Sorting Photos and Photo Albums

The main Photo library view in Mac Photos doesn't let you choose a sort order. But you can easily view your photos sorted by time or title by creating a Smart Album and using that to view your photos instead. You can also sort your list of Photo albums by viewing all of the albums and choosing a sort option, or manually dragging and dropping the albums.

Video Transcript
A common question people have about using Mac Photos is how do you sort the photos in different ways. For instance, here I am looking at my photo collection by selecting Photos under Library. So it's going to show me a list of all my photos. Here at the top you can see Photos is selected instead of Moments, Collections, and Years.

Now here I'm going to see a list of all my Photos sorted by the time they were added. As a matter of fact if I go to View, Sort I can see it says Keep Sorted By Oldest Capture Date. So that's all I've got. I don't have any other option here. You can see it's grayed out. Sometimes people say well why isn't it letting me sort in another way like reverse that or something.

When you switch to Moments, Collections, and Years you can't change the sort either. Which makes sense because, you know, you're saying look at it by years and showing you by years, sorting it in another way wouldn't make sense. It wouldn't be years anymore. Collections is just zooming in on that and Moments is zooming in on that further. Photos is kind of like a raw view. You're main view of all of your photos in your Library and it's not really customizable. It is what it is. So how can you, if you really want to, sort your photos in a different way.

Well you can sort an Album anyway you want. So if I go an album like vacation here I can go to View and Sort. You can see now I can Sort by Title, I can Sort by Oldest First or Newest First. So I get these options when I look at an album. The solution is to simply create an album that has all you photos. You could go and create a new album, File, New Album, drag all of your photos in there and sort them. But then new photos that you add wouldn't be automatically be added to that album.

So the smart thing to do would be to create a Smart Album and do that in such a way, I'll call it All Photos, that every photo you've got is in there. So you can do it lots of ways. Like, for instance, you could say Date Added is after, and then a date way in the past. Or one way I like to do it is, Photo Is, and then you can say there's hidden here. You can change it to Is Not. So photo is not hidden because you wouldn't want a hidden photo if you hid it for some reason to show up here. So Photo Is Not Hidden. In other words all my photos that I want visible are going to be in All Photos. Since this is a Smart Album as I update my Library this album will also update to include all my photos that are not hidden. Now that I have this list here I can go to View, Sort and Sort By Title, Oldest, or Newest. Just remember that that's there in My Albums and to go to it whenever I want to sort in a different way.

Now a related subject is sorting the albums themselves. Look here in the left sidebar and you see these albums here. They're not in alphabetical order and they are not necessarily in date order so how can I sort these? Well, this is actually pretty easy if you know the trick.

The first thing you want to do is you want to click on the main My Albums here. Now you have a view of all your albums here on the left. Let's enlarge that a little bit here so we can see them. The order they appear here is the same order they appear here. Sure enough you can go and Sort. So I can Sort By Name and you can see it resorts these by name order and you can see the change is reflected here in the left sidebar. I can also Sort Oldest First, Newest First, etc. It's going to take the date of the oldest photo in the album, for instance, and use that to sort them. So I can do it like that.

I can also drag and drop here on the left to change the order and you can see it will change the order there. I can do that same thing here. So once I do that now I'm manually sorting. If I want to force them to sort again by oldest first I have to select that. So you can sort your albums in the left sidebar just by going to My Albums and then using this interface here or the View, Sort to sort them.

Comments: 17 Responses to “Sorting Photos and Photo Albums”

    Loewenthal, Jr. Dr. Bernard
    1/9/18 @ 5:26 pm

    What do I do with iphoto events–many of which are empty or have incorrect photos? If I delete any iPhoto events are the photos still in my “Photos” folder?

    1/9/18 @ 5:55 pm

    When you upgraded from iPhoto to Photos, your old “Events” were converted to regular albums using the same name. So you can do what you want with them. They are just albums. If you aren’t using them, clean them up. Deleting albums or removing photos from albums doesn’t remove your photos from your library.

    1/11/18 @ 1:54 pm

    Gary, Don’t know why, but my sidebar has disappeared in Photos. I’ve gone to the view option on the menu bar and can see “show sidebar”, but it’s greyed out. How can I get my sidebar back?

    1/11/18 @ 2:12 pm

    Chuck: By chance, have you shrunk the Photos window to a small size? Try expanding it. You can only use the sidebar when the window is large enough.

    1/11/18 @ 8:09 pm

    That did the trick! Wow, been using photos/iPhoto for years (worked for Apple for 4 years as a Creative) and thought I was pretty savvy in this App. Only proves you can’t know it all. Thank Gary, I appreciate the help.

    Angela Donna
    1/12/18 @ 3:58 pm

    I have photos in an album that need to be in a particular order. Twice the album has vanished and I have had to tediously rebuild it. Is there a way to rename (or number) them so they sort in order if it happens again? Date, time and locations are not options since the photos come from several sources.

    1/12/18 @ 4:02 pm

    Angela: First, I would try to figure out why the albums are vanishing. That shouldn’t happen. I have albums going back to 2000. But as for ordering, you could always add a title to each one, and then sort by title.

    1/13/18 @ 2:38 am

    Nice workaround Gary. Is there a way of doing the same on iPhone and iPad or, if not, accessing the smart albums created on your home computer with them? Thanks

    1/13/18 @ 7:58 am

    Bob: No, there’s no way to do the same thing on iOS currently. And iOS Photos doesn’t have Smart Albums either.

    1/15/18 @ 9:25 am

    following your instructions, I realized I don’t have the same screen you do… and discovered I somehow put my Photos Library.photoslibrary IN a Pictures folder in my Documents…is this what is causing my screen to look different… and WHAT do I do now?

    1/15/18 @ 9:27 am

    Pam: It doesn’t matter where you put your library. What is different about your screen? The most common reason for differences in options would simply be that you are using an older version of Photos. Which version do you have?

    1/16/18 @ 2:11 am

    I have version 1.5 and my operating system is El Capitan 10.11.6
    I KNOW I have had things right in the past but now, on side bar: no Library and everything is under a title ‘Albums’ including an album called Photos (if I delete something from THIS album…it is DELETED. I gather that means IT is the photo library and gone is gone. Also, at top of ‘Photos/Shared/Albums/Projects’ are the little labels. I can get those but only using the arrows to the left. Sigh. Any throughts?

    1/16/18 @ 6:50 am

    Pam: Yes, you are using an older version of Photos. Version 3.0 that comes with High Sierra is the current version and the one you see in my videos. El Capitan is two versions of macOS back. Have you shrunk the Photos window — if it is too small, the left sidebar doesn’t appear. “Photos” is not an album but a complete list of the photos in your library.

    1/16/18 @ 10:10 am

    Gary – thanks so much for your feedback. I’m going to take this problem off-line for I think it isn’t relevant to your video but..I’m not confused about the Photos…in whatever mistake has happened, the Photos is trapped in the albums heading. I’m in Italy so it’s not easy to find a Genius but…I’m going to look around for one. Grazie mille

    Val J. Campbell
    2/18/18 @ 4:14 pm

    I have my photos in Photos on an iMac. I have used this program for quite a while, but now, in several albums, I cannot rearrange the order within the album by dragging the picture to the desired place. I tried to do in in other albums and it works in some but not in others. This used to work for me all the time. What am I doing wrong?

    2/18/18 @ 4:30 pm

    Val: Are all of the albums the same? Are some Smart Albums, or perhaps you are looking at memories or All Photos? Also, check View, Sort to see what it is set to. Once you start re-arranging the photos manually, it should have no checkmark next to any of the options.

    Ginny Ryan
    3/25/18 @ 10:21 am

    Thank you for such a simple, helpful video and workaround!

Comments Closed.