I have a bunch of random photos and videos that I don't want to clutter up my iPhone and iCloud account.

On my Mac, in the Photos app, I have tried using the "File"->"Export"->"Export Unmodified Originals" menu.

Is this the best way to move the images/videos out of the iPhone/iCloud and onto an external drive connected to my Mac?

In particular, I'm worried about losing metadata or image/video quality.

I noticed that the dates on the files that I tried exporting aren't set correctly, which is an inconvenience. I can, however, see the correct dates when browsing in Adobe Bridge. I assume this is because Bridge is using the EXIF date and not the file's modified date.

Maybe I'm going about this entirely wrong. It can't be normal for people to keep decades of photos and videos all in iCloud, can it? In an ideal world, I would like to browse through/manage everything using the Photos app on my Mac, including using the Photos app to browse content I've offloaded to external storage.

1 Answer 1


I am assuming that you are exporting to a folder in a file system fully supported by macOS - e.g. APFS. If you export to another file system, then some of that below may be wrong!

As you are already using, "File"->"Export"->"Export Unmodified Originals" is the best way to export unmodified images and videos.

Images are exported without modification. So EXIF data (which is inside the image file) is maintained. There is no loss of either EXIF metadata or image quality.

AFAIK, the same is true of videos.

When the file is created (outside Photos), the creation and modification dates of the file are set from the EXIF metadata. So those dates should be as you expect. Check these in Finder. You should not need to use Adobe Bridge though that will directly read the EXIF metadata.

"File added" date shown by Finder will always be when the file is added to the folder in the file system.

In addition the EXIF data will be used when Spotlight indexes the file.

What you will lose is metadata belonging to Photos app. As examples: Photos detects faces - this information is not exported as it is not part of the image file. You may have added keywords in Photos - these are not exported in an "unmodified" export.

Your subsidiary question about normal people: Yes, there are people who keep decades of photos in Photos app and iCloud. As an example of why, it makes it easy to view all their old scanned photos on their iPhone. Maybe not common, but definitely people who have thought about ways to take advantage of iCloud/Photos.

Personally I use Adobe Lightroom as my prime photo management app, but it is only the "Development" features that keep me using it.

  • Thanks for your answer. Videos are so huge that over several years it would be pretty easy to hit the iCloud 1TB limit. At least I know now that I can offload them onto a NAS and back them up elsewhere and be sure I have not lost any quality. It is a shame that I can't use Photos to manage disk folders aren't stored in iCloud. Sep 20, 2022 at 10:11
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    @AndrewParks You can use Photos without iCloud!! You can have multiple libraries stored wherever you want on internal or external disk. Of these, one (and only one) can be designated the "System Photo Library" which can be optionally synchronised with iCloud.
    – Gilby
    Sep 20, 2022 at 10:33
  • Ahhhh, THANK YOU!! That's what I was missing - I see now that I can untick the "Copy items to the Photos library" setting, and now I can "Import" them without copying them in. Now I'm wondering if I can directly "move" items to an album located in a NAS folder, instead of having to do 3 steps (export, delete, re-import). Sep 20, 2022 at 11:13
  • @AndrewParks NAS? I don't know, but that might be pushing it too far!
    – Gilby
    Sep 20, 2022 at 11:42
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    @AndrewParks You seem to be on your way with Photos. "Referenced" is a criterion that can be used in a Smart Folder - I find that useful if there is any mixture of referenced and non-referenced photos.
    – Gilby
    Sep 20, 2022 at 22:07

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