Google Photos to Apple Photos

February 27, 2022

If this is TLDR, skip to the bottom.

Moving from Google Photos to some other photo management software (Apple Photos in my case) is annoyingly difficult. Sure, you can easily take out all your photos by simply using Google Takeout, but there’s some annoying gotchas.

  1. Your media’s EXIF data may or may not be what you expect
    • e.g. Some photos I took in 2015 were dated to 2022 in EXIF. This would break the photo sorting in other software.
  2. For an image called image.jpg, Google Photos saves metadata like GPS data, photo timestamp, etc.. into image.jpg.json instead of embedding it into image.jpg’s exif data
  3. The naming of the metadata json files is hilariously inconsistent
    • Just appending .json doesn’t always work
    • Some files implicitly share a .json file with another (e.g. image.jpg, image-edited.jpg both correspond to image.jpg.json)
    • img(1).jpg maps to img.jpg(1).json instead of img(1).jpg.json
    • etc…

It almost feels like Google’s intentionally making it subtly difficult to migrate away from Google Photos…

I googled a bunch to look for a solution and found 2 useful but incomplete pages:

  1. This blog post provides an exiftool command to take the useful JSON metadata like creation time, GPS coordinates, etc.. and embeds it into the media files
    • Unfortunately they assume that the naming of the json files is consistent
      • This only fixes media like image.jpg if image.jpg.json exists
  2. This Github project is a node project that populates the DateTimeOriginal EXIF field
    • The author notes the inconsistent JSON naming and has heuristics to work around this
      • The 3 rules are comprehensive, but not complete
    • This only takes fills the DateTimeOriginal field and drops useful GPS data

If I refine the 2nd page’s heuristics a little bit, I can just rename the JSON files to be consistent and use the 1st page’s exiftool command!

My turn to try

I wrote a corresponding_json function and iterated on it, starting with the simple heuristic of appending .json to the media file name. Iterating a few times, I noticed:

Accounting for all of this weirdness (source code here), my corresponding_json function was able to find the corresponding json for all ~7,000 photos/videos I had taken out.

To make the exiftool command linked above work as expected, I just essentially did

copy_file(corresponding_json('image.jpg'), 'image.jpg.json')

The actual steps

  1. clone my repo
    • If all goes well, you shouldn’t get any warnings. If you do, you can tinker with the source code
  3. run exiftool -r -d %s -tagsfromfile "%d/%F.json" "-GPSAltitude<GeoDataAltitude" "-GPSLatitude<GeoDataLatitude" "-GPSLatitudeRef<GeoDataLatitude" "-GPSLongitude<GeoDataLongitude" "-GPSLongitudeRef<GeoDataLongitude" "-Keywords<Tags" "-Subject<Tags" "-Caption-Abstract<Description" "-ImageDescription<Description" "-DateTimeOriginal<PhotoTakenTimeTimestamp" -ext "*" -overwrite_original -progress --ext json <PATH-TO-GOOGLE-TAKEOUT-FOLDER>