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I don't see the point of the Photos app on Mac. I tried to use it to look at all my photos and delete unwanted ones, but it looks like I am only deleting them from the Photos gallery. And yes, I also go to the recently deleted tab in "Photos" and delete photos permanently. But the photo can still be found in Finder. I know, I could use the Finder app, review photos, and delete them, but then what purpose does it serve to delete images in the Photos app?

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    If the photos were added by reference, then deleting from a Photos library does not (and is not intended) to delete the originals.
    – Gilby
    Commented Jun 6 at 22:33
  • @benwiggy Not inside .photolibrary, but in directory where my images are located. Commented Jun 7 at 15:16
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    @Gilby How do I know if the images are added by reference? Importing images is adding by reference? Commented Jun 7 at 15:18
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    In Photos.app Settings, do you have "Copy Items to the Photos library" turned off? That just adds a reference link to your photo. Deleting the image just deletes the link.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Jun 7 at 17:26
  • In Photos, create a Smart Album with criterion Photo is (or is not) Referenced.
    – Gilby
    Commented Jun 7 at 23:14

2 Answers 2

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By default, if you add a photo to Photos.app from another location, then it is copied to the .photolibrary database. Your original document is not deleted, but it is not part of the database.

Deleting a photo from Photos.app should delete the photo from .photolibrary, but it won't delete your 'source' file that you originally copied into Photos.app.

If you switch off the "Copy Items to the Photo library" option in Settings, then any new photos imported to Photos.app will not get copied to the library, but will be linked to the app from their original location. Deleting the photo from Photos.app will just delete the link.

In short: deleting images from Photos.app only deletes them from its own database. Whether the photos in the database are the only copy or not, is up to you.

In a typical workflow, the user will copy a photo to Photos.app, and then delete the source file. (Normally, most photos will be taken on an iPhone and automatically synced with the Mac via iCloud Photos.)

The point of Photos.app is that it can manage photos much more effectively than doing it manually in the Finder. For instance, one photo can be in several albums.

This is pretty similar to how Apple manages music in Music.app (iTunes).

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Photos is designed for people that don’t want to manage their photos in a filesystem.

Photos is designed for people that wish for their libraries and metadata and organization to sync.


If you have photos in the finder, you will much prefer a tool like Photo Mechanic and not the native Photos.app. Each is designed with a key fundamental difference and one person can even use both happily. I’ve known many professional photographers that use filesystem for their work and Photos for their personal imagery and love each for what they do very well differently. Each requires and then optimizes for different workflows.

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