I've got all my photo's managed by iPhoto '09 on a Mac Mini and wanted to have a subset (like the last 6 months) of these pictures on my iPhone. I sync my iPhone with my MacBook Pro (not the Mac Mini), so the challenge was to get the pictures from iPhoto on the Mac Mini to iPhoto on the MacBook Pro and from there sync them to the iPhone. Piece of cake you'd think: iPhoto has a sharing option, simple create a smart album on the Mac Mini that has all pictures of the last six month, share that smart album and subscribe to that shared album from iPhoto on the MacBook Pro. Almost done, now I only have to tell iTunes on the MacBook Pro to sync that shared smart album to the iPhone.... bummer! It is not possible to sync shared albums you subscribed too to your iPhone :-( Now what?

I don't give up that easy. iPhoto also has a possibility to subscribe to RSS photo feeds and low and behold...these can be synced to the iPhone using iTunes. I create my webalbums using JAlbum and a while backI tweaked the JAlbum RSS feeds a bit to:
  1. make them work in regular RSS readers like GoogleReader and NetNewsWire, and
  2. ensure that items in sub folders are included in the main feed
That all worked fine but and when I subscribed to one of my albums feeds from iPhoto '09 it all seemed to work... initially. But taking a closer look I noticed that iPhoto was only downloading the thumbnails and not the high resolution version of the images. Bummer again, now what? The <media:content url="..."> tags in the feed were correctly pointing to the high resolution version of the images, but iPhoto was simply ignoring that (strangely it did use the <media:thumbnail url="..."> tags to download the thumbnails). A little Googling and searching in the iPhoto support forums would surely teach me what Apple requires for a feed to work in iPhoto.... no luck. I then took a look at some photo feeds published on Apple's MobileMe and subscribed to them from iPhoto. These worked fine. Only when I took a look at the contents of these MobileMe RSS feeds I quickly decided that I was not going to implement all that Apple proprietary tags in my feed. Increadible how much stuff was in there.

I forgot about the whole thing for a while and this week did a bit more Googling and stumbled on Photocastr:
"Making it easy to turn flickr photos into iPhoto v6+ compatible photocasts"

If they can figure it out, then I should also be able to reverse engineer that. After taking a closer look at the RSS feeds they created I noticed that they had a few iPhoto specific tags included and most importantly they used the tag. Adding that enclosure tag did the trick. No need for iPhoto specific tags, no bloated RSS feeds and the feeds still pass the feedvalidator.org tests. The enclosure tag is defined in RSS 2.0, and Apple iPhoto is properly working without requiring all kinds of proprietary tags.

Now I can sync the pictures to my iPhoto, not directly from the iPhoto on the other machine, but since I automatically publish a subset of the iPhoto to my JAlbum webalbum, this works fine for me. There is still one drawback: iPhoto '09 "Faces" functionality does not work on pictures in RSS feeds, something left to wish for ;-)

Note: to get the original (high resolution) images available in your JAlbum webalbum you have to set "Link to originals via scaled images" in the JAlbum Settings/Navigation tab.

The updated album.rss template file can be downloaded here, see the original blog post for how to install and use it.


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