Refreshing Photo Albums on Apple TV

Q: I recently bought a new Apple TV and set it up to share a folder of photos on my computer via iTunes. Unfortunately, when I add new photos to any of these folders, they seem to take a really long time—sometimes a day or two—to actually appear on my Apple TV. I’m using iCloud too and my Photo Stream pictures show up right away, so it seems the Apple TV is updating something, but I can’t figure out why it takes so long for pictures I’ve added on my computer to actually show up. Even restarting the Apple TV doesn’t seem to help.

– Jane

A: The Apple TV doesn’t actually access your photo libraries or folders directly, but instead picks them up through iTunes in much the same way as your music, movie and TV show content. This means that it’s actually iTunes that needs to rescan your photo folders and pass that information on to the Apple TV.

Unfortunately, iTunes isn’t particularly clever about doing this where photo folders are concerned—the scan for new items in folders only occurs when iTunes is first opened, so you’ll actually need to restart iTunes in order to scan for and pick up any changes. The good news is that you only need to restart iTunes in this case, and not the Apple TV itself. In all likelihood you’re not seeing updates based on a schedule, but rather based on whenever you actually restarted iTunes. Of course, if you’re leaving your computer on with iTunes running all the time, you’ll basically be in a situation where these new photos are never updated at all.

Note that you can also force iTunes to rescan your photo folders simply by selecting the Choose Photos to Share option under the Advanced menu and reconfiguring your sharing settings, much as you would have done when first setting up your photo folders and Apple TV. Unfortunately, you’ll have to make some actual changes here in order for the “Apply” button to become available, so it can be a bit of a convoluted process to make a temporary change and then change it back to your original settings, but it can be a useful alternative in situations where restarting iTunes is impractical, such as when downloading content or streaming to your Apple TV.

Note that for Mac users this issue only applies to using photo folders; recent versions of iPhoto or Aperture refresh the content in iTunes once you exit the photo app, making changes available ; in this case it should not be necessary to restart the actual iTunes application.

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