Complete Guide to Displaying Photos on iPod + iPhone (11/2007) | iLounge Article


Complete Guide to Displaying Photos on iPod + iPhone (11/2007)

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In October 2004, Apple released the first iPod with a color screen, and with this also introduced the ability for users to carry more than just audio content on their iPod.  This new model, dubbed the “iPod photo” also provided the ability to transfer and store pictures on the iPod itself, which could be viewed from the iPod, transferred to other computers, and even displayed as a slideshow on a TV screen through the use of a video accessory cable.

Since then, the ability to display photos has become a standard iPod feature, and little has changed in terms of managing and synchronizing photo content on the iPod. The iPhone and iPod touch now include features for displaying photos as well, and although the interface on these newer touchscreen devices is significantly different, the process of synchronizing and managing photo content has remained much the same.

An updated version of our earlier December 2004 tutorial, The Complete Guide to iPod photo Pictures, we will begin by reviewing the basics of getting your photo collection onto your device, and then move on to discuss more detail on how photos are stored on the iPod and iPhone and some of the comparisons between the different iPod models and iPhone in terms of photo quality and storage requirements.

Synchronizing Photo Content

As Apple’s lineup of hardware media devices has expanded, iTunes has remained the core management application for all things related to managing and transferring media content to these devices.  As with any other type of content on the iPod, simply copying photos on in “Disk Mode” does not work—these must be transferred via iTunes.

When the iPod photo was first released it seemed odd that iTunes would be used to synchronize photos to an iPod. However, the evolution of iTunes into a full media-management application since that time has been significant, now encompassing content ranging from the traditional music and other audio files into the realm of movies, TV shows, music videos, podcasts, and even games.

Unfortunately, despite these changes, photo management and synchronization remains a very limited feature within iTunes. No photo management capabilities are built in to iTunes itself, rather the role of iTunes is simply to transfer an existing library of photo content onto your iPod.

In its simplest form, this library of photo content may be little more than a series of folders on your computer. However, iTunes will also integrate directly with iPhoto or Aperture (on the Mac), or Adobe Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements (on Windows XP), allowing you to select photo content based on your albums or collections within these applications.

It should also be noted that there is no “manual mode” for transferring photos to the iPod. Your photo library music be transferred through automatic synchronization. Basically, you point iTunes at a library of photos, optionally select which folders or albums to synchronize, and iTunes converts and transfers them to the device. If you remove a photo from a folder or album, iTunes will remove it from your device during the next synchronization.  This means that you must maintain your photo collection on your computer in order to synchronize with your iPod or iPhone.

Setting it up in iTunes

For users who are setting up their iPod for the first time, iTunes will offer the ability to automatically synchronize photo content as part of the iPod Setup Assistant that appears when you connect a new iPod:

To synchronize your photo content, simply check the appropriate box, and iTunes will attempt to synchronize as many of your photos as it can fit onto your iPod. For Mac users, iTunes will simply use your iPhoto library, while Windows users can select a synchronization option from the drop-down list that appears at the bottom of the iPod Setup Assistant, which normally defaults to “My Pictures” unless Adobe Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements has been installed.


For users with a small photo library, selecting this initial option to automatically sync photos will probably suffice. However, it is important to keep in mind that photos are the lowest priority of all content that is synchronized to an iPod or iPhone. This means that if you are also automatically synchronizing music or video content, you may not have room for your entire photo collection. In this case, iTunes will simply synchronize as many photos as will fit into the remaining space on the iPod/iPhone after all other types of content have been synchronized.

Further, users with a large photo library may prefer to synchronize their content more selectively. This initial setup option does not allow for this, in which case it is probably a good idea to not select this option, and simply configure the photo synchronization options directly.

Photo synchronization is managed in iTunes in the same way as synchronizing other types of content to an Apple device. With your iPod or iPhone connected to your computer, select it in the iTunes source pane on the left-hand side of the iTunes screen, and you will see a number of tabs representing the different types of content that you can sync to that particular device.


To manage photo synchronization, simply select the"Photos” tab, and you will be presented with your options for photo synchronization. If you originally selected to automatically sync your entire photo library, this option will already be enabled. Otherwise, it is disabled by default until you enable it and select which content you would like to sync.


Once you enable synchronization, you can choose the source of your photo collection from the drop-down box.


Selecting “My Pictures” (Windows) or “Pictures” (Mac) will tell iTunes to simply synchronize photos from your user profile’s default pictures folder. Alternatively, you can select “Choose Folder” and select an alternate folder from anywhere else on your computer.

Windows users who have Adobe Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements installed can also synchronize with their photo collections in these software packages.

For Mac users, the default is to synchronize with iPhoto if it is installed (all recent-model Mac computers come with iPhoto pre-installed). In the event that iPhoto is not installed, iTunes will default to synchronizing with the “Pictures” folder, as described above.

Mac users who use Apple’s Aperture application can choose to sync with their Aperture library instead of their iPhoto library.

Once you’ve selected the source of your photos, you will be shown a list of photo “albums” that iTunes has found in the specified source.  For a “My Pictures” folder, this will be a list of the first level of folders—any sub-folders below the first level are simply grouped together in each top-level folder as a single album.

For Adobe Photoshop Album/Elements, iPhoto or Aperture, this will instead be a list of your named photo collections/albums within those applications.

If you have more albums than will fit in the list, you can naturally scroll up and down to see them all.  You’ll also note that iTunes conveniently gives you a count of how many pictures are in each album, as well as the total number of photos in your entire collection.

In much the same way that you would manage synchronization of music to your iPod, you are given the option to synchronize “All photos and albums” or “Selected albums.”  If you choose to synchronize selected albums only, then you are presented with a series of checkboxes for your albums where you can select or deselect each album for synchronization.


Note that iPhoto 7 users now have an additional option on this screen as of iTunes 7.5: Events. This option is only available when syncing with iPhoto, and allows you to take advantage of iPhoto 7’s new Events feature by automatically synchronizing all events or only a selected number of recent events from your iPhoto library. In this case, photos on the iPod/iPhone will be grouped by the iPhoto event names rather than iPhoto album names.

This option is presently only available for the iPod and iPhone, not the Apple TV.

You will note also that iTunes keeps a running count beside each option as to how many photos are selected for synchronization, which can be useful for estimating how much storage your photos will take up. While an actual Megabyte or Gigabyte estimate would be far more useful here, it is possible to calculate the storage requirements based on the number of photos. More on this a bit further on.

Note that the albums will by default show up in the Photos list on your device in the order shown in the album list in iTunes. To change this order, simply drag the albums in the list up and down to re-order them.

For users synchronizing from a folder, it should be noted that iTunes will only provide album names for the first level of photo folders. If you have additional sub-folders, these will be included within the selected top-level folder, but they will not be separately categorized. Using the example above, if there were three sub-folders under “Christmas 2005”, pictures from all sub-folders would be grouped on the device under the main “Christmas 2005” category, rather than grouped into a sub-folder.

Once you’ve made your selections, you can simply click the “Apply” button and the photos will be transferred to your iPod.

If this is the first time you have synchronized these particular photos to your iPod or iPhone, iTunes will first go through an “Optimizing” process to resize each photo into resolutions appropriate for the device that you are synchronizing with, storing the resized thumbnails in a cache on your hard drive.


Depending on how many photos you have selected, this process could take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, so allow some extra time for your first sync if you are transferring a lot of photos.  If you find it’s taking too long, you can always click on the small X that appears in the status window, which will stop the process, leaving the untransferred photos queued for your next synchronization.

Once this process has completed, the photos will be transfered to your device.


Photo Optimization and Storage Requirements

As noted above, iTunes resizes and indexes your photos during the transfer process.  By default, it creates multiple versions of each photo: one for each resolution that the photo will be displayed in, generally including a version for the thumbnail view, a version for the full-screen view, and a version for output to a TV. 

This pre-processing eliminates the need for the iPod or iPhone itself to re-size photos on-the-fly, making the on-device experience smoother and more efficient. The original iPod photo and fifth-generation iPod performed no dynamic resizing on the device itself.  The newer 2007 iPod models and the iPhone do perform some on-device resizing, but optimized thumbnails are still stored for the purpose of efficiency.

This pre-processing also helps to save space on your iPod or iPhone for other things, since if all you ever intend to do is view your pictures or show them on a TV, you don’t need a bunch of five or eight-megapixel pictures taking up more storage space than necessary. 

Further, since all photos are pre-sized to specific resolutions, each photo will take up the exact same amount of space, regardless of the original resolution or photo format. The following table illustrates the storage requirements per photo for each model of iPod:


For example, on an iPod classic, each photo will take up 983 KB of storage. Therefore, to sync 100 photos, approximately 98 MB of storage would be required on the device.

Note that when syncing photos to the Apple TV, no preprocessing is performed.  The original full-resolution photos are transferred to the Apple TV as-is.

Full Resolution Photos

The transfer process optimizes photos for display on the iPod’s screen or output to a TV. These are stored in an internal iPod thumbnail database format that is not readily user-accessible even via disk mode.

However, if you do want to carry around the original pictures - perhaps for transferring to other computers, or printing - you can do this by selecting the option in iTunes to “Include full-resolution photos.”


This will tell iTunes to sync the original-sized photo as an extra file on the iPod that can later be retrieved through the iPod’s disk mode. This will take up additional space above and beyond the optimized version described above. The amount of additional space will be entirely dependent upon the size and resolution of the original photo, since this simply creates an exact copy of each image.

Note that this feature is not available on the iPhone or Apple TV, as these devices do not have a “Disk mode” that can be used to retrieve the photos.

Adding and Removing Albums

If you simply want to add or remove whole photo albums from your iPod, a quick trip back to the iTunes Photo Sync preferences described above will allow you to select or unselect photo albums to be added or removed at the next sync.  Reordering your photo albums is done in pretty much the same way - drag your album up and down the list to reorder it.

Synchronizing the removal and/or reordering of photo albums is pretty quick, but be forewarned that each addition of new photo content to your iPod will require an optimization process for that new content.  Allow yourself some time for this process to complete, especially if you’re adding several hundred photos.

Adding or Removing Individual Photos

If you want to change the content of a specific album, such as to add or remove pictures from within that album, you’ll need to open the appropriate application (iPhoto, Aperture, Photoshop Album/Elements, Windows Explorer or the Mac OS X Finder if you’re using a folder).

The process is pretty straightforward.  Simply modify the content of your photo collections/folders as you normally would in those applications, and iTunes will pick up these changes on the next synchronization and update your iPod accordingly.

Disabling Synchronization

If you turn synchronization OFF completely in the photo tab, you will be provided with the option of either removing all of your photos from the iPod or iPhone, or leaving them in place and simply disabling automatic synchronization of photo content:


Although this can obviously be used to remove all photos entirely, this is also a useful option for users who want to keep a large static library of photos on their iPod but not have those photos occupying space on their computer. Once synchronization has been disabled, any photos left on the iPod will remain in place as they were before, but any changes to the photos on your computer, or addition of new content, will not be reflected on the iPod, since content is no longer being synchronized.

This effectively creates a static library on the iPod/iPhone itself without having to maintain content on your computer to synchronize with. Note, however, that the iPod/iPhone should definitely not be your only repository of photos, since unless you are synchronizing full resolution photos, you will not have sufficiently high resolution photos to recover, and of course the iPod itself can still be lost or damaged.  However, for users with limited online disk space and their photo library backed up to CD/DVD, this can be of some benefit.  As an added bonus, the iPod Photo Cache (described further on) can also be removed in this case to save additional disk space on your computer.

Note that to add any new photo content, you will need to turn synchronization back on, and you will need to have your entire original library in place, so this is not a viable solution for users who plan to add new content to their iPod even on an infrequent basis.


Unfortunately, there is one big limitation to the way that iTunes handles your photo albums.  You can manually reorder the albums, but you cannot sort the content within them unless you’re on using iPhoto (Mac users only). Otherwise, iTunes stores the photos within each album chronologically.  Even though you can re-order your photos within Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements, iTunes ignores the order and simply sorts the photos chronologically. 

Knowing this, however, if you really want your photos sorted in a different order, there are a number of applications out there that will allow you to modify the timestamps of these photos - in fact, Photoshop Elements allows you to do this.  As expected, if you change the timestamps, you will change the sort order. 

Under the Hood:  How it’s all stored

As mentioned earlier, storing photos onto your iPod is much like storing music and video on your iPod.  You can’t just drag-and-drop pictures to the iPod in disk mode and view them on the iPod, as iTunes has to pre-process and index them first.

If you look at your iPod in disk mode, you’ll find a “Photos” folder right under the main folder.  Immediately under this folder is the “Photo Database” that iTunes creates, and one or two subfolders, depending on your configuration:

THUMBS:   This will always be present if you’ve synced any photo to your iPod.  Within this directory are a series of thumbnail collections of the photos that are on your iPod.  You don’t really need to worry too much about these files, as you can’t do much with them. There are some third-party tools available that can recover photos from these files, but this is generally only useful in a situation where your original photo library has been lost or destroyed, as the recovered photos will almost always be of a significantly lower resolution than your original photos. Information on how you can recover your photos can be found in our article, Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer.

FULL RESOLUTION:   If you’ve selected “Include Full Resolution Photos” in your iTunes preferences, you will have this second folder, containing copies of all of the photos you have synced onto your iPod.  These files are simply copies of the original photos, and are not modified in any way.  In fact, you’ll find that even the timestamps are maintained from the original files.

However, although the original filenames and timestamps are maintained, the folder structure is not.  Instead, iTunes organizes your full resolution photos in a folder structure based on year, month, and date.  So a picture taken on June 17, 2007 would be in a folder called Photos\Full Resolution\2007\6\17.  While this may make some sense if you know when the picture you’re looking for was taken, there is no direct correlation to the albums that are actually on your iPod, making it difficult to cross-reference these full resolution photos against the iPod’s photo application.

The full resolution photos stored in this directory will only be retained as long as the appropriate photo or album is on your iPod.  If you remove a photo, or deselect an album for synchronization, the corresponding full resolution photos are also removed.

If you turn off the option to “Include Full Resolution Photos” in iTunes, this folder will be emptied and removed from your iPod on your next sync.

On your computer

Your photos can be stored pretty much anywhere on your computer that is accessible to iTunes, even on a network with shared directories.  Unlike your music, there is no concept of an iTunes library of your photos and the options in iTunes to copy or consolidate your music do not apply to your pictures.

Note that the optimizing process that occurs when you sync photos to your iPod or iPhone creates a cache of all of the photos that are being synced.  This cache only includes the resized images, not the full-resolution photos, but despite that fact, it can get rather large. Further, if you are syncing photos to different models of iPod or the iPhone, this cache may grow even larger, as optimized photos for each model of iPod (or the iPhone) are stored in this cache (although some models do share the same photo formats, such as the iPod classic and iPod nano (video), and the iPhone and iPod touch).

The actual size of the content in this cache will be identical to the size of the content on the iPod itself (as per the table earlier in this article). This is cumulative, however, if you are syncing to different models of iPod that use different resolutions.  So, for example, syncing the same 100 photos to both an iPod classic and an iPhone will actually result in a cache of 100 X 983KB files and 100 X 660KB files, for a total cache size of approximately 164MB on your computer.

Where this cache is stored will depend largely on the application you’re using for your photo management.  The folder is named “iPod photo Cache” and will normally live in a directory somewhere relative to your photo source application.

For instance, on Windows, if you’re using a folder as your photo source, it will simply be placed directly under that folder.  If you’re using Adobe Photoshop Album or Elements, it actually lives in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Adobe\Catalogs. If you’re using iPhoto, it will be in your iPhoto Library folder, and likewise for Aperture.

You’ll want to ensure you have some extra space, as this folder can get quite large depending on how many photos you are synchronizing. You can delete these files, but iTunes will simply regenerate the cache on your next sync.

Note as well that images are only removed from this cache if they are permanently removed from your photo collection, or if you change your photo source completely (by, say, moving from “My Pictures” to Adobe Photoshop Elements).  Simply deselecting an album for synchronization doesn’t remove it from the cache.

Displaying your Photo Albums on the iPod

Once synchronized, your pictures can be found on your iPod under the Photos option from the main menu.  Selecting the “Photos” menu will present the list of photo albums that have been synchronized to the device. Simply select your album and you will be presented with a series of small thumbnails of your pictures which you can browse and select.  Use the Click Wheel to highlight a thumbnail, and then press the center Action button to make the image appear on the full iPod screen.

When viewing an image on the full screen, the Click Wheel will browse through the other images in the current album.  Even moreso than on the iPod’s other menus, the highlighting marker moves pretty quickly, and it can sometimes be hard to select a specific picture.  The Previous and Next buttons also work in this screen to advance or reverse one image at a time.

On the iPhone and iPod touch, photos are viewed by selecting the “Photos” menu on the touchscreen display. Further navigation is handled via the touchscreen.

Slideshows - iPod classic, nano, 5G and photo

On the iPod classic and nano, pressing the Select or Play button while in full screen view will start a slideshow - a combination of a timed photo-by-photo display with optional musical accompaniment of your choice.

Back in the main photo screen, at the top of the list of photo albums, you’ll find a menu item for your slideshow settings that will allow you to set

Time Per Slide: You can set the amount of time each picture will remain on screen during a slideshow.  There is also an option for manual advance.

Music:   Select a playlist of music to play during your slideshow.  If no playlist is selected, no music will be played during your slideshow. And if something is already playing, it will be stopped.

Repeat:   Just as with music playback, Repeat allows you to select whether your slideshow will repeat at the end or play through only once.  Note that if repeat is OFF, the slideshow will stop at the last picture and leave it displayed, as opposed to showing a blank screen.

Shuffle Photos:   Again, Shuffle works the same here as it does in music playback.  By default, your images will be displayed during the slideshow in chronological order.  Turning shuffle on will display your images from the current album/slideshow in random order.

Transitions:   This option will allow you to select one of several transition effects to be used between each slide. The specific transition effects available vary between different models of iPod.

TV Out:   This setting determines whether the slideshow will be shown on the iPod screen or whether the TV output will be used.  There are three options for this.  OFF, ON, and ASK. The method of TV output varies between different iPod models.

TV Signal:   Options here are NTSC and PAL.  Generally, if you’re in North America or Japan you’ll select NTSC, and if you’re in Europe you’ll select PAL.

Slideshows - iPhone and iPod touch

Playing slideshows on the iPhone or iPod touch is similar in concept to the other iPod models, with only a few notable differences

A slideshow is started by pressing the small “Play” triangle at the bottom of the screen when viewing a photo album.

Slideshows cannot have musical accompaniment.

The slideshow options are found under the Settings menu, under Settings, Photos, rather than in the main Photos application. The TV options are found under Settings, iPod, and only provides a setting for Widescreen mode (which is not applicable to photos), and TV Signal. TV output on the iPhone and iPod touch is triggered by connecting a compatible accessory.

Page 2—TV Output and Image Quality…


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I have the new Universal Dock and the new composite cables that I bought for my iPod touch. I can display photos on the TV using the dock and the cable (and also just using the cable).

Last night I brought the dock and cable to a friends’s place so that she could display her travel photos from her 80GB iPod Classic onto a projector for friends. The TV Out setting could not be changed from Off when the iPod Classic was in the dock. We had to use the cable plugged directly into the iPod Classic and ignore the dock (I was hoping to try the remote for photo viewing as it doesn’t work with the iPod touch). Would this be a faulty dock or a faulty iPod Classic (I’ll contact Apple as well, but I was curious if anyone else had the same problem)

Posted by KerryC in Toronto on November 10, 2007 at 4:45 PM (CST)


I read the entire article and followed the steps to the word.  When I hit the “apply” button I was full of hope, but now looking at the order of the photos on my iPod, I am near to a mental breakdown (for about the 100th time). 

I have put each month of photos for the past 6 years into their own individual folder.  I load each of the folders from my external hardrive.  The problem is, the photos do not sort themselves within a given folder chronologically as has been indicated in the article.  This is really driving me nuts. 

All of my photos have the original date stamp intact and untouched, yet they seem to sort themselves in a fairly random order within each of the predetermined month folders. 

This has to be a bug in either the iTunes software, or the ipod software. 

I am ready to abandon my iPod. 

Someone, please help me solve my problem as I would like to remain an Apple customer. 



Posted by shunter in Toronto on November 29, 2007 at 7:07 AM (CST)


I am trying unsuccessfully for the last 5 days to:



Posted by aditdave in Toronto on December 25, 2007 at 3:05 AM (CST)


KerryC:  The video-out feature on the new iPod models requires a specifically compatible accessory, and some of the older iPod docks do not allow you to enable this function.

shunter: There seems to be a problem in the current version of iTunes for Windows with regards to photo sort order.  This is a bug that Apple will hopefully fix in a future version, but I would recommend reporting it to them at

aditdave: The iPod Camera Connector is not compatible with the 2007 model iPod classic, and unfortunately there are no other accessories that will facilitate this transfer.  You will either need to use a fifth-generation iPod, or transfer the photos via your computer.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on January 4, 2008 at 1:41 PM (CST)


Great article.  I have a little problem I was wondering if anyone had any ideas on.

I had great luck with my Itouch and Elements.  However in the process of making room on my disk I deleted something I should not have.  Since then I can not get the Elements catalog to work.  It shows I have 56 pictures however they are not part of any collection.  If I add collections they have no pictures in them.  I switched back to a plain old folder again which is working but the Elements catalog was so much nicer.  Any Ideas other then uninstall and start over?

Posted by Steve D in Toronto on January 7, 2008 at 10:20 AM (CST)


My apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere. 

I have lost the ability to sync photos to my iPod.  I have a 5g 60gb iPod, and am running WindowsXP.  I have the iTunes set to sync a certain subfolder of the MyPhotos folder to the iPod.

During the sync process, an error message appears that says the iPod can’t be synced due to a missing file.  Other content, music, video syncs just fine.

any ideas?  Thanks.

Posted by MMills3874 in Toronto on January 8, 2008 at 11:06 AM (CST)


Good article.

I just synced my photos from a MacBook Finder Pictures folder and all was ok initially. Now I have 2 questions as one may not be an issue:

1. After subsequent syncs, I have a “Photo Library Album” in addition to my sync’d folder say “Cool Pics”. The “Photo Libary Album” appears to hold either copies or references to my “Cool Pics” folder. Is this Library album automatically created on the Touch?

2. Will iPhoto definitely solve the sorting issue?



Posted by morefonez in Toronto on January 28, 2008 at 1:44 PM (CST)


hi I don’t know why. but when I’m syncing the photos it works fine until the point where it saids “syncing photos to JDH nano”
like it even optimizied the photos then it just says “sync complete” and there would be no photos on my nano or itouch. -happened with both so its really werid =S!!!

Posted by xinfatuatedx in Toronto on February 4, 2008 at 2:20 PM (CST)


I want to crop my photos for the ipod so that they take up the whole screen. What dimensions should I use? Is it the same as a TV screen 4x3?


Posted by Gordon in Toronto on May 15, 2008 at 8:18 AM (CDT)


A tip, especially for those with large iPod storage capacities:

Set the iPod to disk mode and create a Photo folder inside the iPod. Then sync the iPod with the folder inside itself. Granted it will take up more space than syncing with a folder in your computer, but it’s the closest to Drag-N-Drop you can get. You will be able to add photos to the iPod from any computer.

Posted by Voh Poh! in Toronto on May 16, 2008 at 12:48 PM (CDT)


I have got a IPOD Classic 160GB that I want use as a backup to my Epson P5000 on a holiday through africa. Is there a way I can contect the IPOD to the epson or is there a compatably card reader for the classic.

Posted by matti in Toronto on May 21, 2008 at 1:30 AM (CDT)


Unfortunately, no.  The iPod camera connector that was previously sold for the fourth-generation color iPods and the fifth-generation iPods is not compatible with the iPod classic or any other 2007 iPod model.

The iPod classic basically does not contain the necessary software support to import photos.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on May 21, 2008 at 10:19 AM (CDT)


Regarding the iPod photo sorting issue, I had this problem myself using iTunes on Windows XP. I don’t know if Apple has fixed this issue in newer versions of iTunes, but here is what I found on that version.

The ideal thing would be for iTunes to sort the photos in creation order by using either each photos’ internal timestamps, or by using each photo files’ creation dates. But it looks like iTunes is using neither.

Instead iTunes appears to be using the Windows file system’s “native sort order”, which is typically the order that files are placed into the file system. Due to quirks of how the file system operates, this order can change for various reasons, depending on what operations are performed, which explains the randomness of the sorting. This native sort order is not visible without the use of specialty software, and different file systems may behave differently with their native sorting. I’m using Fat32 on mine.

Here’s what I did to correct my iPod photo sorting. In this example, we will assume that there is only a single folder of photos, with no sub folders, though I suppose you could use this same method on each sub folder as well.

Important Note: You probably should NOT use this fix on any Windows “system folders” like My Pictures or My Documents. You should ONLY use this fix on folders that you have created yourself.

For whichever folder is having the problem, the folder you want to sync to your iPod, here’s what to do:

1. Open the Windows file explorer and browse to your folder of photos.

2. View the folder in Details mode, and sort the photo files by Name or by Date Modified or by Date Picture Taken (if you have that column). Believe it or not, this folder sorting will determine the actual sort order on your iPod, as you’ll see below.

3. Right click the folder icon (on the left explorer pane) and choose Copy. Note: Do not use “select all” within the folder’s file list to copy the files, as the first file will be copied in the wrong order, at the end instead of at the beginning (a Windows quirk).

4. Paste this folder wherever you’d like, which will copy all of the photos to the new folder. For the new folder this causes the Windows file system’s native sort order to be identical to the sort order that you chose in step 2 above. Since iTunes uses that native sort order, this should cause the photos to be sorted the same way on your iPod after you sync it.

Note: I found that you cannot move the newly copied photos back into the original folder they came from, otherwise they will have the same sorting problem again. If you want the “fixed” folder to be the same name in the same location as the original folder, you must delete the original folder (assuming its not a system folder, and after copying the files from it) and then you can rename the new folder to whatever you like, and point iTunes at this new folder.

It’s an awfully quirky problem, very dependent on file system behaviors, so I hope this fix consistently works. It would be nice if there were a tool to update any given folder’s native sort order, but I haven’t found one yet.

The easy thing for Apple to do is to get iTunes to actually sort the photos by date, rather than leave them in a native order. The problem is, not all photos have internal timestamps, and the average user can’t easily change the Date Modified of their photo files, so maybe that’s why iTunes acts the way it does.

Posted by Darren in Toronto on May 24, 2008 at 1:43 AM (CDT)


Can’t sync photos unless I delete all and sync again which takes hours. Message: The IPOD jp is synced with another photo library or folder. Do you want to sync with the selected folder or replace all existing photos and albums on this ipod with those from the selected folder?

The only folder in the drop down menu is my pictures.

Any help would be apreciated, I have an ipod classic.

Posted by John Pope in Toronto on June 15, 2008 at 3:44 AM (CDT)


I have an iPod Classic syncing photos to Aperture on a Mac. The sort order is the version name (not the filename or any date at all).

This is very frustrating! And it is different to what seems to be the behaviour experienced elsewhere.

Any ideas?

Cheers, Paul

Posted by Paul Wilson in Toronto on June 29, 2008 at 5:33 AM (CDT)


I have just recently purchased the ipod classic, is there any way that i can set the main menu back ground to one specific picture rather than a slideshow?

Posted by Amy in Toronto on July 1, 2008 at 4:29 PM (CDT)


According to this article
you can copy as many pc pictures as you want on your ipod and iphone. It’s amazing! I just tried it out and it worked! I copied all my computer pics on my iphone right away! It didn’t erase my picture library and there was no need to previously sync the photos with a folder!
Cool app! Thank you!

Posted by Kahili in Toronto on July 15, 2008 at 10:13 AM (CDT)


I have a 16gb Ipod touch. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my Imac crashed after I had transfered my entire photo album (3700)photos to my ITouch.

How do I get the photos off of the IPod Touch and back onto my computer?


Posted by John in Toronto on July 25, 2008 at 9:11 PM (CDT)


John:  See our article on copying content from your iPod to your computer

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on July 26, 2008 at 1:17 PM (CDT)


Hi, i cant find any information anywhere, but when syncing music on my ipod classic everything is fine, then when i sync photos a message appears saying “The ipod cannot be synced. The required disk cannot be found”
Please help only i have tried everything!!

Posted by Lucie in Toronto on July 27, 2008 at 11:39 AM (CDT)

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