Photos lets you organize your images into albums, an obviously useful feature. But what might not be clear, even if you’ve used Photos for years and iPhoto before that, is that Apple doesn’t copy or move images to albums. Rather, it creates a kind of alias or shortcut. This may add confusion when you try to move photos or videos from one album to another, only to find they remain in both places.
Photos keeps a single version of each image or movie in the library you have open. (Technically, Photos keeps an original, unedited version and then records any changes you make. This allows you to revert to the original or export it.)
When you create an album, Photos effectively says, “Point within this album to this particular piece of stored media.” That approach lets you assemble many albums that draw from the same library of photos or videos without the storage overhead of making a separate copy on your drive of each media file for each album.
You can drag media from one album to another, but this never removes them from the source album. Unlike the Finder, there’s no modifier key that changes that behavior; the Finder lets you invoke modifiers to switch a drag operation from copy to move or from move to copy.
To move photos or videos from one album to another, use Cut and Paste. This seems like a throwback, but it provides the right outcome:
- In the source album, select one or more items.
- Choose Edit > Cut or press Command-X.
- Navigate to the destination album. (Create this album if it doesn’t yet exist.).
- Choose Edit > Paste or press Command-V.
Warning! Photos uses a clever internal approach to manage this, but if you switch out of the Photos app between steps 2 and 4, only a small thumbnail gets pasted instead of a link to the original image as it should.
It may take a moment before the images disappear from the album because of the behind-the-scenes recordkeeping Photos engages in. If you don’t like the outcome, you can undo (Edit > Undo or press Command-Z) through several steps.
While the above works, I think it may introduce more potential for trouble. What I’d suggest instead involves tagging images with a keyword, using a smart album, and then removing the images via filtering. While it requires a little more overhead, it means a more accurate and easy-to-control process. It also lets you collect media from many locations to act upon.
Here’s what to do:
- In Photos, display the Info palette via Window > Info.
- In the original album, select the media you want to move.
- With those items selected, type in a keyword into the Info palette that’s unique, and you can use to find these items later. It can be long, like
- Press Return to apply it to all the selected items. Note that it can take seconds or longer for the keywords to be applied, so it may appear at first that nothing has happened.
- Create a smart album for those keywords. Choose File > New Smart Album, name it descriptively, and set the criteria to “Keyword is
your keyword”. (You can click the keyword popup menu and then start typing the keyword to jump to its point in the menu, which could be long if you have many different keywords in your library.)
- Click OK.
- Photos switches the view to the new smart album. Select all the media in the album (Edit > Select All or press Command-A).
- Drag the items to your new album. Or, you can Control-click on an image or video in the set, choose Add To, and select the new album.
- To remove the images from the old album, return to it, click to the right of the Filter By link in the upper-right corner, and select Keyword Manager.
- Drag your keyword, like
move-june-16-2022, into the Quick Group area.
- Close the Keyword Manager and choose Filter By your keyword under the Show Only Keywords section.
- Select those items and press Delete, choose Image > Remove X Photos from Album, or Control-click on any item in the selection and choose Remove X Photos from Album.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Mary Jean.
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To remove those items from the source album, select them, Control-click on any item in the selected set, and choose Remove from Album.