Where better to view the photographs and videos you take on your iPhone or your SLR camera than your Mac? Modern Macs have beautiful Retina displays that will make your photos look gorgeous, and Apple's Photos software will present your photo library to you in a way that shows it off at its best. In this article we will look at the different ways you can enjoy your photos when browsing them in Photos on the Mac.

This article is part of a series in which we have looked at different elements of Photos for Mac. We also have the following articles:

How to navigate the Photos interface

We’ll start with a quick guided tour around the Photos interface:

Photos on the Mac interface

On the left hand side, under the Library header you’ll see: Photos, Memories, Favourites, People, Places, Recents, Imports and Recently deleted. Then in the next section under Shared you’ll see Activity and Shared Albums. And under Albums you will see auto-filled albums by Media Types, and My Albums. A final section. Projects, includes My Projects.

We’ll start with the Library section. Click on any of these headers and what you will see in the main window will change:

Photos: When you first click on Photos you’ll see your latest photos in the main window. You can scroll up the page to see older photos but we recommend that you click on the Years, Months, or Days tabs above to jump to a view that showcases your images in a more inviting way.

We love viewing our photos in the Days view as you can see video clips and Live Photos running in real time, and it gives us a nice overview of our sets of photos. Apple analyses your library to pick the best photos and videos, and gathers groups of photos related to important events, such as birthdays or Christmas, or associated with a particular location. If you are anything like us your library is probably full of hundreds of pretty similar photos of your kids so this view is a great way to jump to groups of photos you might miss otherwise.

Months view photos

Memories: This section also showcases groups of your photos and videos by location and date, but in this case you can view montages of the photos and videos that play on your Mac like video slideshows.

To see a Memory click on the cover photo for that Memory. This will take you to the Memory view where you can play the video for your Memory. Before you click on the Play button on the Memory you can take a look at the Photos that will appear in it by scrolling down the page - you need to click on Show More to see all the photos that will be included in that Memory as by default you will only see a summary of the photos.

Memories on the Mac

Memories in Photos on the Mac is almost the same as Memories on the iPhone and iPad, but sadly lacks some of the options for further tweaking your video. You can change make some changes in terms of the background music. We will discuss what you can do to refine your memories later in the article, we also address how to use Memories on the iPhone to make a video slideshow here.

Favourites: If you like a photo or video you can ‘Favourite it’ and doing so will make it appear here in Favourites. If you are anything like us and take thousands of photos of your kids then you will probably appreciate this feature as you can simply ‘Favourite’ the best of your latest batch of photos and easily see them in the Favourites view. To Favourite a photo on your Mac just click on the photo to select it and then click on the heart in the menu at the top of the window.

Favourites Photos

People: This is another handy way to jump to collections of photos. You can view all the photos of a particular person - but it does take a little bit of work to set up.

Apple uses artificial intelligence to recognise faces that look the same. It then asks you to confirm if those faces belong to the same person. Once you have confirmed one person and given them a name Photos will attempt to find other photos that feature that person, although it’s not always accurate and if you known any identical twins it won’t be as good as you are at telling them apart. It can take a while to find matching faces, but will do so in the background while Photos is open. We’ll discuss Faces in a bit more detail below.

Places: This view will showcase photos based on places you have visited. Photos knows the location of photos you take on your iPhone, iPad and on some cameras that have GPS built in. It can be a great way to find photos taken on holiday, or at a particular location, such as the grandparents house.

When you first enter this view you will see the country you are resident in, you can zoom in and out to see the whole world. Just scroll up and down with your mouse button, or swipe on the track pad. You can also move the map around with the mouse and trackpad.

If you want to view a set of photos from a particular location click on the number in the blue circle and that will open the Places view where you can see all the photos takes around that area. To go back to the Map view just click on the back arrow that you will see appear in the menu on the left.

Maps Photos Locations

Recents: You will see any photos that have recently been added to your library. These could be photos you have imported from a camera or from your iPhone or iPad, dragged and dropped into Photos from elsewhere on your Mac, or, if you use iCloud Photos, they could be photos you have recently taken on your iPhone that have synced with your Mac. We’ll discuss iCloud Photos below.

Imports: Is just the photos you have imported into Photos on your Mac - so these could be photos you have copied from your camera or a memory stick or similar.

Recently Deleted: This is where you will find the photos and videos you have deleted for up to 30 days after you deleted them. It’s how Apple stops us from accidentally deleting an image which is handy, but if you really do want the image gone - perhaps because you are trying to save space on your Mac then you can delete images for good from this view.

Shared: The Shared section includes two tabs: Activity and Shared Albums. Whether this is populated will depend on whether you use the features that allow you to share photo albums with others. If you do you will see your shared albums here alone with any recent activity. We’ll discuss how to share albums below.

Albums: There’s a Media Types dropdown which includes shortcuts to Videos, Selfies, Live Photos, and other types of photos. The My Albums dropdown lists all the albums you have created with your photos. We’ll talk more about making Albums below.

Media Types Photos Mac

Finally there is a Projects section. Here you will find any books, calendar, cards and other things you might have made with your photos - you would need to get an extension from the App Store to do this though. More on that below.

How to look at a photo in Photos

The general views in Photos include an overview of lots of thumbnails (as per the All Photos view) or a Memories-style view where you can see a selection of images and videos, usually with a video or Live Photo playing on a loop and related photos clustered around it. The group of photos might also display the day of the week and the location, and if they were taken on a public holiday it might have that date too, such as Christmas Day. What if you just want to look at a particular photo, how can you do that?

To view a photo just double click on the thumbnail. This will open the photo so it fills the main window, but you can change your view so that the photo fills the whole screen. Beside the close and minimise buttons is a third button that will enter full screen mode when clicked. To exit that view just clock on the Escape key.

Once you are viewing a photo this way you can click through all the photos in chronological order by clicking on the arrows that appear on the right or left of the photo.

How to watch a video in Photos

You can open a video in the same way as you open a photo but you will see playback buttons appear if you hover over the photo. Just click on the play button to play the video in this view.

How to view your photos as a Slideshow

These are all great ways to view your photos but you might be wondering how to view your photos as a standard slideshow (rather than via the Memories function mentioned above).

To start a slideshow of your photos and videos you need to select a group of Photos, right-click and chose Play Slideshow from the options.

Play Slideshow Mac

A box will open with various options for your Slideshow including Themes (which have music associated with them) and the ability to choose your own music from your Music (or iTunes) library. You will see a preview of how the slideshow will look.

Slideshow options

Alternatively if you open an Album you will see an Slideshow option in the menu. Select this. Wait for the photos to download to your Mac (if they are in iCloud) and view the Slideshow.

If you then want to save or export the slideshow so that you can share it with friends and family, or watch it again you need to create your Slideshow in Projects.

  1. Click on Projects in the column on the left.
  2. Hover over it so that a + appears. Click on the +.
  3. Choose Slideshow > Photos.
  4. A Create New Slideshow option will appear. Give your Slideshow a name.
  5. Now your entire library will open up for you to choose photos from. You can switch to Favourites to make it easier to pick the photos and videos you like the best.
  6. Find the photos you want to feature in the slideshow, select them and click on Add.
  7. You can now preview the slideshow. You can also change the theme, music and timing (so you can speed it up or slow it down).
  8. When you are happy with your video you can click on Export in the menu (top right of the screen) to export your movie slideshow. You can export in Standard Definition, High Definition 720p or High Definition 1080p. It will export to your Movies folder.

Slideshow in Projects Photos

Unfortunately Apple’s Photos Slideshow function has been neglected by the company in recent years. It has a lot of potential but Apple seems to be focusing its efforts on Memories instead.

This article is part of a series in which we have looked at different elements of Photos for Mac. We also have the following articles: