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Shared family albums in Apple Photos #1
Jim Pappas's picture
by Jim Pappas
September 19, 2021 - 10:40am

Apple Photos treats photos as personal data (like emails, texts, etc) rather than as a family resource.   I understand their motive, but some of us were raised with the shoebox full of family photos that are a shared resource.   It is likely generational — my wife and I want shared photos, but our kids would never want that.

Here is what I got to work:


  • I exported 100% of her photos to a drive (they were all taken with an iPhone, so they were mostly all date/location pre-tagged).
  • I imported all of her photos into my existing photo library
  • Using the recent imports smart album, I deleted all of her crap pictures with her sitting next to me to approve.
  • I have a smart album called “photos not in any album”, and I systematically added her photos to my existing photo organization structure  as described by Joseph using the format “yyyy-mm-dd | event name”.    Most events already existed, but some were new events of hers that we added.
  • I continued the process until my “not in any album” smart album was empty
  • I also checked my “no locations” smart album to fix locations to any photos of hers without location information
  • I deleted all of her photos library from her Mac and made sure that her iCloud photos was also empty.
  • I  then copied my library over to her machine and linked it to her iCloud account.
  • Everything worked out OK… including all of the face recognition that I had previously processed on my library, tags, etc.

Ongoing maintenance performed a few times each year:

  • On each of our machines, I’ve created an album called “Last Sync” which contains the newest (chronologically) photo that is in both of our libraries.
  •  I export all of her photos beyond that particular photo into a folder, and do the same thing with my library.
  • I manually import all of my new photos into her library.
  • I manually import all of her new photos into my library.
  • I delete all of her crap photos (I don’t need her help now, because she still has them in her library)
  • I do all of the same steps I originally did to put them into my organization structure, and to make sure that all photos are geotagged.
  • On both machines, I change the picture in the “Last Sync” folder, so that I know what needs to be done next time.
  • Done

Her library has my more detailed organization only up to the original sync.   I suppose that I could move my entire library over to her machine again, but I do not think she would ever use the organization that I use… so Apple’s automatic organization is good enough for her.   Quite frankly, it is probably good enough for me too, but I still prefer to manually organize as well.

Both Joseph and I have opined about Apple not supporting family albums, but at this point, I don’t think they ever will. The replacement generation uses photos very different than my generation. If they Apple ever does add family photo libraries, I will just update my library one last time as listed above.  Delete her’s, and turn on the “family album” feature, and enjoy having all of our photos on all of our machines.


/Jim Pappas

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