macbook pro mojave photos

We take a lot of photos with our iPhones and even DSLRs and other cameras. Photos are great for capturing memories with others, or when you just want to get a snapshot of something beautiful. Photos on Mac can help you keep all of your photos in one place, and even help you organize them.

How to add pictures and videos to albums

If you have a lot of photos and videos, one of the simplest and easiest ways to start organizing everything is to make use of albums, especially when you give them good names. And if you use iCloud Photo Library, all of your albums in Photos for Mac get synced to your iOS devices too.

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.

    add photos to album

  2. Click on Photos in the sidebar, under the Library section.
  3. Pick out the photos you want to add to an album, either new or existing.

    • Hold down the command key on your Mac and click to select multiple photos.

    add photos to album

  4. Right-click on your chosen photos and videos.
  5. Move the cursor to Add to.
  6. You can choose an existing album, or create new album.

    • If making a new album, give it a good, easy-to-remember name.

    add photos to album

Optionally, you can make a new album at any time by clicking the + button that appears in the sidebar next to My Albums. Drag-and-drop the albums in whatever order you want to rearrange them in the sidebar.

How to organize albums and folders

When you have a lot of albums, it may be better to clean it all up by organizing albums into folders, which are like collections of albums. It's easy to do.

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.
  2. Either right-click on My Albums in the sidebar, or hover above and then click on the + button that appears next to My Albums.

    organize albums and folders

  3. Click New Folder.
  4. Give your folder a name.

    organize albums and folders

  5. Drag the albums that you want into that folder.

    organize albums and folders

How to use Smart Albums

Smart Albums are like regular albums, but smarter, obviously. They're great for helping you quickly organize images without the need of manually adding each one to an album because it's all automated.

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.
  2. Right-click on My Albums or click the + button that appears next to My Albums.

    smart album

  3. Select New Smart Album.
  4. Give your Smart Album a name.
  5. Choose the parameters for your Smart Album.

    smart album

  6. Click OK to confirm.

    smart album

Smart Albums have a large number of different parameters, such as photos, faces, aperture, ISO, Live Photo, RAW, Portrait, and more. With all of these options, you can create many different Smart Albums to suit whatever it is you need.

If you're not satisfied with the Smart Album, you can always tweak the settings by clicking on the gear icon that's next to the Smart Album's title, then re-select the parameters you want to use.

smart album

Unfortunately, Smart Albums do not sync to your other devices through iCloud Photo Library, as they're only available on your Mac.

How to navigate Photos for Mac faster with the sidebar

The Sidebar in Photos is a great way to quickly jump between various areas in Photos quickly and easily. Plus, it helps you find albums that may otherwise be hidden, so this was a design choice made by Apple.

However, if you are running macOS Sierra and older, you can actually hide or unhide the sidebar as you wish.

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.
  2. Click on View in the menu bar.
  3. Select Show Sidebar in the menu.
  4. The sidebar will appear on the left side of the screen.
  5. Follow the steps above to hide it (make sure Show Sidebar is unchecked).

    sidebar show

How to navigate moments, collections, and year views

One of the coolest things about Photos is that it intelligently groups all of your photos and videos into moments, collections, and years.

This means that your photos appear in a timeline and are grouped by things like location, or even event. It's a great way to take a look back at your memories and relive those specific moments in time.

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.
  2. Make sure that you're in the Photos view from the sidebar.
  3. Click on Photos, Moments, Collections, or Years buttons at the top of the window.

  4. Click on a section of a Year to move to that Collection, or a section of a Collection to drill down into that Moment, or an item in a Moment to view that image or video in closer detail.

    moments collections years smart groups

  5. You can also use your keyboard's arrow keys to move between photos and videos in a Moment.
  6. A single click on an item selects it, while a double click takes you to view it.

    moments collections years smart groups

In the Year and Collections views, thumbnails can be small. You can click-and-hold and then drag the cursor in any direction over the thumbnails to get a larger preview. Letting go will take you directly to the image that the cursor was last on.

scrub through collections and years

How to create a new library with Photos for Mac

You can create a new library for your photos at any time with Photos for Mac. To do so, make sure that you quit Photos and reopen it with the following method to get the Library options.

  1. Hold down the Option key on your keyboard.
  2. Double-click on Photos on your Mac.
  3. Click on the Create New button in the Choose Library window.
  4. Name your Library.
  5. Click OK.

    create new library

You've now created a brand new Photos Library. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to migrate over photos and video, so you will need to export the content you want, and then import it back into the new library.

How to switch between Libraries in Photos for Mac

When you create a new library, you may still want to go back to a previous library for something. Fortunately, it's easy to switch between multiple libraries.

  1. Make sure that Photos is not open (quit if it is).
  2. Hold down the Option key on your keyboard.
  3. Double-click on Photos.
  4. Click on the name of the library you want to open.

    mojave switch photo libraries

Voilá! Just make sure to repeat this process each time you want to switch to a different Photo library.

How to move your Photos library to an external hard drive

If you're low on storage space on your Mac, you can just move your Photos Library to an external hard drive. Keep in mind though, that you will need to have this external drive plugged in to access your Photos Library, even if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled. And you aren't able to create a second Photos Library that has iCloud Photo Library enabled on your Mac, so be wary.

  1. Launch a Finder window on your Mac.
  2. Click on the Mac hard drive (Macintosh HD) in the sidebar.
  3. Double-click on the Users folder.
  4. Double-click on your username.
  5. Double-click on your Pictures folder.
  6. Click on the Photos Library file and then drag it to your external hard drive in the sidebar.

    Click Macintosh HD, click Users, click your username, click Pictures, click and drag Photos Library to your external hard drive

A note on reference libraries

The Photos app technically supports the management of images that aren't locally stored within its library — that is, you can keep a set of images in a folder called "October Trip" and manage them within Photos without having to make a separate copy of them. You can do this by navigating to Photos > Preferences from the menu bar, selecting the General tab, and unchecking the "Copy items to the Photos library" box under Importing.

That said, reference libraries won't play nicely with iCloud Photo Library users; you may run into problems when syncing, or not be able to sync at all. So if you plan on using a reference library, you'll have to opt out of iCloud Photo Library.

I also didn't have any luck getting referenced files to sync properly with Photos — I'd delete a photo, but the reference file would stay in its original location, even after deleting it from the "Recently Deleted" folder. Not sure if that's a bug or just not how Photos wants us managing referenced photos, but worth noting.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB ($70 at Amazon)

Seagate's Backup Plus Slim 2TB is a reliable external hard drive for everyone's needs. It's great for storing a lot of photos and videos, making it a great drive for your Photo Library.

iCloud Storage (Starting from $1 month)

Apple's iCloud storage is simple and reliable, especially for your iCloud Photo Library. Prices start at $0.99 a month for 50GB of space, or you can go for 200GB or 2TB for $3 and $10 a month, respectively.

Questions?

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