Automating Photo Booth and iPhoto

You know all those strange albums on Flickr or those psychedelic movies on YouTube when a guy took pictures of himself for a year, each day? Or for two or three? Each day, another picture of himself? Well, although in the beginning the idea seemed a little creepy to me, I soon started to see, well, some benefits… Needles to say that, in a more adventurous state then ever, and with little forseen reward, I started my own “A Photo Every Day” project. Just for fun, if you want. Or just to see how often I need to shave. Or just to test my iSight’s capabilities. If that little ting could do a photo every day it worth every penny, right?

But in less than five days, after being warned daily by a plethora of reminders that I put on my desktop (and in my GTD system, of course), I saw that I spent around 2 minutes for each photo. Start Photo Booth, take the pictures, start iPhoto, import that photo, rename that foto… The funny thing with these projects are the big numbers behind them. For a week, 2 minutes every day counts as what, 10 minutes? But for 365 days, that will bring us 730 minutes, or at least 12 hours. Hmmm, maybe I could use those hours in a more clever way? And still have that project running?
Of course: Automator to the rescue! The nature of the activities involved in this workflow being extremely repetitive, that project was very easy to automate. All I needed was a way to link together Photo Booth and iPhoto. So, up we go with a brand new instance of Automator:

But, surprise, the stock Automator in MAC OS X does not have an action for Photo Booth. They have something for a digital camera attached to the Mac, but that’s not the case, we want to use our iSight. Without asking to much questions about why such an important action was completely left out by Apple gurus, I googled a little and quickly found what I looked for. Here’s the link:

Take picture v 1.0 (automator action)

But I soon realised another obstacle: I didn’t had a way to close the applications after I started them, because there is no such application like “Quit application” in the stock MAC OS X Automator. So I googled again and here it was, waiting for me to download it:

Quit application v 1.0 (automator action)

And once we have everything in place, we start adding actions to our new workflow. First of all, from the newly downloaded action for Photo Booth, the “Take Photo” action:

Next, we continue with the “Import photos into iPhoto” action. There is one catch here, we do not want to remain with images on the desktop, so we check the “Delete the Source Images after importing them”. We must also chose the destination album here, mine is called “Project365”. But if we don’t chose the album in this stage we can select the option “Show action when run” and inside that selection, also check the “Chose album” option. That way we will chose the destination of the freshly taken photo at runtime.

Basically, that’s it! Amazingly simple, right? But let’s clean up and add those two “Quit application” actions:

We want to quicly acces this in the future so we will also save this, preferrably in the folder “Applications”, and we will give an easy to remember name. And we will save it as “Application” type, rather than “Workflow”.

And voila: automating Photo Booth and iPhoto!

Tip: If you are using QuickSilver you can take advantage immediatley from this, just invoke your Quicksilver window and start typing the first letters of the recently saved application, and voila! But don’t forget to rescan the catalog if you want the application to become usable right after you saved.

5 thoughts on “Automating Photo Booth and iPhoto”

  1. The Automator workflow fails with this error: “Take Picture failed – 1 error. The action had a timeout waiting for the new image file to appear in the Photo Booth folder in the Pictures folder (-2700).” This may be because Photo Booth used to save a recents.plist file in the /Pictures/Photo Booth/ directory, but now saves it in the /Library/Application Support/Photo Booth/ directory. So Automator doesn’t know the picture has been taken. Do you know how we would update this?

    After poking around I found the line “set the prefs_file to ((image_folder as Unicode text) & “Recents.plist”) as alias” inside a main.applescript file under /~/Desktop/Take Picture Project Files. But if I try to add the Library path, it won’t compile… and now we are way beyond my paygrade. Any ideas?

  2. Hi,

    1. Dunno what went wrong… Maybe you are using the computer on a non-privilieged account? Are there any other people are using the computer on different accounts? I never stumbled across this…
    2. If you want to copy the photos, you can use Finder actions. There are two actions: “Copy FInder Items” and “Move Finder Items”. As always, you can use default parameters, or pop up a window to select the destination.

    you’re welcome 🙂


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