I am using the new Apple Photos app on Yosemite, but I don't want to use iCloud for my photos, and I don't want to keep all of them on my computer. So I as wondering if it is possible to have my main photo library on an external network drive, and to sync only some of them with my computer.


You can change the library location from the Preferences window on the General tab. Photos > Preferences... and select the General tab.

At the top where it says Library Location: click the Show In Finder button:

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In the Finder window that opens, move the Photos Library.photoslibrary to the place where you'd rather it exist. This can take some time if it's a large library.

Once it's moved, double click on it in Finder and your Photos app will update and point to the new location.

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  • I can see that I can put the library elsewhere. However, I'd like to keep some photos on my computer. If I would be using iCloud, I could have all my photos out there, and only selected ones synced with my computer (cf.: the second part of my question). Is it possible to do the same with an external drive (USB), or a NAS, or with Time Capsule? It would be like having the main photo repository on an external drive, and have only selected photos on my computer (let's say the photos of the past year). – Jean-François Beauchamp May 1 '15 at 13:05
  • That's not possible. – Ian C. May 1 '15 at 16:27
  • Thanks for answering! Of course, I would have preferred a different answer, but I still marked your answer as accepted, since this appears the state of things right now. Let's hope Apple will allow this in the future... although I would be surprised, since selling iCloud space seems to be gaining importance in their business model. – Jean-François Beauchamp May 1 '15 at 17:50

You do it exactly the same way as iPhoto:

Make sure the drive is formatted Mac OS Extended (Journaled)  

  1. Quit Photos  
  2. Copy the Photos Library from your Pictures Folder to the External Disk.  
  3. Hold down the option (or alt) key while launching Photos. From the resulting menu select 'Choose Library' and navigate to the new location. From that point on this will be the default location of your library.  
  4. Test the library and when you're sure all is well, trash the one on your internal HD to free up space.  

The option in Preferences allowing designation of a System Library refers exclusively to a scenario where a: there is more than one Library and b: one is using iCloud. As only one library can be used with iCloud, that's how you nominate your preferred one. It has no role in moving the Library.


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  • But then, I would have no photo on my laptop, which is not always connected to the external drive. I was hopping to find a solution to get a subset of the library to always remain on my MacBook Pro.But then, I would have no photo... well a copy of the subset. – Jean-François Beauchamp May 6 '15 at 19:29
  • Basically, it's a free app and just isn't that sophisticated. With iPhoto the way to do that was to have two libraries and use iPhoto Library Manager to move material between them. A new app, called PowerPhotos has been released but that does not yet have the capability of moving material between libraries, but I imagine adding that feature is a high priority for the developer. So keep an eye on the development of that app. fatcatsoftware.com/powerphotos - the blog on that site is quite informative. – terrydev May 6 '15 at 22:03

The top answers are good, but the completely correct answer is to manually switch between the libraries when necessary by repointing the app to the library you wish to manipulate. This implies you need to manually import your photos from the laptop library when you want to archive them to the external library (photos older than 1 yr per your example). I used apps that were developed for the iPhoto app in the past to do just that. They automated switching libraries and I archived via importing into the "master" library. Unless metadata can be lost through an import or some type of issue similar to that which I am not aware of, I don't see anything wrong with this tactic.

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