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New Photos tools helps you manage, locate pics

Most people have no idea how many digital photos they’ve taken or, even more perplexing, where they are located.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when that search begins.

With each iteration of the Photos app, however, Apple® has simplified the daunting process of photo management.  This is especially evident with Photos in macOS® 10.15 Catalina, where library management inches closer to a library solution.

Within the newest Photos app, it’s all about the tools.  There are tools to help you set up and maintain, others to help you search, scan and identify, still others to help you file, filter, organize, group and tag.  Some of these systems require advance settings while others work silently yet effectively in the background.

Plus, and perhaps more significant, is Apple’s use of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that concentrates on data analysis to build analytical models. The models allow Photos to identify patterns and make basic decisions that help bring new capabilities to both the user interface and the app itself.

Let’s take a look at some of these upgraded (and default) organization systems.


It’s impossible to miss how Photos automatically organizes your photo library by date, particularly in Catalina, where the Photos view lets you drill down by Year, Month and Day.  That said, the Day view doesn’t necessarily show you all the pictures taken on a particular day — to see those, click All Photos.

If you don’t want to browse, you can also search (choose Edit > Find) on things like “2015” or “January 2015.” The utility of such searches is that it filters the displayed images to just those taken in that year or month.


With a little training of its facial recognition algorithms, Photos can automatically create and maintain collections of photos of particular people. Click People in the sidebar to see the faces that Photos has identified automatically, and if any of them currently lack names, click the Name button for a photo you want to identify, enter a name and either press Return or select from the suggestions.

Although it may not happen immediately, Photos will scan all photos for other pictures of each person and add them.  If you get a banner in the toolbar asking you to review additional photos, click Review and then deselect any photos not featuring that person in the next dialog.

Whenever you’re looking for a photo of a particular person, the fastest way may be to focus on just those photos that contain his/her face. Click People in the sidebar and double-click the desired person’s box to see their photos.  Make sure to click Show More to see all the matched photos, rather than just those Photos deems the best.


By default, the Camera app tags every iPhone® or iPad® photo with the source location.  That enables you to search for images on a map.  Click Places in the sidebar, and then pan and zoom the map to find the desired location.  Click any photo thumbnail to show just the photos taken in that spot.  If you know the name of the location, you can also search for it directly — Photos knows the names of all geotagged locations.

Ai Object Search

In the last few releases of Photos, Apple has added object searching, which finds photos based on their contents.  Looking for photos of cows, beaches or oak trees?  Just type what you want to find into the Photos search field and Photos might find it — although this feature is still a work in progress.

Media Types

Sometimes, what you want to find is already categorized by its media type.  If you want to find a selfie, for instance, or a panorama, look no further than the Media Types collection in the Photos sidebar.  It includes dedicated albums that automatically update themselves to contain videos, selfies, Live Photos, Portrait-mode photos, panoramas, time-lapse movies, slo-mo movies, bursts, screenshots and animated GIFs.

Albums and Smart Albums

With albums, all organization is entirely manual. Creating a new album is easy — select some photos and then choose File > New Album with Selection.  After the fact, you can add more photos to the album by dragging them from the main window to the album in the sidebar.  And, of course, clicking the album in the sidebar displays all the photos.

Smart albums are entirely different from albums — they are essentially saved searches.  To create one, choose File > New Smart Album and then define the matching criteria.  Photos provides oodles of options, making it easy to create a smart album that, for instance, holds photos of a particular person taken with one specific camera over a certain time frame.


If you want to tag individual images in a way that makes them easy to find later, keywords are an excellent option. Choose Window > Keyword Manager to display the floating Keywords window, and click Edit Keywords to open the editing view where you can click + to add a keyword (complete with a one-letter shortcut, which also puts it at the top of the Keywords window).  Click – to remove a keyword (from the list and from any photos to which it’s assigned).  Click OK to switch back to the main keyword view.

To assign a keyword, select a set of photos or just focus on the current one.  Either click the keyword in the Keywords window or press its associated letter shortcut.  Clicking or pressing the shortcut again removes the keyword.

Titles and Descriptions

Another way to find photos manually is to give them titles or descriptions and then search for words in those bits of metadata..  Applying consistent titles and descriptions manually would be onerous, but you can do multiple selected images as easily as one.  Select some pictures, choose Window > Info, and in the Info window, enter a title or description.  Close the Info window to save.  To see (and edit) the title under each image, make sure View > Metadata > Titles is chosen.  To find included words, you need to do a search, just like with keywords.

As for choosing the best organization system for your needs, when possible, stick with the approach that requires little to no additional tagging work.  People and/or Places are particularly useful that way.  As for albums, build them for quick, ad-hoc collections of related photos.  These albums are easy to make and use, or to delete if you no longer need them.

Finally, use keywords when possible to identify general aspects of images located throughout your library.  But avoid relying on titles and descriptions, as they can create an Easter egg hunt that often ends eggless.

While we clearly don’t spend lots of time evaluating Photos, we do know what makes macOS apps perform optimally.  As always, before migrating to any new app in macOS 10.15 Catalina, contact CranstonIT at 412-200-5656 or support@cranstonit.com.