I recently installed Lion and dutifully backed up my hard drive with Time Machine. I then opened iPhoto and, using the Time Machine interface, attempted to restore a picture that I’d accidentally deleted. But instead of opening the iPhoto interface, where I could select a single photograph, Time Machine showed me a Finder window. Assuming this is the way that Time Machine and iPhoto now work, how am I supposed to restore individual iPhoto images?
Ian Martin

What you are seeing is the new way that Lion operates. You can no longer enter the iPhoto interface with Time Machine. Instead, Apple tells us that you must restore your entire iPhoto library. Like you, we consider this a step backwards, but Apple doesn’t do this kind of thing for the fun of it. If there wasn’t a problem with the old method in regard to Lion and Time Machine, we’re certain that it wouldn’t have been abandoned.

So, you can do it Apple’s way, which is to navigate to your user folder and then to your Pictures folder (the iPhoto library directory’s default location), fire up Time Machine, and restore your whole iPhoto library. Alternatively, you can try the sneaky way.

Before we get sneaky though, we suggest that you first launch iPhoto and select its Trash folder. Unless you’ve explicitly emptied this, your image should still be there. If you’ve already emptied iPhoto’s trash and the image is gone, you’ll need to follow these simple steps.

You can restore individual photographs with Time Machine, but only by going through your iPhoto library folder. You’ll also need to go to a backup dated before you deleted the image and then recover it from this

Control-click (or right-click) on the iPhoto library, choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu, locate the Masters or Originals folder, and then navigate down through the nested folders to find the images for a particular date. Launch Time Machine and go back to a point before you deleted the images (see the above screenshot).

Locate the images you want – you can use Quick Look within Time Machine by selecting each image and pressing your Mac’s spacebar to ensure that it’s the image you desire. Then restore them by clicking the Restore button.

When you return to iPhoto, your images won’t be there. You’ll have to dig into the newly updated Masters folder (this is the same folder where they originally resided), and locate the images you’ve restored. Pull them out of this folder, and then add them back to iPhoto by dragging them into its library.

“But wait,” we hear the sneakiest of you suggest. “Why not also restore all the files within the iPhoto package that have been updated? That way your iPhoto library will return to the state it was in when you first deleted the images.”

This solution will only work if you haven’t added any new images to iPhoto since you deleted those now longed-for photographs. If, however, you have added pictures since you last backed up to Time Machine, then you run the risk of losing these. It’s much better to leave it alone, and once you’ve recovered your deleted images import them back into iPhoto as if you were adding new ones.