How do I use albums and libraries in Photos for Mac?

If you have plenty of photos and videos on your Mac, then it's important to keep them organized so you don't lose your mind when you're looking for something in particular!

Here are a few different ways you can get the best out of Photos' albums and libraries.

How to add pictures and videos to albums in Photos for Mac

If you have a lot of photos on your Mac, you'll want to organize them into albums and folders. That way, whether it's an album of vacation pictures and videos or a folder for a special project, you'll always no just where exactly in Photos for Mac you'll need to go to find them.

Better yet, if you're using iCloud Photo Library, those newly organized albums and folders will also show up on your iPhone and iPad!

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.
  2. Click on the Albums tab in your sidebar.
  3. Click on All Photos.
  4. Select the photos you'd like to be in your album, new or old. You can hold down the command key on your Mac's keyboard to select multiple photos at once.
  5. Click on the add button in the top navigation, it looks like a plus sign.
  6. Click on Album.
  7. In the popup menu, you can either create a new album and name it or select an existing album.
  8. Make your selection and click OK to confirm.

Your photos will then be available in the album you chose.

Alternately, you can also create a new album in the Albums section by right clicking anywhere in the main window and choosing New Album. You can then name it and add photos to it later.

To rearrange the order of albums in the sidebar, simply grab them and drag them up or down into whatever position you wish.

How to organize albums and folders in Photos for Mac

If you find that you've accumulated a lot of albums on your Mac, you can organize them into folders.

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.
  2. Click on the Albums tab in your sidebar.

  3. Right click anywhere in the main window and select New Folder.
  4. Give your folder a name.

  5. Drag any albums you'd like in that folder inside of it.

How to use smart albums in Photos for Mac

Need to find a group of pictures quickly? Hook yourself up with Photos for Mac's smart albums.

Smart albums have long been a great way to quickly organize your images without the hassle of having to manually add each individual photo.

Photos for OS Mac, like iPhoto before it, has an easy and quick way to build a Smart Album — read on for a quick tutorial!

How to create a smart album in Photos for Mac

Smart albums are relatively simple to create: Visit the Albums tab, then click and hold the plus (+) button in the toolbar and select Smart Album.

A small window will drop down from the main Photos screen and ask you to first name the Smart Album, then add conditions. Like other workflow-type actions, Smart Albums use a series of if statements to automatically select a certain subset of your images. For instance, if you wanted to see all your edited photographs, you could make a condition that said "Photo [is] [edited]".

You can also stack conditions by pressing the plus button: Here, I've created an album that will only show me edited photos that I took with my iPhone.

You can build a wide variety of conditions into your smart albums, including photos contained in a specific album, keywords, camera model information, aperture setting, Faces, and more.

Once you're happy with your album, press OK to create it in the Albums section.

How to edit a smart album in Photos for Mac

Not happy with what your smart album returned? You can tweak the conditions by clicking on the gear icon next to the Smart Album's title.

From here, you'll be able to edit conditions using your original conditions screen.

Smart albums and iCloud Photo Library

Smart albums are a wonderful way to organize your images in Photos for Mac; unfortunately, they won't currently sync with iCloud Photo Library, so you won't see them appear on your other Macs or iOS devices.

How to navigate Photos for Mac faster with the sidebar

Full-screen thumbnails, pictures, or videos are great if you want to browse, but for added context and options, there's nothing like the sidebar.

Sure, the sidebar might feel like an old relic from a bygone age, but it's still a super convenient way to see a list of all your folders and albums, all in a traditional understandable way.

Best of all, it's simple to enable!

How to toggle on the sidebar in Photos for Mac

  1. Launch Photos for Mac
  2. Go to View and click Show Sidebar in the menu.
  3. Your Sidebar should appear on the right side of the screen.

To hide it, repeat the same steps. Note, you can't show or hide the sidebar while in edit mode, so if the command is grayed out or not working, make sure you finish any edits and then try again.

How to navigate moments, collections, and years views in Photos for Mac

Photos for Mac uses the same hierarchy as Photos for iOS — intelligently grouping images and videos into moments, collections, and years.

That lets Photos for Mac show you small moments in time and space, like yesterday at the park, but also collections of moments marked by larger changes, like that party across town or that week at the beach, and even an entire year all at once.

That way you can quickly zoom out, drill down, or scrub through to find exactly the photos and videos you want to look at, edit, or share. And all it takes is a few clicks and swipes!

Note: You can't manually add an item to a specific moment, collection, or year — not without some metadata hackery, at least. They just take whatever you bring in and intelligently sort them into the right time and place.

How to move between Moments, Collections, and Years smart groups

  1. Launch Photos for Mac.
  2. Click the Back button to move from a photo to moments, moments to collections or collections to years.

  3. Click on the Forward button move from years to collections or collections to moments.
  4. Click on a section of a year to move to that collection, or a section of a collection to move to that moment, or an item in a moment to move to that image or video.

  5. Tap an arrow key to move between photos and videos in a moment.
  6. Click on a photo or video to select it or double-click on a photo or video to go to it.

How to scrub through and quickly jump to a picture or video in Collections or Years

Because of the volume of photos in collections or years view the thumbnails are small and can be hard to see. Luckily there's a scrubbing gesture that not only lets you get a better look, it also lets you jump immediately to that picture or video so you don't have to click all the way through.

  1. Click and hold down on the year or collection view.
  2. Move your mouse or trackpad pointer around, in any direction, to get a larger thumbnail preview.
  3. Let go when you get to the picture or video you want, and you'll be taken directly to it.

Do you love Photos or do you hate 'em?

Are you a huge fan of organizing your photos and videos with Photos for Mac, or do you prefer using another program? Let us know what your thoughts are in the comments below!