iPhoto Library Huge? Delete your movies!

My iPhoto library has grown to over 30 Gigabytes.  We’ve got nearly 10 years of photos in the Library, but still, that’s a massive library size for a person, who until today when I bought a dSLR, always used the stock settings on  our camera.

A had a sneaking suspicion of the root cause of my iPhoto library growth, however.  A few years back, instead of having a separate camcorder that used DV videotape, we started shooting all our video on our point-and-shoot.  iPhoto by default imports videos from the camera, and so over the past 3 or 4 years we seem to have accumulated 20 Gigabytes of videos (about 200 videos shot) out of a 30GB library.  Extreme!

So, in order to combat this growing file size, I took some steps to export these videos and delete the from the Library.

First Step, Find the Videos

First, we need to find the videos.  Took some time to find this, but you can’t do an advanced find or anything sophisticated in iPhoto.  However, you can create a Smart Album.  Go to File -> New Smart Album, and set it up like this:

Second Step, Export the Videos

iPhoto is great for managing a large number of small files.  However, because it manages files all inside one .pkg file, it means once it gets large (20-50 gigabytes) it becomes a royal pain to move around.  Best to keep a large number of small files inside it, and manage the large files somewhere else on your file system.  To do that, lets export all the videos out of Library.  First hit select the Smart Album we just created, I called mine videos.  Next, hit Cmd-A to select all the videos in your Smart Album, then Go to File -> Export and make your window look like this:

Select a directory to export them to, and you’ll find all your original movies in that folder after the export is complete.

Third, Delete the Videos

Now, it’s time to clear out the videos from the Library.  However, this is not as straight forward as it would seem.  Attempting to delete the videos from the Library does not work as expected.  iPhoto will simply beep at you if you hit Cmd-Delete, or if you try to select Delete from the menu you’ll find it greyed out.  Instead, you need to do a Cmd-Opt-Delete from the Keyboard and this will allow you to delete the videos from the Smart Album.  Again, go the Smart Album we created in the first step, then hit Cmd-A to select all the videos in the Smart Album, then hit Cmd-Opt-Delete, and it’ll prompt you to move all the videos to the trash.  Hit Okay, then right click the Trash icon and choose “Empty Trash.”  Quit iPhoto, and your space from your iPhoto Library will be reclaimed!


49 Comments on “iPhoto Library Huge? Delete your movies!”

  1. Anne Wilmot says:

    Brilliant.. thanks, have been ages faffing about.
    Only wanted to delete selected video clips… but cannot make the others in the smart album play!!! How do you do that???

  2. clintsharp says:

    To play a video in an album (smart or otherwise), double click it. Worked for me.

  3. Troy A says:

    I was just about to try to figure this out this morning because this was stumping me. THANK YOU!! My iPhoto package file is 90GB!

  4. Tobias Eigen says:

    +1 this helped me today – thanks much. It was the cmd-opt-del combination that had me stumped.

  5. dan says:

    You’re a genius. Huge help! Thanks!

  6. Susan Hulbert says:

    I tried this but it out all my photos in the smart album and I’m afraid if I delete I wm delete all my photos

  7. nathan says:

    Thank you!!!

  8. paul baker says:

    i’m doing this today thank yo very much!

  9. waste49asha says:

    Thanks! Super helpful.

  10. kentmcclure says:

    Help. I exported the movies and deleted them from my movies album but the iphoto file did not shrink! Now I have no movies in iphoto and 22 more gig of duplicate movies. Suggestions? Thanks

  11. AEC says:

    But is there a suitable tool out there for managing the videos once they’re out of iPhoto?

  12. liamberkeley says:

    hi there! this almost works for me buttt even holding cmd-option-D, nothing happens other than that ‘beep’ you speak of. Any idea?

  13. Gene says:

    Thank you so much! I can’t believe Apple hasn’t created a real solution for this, but I so appreciate your help.

  14. Gene says:

    thank you so much for posting. the Cmd-Opt-Del was exactly what I needed. That super intuitive Apple interface just wasn’t so super or intuitive.

    • David N. says:

      I’ve the same problem… Cmd-Opt-Del does nothing…
      Any ideas?

      • David N. says:

        I found that this option seems to be removed from iPhoto’11. So the best option is, once you’ve created the album, select all and create an event. Since the photos/videos can be on a single event iPhoto moves the originals. Then, just delete the new event.

  15. Angie Hall says:

    Thank you SO much! I’d been trying to fix iMovie for months…yes, months. I even purchased it a second time in hopes that THAT would do the trick. But your step-by-step tutorial really did the trick for me. Thanks so much….and just in time to produce my family’s video Christmas card! Good Karma is coming your way!

  16. Dave says:

    You are God. This is the best iPhoto tip ever!

  17. Carlos says:

    Thank you very much, worked like a charm!!

  18. jamie says:

    HI – this may be an obvious answer –

    but, if I’ve backed up my entire iphoto library to an external hard drive, what is the purpose of exporting all the videos to a different directory? Is it necessary?

  19. Leo says:

    Thanks for a very nice, easy and quick how-to. I was able to free up a load of room on my MacBook Air.

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  27. Tracey says:

    I have deleted the vids but still see them listed in FINDER under pictures. All of mine are stored in iMovie instead so I can manipulate them as movies. I’m concerned that deleting them from iPhoto will cause issues in iMovie b/c apple rep told me that it is just a link to the file in iPhoto and it is not actually IN iMovie. Please advise.

    • Eva Camarata says:

      I had issues with broken links between iPhoto and iMovie, so now I import directly to iMovie. Be careful with iPhoto though, so you do not automatically import there as well, unless you want to, because you will double the size of storage needed! I am in the process of deleting iPhoto movie storage.

  28. Robyn says:

    Confused about this tip! It may reduce the size of the iPhoto library, but don’t the exported videos take up just as much room?

    So, yes IPL may work more smoothly, but at the cost of not having your videos integrated in your events, holidays, etc.

    However, I can see using this tip to identify the videos *within* IPL and then delete in there the silly ones, the long ones, the redundant ones, etc.

  29. Robyn says:

    Couldn’t find a way, though, of sorting the videos by size!!

  30. Chris says:

    Very useful thanks

    Been trying to figure this out for a while


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  39. cori says:

    When I go to export, a window pops up that says the file format is unsupported by shutter fly and the only thing I can do is cancel. Any suggestions?

  40. beverly says:

    Thank you so much for the great tips! I’ve been trying to figure this out for ages!

  41. Ayman says:

    thanks, it worked for me; had to empty the iphoto trash to reclaim the space.

  42. Jordan says:

    thank you for taking the time to do explain this. this saved me big time!

  43. Lou says:

    Thank you for this, but once I exported the videos to a folder on desktopp, I wanted to check I could still play them….Before I deleted them. But I can’t – they don’t play properly. So I’m reluctant to delete all my videos from iphoto unless I know I have good quality copies that will play? HELP !!! Thank you

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