I would have expected to be able to right-click (secondary click) on a thumbnail of a picture and have the contextual menu give me the option to show the original picture document in Finder... but it's not there and I can't find it anywhere.

I couldn't stand iPhoto, but at least it would allow you to access the original file directly in Finder. I understand why the Apple want to restrict direct access to the originals (stops users from moving files and screwing up their library), but what if I want to do something other than email or post the picture to social media?

EDIT: I know I can just "Show Package Contents" or use the terminal to access ~/Pictures/Photos Library and hunt through the folder structure manually, but it's painfully inefficient considering all the sub folders

It may be a (deliberately) missing feature, but if anyone knows any way of jumping directly to the original instead of copying or exporting it, that would be great to know.

UPDATE: I have got used to the way Photos works by now. Basically the thing to do is just to relax, let it manage your collection and only export what you need to as a copy, which you can later add back into Photos when you are finished with it. It is certainly a deliberate design choice by Apple, not a mistake.

  • 3
    Can you drag the photo onto the desktop to make a copy?
    – user24601
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 19:53
  • 1
    @user24601 - Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. This is a useful temporary solution for me, thank you. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. It would possibly make more sense if, à la Lightroom, you could modify the originals directly and then Photos would update automatically if files were modified or moved out of folders. I do understand the design choice to prefer the share/"send to" functionality and ethos to be consistent with iOS. As a lover of the Mac terminal (i.e. Bash) I don't have a problem with this sort of constraint because I can always destroy my OS anytime I feel like.
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 22:41
  • 5
    @user24601 Dragging it to the desktop exports a modified version of the image and not an unmodified original. See my answer for more details.
    – bmike
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 19:34
  • 1
    @bmike – it's a general-use question: is there a general way of directly revealing the original file in a Finder window?
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:08
  • 1
    The general solution would then be to use AppleScript to get the item selected and then pass that location to Finder to open a new finder window. Both apps are scriptable and free to start experimenting with since they ship with the OS. Start with script editor app :-)
    – bmike
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 13:54

4 Answers 4


Photos expects you to export unmodified originals as copies, to preserve the integrity of the internal file management and for collection protection in the same way a database works – it's central to keeping the iCloud storage of your photo collection synced, stable, and functional.

Once you have exported a photo, you can then use mdls and mdfind to see what the "copy" looks like and where the original was stored.

In my case, they are all in ~/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/Masters/2015/04/08 and such stored by year, month and date for my US locale computer. You'll only have to do this exercise a few times to nail down the internal storage for each time Apple chooses to change it going forward.

  • 4
    This is true, and useful information for others, but hardly user-friendly in the way you would associate with Apple, though, is it?
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 19:41
  • 2
    @BenjaminR Well - Apple surely is working to keep people from looking within packages. Be they mail, iTunes, Photos by packaging the files. It's not friendly to people that like finder and filesystems. To the masses, it's probably more friendly as they don't know or care where to store things. You poke the app and then navigate and let the system store things where it will. User friendly is a hard thing these days, no?
    – bmike
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 19:55
  • I completely agree that "User Friendly" is a much more nuanced concept than ever before, and I understand why it is restricted. As you have demonstrated in your answer, people like you and I can easily use the terminal to do whatever we want. I am a firm believer in unifying iOS and OS X as much as is profitable for the majority of users and appropriate, because underneath it is still a unix distro. What I have found from using Photos now for a few weeks is that I can (probably) live with it. I still think an advanced option to jump to the original file in Finder should be there, though
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:07
  • when I say "advanced option" what I really mean is an easy option (but potentially hidden one, like the requirement to hold down the option key in Finder to do Go>Library ) via contextual menu, keyboard shortcut, or similar.
    – Benjamin R
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 22:08

This is another approach:

  1. Open Photos and go to the photo you want.
  2. Right mouse click and choose Get info. Here you can copy the photo's file name
  3. Click on the Magnifying glass icon on the top right corner of the screen. Paste the photo file name there.
  4. Maybe you have to wait some seconds, then Double click "Show All in Finder" in the search dialog.
  • This is actually quite workable if your images have unique names. Thanks. Commented May 28, 2017 at 20:30

As far as I can tell, there isn't an Apple-sanctioned method. The following is a workaround.

The original, or "master", picture has information not otherwise accessible through Photos, such as the focus point chosen by an SLR camera.

Click on the picture in Photos. Press command i to read its Info. Double-click on the file name then copy it by pressing command c.

Open a Terminal window and paste the filename in the line below.

> cp "`find Pictures -name "_DSC5407.JPG" -print`" ~/Desktop/

This may take a few seconds. In one step you'll locate the file and copy it, sparing yourself the trouble of copying/pasting the full path to that file.

Now open the program you'd like to use to access the picture and/or its meta-information and use the copy on the Desktop. Delete that image when you're done.

Compared to the ritual forced on users of every other major picture management software of doing organization themselves until Photos appeared, I find that the virtues of Photos still more than offset this major weakness.


I know this may not be exactly what you're looking for, but if you drag the photo to your desktop, it will make a copy there. I find this to be sufficient for most situations where I need to access a photo in the Finder.

  • 2
    as already mentioned in comments, this exports the modified version, not the original.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 15:04

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