How to create the inverse of a Smart Album’s selections in Photos

If you want everything that’s not in a Smart Album, you have to tag everything in that album.

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A Macworld reader has created a Smart Album in Photos for macOS that contains all his screenshots, using criteria to select them. But they are looking for one more refinement:

I would also like to have another Smart Album that contains all of my non-screenshot photos. There is no “Album is not <smart album>” option in the criteria field.

Apple has left out a few conditionals for Smart Albums that would make a world of difference in improving how powerful the feature is for selecting images. You can’t create this effect automatically, but you can handle it manually with a little extra jiggery-pokery. You’ll wind up with three Smart Albums:

  • Your original with screenshots, which we will call “Screenshots” for reference.
  • One that’s keyword tagged that we’ll call “Not Screenshots.”
  • One that’s a duplicate of “Screenshots” smart criteria but also isn’t tagged with a keyword, which we’ll call “Screenshots to Tag.”

Follow these steps:

  1. Select the “Screenshots” album.
  2. Select All.
  3. Apply via the Info palette a unique keyword (select Window > Info if it’s not showing). Let’s say it’s screenshot.
  4. Create another Smart Album (File > New Smart Album), “Not Screenshots”, and set the criteria to Keyword, Is Not, and screenshot. This now contains all photos that aren’t screenshots.
  5. Right-click the “Screenshots” album in the album list and choose Duplicate Smart Album. (If you don’t see that list, select View > Show Sidebar.)
  6. Edit that duplicate to name it “Screenshots to Tag.”
  7. Add a criteria to that Smart Album for Keyword, Is Not, and screenshot. (This only works if your “Screenshots” criteria are set to Match All, not Match Any.)
mac911 smart album not screenshots

A Smart Album that excludes a keyword is the only way to simulate the opposite of another Smart Album.

Now as new screenshots are added, you can easily find the ones that haven’t been tagged as screenshots in the “Screenshot to Tag” album. You can repeat steps 1 to 3 with that album at regular intervals. It’s not neat, but it does the trick.

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