Photos—formerly iPhoto—is macOS’s default app for organizing photos. Photos integrates with iCloud and keeps everything synced across your devices. It does a lot of the work on its own and keeps your library reasonably tidy without you having to do much, but it also has support for user-made albums and other organizational features.

Setting Up and Importing Your Photos

When you open up the app for the first time, you’re asked if you want to link you iCloud. If you do, go ahead and click the “Use iCloud Photos” button. If now, click the “Not Now” link. You can always set it up later if you don’t want to do it right away.

After that, you’ll find yourself in the main Photos window. If you have other pictures you want to import into Photos, select File > Import or press Shift+Command+I to open the import window. You can import photos by dragging them from Finder, pulling them from a camera, or selecting a folder and then choosing the pictures to import.

Here, we’ve selected a folder from which to import. Once you select your folder, hit the “Review For Import” button.

Next, you can review the pictures you want to import. If you want to import all the pictures in the folder, go ahead and click the “Import All New Photos” button. Otherwise, you can select just the images you want to import and then click the “Import Selected” button. By default, images are just imported to your Library, but you can also import them to a new album if you want to stay a little more organized. It will still add all the photos to your main photo library.

If you have your photos in iCloud, or on your iPhone, Photos will sync them all together. Choose Photos > Preferences or press Command-Comma to open the settings:


Using Photos

Photos is great at keeping your photos organized. You can use the sidebar to control the view you see, including:

  • Photos: All your photos, with no sorting.
  • Memories: Scans your library, looks for clusters of pictures and groups them together. If you’re looking for photos of a particular event, look here.
  • People: Scans faces in your pictures and groups them together, useful for finding pictures of friends and family.
  • Places: Sorts by location. If you’re looking for photos you took on vacation, they’ll be easy to find in here.

The top bar switches the sorting method: Photos shows everything, Moments is probably the most useful, Collections shows a wider view, and Years is only useful for extensive libraries.

All of this organization is automatic, which is great for most people. However, you also can manually sort your photos by creating new albums for them. Right-click any photo and choose Add To > New Album:

By default, Photos names the album with the date, but you can rename it by right-clicking and selecting “Rename Album,” or by pressing space while the album is selected in the sidebar.

You can manually add the album to your memories by selecting “Show as Memory” and then “Add to Memories” at the bottom. Note that you can add the same album multiple times to memories, but you can delete them if you do this on accident.

Projects is another interesting section, letting you do a lot of creative things with your photos, like making calendars and cards:

All of them except slideshow use external plugins, which you’ll have to download from the App Store. Most of them are free though.

Editing Photos

If you want to edit a photo’s details, right-click it and choose “Get Info.” Here, you can edit metadata like the description and the location the photo was taken.

For actual photo manipulation, you’ll need an external program. You can right-click a photo and point to the “Edit With” menu to see a list of editing apps you can use. If you don’t have any installed, the built-in Preview app has some basic tools. You can send a photo to Preview by choosing Edit With > Preview.

From there, you’ll need to hit this button to do any actual editing.

Once you’re done, hit save, and it will automatically update the photo in Photos—no extra importing required.

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Anthony Heddings is the resident cloud engineer for LifeSavvy Media, a technical writer, programmer, and an expert at Amazon's AWS platform. He's written hundreds of articles for How-To Geek and CloudSavvy IT that have been read millions of times.
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