How to Get Your Photos Out of iPhoto With Your Titles and Descriptions Intact

by Curtis Bisel
updated: May 29, 2017
Curtis Bisel
May 29, 2017

“Hi, Firstly, thank you for your tips about adding descriptions in your post ‘The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos.’

I tried what you suggested with iPhoto (’11), but the description was not exported to Preview and it wasn’t included in emailed photos.”


Hey Carol, thanks for your comment! And you know, I bet there are a lot of people having this problem, so let me try and shed some light on this.

First, here’s a short but easy-to-follow video tutorial I put together with lots of explanation and detail that will show you exactly how to get your photos out of iPhoto with your titles and descriptions (captions) intact.

YouTube video

(Problems playing video? Click here)

For anyone who is unable to watch or listen, I have provided [CC] captions in the video as well as a full text transcript below.

[learn_more caption=”Transcription of Video”]

Hey everybody. It’s Curtis Bisel from and in this video, I want to show you how you can get photographs out of iPhoto but still maintain the titles and descriptions that you spent a lot of time typing in.

So here’s an iPhoto library that I’ve created. It has got about eight events in it. So I’m going to click on the first event and you can see there’s only one photo in here. If I click on the photo, then the info button here at the bottom, the info panel will open up and you can see that I’ve already typed in a description for this photo, “Mom holding Curtis the first day home from the hospital,” and you can see over here the title that I gave the photograph, Mom Holding Curtis. A better way for us to see the title is to go up to View and make sure that Titles is selected. Now you can see the title underneath the photograph.

OK. So let’s say you want to get this photo out of iPhoto to send to someone and still maintain this title and description. Now Apple has done a great job of making us feel like we can drag and drop everything, so most of us will probably try this. We will just click on the photo and drag it to our desktop.

Now everything looks fine except for right here, the filename doesn’t have the same filename as the title. The thing is, it’s kind of hard to know whether the title and description information actually is in the photograph, because a lot of applications don’t utilize or pull this information from the photo.

Even if you were to click on the photo and hit Command I for information, you can see even over here it doesn’t display title or caption or description information. So I’m going to control click or right click on the file and choose Open With and iExifer which is an app that I bought on the App Store and if this photograph had a title or description saved inside the photograph, we would see it listed down here under IPTC.

Now IPTC stands for iPhoto Technical Crap [comical car horn sound]. No, I’m just kidding. It actually stands for International Press Telecommunications Council and the reason I know this is because I looked it up on Wikipedia because no one should know this off the top of their head.

Now this IPTC metadata information was originally created for news organizations so that photographers and companies could maintain their copyright and ownership information with the photo. But what’s cool is now we can use that information to label our personal photos.

OK. So if the photo doesn’t have this information in it, how do we get the photo out and have that information stay with it? The trick is not dragging and dropping the photo. The trick is to actually export the photo and choose the right selections.

So I’m going to select the photo again. Go up to File. Choose Export and a window will pop up and in this first tab under File Export, you will see Kind. Now for whatever reason, Apple only allows you to choose JPEG or TIFF to export your photo out and maintain titles and descriptions. I don’t know why, because man, there are times I really want to use original or current.

I’m currently using iPhoto 11 version number 9.2.1 and these two formats seem to be the only way.

Since a lot of people use their photographs to post on social networking sites and the email, I’m going to choose JPEG and then medium quality which will make the file size really small but still have a pretty good look to it.

If your goal is to have the highest quality, I would choose either JPEG and maximum or I would choose TIFF and maximum, and then make sure size is set to full size.

So I’m going to put it back to JPEG and then put the quality at medium and here’s where the magic happens. You want to put a check mark right here next to title and keywords. Now what this is going to do is it’s going to force iPhoto to export out your photo with the title, the keywords, if you have any, and the description embedded inside of the image. So when you send or give this photo to someone, this information will stay intact.

Then for filename, there are several options. One of which is Use Filename and what this is going to do is save this file using the filename that was originally given to this image either from the camera that you took it with, the digital camera or the filename that you gave your scan before you imported it.

For this tutorial, I’m going to choose Use Title. So I’m going to click on Export and then you can see for Save As, the filename defaults to the title Mom Holding Curtis and I’m going to choose Desktop and then click on OK. And there it is right here in the desktop. The image is called MomHoldingCurtis.jpeg. All right. Let’s see if it worked.

I’m going to control click or right click, if you have a two-button mouse, choose Open With and again for me, I’m going to choose this lightweight program called iExifer and at the bottom, we will see if the IPTC is there and there it is. You can see right there. Under caption, it has got, “Mom holding Curtis the first day,” and unfortunately it’s cut off a bit but that’s just what happens with this program. And then under Object Name, you can see Mom holding Curtis which is the title that we gave the image.

Another way we can see this information is to open the file with Preview that comes with Mac. Again, I’m going to control click or right click on the image. Choose Open With and then Preview.

Aww, I love that photo. You want to go up to Tools now and choose Show Inspector and a new window will open up over here on the right and then you want to choose this second tab for show Info Inspector and then you will see the IPTC tab right here and there it is. Under Caption/Description, there is our description and there’s our title.

Now there are ways to export multiple files at the same time. Here’s an event with multiple images and you can either lasso multiple images or command clicking on each one. Now after choosing File and then Export, all of your selected images will now be exported with titles and descriptions.

Now if you come to this address on my website, that’s for YouTube Video 2 and if you’re watching this on YouTube, you can click on the link directly below this video, you will find step-by-step written instructions of what you just watched as well as the super cool instructions on how you can email a photo right out of iPhoto and the title and description will be written right underneath the photo in the recipient’s email.

So thank you so much for watching. Cheers!


Further Explaination

So Carol, you bring up a shortcoming that I think iPhoto has — well really, a lot of the image managers and photo editors. I mean, Apple makes it so easy to change the titles (names) of your photos and add descriptions (captions) to them, but it seems anytime you want to do something with these titles and descriptions, well… you can’t.

If you are at all confused here, below is an example of a photograph with a title and description I just added. The description is the best place to write what you would hand write on the back of a paper print explaining what’s in the picture. And the title is a where you can give the photo a name to differentiate it from others.

iphoto how to export email photo title descriptions
Here is a photo with a name (title) and caption (description) that I just typed in. (iPhoto ’11 v.9.2.1)

If you would like to learn more about how to enter in titles and descriptions, check out my detailed post “The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos.” It not only covers iPhoto, but also the three other photo managers I recommend.

So what Carol is having problems with is once you have this information typed in, how do you get your photos out of iPhoto with this info intact. Once it’s out, she wants to be able to load this photo in the application Preview and to also send it through email and have the description text go with it.

Sounds easy — right?

Well if you drag an image from iPhoto onto your desktop, a copy of the image is created, but all of the text you typed in doesn’t follow.

The problem is iPhoto and a lot of photo managers appear to be a little stingy with the information you type into them. It almost seems like they are afraid that at any moment, you are going to consider jumping ship and leave them for a different photo manager, so they make it harder than it should be for you to get all of your hard work out from it.

In the case of iPhoto, I think it’s safe to assume most of their users are happy with iPhoto and won’t see the need to go elsewhere. But, that being said, there are definitely a lot of times where you would love to use these titles and descriptions elsewhere.

The good news is there are ways to get your photos and descriptions out, you just have to do it in the few ways iPhoto allows you to. It’s basically the equivalent of as asking, “pretty please?”

How to Email Photos From iPhoto with Titles and Descriptions:

So let’s tackle how to email a photo from within iPhoto, but with the title and description intact. Unfortunately for some, as far as I can tell, you have to email using the Apple application “Mail” that comes installed free with OS X.

1 First, make sure iPhoto is set up to email photos using the application “Mail.” Click on “iPhoto” at the top in the Menu Bar and select “Preferences” from the list in the pulldown. Select the “General” tab on the far left. Make sure the item “Email photos using:” has “Mail” selected in the pulldown next to it. If it isn’t, change it. Then close this window out.

iPhoto Preferences set to email using Mail

2 Select (highlight) a photo or multiple to email and then click the “Share” button at the bottom right hand side of the iPhoto application window. Then click on “Email” from the list that pops up. Optionally, you can skip the share button and click on “Share” at the top of the application in the Menu Bar and then choose “Email” from the list.

iPhoto Share and Email menu option

3 A small window will now pop up and ask you to choose a few options before proceeding into the Mail application. For “Size“, choose whatever size you would like. (Most will probably use “Medium” or “Large”)Now, what’s most important is the second item — “Include:” You want to make sure you put a check mark next to “Titles” and “Descriptions” if you in fact have information in both. Since I have both in my example, I will check each one.Also check “Location information” if the GPS/map information is important for your to include as well.

Click “Compose Message” and it will take you into the application “Mail” with your photo.
iPhoto Email Window for Description and Title Text Information

Email composed in Mail with photo attached with iPhoto title and description included
Notice iPhoto and Mail worked together to include not only the photo inside this email. The title and description are automatically included at the bottom of the photo. The title also becomes the default subject line.

So this is a great way to quickly email someone your photos when you want them to read the titles and descriptions of your photos from within the email. The problem is if they save the attached image from your email, the photo won’t have this information saved inside of it.

I know! Jeez. It seems that iPhoto just used the title and description to create the text inside of the email, and doesn’t embed this text inside of the photo.

iPhoto safely keeps all of your titles and descriptions inside of the iPhoto Library file (database). When you load an image in iPhoto, it brings up the photo and then loads this information from the database separately and then displays them together.

So now what?

How DO you get the photos out of iPhoto and have your titles and descriptions embedded (saved) inside of the photo?

How to Export Photos From iPhoto with Titles and Descriptions:

“Exporting” your photo out of iPhoto is the trick, but even then you have to select the right settings to make it work.

Once the image has been exported, your titles, descriptions, keywords and even location information (if you so choose) is then saved inside the image so you will no longer need the help of iPhoto to access and view this information.

Additionally, you can then also email this exported image to someone with whichever email software you choose (not just with Mail as per the instructions above) and still maintain the title and description.

Something to keep in mind though, some image programs still don’t handle this (IPTC) metadata yet, so you can’t expect universal access to it. But just know, as long you don’t accidentally overwrite this information with another program, your information will always be saved inside of that image you just exported.

1 Select (highlight) a photo or multiple and then click on “File” from the top Menu Bar and then click “Export” from the list. (Optionally you can hit SHIFT-COMMAND-E)If you would like to export a large quantity of photos, I would recommend selecting an entire “Event” full of photos and exporting it to its own folder named the same as your iPhoto Event.

iPhoto Export Option from Menu Bar


2 Choose the “File Export” tab from the top of this new window. The main thing you’re looking for here is the “Include:” boxes in the middle of this window. Notice how similar this is to the previous instructions to email? You want to put a check mark next to “Title and keywords” if you want your metadata such as title, description and keywords to be “embedded” into your the image that you are about to create in the export.Unfortunately, for whatever reason Apple has, you can only choose this box if you choose “JPEG” or “TIFF” from the “Kind” option at the top. I know, I know — write Apple! I’m just the messenger here.For the “File Name“, you can choose “Use Title” if you would like the new image to be labeled now with the title you gave it inside of iPhoto.Click “Export” and then choose where you would like to save this new image — such as your desktop — and then click “ok.”

iPhoto Export window with title and keywords and file name options


Click “Export” and then choose where you would like to save this new image — such as your desktop. The filename will default to your given “title” if you chose that in the prior menu. You can change this here though if you would like. When you are done click “ok.”

iPhoto Export "Save As" Window

So now, if you look on the desktop or in the folder where you told iPhoto to export your photo, you should see your image. You can do with it as you please.

Understand that this is a duplicate copy. Exporting is not moving, it’s copying. So your original image is still safely saved inside of iPhoto. By exporting, you created another copy of it with the options you chose in the process.

iPhoto Exported image on desktop with title

To test this export, just to make sure the text “metadata” remained intact, I loaded up this image into a program I bought from the Apple App store called iExifer. This is a third-party piece of software that that I picked up cheaply that will display camera EXIF as well as (IPTC) metadata such as captions and descriptions.

You can see in the screenshot below, the title and description are completely intact. They were saved inside of this new image so anywhere you send this photo, this information will now go with it!

iPhoto Exported image viewed in iExifer to show title and description
iExifer displaying iPhoto’s title (labeled as (Object Name” in iExifer) and description (labeled as “Caption/Abstract” in iExifer)

Now back to Carols original concern. In addition to emailing, she also wanted to view her titles and descriptions in Apple’s application Preview that is built into OS X.

How to View Your Photos From iPhoto In Preview with Titles and Descriptions:

1 If your image won’t open using Preview by double clicking it, hold down the Control key and click the image. From the options list, select “Open With” and then choose “Preview” from the list of applications.

iPhoto Preview Open With Titles and Descriptions

2 Once your image is loaded in Preview, go up to “Tools” in the Menu Bar at the top of your monitor and select “Show Inspector” from the list. (Optionally you can hit Command-I)

iPhoto Preview Show Inspector titles and descriptions


From the Inspector window that just opened up, select the “Info Inspector” tab at the top that is labeled with a lower case “i” in a circle. This will then reveal all of the available metadata inside. To see your titles, descriptions and keywords, choose the IPTC tab. You may have to click and drag this window to be a little wider to show the entire length of your description.

iPhoto title description keywords viewed in apple preview application
Here is how your titles, keywords and descriptions will look when viewed in Apple’s Preview App inside of the “Inspector” (Command-I)

Alright, so I think that just about does it. This should make you breath a little easier knowing you aren’t locked into using iPhoto for the rest of your life, just to view your titles and descriptions.

And also keep in mind Apple updates their software at least a couple times a year. So, I think it’s safe to assume this entire process you just learned could eventually get even easier as newer versions are released and IPTC metadata becomes even more widely used.

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask them below in the comments.


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