Click to export albums from Photos for macOS? It’s not quite that easy

Photos for macOS lacks a straightforward album export option, but you can work around that limitation.

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Apple’s Photos app isn’t a walled garden. You can import images and videos into the app and export them back out, both in their original form and with any modification you made or as a transformed objected into a different format or resolution. However, what you can’t do is exports albums with a simple click.

You’d think this would be relatively straightforward, because the album is the unit of storage in Photos for macOS and other Apple platforms. There are albums you assemble as manual collections of media and smart albums that gather their contents dynamically based on criteria you sent. And yet, while you can choose albums in Photos by clicking the My Albums link in the sidebar and then selecting one or more albums, you cannot export them and retain album organization.

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Select albums and you would think you could simply export them.

The logical option would be like:

  1. Select one or more albums.

  2. Choose File > Export > Export X Items.

  3. Choose Album from Subfolder Format—but, wait a minute, that’s not an option in the pop-up meu.

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Selected albums export only at best as moments, using Apple’s chosen organizational method.

That’s right. You can pick Moment Name, which is Photos’ own organizational idea about how to tag groups of photos by place or date. But Album Name is simply not there. (If you like the moment name organization, however, you’re all set.)

You have a few workarounds. Let’s walk through them.

Export sequentially and re-organize into albums

If the file name isn’t important, you can use an export option to number images and videos sequentially. Even though the media won’t be sorted into album folders, the exports will be grouped in order they appear in albums you’ve selected.

  1. Select one or more albums.

  2. Choose File > Export > Export X Items.

  3. Select Sequential from the File Name pop-up menu.

  4. Set Sequential Prefix to anything you like, the shorter the better.

  5. Choose None from the Subfolder Format.

  6. Click Export and choose a destination and click Export.

  7. When complete, scan through the folder to select ranges of images for each album.

  8. Control-click and select New Folder with Selection (X Items).

  9. Name that folder with the album’s name.

  10. Repeat 7 through 10 until complete.

Export from each album

While this is extremely tedious for many albums, you can perform an album export semi-manually.

  1. Select one album.

  2. Choose File > Export > Export X Items.

  3. Choose None from the Subfolder Format and set any other options you prefer.

  4. Click Export and choose a destination.

  5. In that destination create a folder named with the album’s name.

  6. Click Export.

  7. Repeat 1 to 6 until complete.

Use an AppleScript

Several people have written AppleScript programs that use the scripting commands available for Photos to perform an iterative operation that you can’t pull off with menus. However, rather than point you to one of them, I suggest you read this Apple Communities thread that provides both a link to a script and some extremely useful troubleshooting for timeouts and other problems.

While it’s a little involved, most of the use of the script is as a “recipe,” in which you just replace a few values and point it to the right location for your particular set of albums.

This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Jack.

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