Within Photos, how to move a set of photos from one album to another one to change my library organization, without duplicating their names?

Like you can move a file within the filesystem from one folder to another without creating a new name for it ( which can be achieved with symbolic links ).

My photo library is pretty well organized as a tree of folders and within, each terminal folder a set of albums each with a meaningful name.

Whenever a folder or album gets too large I create new sub-folders or albums and I would like to move albums and photos within this modified organization but without ever creating duplicate names.

I don't want for any reason any duplicate name, and moreover I don't want any pair of names which are different and pointing in fact to the same photo: a hidden duplicate name ( folder_1/name_A → img4928.jpg and folder_2/name_B → img4928.jpg ). Such hidden dupplicate names would make a labyrinth, a mess of my photo library.

I already tried many key combinations while dragging:

+drag, ^+drag, +drag, +drag

with no success.

Why does this basic function seem to be hidden or… missing? The function of moving is much more useful in real life than the one of copying, when you want to maintain a huge data collection well organized.

What I am looking for here is not an explanation of the internal functioning of Photos. I know it pretty well. For example when we copy a photo from album A to album B, internally there is no duplication of data, but just a duplication of name, both names pointing toward the same original photo.

  • Adding a photo to more than one album does not create duplicates. An album is not the same as a folder, it's just a fancy tag. Nov 2, 2022 at 0:15
  • This is the technical way the user interface of a copy is implemented. But in the end the user cannot tell the difference between a "link to a master" photo and a real copy. This visibility of the internal implementation choice is rather a failure for too many Photos users. This is what I would call a bad example in ergonomics.
    – dan
    Nov 3, 2022 at 15:47
  • @AndyGriffiths : "An album is not the same as a folder" right. This is the internal implementation a few of us know. But from the user interface point of vue, an album is presented as a container, a folder.
    – dan
    Nov 18, 2022 at 15:15
  • 1
    Take it up with Apple, or use different software. One of the rules here is we don't question Apple's design choices, as it leads to never ending discussions like this. From the Photos User Guide What are albums in Photos on Mac? An album is a collection of photos and video clips. Photos creates some albums for you, and you can create as many albums as you want to organise your photos the way you like. You can place photos in more than one album. support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/photos/phtf677b8f5/mac Nov 18, 2022 at 23:13

2 Answers 2


Photos is not designed to work the way you are trying to use it. Photos creates a database with links to your files and any edits you make; it doesn't work with or show you the original source files.

If you want to work with files and folders, I recommend looking at other software. There are lots of solutions that use files and folders organize photos. Professional photographers often use solutions like this in conjunction with editing tools. For example, ApolloOne states as one of its major features that it "does not use a database". Xn View is another example. Google will give you many others.


There does not appear to be a way to add a photo to one album and remove it from the first album in one action.

You'll have to add it to the new album, then remove it from the old album.

  • I fixed my OQ: you assumed right :). But in fact an album is just a folder.
    – dan
    Sep 27, 2022 at 18:18
  • 1
    Well, no - an album is closer to a tag or label. Typically, an item can only be in one folder at a time. A photo can be in any number of albums at once.
    – Ezekiel
    Sep 27, 2022 at 18:35
  • For me to be able to organize many thousands of photos, each one has to be in one place, and the model of a hierarchy of folders is the simplest one for this.
    – dan
    Sep 29, 2022 at 14:26
  • 1
    Fair enough, I don't begrudge your solution - I'm just explaining why it works this way
    – Ezekiel
    Sep 29, 2022 at 15:09

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