos disappear from there, especially since they are being migrated to the media server account. Also, since it’s just copying stuff from photostream, I don’t run the risk of messing any actual data up.

Now if my wife or I take a picture on our iPhones, it automatically gets injected to the media server iPhoto account, which syncs all over our house. Also, it’s convenient having one library for the family.

If only photostream handled videos…

Anyways, hopefully that helps someone out there. I did some googling before I did all of this and didn’t see anything too helpful.


3 responses to “Sync multiple photostream accounts to one iPhoto library

  1. Hi,
    When you mention the hazel script – is this a shell script you have scheduled to run at intervals in crontab or an automator script or something?

    Seems a bit daft that Apple didnt think of this – I am in the same boat now with wanting to combine photos from the wife’s and my iphones and see both photostreams on my imac and her wee macbook air.

    Thanks for the post!


    • Hazel is an automater app for the Mac platform. Here is their link:

      Also, I made this work to handle multiple automatic downloads from iTunes 😉 each user account has an iTunes instance running which auto download purchases, then Hazel (running in root) scrapes the downloads and pushes them to the master iTunes library that we sync our devices to.

      Good luck!

  2. How large is your iPhoto library? I have about 250 gb of media. Would it have a long hangtime when trying to access it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s