How to Locate All Photos Stored on Your Mac Computer

As a photographer and Mac user for over 10 years, organizing and locating photos stored across devices is critical. With advanced cameras on phones and digital cameras, it’s easy to accumulate thousands of photos over time. Keeping them organized on your Mac is essential to finding and accessing them when needed.

In this article, I’ll provide a detailed guide on the best ways to locate all photos stored on your Mac, using the native Photos app, Finder, and Spotlight search.

Where Photos Are Stored By Default

When you import photos into the Photos app for the first time, it creates a System Photo Library stored by default here:

~/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary

The ~ stands for your Home directory. All imported photos and videos are stored within this Photos Library package.

Warning: Do not manually move or alter photos within the Photos Library in Finder to avoid corruption. Always use the Photos app to organize your library.

Photos and videos can also be stored in other locations on your Mac outside of the Photos app, like in Finder folders.

Locate All Photos Using the Photos App

The easiest way to browse all photos is by using the Photos app. Here’s how:

  • Open the Photos app
  • In the sidebar, click Library to view all photos organized by Years, Months, and Days
  • Click Albums in the sidebar to view albums you’ve created to organize photos
  • Click Media Types to browse photos sorted into Panoramas, Videos, Selfies etc.

Use Finder and Spotlight Search to Locate Photos

If you have photos stored outside the Photos library in Finder, here are two methods to locate them:

1. Search All Finder Folders for Photos

  • Open a new Finder window
  • Press Command-F
  • Change search criteria to Kind is Image to show all image files

This searches all folders on your Mac but can be slow on large drives.

2. Use Spotlight Search

Spotlight indexes your entire drive to allow for faster searches:

  • Press Command-Spacebar to open Spotlight
  • Search for Kind:Image to show all photos
  • Use the path shown to locate the folders containing them

You can also search for photo dates, titles, labels etc.

Consolidate Photos into Your Photos Library

Once you’ve located all your photos in Finder, you can consolidate them by importing into your Photos library:

  • Open Photos
  • Drag the folders of images into the Photos app to import
  • Delete the original folders to save space using Finder

This will copy all photos into the System Photo Library for unified organization going forward.

Best Practices for Organizing Photos on Mac

Here are my top tips for keeping your photo library organized after consolidation:

  • Use albums to categorize by date, location, event etc.
  • Add titles, descriptions and keywords to photos
  • Remove unwanted duplicates and clutter
  • Use external drives to archive older photos
  • Enable iCloud Photo Library to access photos on iOS devices
  • Use Time Machine backups to protect your photo library

Following these organizing principles will allow you to easily search and browse thousands of photos seamlessly using the Photos app.

As an avid photographer and Mac user for over a decade, I’ve learned first-hand that putting in the effort to organize and back up your photo library saves countless hours over years of use.


In this comprehensive guide you learned:

  • Where photos are stored by default in the Photos library
  • How to use the Photos app, Finder and Spotlight to locate all photos on your Mac
  • Consolidation methods to unify your entire photo collection
  • Best practices to keep your photo library organized going forward

Implementing these organizing techniques ensures you can always quickly find and access your photos as your library grows over time.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for managing photos on a Mac!