Understanding How Your Photos Are Stored in Your Mac Photos App

When you store photos in the Photos app, they become part of your Photos Library. But you can also create albums to view your photos in a different way. What exactly happens when you put a photo from your Library in an album?

Comments: 24 Responses to “Understanding How Your Photos Are Stored in Your Mac Photos App”

    Vera Adamovich
    1 month ago

    You must be psychic Gary. Just yesterday I was wishing for this very explanation. Thanks for the great clarification.

    Vera
    (Long-time grateful subscriber)

    nick
    1 month ago

    Gary, I've always wondered where the actual files of the photos are located in Finder. Seems like the only way to access photos is through the app, and I appreciate the utility of that. They must be stored in their original format somewhere. Thanks

    Ken
    1 month ago

    If I want to have a different crop of the same photo in 2 albums does the duplicate the photo

    1 month ago

    Ken: You can't have two crops for the same photo at the same time. You'd need to duplicate the entire photo if you really want that I suppose.

    Skip Taylor
    1 month ago

    Is it necessary to back up the Photos Library frequently on another drive so the photos are safely stored? How do you find the library?

    1 month ago

    Skip: You should back up everything frequently. Use Time Machine, back up to an external drive, that would include your Photos library and all of your other files.

    pete
    1 month ago

    Hi Gary, would be great to also understand the other folders directly under the photos menu tab. ie. recents, imports, duplicates etc. I find these the most confusing and if they are doubles or seperate locations on the hard drive. cheers love your work.

    1 month ago

    Pete: They are never doubles. Recents is just another way to view your most recent photos. Same photos as in your Library, just another viewing option. Imports shows you your photos grouped by import sessions. Same photos, just another way of looking at them. Duplicates is a special function that allows you to view and merge any duplicate photos you may have. See https://macmost.com/finding-duplicate-photos-in-the-photos-app.html

    Anju Tampy
    1 month ago

    Very clear, thanks. It would be also good to understand library photos versus iCloud Photos. For example, how to move out older/lower priority photos to separate storage and free up iCloud capacity. Thanks.

    1 month ago

    Anju: That's just a matter of exporting (Unmodified originals) and then deleting. No magic to it. But I try to avoid that as I want all my photos available in one place. I would hate to have to search multiple places for a photo, or to have some of my photos in my pocket and others not. That said, I do tend to keep videos as files outside of Photos, because they take up a lot of space and I think of videos differently anyway.

    Jill
    1 month ago

    Thank you so much for this very clear video tutorial. Do you have or would you create a video explaining shared albums?

    Kathy
    1 month ago

    Thanks so much! I had previously organized my pics in albums, however I also use folders to organize the albums. Say I have a Trips Folder, with various trips in separate albums in that Folder, or a folder for Birds & albums of types. Using '21 M1 desktop iMac (Sonoma 14.5) that many of the albums are no longer located in their appropriate folder & I have to often reorganize them manually. Is there a reason for this I wonder? I asked Apple support & they didn't have an answer. Thanks.

    1 month ago

    Kathy: Sounds like a bug, perhaps?

    Kathy
    1 month ago

    I use iCloud Photos & have them also downloaded to my iMac. Do you have any suggestions Gary as this actually has happened many times over the years, I even recall it happening on my previous 2019 Mac now that I think of it. This Mac I'm using now was set up as new, and I didn't use migration assistant as I was afraid to bring any cruft over to the new one. Thanks very much.

    1 month ago

    Kathy: Sorry, not sure what to suggest. It shouldn't move your albums to different folders like that.

    Kathy
    1 month ago

    Hi again Gary, I started creating 'smart albums' using keywords to organize my trips etc in the hopes that the smart albums wouldn't be randomly moved on me like the 'regular' albums in folders that I have been having issues with...do you think this may help? I also noticed in iCloud.com that smart albums are not synced to the cloud. Maybe this isn't such a good idea to go through all this, but I thought I'd ask you your opinion as to whether this may be of help with my situation . thanks Gary.

    1 month ago

    Kathy: Smart Albums are just for Photos Mac. I don't know if they will solve your folders issue.

    Karen
    4 weeks ago

    1. a photo linked to an album is (or is not the same) as an alias?

    4 weeks ago

    Karen: Aliases are something specific you use for files. I would not use the term "alias" here to describe albums/playlists/smart folders, etc.

    Diane
    4 weeks ago

    If I edit a photo in the library, is it safe to assume, the change will appear in its respective album?

    4 weeks ago

    Diane: Yes. The photo is there only one time. It is the same photo, no matter where you look at it. Try it and see.

    Michael
    4 weeks ago

    Hi Gary, When using Photoshop or Lightroom, where are the photo files located for importing into those editing apps? I seem to have trouble locating them using Finder. I can see them in the photos app, but finding the actual file location can be a bit daunting for some reason.
    Also, should I import all my photos not taken using an I phone into the photos library for convenience sake? Right now they sit on Google photos. Maybe the correct question is should i sync I phone library and Google

    4 weeks ago

    Michael: In Photos them are in a library, not meant to be directly accessed as files. You access them through the Photos app now. Think of it this way: Photos becomes like the Finder, but specifically for your photos (and videos).
    It is up to you what you import into Photos. I certainly put all my photos in there. Why not? Why make it harder to find and work with photos by scattering them in different locations? I would avoid using both iCloud Photos and Google Photos. They do the same thing and it will get very confusing and duplicate everything if you link them. I would imagine there would be quite a mess if you did that.

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