macOS Photos Questions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by larsolson, Jun 11, 2017.

  1. larsolson macrumors newbie

    Apr 4, 2016
    Hi all.

    Beginner questions here.

    We are considering getting an iMac as our family machine for storing and organizing our photos.
    We've been using Lr on a MBP with external drives for several years and are looking for a more user friendly way of organizing our images.

    When importing photos from an SD card into the Photos app on an iMac, is it clear where the files are actually being stored? Are you able to store them on an external drive?
    Do all of the files go into iCloud as well? What exactly happens when you exceed the iCloud storage amount?

    How are raw + jpg imports treated? Do they show up as two images or as one image? Can the original raw image be exported easily?

    Can the family iMac be linked up with an iPad that can then be used to edit and tag the images on the iMac?

    Thanks in advance for any help and/or advice.
  2. pika2000 macrumors 68040

    Jun 22, 2007
    Photos put all pictures into a single library file. The advantage of this is you can easily move your whole ile library in one go. The downside is you don't have the flexibility of arranging your own folders. Also, the Photos library doesn't play well when they are stored on external drives. You can. But it won't play well with other apps from the app store. It happened to me. I used to store my Photos library on my external drive. But other apps from the Mac App store cannot see them from their sandboxed environment.

    So to answer your question, yes, you can store your Photos library on an external drive, but you might break compatibility with some apps from the App store.

    If you enabled iCloud photos, yes, all your photos will be uploaded and stored in iCloud. So best to see you current photo library size and get the appropriate iCloud storage tier. I never run out of iCloud space, but I assume if you reached the limit, it would just warn you.

    I could be wrong, but I think Raw + JPEG are treated as two different files. Yes, the original raw can be exported easily. Photos use non-destructive editing, so your original is always safe.

    Currently, my work flow starts from Lightroom. I stored everything (RAW + originals) in my external drive due to their sizes. Then I exported the selected and edited photos to Photos (and iCloud). This keeps my Photos library size reasonable.
  3. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    Photos can either copy all the imported images into it's own, semi-hidden folder structure (actually called a managed library, although it's actually a package, a special kind of folder), or reference images where they already are, just like Lr does. It works fine with either, and you can keep images on say an external hard drive and on your boot drive.

    The down side of using referenced, instead of managed or copied images, is that at least current versions of Photos won't synch those referenced images with iCloud Photo Library in the cloud. For that you need to use the "copy" into function, into what Apple calls a Photos system library. Note that like Lr you can use more than one library.

    RAW and JPEG is annoying, just like in Lr. Especially if you use a workflow including iOS devices. Photos will pass around lower res images for sharing, and store the RAW online, and you'd have to download it locally if it isn't there already. See

    Photos does have an option to "export" a RAW, which of course is really just making a copy of the original RAW stored in it's internal managed library or referenced elsewhere. Like Lr, it never messes with originals except in some rare circumstances like original timestamps in exif or something.

    Photos can do a lot, but a lot is automated and out of your control, like you can't select what syncs and what doesn't; it's all or nothing. Compared to Lr's organizational stuff it's missing a lot, but as a frontend for sharing across all your family's devices it could work; be aware that sharing all of everyone's photos might not be so hot, so you might look at shared albums.
  4. larsolson thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 4, 2016
    Thanks for the responses. The single file info was a surprise to me so I think I'll stick with Lr as our main photo application.

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