I often want to included a recent photo in an email, file upload, or other similar context.

I want to select this image via the normal macOS file picker.

I do not want to go through the hassle, each time, of exporting the photo from my Mac Photos library or AirDropping it from my iOS device.

I'm fine finding and exporting older photos via Photos. But I want the most recent photos easily available in this directory so that I can quickly select them with the macOS file picker.

Is there any way I can "mirror" my latest iCloud Photos into a much-simplified Finder directory?


  • I want to save this file location in my Finder sidebar, just like I do for my "Downloads" folder, "Screenshots" folder, etc. ~/Pictures/Recent/ or similar.

  • The single directory should contain all of my latest photos from the last day or week or so. Or just the latest 100 images. No subdirectories for each image.

  • The images should be in common image formats such as .jpg, not .HEIC.

  • I don't want the images to be iCloud "masters", or pick up edits, or delete from iCloud, or anything like that. Just a dumb copy of photos from iCloud.

I expect that this will need to be done via a script or regular automated process.

Do any tools exist that provide this functionality?

How can I create such a regularly-updated directory of my recent photos?


4 Answers 4


You can access Photos directly in the standard macOS file selector

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If you don't see the sidebar you can enable it with the dropdown behind the icon on top left

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  • Oh thats new to Catalina! nice..
    – anki
    Jan 15, 2020 at 20:46
  • @ankii It‘s Mojave, and was already available in earlier versions :-)
    – nohillside
    Jan 15, 2020 at 22:19
  • 1
    I never scrolled past Tags !! I used to export the photos I needed to share.. Plus I thought it was Finder.app, not a file picker.
    – anki
    Jan 15, 2020 at 22:29
  • This is good, and mostly exactly what I want. I've never noticed that "media" tab before. I wish it was also visible in the Finder sidebar, not just the file picker!
    – pkamb
    Jan 15, 2020 at 22:43
  • Although it can be pretty slow, saying "Loading Images..." for 20+ seconds until the images appear.
    – pkamb
    Jan 15, 2020 at 22:43

Smart Search Folder.

Naivgate to ~/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/Masters/2020/01 where 01 is the month to search in, set the kind to "Image" and add the smart search to the sidebar using the Save button.

enter image description here

  • This kind of works, and a Smart Search Folder is a good way to consolidate/flatten a complex directory structure into a "simple folder". But I'm seeing mostly .HEIC images and do not want to change that setting in iOS / iCloud. It's also hard to sort by date as everything in that smart search seems to be based on recent random caching / iCloud downloads, not the actual recently-taken photos.
    – pkamb
    Jan 15, 2020 at 22:39
  • surprisingly my Mac doesnt give a single result when searched by heic. I have set "optimise storage" idk if it matters
    – anki
    Jan 15, 2020 at 22:50

Select a photo using the File Picker > Media > Photos feature in the answer above.

Select a photo, then re-enter the file picker.

The file picker will open to the source of your previous Finder location. Rather than showing the media widget again, it shows the Finder path source of those images:


This ILPhotosTranscodeCache⁩ seems to be where the source images for that media picker are stored. They are transcoded from .HEIC to a web safe format such as .jpg. It's also a cache, and not related to the masters directory or iCloud Photos database.

This caches folder can be pinned to the Finder sidebar and used instead of the media widget for a faster experience. com.apple.iLifeMediaBrowser.ILPhotosTranscodeCache⁩


I personally don't use Photosteam, but I believe this may be an option. (The Photos app may need to be running in the background to sync photos.)

  1. Navigate to /Users/[USERNAME]/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary

  2. Right click and select Show Package Contents

  3. In the resources folder, there will be 2 candidate folders containing the images; cloudsharing or streams. The photos will be located in either of them.

  4. from there, drag the folder straight into your favorites bar, or alternatively right click and Make Alias to easily access the folder again

As for getting it as a Jpg every time, you may consider if you want to save it as JPG from iPhone end. Otherwise you'll need to look into a script to watch the folder, and convert /or organise. I use Hazel to organise files on my mac, but it's a freemium, and there are probably other options.

  • will this work / should PhotoStream still be active if iCloud Photos is being used?
    – pkamb
    Jan 15, 2020 at 23:13

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