Type and press Enter.

5 Tips to Organize Photos in Your Apple Photos App

Asian mother and daughter laugh at memories in their Apple Photos organization.

Reading Time: 7 minutes read

  1. Delete what isn’t important
  2. Create album names
  3. Managing your albums
  4. Use Smart-Albums
  5. Create folders

You’d love to create an Apple photo book. Knowing where to begin when you have 20,000 photos on your iPhone may seem overwhelming. You’re not alone. Most people are quick to snap a pic and post on social, only to never look at it again. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a camera phone? The goal is to capture life at any given moment, so you can remember it later. It’s difficult to reminisce when you can’t even find the photo. Luckily, the solution is as simple as setting aside some time to quickly organize them.

Ideally, you’d organize photos as you take them. But when you have a backlog, follow these Apple Photo app tips to reduce clutter and amplify your memories.

Shifting From Camera Roll to Recents

The earlier generations of iPhone saved all photos and videos to the Camera Roll. The Camera Roll was part of your Albums, but there was no further organization for photos. With the launch of iOS 13, Camera Roll was replaced. Now every photo or video taken on your iPhone is saved to an album titled “Recents.” Even photos you don’t take end up there. These include images sent to you through text message and email, as well as those imported from Safari or third-party apps.

Despite its name, the “Recents” album includes all your photos, GIFs, downloads, and videos. It’s comforting to know you have everything in one place. On the other hand, it can feel overwhelming when you look in there. Currently, the Recents album lacks organizational features. It’s simply a stream of images. The only thing you can do from the Recents album is select photos to share, move, or add to other albums. If you like seeing everything at once, go ahead and organize photos through the Recents album. But before you get started, know there is a faster, more efficient way to use the Apple Photos app.

Young couple takes a selfie with iPhone, which automatically saves to digital photo storage.

The Best Way to Organize Photos in the Apple Photos App

There’s another way to view all your photos in the Apple Photos app on your iPhone. Open the app and tap the Photos tab in the bottom left corner. If you have iOS 13 or later, you’ll see a new menu bar. It offers the option to sort by Years, Months, Days, or All Photos. This breaks down the tens of thousands of photos you have into more manageable pieces. Focus on one group at a time. It doesn’t matter if it’s one year, one month, or one day. Choose what works best for you.

In the Photos tab, you also have the option to view All Photos. This is everything from the Recents album. The difference is in the details. When in All Photos, you have two useful functionalities: a date stamp and zoom feature. As you scroll, the date and location adjust in the upper left corner. In the upper right corner, a +/- icon allows you to zoom in or out without having to select a photo. Zoom out to view more photo tiles at once. Or zoom in to see the details of your photos. These features make it easier to find the photos you want.

If you’re working in the Apple Photos app on your computer, there’s a key distinction. Selecting “All Photos” under your Albums gives you all your photos, videos, and downloaded images – just like the Recents album on your phone. Instead, click “Photos” at the very top of the left navigation. This is where you’ll find your photos broken down into “Moments,” which are defined by a date and location.

Woman prepares to organize photos on her Mac laptop at her desk.

5 Apple Photos App Tips to Organize Photos With Ease

Now that you know where to go in the Apple Photos app (on your iPhone or Mac computer), you can begin the organization process.

1.   Delete, delete, delete!

It’s hard to let go of memories. But for the sake of your sanity (and iCloud storage), it occasionally needs to be done. Deleting photos and videos makes your collection more manageable. It’s also quick and easy to do. From the Apple Photos app on your computer, select a photo and hit the Delete button on your keyboard. Select multiple photos at once by holding down the Shift key. Having second thoughts? Recover those photos from the Recently Deleted album for up to 30 days.

2.   Compose your album names.

You can easily change the names of your albums, as needed. You’ll save time by creating your album names early in the process. Be logical when creating folder names. Use a maximum of two words and one number. More importantly, be consistent. Decide if you’ll use years or months to describe an album. If so, either put the date at the beginning of the name or at the end. Use that same naming convention for every album.


·  Lima, Peru – 2016

·  Mom’s 50th Birthday

·  Basketball Camp – 1980

Note, you can create a new album in several ways. Once in the Apple Photos app on your Mac computer, go to File + New Album. Or, click on the + sign at the top and select Album. The key command is Command + N.

Organize photos during down time, like this woman commuting on the bus.

3.   Manage your albums.

Manage your albums to keep them neat and organized from this point forward. This includes adding photos, removing photos, or renaming albums. Make a habit of editing during downtime. Even a four-minute commercial break is enough to manage a few albums. You can also rearrange the order of your albums. Go to “Albums” on your computer’s left navigation. Select and drag album tiles wherever you want. Arranging in alphabetical order is often helpful. What’s most important is that you manage your albums to suit your needs. This collection can and should evolve with your life.

4.   Use Smart Albums.

Smart Albums lets you set qualifications for your photos. When you upload an image that meets those qualifications, the app saves it to a dedicated folder. Note: Smart Albums is a feature of the Apple Photos app on your Mac computer. You will not find it on your mobile device. In the app, select File + New Smart Album. Set your conditions, as desired. Add more conditions, if needed, using the + icon to the right. When done, click OK and let the app do all the work.

5.   Create folders.

Too many albums can also be chaotic. To organize photos even further, create separate folders. Folders house albums that have similar themes. This keeps your left navigation bar clean and tidy. You won’t have to scroll for ages to find an album.

Your Apple Photos app probably created a few folders on its own. It can recognize common themes in your photos. Some preset folders include Selfies, People, Places, and Live Photos. Add to this list with your own folder themes. For instance, animal lovers might want a Pets folder. Travelers need a Vacations folder. Runners and triathletes get good use from a Races folder. Make your folder themes fairly broad. Remember, your album names will be more specific.  

Kids run around parents on the couch, who are creating a Motif photo book with macOS.

Create Your Project

Using the Apple Photos app makes it easy to organize photos. Everything will have its own place and be readily accessible. Then you’ll be able to create the photo projects you want. To make things even easier, download the Motif app. This photo app runs inside Apple Photos on macOS. No uploading or transferring necessary. Motif pulls photos directly from your organized collection. And if you choose Autoflow, Motif filters and curates the best of your best.