How to Use Multiple Photo Libraries on Mac

Here is a guide on how to manage multiple photo libraries using macOS Sierra.

Photos on your Mac will open to its default library yet with Mac users diving into digital photography for work or more personal interests, having multiple options is a great resource.

Since Photos is a system- based library , you will be able to differentiate which library you want to access when opening Photos.

How to Use Multiple Photo Libraries on Mac

Here are the steps to set up a secondary library for photos and switch back and forth.

How to set up additional photo libraries

When you open Photos from your Dock , you'll usually see your own Library appear, usually containing photos you've imported from hard drives or your iPhone. If you plan to get more into photography and want to import new images, you might not want to merge these photos. This is where an additional library can come in handy.

In order to start a new library in Photos, you need to quit the app and then open it from the Dock while holding the Option key on the keyboard. When you hold down this key, it basically lets Photos know that you want the option to open another library.

Hold the Option key to switch libraries

A dialog box will appear named Choose Library . This will reveal any recognizable Photos libraries that are currently on your machine or connected through an external source. This is an ideal situation to open an old library and upgrade it from a backup so it can be used with Photos.

If you are just looking to create a new library this option is below and will take you to a dropdown where you can Name your library and choose its Finder Location . If you're using an external hard drive for your photography work, make sure it's connected to the Mac and choose it from the Finder so that your library is saved there accordingly.

Create a new separate library

Once this new library is saved, Photos will open and allow you to begin importing and editing photos as you normally would.

How to change photo library

If you don't mind going back and importing and editing in your personal Photos library , luckily you already know the steps! If you remember when we created a new library, we held the Option key when starting the Photos app. This gave us the option to Choose Library and we chose to create a new one.

You should now see your New Library included in this list, along with your original library and any other libraries Photos detects. It will show you the last modified date which is usually a great indicator to identify the library you are looking for. Click on your library to open it and it will load all of your other content .

Alternative photo libraries for photography

As mentioned, this is an awesome resource for people who work professionally in the Photos app and want to keep their work separate . It's also great for people who potentially want to be able to manage a smaller amount of files and split their libraries between other hard drives.

If you want to use a different library, just remember to quit and restart Photos with the Option key . However, keep in mind that Photos will continue to open the last used library until you specify otherwise. So be sure to choose your internal library again after you finish working on your secondary library.