How to Get Access to Photos Master Image Files in Mac OS Quickly with an Alias
Photos app for the Mac imports images and manages pictures by automatically moving the files into organized folders within the apps dedicated package file. While this file container is not intended to be user facing, many advanced Mac OS users like to have access to the original master files rather than solely relying on the Photos app for image management.
One easy method to access those files is by using the Show Original File trick to jump to the Finder location of the master file of a particular image, but if you find yourself using that often, or frequently needing access to the master image files from Photos app in Mac OS, we’ll show a quick and easy way to instantly access those master images from anywhere in the file system in Mac OS.
How to Make an Access Shortcut to Original Image Files from Photos App in Mac OS
For macOS Big Sur, Monterey, and newer:
- From the Finder, navigate to your “Pictures” folder, found at ~/Pictures/
- Locate the file named “Photos Library.photoslibrary” and then right-click (or control+click) on that file name, then choose “Show Package Contents” from the pop-up contextual menu
- Within Photos Library package directory, drag and drop the “originals” folder into the Finder window sidebar under the Favorites section – this places a quick access alias in the Finder sidebar accessible from anywhere in Mac OS X
- Close the Finder window when finished
Note that in modern versions of macOS, modifying anything in the ‘originals’ folder may cause issues with the Photos Library on the Mac, so it’s best to just copy a file from that directory rather than try to edit anything within that structure.
FWIW the “resources/derivatives” folder will contain thumbnails and other content.
Remember, if you use iCloud Photos, not all of your original photos will be found in the Photos Library. Instead if you want access to all original photos and you use iCloud Photos, you’ll need to download them all from iCloud to the Mac by disabling iCloud Photos, or get them from iCloud.com.
How to Create a Quick Access Shortcut for Master Image Files from Photos App in Mac OS
For macOS Catalina and earlier:
- Open a new Finder window and navigate to the users “Pictures” folder, found at ~/Pictures/
- Locate the file named “Photos Library.photoslibrary” and right-click (or control+click) on that file name, choosing “Show Package Contents” from the menu
- Within Photos Library package directory, drag and drop the “Masters” folder into the Finder window sidebar under the Favorites section – this places a quick access alias in the Finder sidebar accessible from anywhere in Mac OS X
- Close out of the Photos Library.photoslibrary package
You can now click on the “Masters” or “Originals” item in the sidebar to instantly jump to the master image files found within Photos app, these are the original full resolution files that Photos app copies from iPhone, digital cameras, memory cards, and elsewhere, wherever they have been imported into the application.
Importing additional pictures into Photos app from the file system or another location will move them into the Masters or Originals folder as well (unless you specifically turned off that feature, which can lead to duplicates for certain use-cases)
If you decide you no longer want “Masters” or “Originals” in the Finder sidebar, simply drag and drop it out of the sidebar to remove it.
The video embedded below walks through how to access this “Masters” image folder and all of the original images contained at the ~/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/Masters/ directory, if you’re having any difficulty in accessing the directory it may be helpful to refer to:
This trick works the same in all versions of Photos for Mac, whether you’re running a modern macOS release or a prior Mac OS X version of system software.
Know of another handy trick to access your originals and raw image files from Photos app on the Mac? Share it with us in the comments.