Three Tips for Organizing Albums in Apple Photos

Are you overwhelmed by the large quantity of photos in your Apple Photos Library?

Do you get annoyed when you have to scroll through ALL of your photos to find the ones you’re looking for?

There is a solution! Albums to the rescue!

An Album is simply a collection of images in Apple Photos. Apple Photos gives you the freedom to create your own albums and folders in the app. Organizing your photos in this way eliminates the time-consuming task of searching for images in the library.

In this post, I’m going to show you to three ways to create and organize albums, so you never need to worry about digging around for a particular image again. You’ll know exactly where your photos are, and how to find them quickly and easily.

The following information assumes you have iOS11 on your devices, the latest operating system (macOS Yosemite 10.10.3 or High Sierra) on your computer, and version 3.0 of Apple Photos.

If you need a quick introduction to the basics of Apple Photos, read our previous post here.

1. Organize Photos by Creating Your Own Albums

The Apple Photos app already organizes different types of media into albums for you in the Album entitled “Media Types.” You’ll see the different categories (e.g. Videos, Selfies, Live Photos, Panoramas, Bursts, and Screenshots). These albums are the same on your Mac computer and your devices.

Media Types Menu

But you can also create your own albums: standard albums and smart albums.

Standard albums are the easiest and most straightforward type to create, because you manually add photos to the albums.

These albums are identified in the left menu by the key photo icon.

There are a couple of ways to create a Standard Album. You can:

  1. Create an album by highlighting a group of photos in your main photo library, then choose File > New Album with Selection. Photos automatically names your album based on dates and/or locations of the photos. Click on the Album title to rename it.
  2. Click the plus sign to the right of My Albums in the left menu, and name the new album you just created, so you can find it later.  Be sure “My Albums” is highlighted when you click the plus icon. Be careful not to highlight another album when you’re doing this. If another album is highlighted instead, you won’t create a new album – you’ll just duplicate the one you’ve highlighted.

My Albums Menu

You can add photos to a Standard Album by:

  • Dragging and dropping selected photos or video clips into that album.
  • Selecting a group of photos, right click and select “Add to,” then choose an album from the drop down.

Helpful hint: It’s okay to include the same photo in multiple albums!

You can also add to or remove photos from an album at any time. To remove a photo from an album, you should:

  • Select the photo.
  • Press the “Delete” key, or right click and choose “Remove from Album” from the drop down menu.

How to Delete an Image from an Album

Note that when you delete or remove a photo from an album, the photo remains in other albums, and in your overall photo library.

Visit this site for more detailed assistance with creating standard albums.

2. Create Smart Albums and the App Fills Them With Photos

Smart Albums are easy to use, and Photos does a lot of the work for you! As you import new photos, the app fills the albums according to specific qualifications. These albums are identified in the left menu by a gear icon.

You create and customize these albums to have specific attributes within the collection.

Getting the most out of Smart Albums requires some up-front work on your part to add details to your photo information (i.e. keywords, location, names).

The app automatically places new images fitting your criteria within a particular album, based on things like:

  • Date Range (e.g. date photo taken is in the range “X” and “Y”). We frequently use this feature to organize our clients’ photos by year. It helps us find images that might be out of place and makes it easier to work within a certain time period.
  • Keywords (album criteria set to find photos with the same keyword). Using this criteria requires you identify keywords in photo information.
  • People (album criteria set to find certain individuals). Using this criteria requires you to use the People feature (facial recognition) to identify people in photographs.
  • Favorites (album criteria set to add photos purposefully designated as Favorites). Using this criteria assumes you have pre-selected photos as Favorites, indicated by a highlighted heart icon in the bottom left corner. Helpful hint: A shortcut to favorite a photo is to select the photo, then press the period (“.”) key.

Here are a couple of examples of how to create Smart Albums and what they can do.

Vacation Album
This first Smart Album was created to pull all photos from a recent vacation to Maui.

To create this album:

  • Click the plus button next to My Albums.
  • Click Smart Album which opens the name and condition window.
  • Name the Album “2018-05 Maui Vacation.”
  • Tell Apple Photos how to match photos to the Smart Album by adding information in the drop down commands. For example: “Date Captured,” “is in the range,” and the approximate dates of a recent vacation (e.g. “05/14/2018-05/21/2018”).
  • Click “OK.”

Once you’ve set up it up, your Smart Album will scan your entire library and populate your album with photos from those dates.

Vacation Smart Album w/Single Criteria

Everytime you import new photos, the smart album automatically adds photos to your Smart Albums that meet the pre-set criteria.

To add or edit a Smart Album criteria, right-click on the album name and choose “Edit Smart Album.” Then click the “add” button to add more criteria (i.e. a second date range), or change criteria you’ve already set.

Year in Review Album with Multiple Criteria
Here’s an example of a Smart Album with multiple attributes to include all of the favorite photos from 2017. We set up the criteria for this album to pull photos in the date range of 01/01/2017 to 12/31/2017. Then we added a second criteria to include photos that are Favorites.

Year in Review Smart Album w/Multiple Criteria

After Photos populates the album, you may see a random image that matched your criteria, but does not match the album theme. While you can’t delete individual photos from a Smart Album, this post shows how you can change the criteria to remove unwanted photos.

Quick Album Survey
To view all of your albums, click on “My Albums” so all of your albums appear on the main screen.

To view the photos in your album, double click on it. If you want to quickly scan the contents of an album without opening the entire album, hold your cursor over the album’s main photo and scroll or slide your cursor to the left or right. All of the images in that album will appear as you scroll.

3. Group Your Albums in Folders for Further Organization

You may find that after creating a number of albums and Smart Albums, your left menu is long and unorganized.

To help with this problem, the Photos app allows you to create folders for your albums. So, what’s the best way to group your albums into folders?

One solution is to organize your albums by subject. For example, you can create a Vacations folder, then place all albums containing vacation photos in that folder. You can also create chronological folders, named by year.

To create a new Albums folder from the left menu, click the plus button to the right of “My Albums.” You can also choose File > New Folder from the top menu.

Name your folder, then click and drag appropriate albums to the new folder. Find more information here.

Make Time to Take Advantage of Apple Photos Albums

An unorganized photo library can lead to overwhelm – and can even stop you from using Apple Photos at all.

We hope you’ll come to use this powerful app as more than just a storage vault for your photos. The organizational tools it provides are more simple to learn than you might think.

Carving out some time to create albums and folders will help you find and share your photos more easily, and make perusing your Photos a lot more fun.

Contact us if you have questions, or would like help organizing your photo collection.

16 thoughts on “Three Tips for Organizing Albums in Apple Photos

  1. I have albums containing pictures from various cities. Each album has a city name. How can I put these albums in alphabetical order according to the city names on my iPad? Also, how do I delete albums on my Mac?

    1. Hi Lenore:

      The best way to sort is to use Folders and create those from your Mac. Create a folder called City and them move your albums into that folder. Make the location the first word in the album name and then sort by name. The sort order should be the same across all devices.

      A word of caution: if your photos are synced to your iCloud account to your iPad and your Mac, then any albums that you delete from your iPad will also be removed from your Mac.

      Good luck!

    1. Hi Manish:
      I’m not sure what your issues are. I can say that we use sorting for organizing smart and custom albums by name within a folder. Otherwise, there’s not really a sort feature for grouping/organizing the albums without the folder. I did just notice that if you work from a computer, the sorting isn’t mirrored on mobile devices. You can manually sort them though. It’s a but cumbersome though because you have to do each mobile device. Hope that helps!

  2. I just moved an entire photo album to another Mac computer. None of the picture labels transferred and I can figure out how to add labels to each photo. There is a spot under each photo on my old computer to add a name.

    1. Hi Amy,

      That’s frustrating. I believe what you’re referring to is the title. This is shown while viewing an album. Check your settings by going to the top menu and selecting View >Metadata and make sure Title is checked.

      Good luck to you!

  3. A lot of whatever you mention happens to be supprisingly accurate and that makes me ponder why I had not looked at this with this light before. This article really did turn the light on for me personally as far as this particular issue goes. But there is just one factor I am not really too comfortable with so whilst I try to reconcile that with the actual main idea of the point, let me see what the rest of the visitors have to point out.Very well done.

    1. Hi Judy:

      When you create albums in your Apple Library, you are just organizing them. They still exist in the library. So if you delete a photo, it is removed from everywhere – albums and all!

      If you are seeking to pare down the size of your library, then you might consider exporting them. First, create the album for the photos that you want to place together. Export the contents of the album to a folder on your computer. Then once you know they have exported safely, you can delete them from your library.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Hello. When I converted my library from Aperture, I now have hundreds of albums in the “All Photos” folder that are dated by the date of the photos (“Oct 16, 2004” “Oct 27, 2004” and so on). I liked this organization. Moving forward in Photos, is there a way for the program to read the date of the photos that I am importing, and auto-create an album for that date to organize all new photos into?

    1. Hi Epsteina,
      I don’t believe that Photos has that feature built in to do that automatically. However, after the photos are imported, you CAN create a Smart Album for a date range. Use the Date Captured is in the range criteria and enter the date(s) you want the album to include.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Hi there. I have several photos that are in more than one album. Is there a way to se which albums a particular photo is in?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Shauneen,

      That’s a great question! One recommendation is to add a keyword to the duplicated photos and search by the keyword. They aren’t really duplicates but they’ve been marked for many albums.

      You can also create a Smart Album for a date range and then add an exclusion called “Album is not…and select the albums that would fall into that date range. Then the photos from the custom albums that fall into that date range, aren’t also included in the Smart Album.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Hello – I see I’m not alone in trying to get organized! I have two folders with the same photos; can’t seem to be able to delete one of the folders without deleting all the photos in both. Tried merging, etc. no luck. Any assistance is appreciated! Thank You.

    1. Hi!

      It sounds like you might have duplicate albums? So that would be why when you go to delete the photos, they would be removed from both places. You have a group of photos that are represented in two places. I would try removing one of the albums to see if that solves the problem! Good luck!

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