The new Photos updates for iOS 10 and MacOS Sierra includes a much more powerful and integrated approach to organizing photos by who's in them. It's built around powerful, on-device facial recognition.

But once it does its automated thing (finding the faces it thinks are the same person), there's still a lot of manual merging and labeling to be done if you have a lot of photos and are as obsessive about organization as I am.

For example, if you have, say... three thousand photos of your daughter, Photos will find almost all of them, but may guess they're 5 or 6 different people. So you have to merge the buckets that all are one person, assign them a name (so you can search by it), etc.

But unlike other changes (edits, deletions, organization into albums, etc.), manual changes to "people" data don't seem to sync at all by default.

enter image description here

Is there really no way to do this? It seems bizarre that one of the flagship features Apple's touting in this Photos update doesn't play at all with what was Photos primary selling point over iPhoto - everything synced on all your devices.

  • 3
    Bizarre indeed. I would describe this lacking, essential feature as an epic failure. This renders the "people feature" utterly useless to me.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 23:17
  • 2
    I have this issue as well. I've been using Faces, and now with ios10 and sierra I use People. Even though "faces" never had a button on iPhone, you could search by a persons name and all the faces would show up. So it was kind of in sync before. But now that they both have the people feature, you think it'd sync them but the people who are tagged on my MBP don't show up as People on my phone. Even though it's all synced with iCloud. Hope to see a resolution that fixes this. Maybe it will resolve after beta? Or maybe I have to resync a device somehow.
    – Frantumn
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 0:38

4 Answers 4


Photos People syncing was added in macOS 10.13 High Sierra in 2017.

Note: If you use iCloud Photos, the people identified in your photos are synced across your devices.



Before High Sierra release (and the corresponding iOS annual release) this metadata did not sync. Now that data does sync.

Macworld speculates on the reason behind it:

It’s not clear yet whether [facial recognition data will ever sync] because Apple’s push at its recent [2016] Worldwide Developers Conference was for local analysis of private information that’s never uploaded to the cloud.

I haven't watched it myself, but apparently Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi stated on John Gruber's The Talk Show that it will not happen, that the features are device-specific and will not be synced via iCloud.

Edit: The help file for Photos in macOS Sierra was updated with this:

Note: People identified in the People album are not synced across devices.

  • 1
    So the company that's trying to get us to store our documents and passwords on their servers is telling us it isn't safe to put metadata about who's in our photos there? (Amused and frustrated in equal measure.)
    – orome
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 12:19
  • @raxacoricofallapatorius I don't think it's a safety issue so much as trying to differentiate themselves from Android (e.g. the recent announcement that Allo will log convos for Google's analysis by default, versus iMessages being opaque even to Apple). The things that Apple urges you to upload (such as passwords and documents) are for convenient, secure access to things that can't be replicated independently, while the People data can be generated on each device. Think of it as "upload what's needed" rather than "upload what can be".
    – tubedogg
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 17:04
  • If People were the same on all devices (a natural consequence, you'd think, of using the same algorithm and supporting the same features) this would be a non-issue; but they're not. It may be a case of "upload what's needed", but the question is: For what? The answer appears to be "to have some people identified" rather than "to have the same people identified", and the latter is really the only feature that makes sense.
    – orome
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 17:12
  • Has this absurd policy has reversed in 10.1.1? Or has the logic of it just evaporated without fixing the feature? I can't tell from the release notes: "People names in the Photos app are saved in iCloud backups"
    – orome
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 14:14
  • @raxacoricofallapatorius iCloud backups are just that - backups. The release notes are unambiguous that names are saved in backups, not that they can be synced between devices.
    – tubedogg
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 18:54

Patience. It may sync in a future update, a goof in the current iOS 10 user guide gives us a hope it will:

“People are synced among devices where you’re signed in with the same Apple ID.”

Excerpt From: Apple Inc. “iPad User Guide for iOS 10.” Apple Inc., 2016. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/Cf0Odb.l

  • Given that the macOS Sierra help file says the exact opposite, I'm not sure I'd place much hope in it happening anytime soon.
    – tubedogg
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 19:30

You can sync Albums (groups of photos) but you cannot sync Faces (groups of photos)? It would be enough if the analysis ran locally, and then grouping the photos on all devices. After all, the smart album is just a list of photos that (either analysis or user claim to) contain a specific person, and not that different from a syncable album


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .