Using Referenced Photos To Exclude Photos From iCloud

If you wish to have some of the photos on your Mac available in iCloud, but not others, a typical solution is to use two Photos libraries. But a more useful solution for some is to link some photos as referenced photos, keeping them separate from your Photos library while including them as linked photos. These items will not be synced to iCloud and will not be stored in your Mac's Photos library either. You can bring these photos into the library later on using the Consolidate command.

Video Transcript
So when you're using Photos app and iCloud Photo Library everything in your library is synced to iCloud and it's available on all of your devices. If you have two Macs, an iPad, and an iPhone your Photo's library should be the same across all of those. But every once in awhile you may want to have a photo on your Mac in your library that's not stored in iCloud.

Now one way to do this is to create multiple libraries. You have your main library and that's the one that's stored on iCloud. You have, maybe, a secondary library that's for work projects or maybe if you're a semi-pro photographer you have a library for each wedding or event that you take pictures for and that's not part of your main iCloud photo library. But there's a way to do it all in your regular Photo library.

You see, if I were to add a photo here then it would also appear here, which this is iCloud.com, showing the same album here, the test album, and you can see there's four items here and four items there. Anything I would add to one then would be shown on the other. This is showing me directly what's available on iCloud and this is showing me my local library which is synced to iCloud. But there is a way to add a photo here and not have it appear in iCloud.

The way to do that is you go to Photos, Preferences, and there's an option here under General for Importing. It's Copy items to the Photos Library. When you do that, you drag and drop a photo in or import it from any source, it's going to make a copy of that, put it in your Photos library and that will then be synced with iCloud. But, if you turn that off then anything from that point on that you import will only be locally on your Mac.

Not only that, but the photo actually won't move. So it's already in a folder then it won't be moved from there. So, for instance, here I've got an image in a Finder folder. I'm going to drag and drop that into this album. It's going to import it in. I can see there's five photos there. So it did two things differently. One is that it didn't copy this photo. This photo is still only available here and only there. It's not in the Photos library. So it's not taking up twice the space.

The other thing it did is because of that it's not going to sync that to iCloud. So when I look at the iCloud list here you can see it's not adding it there. It's not available there. I can add a whole bunch of photos. I can add a whole album full of photos with this option turned Off and those things will not make it to the iCloud Photo Library even though they will be part of that same library only on that one Mac.

Now it's important to remember that you need to turn that off in order for things to be normal again. So I can go back into Preferences here, turn it off by checking it, so now it's back to normal. Now anything that I add will actually get added there. So let me add this picture here to this album and if I wait long enough eventually it will actually appear here. There it is. So you can see it added this new picture there as normal. But this other picture is not there. It's not in my Photo library on my Mac. It's an external photo that actually listed here along with my other ones.

Now there's one more thing that you should know about this. That is that there's a way to reverse the process. So this photo is here. Maybe I accidentally did it. Maybe I forgot that I had the setting turned off, unchecked, and I brought a photo in. Now what can I do? Well, you can go to File, Consolidate. You do that with the photo you want brought in as a regular photo in your iCloud library selected. So for instance if I select this one here and I say Consolidate it says No they're already stored in the library. If I select this one and I say Consolidate it will say it's going to copy the original file into the Photos library. I'll hit Copy and now it will bring it there and you can see it uploaded it to iCloud as well.

So it's an interesting, handy little thing to allow you to use one library on your Mac and have both photos that are synced to iCloud and some photos that are also not synced to iCloud. But it's important for you understand all the ramifications of how that photo is not part of your library. It's an external file that's kind of linked into your library so it's visible. It's kind of handy in a variety of situations. It's something you should know about if you use Photos often.

Comments: 2 Responses to “Using Referenced Photos To Exclude Photos From iCloud”

    Paul
    9/10/18 @ 6:47 pm

    Great tip. But one caveat. Suppose I need to relocate my original photos that Photos refers to by reference. This might occur when I get a new Mac or my external hard disk is replaced by a larger one. Then what? How will Photos find them? Is the only solution alot of rework by me? So is this really a useful approach? Because I believe all files will be moved sooner or later.

    9/10/18 @ 7:31 pm

    Paul: Easy enough to test. I just tried it. I imported a file with that box unchecked and then I moved the file. Then I went to view the photo and got an alert: “Missing File: Photos with unavailable original files cannot be opened. The original photo “image.jpg” is either offline or cannot be found. Click “Find Original” to reconnect.”
    So there is a way to reconnect the image. But it looks like it would be one at a time. Not sure if you simply moved to a new Mac and the path was relatively the same, if it would do this automatically. I would think an external drive would work without a problem, as the path would be the same.

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