Hints to manipulate Apple’s Photos programmatically

Today we have many tools to handle data in the cloud, but there is no tool in the market able to do many things you can think of, like having a centralized photo DB in your computer coming from different devices (ie, merging your iPhone photos with those of your wife’s).

So, some hints are coming… (just hints, no final code, just read and adapt to your needs/circumstances). These are some useful locations:

/Users/<USER>/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/database/photos.db

And these for shared albums:

/Users/<USER>/Library/Containers/com.apple.cloudphotosd/Data/Library/Application Support/com.apple.cloudphotosd/services/com.apple.photo.icloud.sharedstreams/coremediastream-state/38332866+6004658345420041391/Model.sqlite

/Users/<USER>/Library/Containers/com.apple.cloudphotosd/Data/Library/Application Support/com.apple.cloudphotosd/services/com.apple.photo.icloud.sharedstreams/com.apple.photo.icloud.sharedstreams-38332866.cloudphotoservicelibrary/database/photos.db

In the surrounding folders there are the original pictures and resampled versions (thumbnails and so on).

The databases are SQLite and you can manipulate them easilly. There are libraries in almost any programming language and you have a built-in sqlite3 command-line tool you can invoke from any scripting language, such as AppleScript, like this:

do shell script ¬
    "sqlite3 FILE.DB 'SELECT * FROM table;'"

This would work to get out binary data:

do shell script ¬
    "sqlite3 FILE.DB 'SELECT quote(blobfield) FROM table;'" & ¬
    " | cut -d \"'\" -f2 | xxd -r -p > /tmp/out.gz'"

Photos stores many things in binary plists, so the previous code will come in handy to extract that binary fields, which you can later uncompress and parse as regular XML data.

If you can’t read the DB files, don’t panic. Most probably they are locked (opened by another process). You can check it like this:

lsof | grep -e 'FILE.DB'

Most probably there are some sync services running and thus locking the databases. You can quit temporarily this process, do your stuff, and it will be relaunched after that. Ie, if the “offending” process is photolibraryd, you can:

kill -3 `ps xww | grep photolibraryd | grep -v grep`; sqlite3 'SELECT * FROM table;'

More tips tomorrow!

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