My Macbook is beginning to run out of space to "Keep originals" of the photos I have in the Photo Library, and I don't want the only copy of the photos to be in the cloud.

How can I create a hard copy of the library, probably on an external hard drive, after unchecking "Keep originals" on the Mac? I'm OK with running some backup procedure manually.


- If the photos you want are on iCloud:

Download the files as follows:

  1. Launch the Photos app
  2. Go to the Photos > Preferences
  3. Click on the iCloud tab
  4. Click on Download Originals to this Mac

If you hard drive is full, then before doing this change the location of the iPhoto Library to an external drive. Instructions for that are here: http://appleinsider.com/articles/15/01/25/how-to-safely-move-your-macs-iphoto-library-onto-an-external-drive

See below to get specific photos in the iPhoto library.

- If the photos you want are currently on your hard drive:

Copy or set your backup software to copy the following item:

/Users/your-username-here/Pictures/iPhoto Library

That should do it.

This is not a standard file, it is a package, so if you want to copy specific photos you can control click the file then choose "Show Package Contents". You will then see a folder with various items including subfolders that contain your photos. I believe the originals are stored in a folder called Master and are organized by date. You can copy what you want from there. Some back-up apps will even allow you to sync these subitems as opposed to the entire package.

  • That won't do the trick, because once the MacBook is only storing thumbnails then only the thumbnails will be backed up. What is needed is a way to copy the cloud's versions of the master files onto the backup disk -- I don't know of one. – Mike Scott Aug 10 '15 at 19:35
  • See edited answer. Hopefully that helps. – paamachat Aug 10 '15 at 20:04
  • @MikeScott The second part works when the Download originals is turned on. – anki Jul 7 '19 at 21:20
  • 1
    @ankiiiiiii Except that the question explicitly asks for a way to do it “after unchecking ‘Keep originals’”. – Mike Scott Jul 8 '19 at 6:00

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