7 Features of Apple Photos on Mac You Should Be Using

Photo Collage Pixabay

Sometimes new features pop up in our most-used apps, and we simply miss them. In Apple Photos on Mac, you can do everything from viewing duplicates to locking hidden photos to removing a background from an image. Let’s take a look at several features of this handy Mac app you should be using.

1. Manage Duplicate Photos

With macOS Ventura, Apple introduced a feature that allows you to locate your duplicate photos. This is convenient for freeing up storage space. You may have ended up with duplicate photos after capturing a burst, manually snapping more than one, or having different file formats. Follow the steps below to manage duplicate photos

  1. Open Photos and select “Duplicates” in the sidebar on the left. If you don’t see this option, then Photos hasn’t detected any duplicates.
Duplicates in the Photos sidebar
  1. The duplicate photos will appear on the right, sorted by date. You can use the “Filter By” drop-down arrow on the top right to see only photos or videos if you’d like.
Duplicates filter in Photos
  1. You can view the size, file name, and file format for each photo. This may be helpful when deciding which one you want to keep. Again, duplicates don’t have to be exact copies – they can also include photos that appear to be the same but have minor differences.
Details for Duplicates in Photos on Mac
  1. Photos also gives you the option to merge the photos instead of manually deleting those you don’t want. When you merge duplicates, Photos keeps one version that “combines the highest quality and relevant data.” Select “Merge X Items” in blue above a set of duplicates.
Merge Items in Duplicates
  1. Confirm this action in the pop-up window by clicking “Merge X Items” or “Merge X Exact Copies.” Those duplicates you merge then disappear from this section, and you can view the saved photo in its original location.
Confirm prompt when merging Duplicates
  1. If you prefer, you can also manually delete one of the duplicates. Right-click the photo, select “Delete 1 Photo,” then confirm by choosing “Delete.”
Delete 1 Photo in the shortcut menu

FYI: if it’s duplicate files on a Mac you’re trying to find and eliminate, this guide can help you.

2. Copy and Paste Edits

Another helpful feature in Photos is the ability to copy edits from one picture and paste them onto another. This is useful when you have several images where you want the same brightness, contrast, or noise reduction.

Note: you cannot copy and paste edits for third-party extensions or the retouch, red-eye, or crop tools.

  1. Double-click the photo you want to adjust and select “Edit” on the top right.
Photos Edit button
  1. Make your changes using the editing tools in Photos editing along the right side. When you finish, select “Done.”
Done button in the Photos editor
  1. With the photo still in full view in the Photos window, right-click on “Copy Edits” or select “Image -> Copy Edits” from the menu bar.
Copy Edits in the Photos shortcut menu
  1. Choose the photo you want to apply the same edits to and double-click to open it in full view.
Photo in full view in Photos on Mac
  1. Right-click and pick “Paste Edits” or select “Image -> Paste Edits” from the menu bar. You’ll see the same adjustments to the second photo.
Paste Edits in the Photos shortcut menu

3. Remove an Image Background

You may have a blurry background or one that contains a distraction. With the Apple macOS Ventura update, you can remove the background from an image in Photos on your Mac, then paste the subject of your photo into another app, like Notes, Mail, or Messages. Remove the background with the below instructions.

  1. Double-click the photo so that it’s in full view in the Photos app window.
Photo in full view in Photos on Mac
  1. Right-click the picture and click “Copy Subject.” You’ll see a subtle white outline move around the subject in your photo.
Copy Subject in the Photos shortcut menu
  1. Head to the spot where you want to paste the image. Use Command + V , select “Edit -> Paste” in the menu bar, or use the app’s paste option. You’ll see the subject of your image pasted into that location.
Paste in the menu bar in Notes on Mac

The nice thing about this feature is that your original photo remains intact. If you’re looking for an existing image that’s already on a transparent bakcground, look through these websites.

4. Lock Hidden or Deleted Photos

You may have some photos you’d like to keep secure and hidden away from others on your computer. Additionally, you may want to keep your deleted photos private. You can lock both of these and then only access them with your password or Touch ID.

  1. To enable the feature, open Photos and select “Photos -> Settings” in the menu bar.
Photos Settings in the Mac menu bar
  1. Head to the “General” tab and check the box in the Privacy section for “Use Touch ID or password,” then close Settings.
Privacy checkbox in the Photos Settings
  1. Moving forward, when you select “Hidden” or “Recently Deleted” in the Photos app sidebar, you’ll be prompted to enter your password or use Touch ID to view the folder.
Photos Recently Deleted password prompt
  1. The folders remain open until you close and reopen the Photos app. You can also select the unlocked padlock icon next to one or both folders to lock them again.
Recently Deleted padlock unlocked in Photos

5. Create a Smart Album

Smart Albums in the Photos app work like Smart Folders in Finder and Smart Playlists in Music. You set up criteria, and whenever the conditions for a photo are met, it’ll pop into the Smart Album for easy access.

  1. With Photos open, select “File -> New Smart Album” from the menu bar.
New Smart Album in the Mac menu bar
  1. In the pop-up window, enter a name for your album, then click “OK.”
New Smart Album name box
  1. Set up the first condition starting with the type of item in the first drop-down box. This can be a photo, person, date it was added, camera model, etc.
New Smart Album types
  1. To the right, complete the additional fields that appear, to complete the string of what you are searching for. For example, you may pick “Photo,” “Is” and “Selfie” as shown below.
New Smart Album condition
  1. You’ll see the number of items that match your condition on the bottom left. Select “OK” to save the Smart Album or use the plus sign on the right to add another condition, then select “OK” when you are finished.
Completed a New Smart Album

You can find the new Smart Album in the Albums section of the sidebar. Any time photos are added to the app that match your criteria, they’ll be added to the Smart Album automatically. It’s a great way to keep up with photos taken at a certain location, on a certain, of certain people, etc.

Tip: learn how to use live text with photos and videos on Mac.

6. Identify People in Photos

If you like using the People album in Photos to quickly see pictures of your family or friends, you may notice that some photos are missing. While Photos does a good job of identifying people in your pictures, it’s not perfect. Luckily, you can assign names to people manually so that they show up in the People album.

  1. Double-click a photo with someone you’d like to tag, then select “View -> Show Face Names” in the menu bar.
Show Face Names in the Photos menu
  1. Hover your cursor over the face of a person in the photo, and you should see a circle appear around their face.
Circle around an unnamed face in Photos
  1. Select “Unnamed” below that circle, enter the name of the person, and press Return. If they already exist in your People album, you should see a suggestion beneath that you can simply click to assign the name.
Name added to a face in Photos on Mac

By manually naming people in Photos, you can make sure you never miss a photo of them in the People album.

You may not realize it, but the Photos app provides a robust search feature. When you’re trying to find a photo, you don’t have to know the exact details or metadata to find it. Using dates, locations, or categories, you can search and narrow down your results to find what you need.

  1. Start by entering a search term or keyword in the Search bar at the top of the Photos window.
Keyword in the Photos Search box
  1. Use the suggestions that appear to narrow down the results.
Photos Search suggestions
  1. With each suggestion you select, you’ll see fewer and fewer photos display that apply to the keywords. To remove a suggestion you add, press the Delete key.
Additional keyword and narrowed results in Photos
  1. In the end, you should be able to find the photo you’ve been looking for amongst just a few results.
Photos Search complete

Good to know: If you don’t want to be disturbed while you’re editing and organizing your photos, learn how to use Apple Focus Mode on your Mac.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are Photos Preferences on Mac?

Until macOS Ventura, settings for Photos were found in “Photos Preferences.” The label has been changed to “Photos Settings,” similar to “System Preferences” changing to “System Settings.”

To access the settings for the Photos app on Mac, open the app, choose “Photos” from the menu bar, and select “Settings.”

How do I find photos I download to my Mac?

When you download a photo from the Internet, it doesn’t automatically appear in the Photos app. You can find these images in your Downloads folder.

With Finder active, select “Go -> Downloads” from the menu bar. You’ll then see all photos you’ve downloaded in that folder. Note: if you’ve changed your default Downloads folder, you’ll need to open that instead.

Are these features available in Photos on iPhone?

Each of the above features for Apple Photos on Mac is also available in the iPhone app except for Smart Albums. Although the steps to perform the other tasks are slightly different due to mobile versus desktop, you can still use them with the same purpose.

Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.

Sandy Writtenhouse
Sandy Writtenhouse

With her BS in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She wanted to help others learn how technology can enrich business and personal lives and has shared her suggestions and how-tos across thousands of articles.

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