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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Quick Tip: Replace albums with keywords in iCloud Shared Photos

Much to my friend Stephen Hackett’s frustration, there’s no way to share albums in iCloud Shared Photos. All the photos can be shared, but the concept of an album is currently limited to a single Apple ID.1

I have no idea if Apple considers this an item for its to-do list or if it has decided that albums are old school and everyone should just search to find and collect stuff now. Fortunately, there are workarounds to this problem that allow you to collaborate with others in curating and collecting photos—but with limitations.

Every item in the Photos library can be assigned a keyword, and keywords are synced across iCloud Shared Photos. So if you want to collaborate with other members of your iCloud Shared Photo library—or even if you just want them to be able to view the curation and selection—you can do this by selecting all the photos you want to collect and assigning them a keyword.

Add keywords to a batch of photos via the Info window.

The best way to do this is via the Info window, which is accessible on macOS by typing Command-I. (Unfortunately, you can really only do this on macOS.) So select a bunch of photos—or even create an album and then select all the photos in that album—type Command-I, and then enter a new Keyword. I just went to Denver over the weekend, so I created one called denver-nov-22. (Think of it like the Photos equivalent of a hashtag.)

Now anyone in your shared photo library can see all the items that you keyworded denver-nov-22 by searching for that keyword. Keywords aren’t visible on iOS or iPadOS except via search, but a search will do the job!

iOS devices can search on keywords, making it easy to find tagged collections.

If your collaborators are using a Mac, they can even create a smart album that searched for items with that keyword.2

On the Mac you can create Smart Albums based on keywords.

This isn’t ideal—it doesn’t let people on iOS add items to the keyword and Smart Albums don’t sync with iPhones or iPads—but it’s something. And if you and your collaborator are both using Macs, it’s a pretty painless workaround.

[The next edition of my book Take Control of Photos is coming soon. Order it now and you’ll get the new edition for free!]


  1. iCloud Shared Albums are an entirely different thing that are very cool but unconnected to iCloud Shared Photos! Yeah, I know. 
  2. But be warned: smart albums don’t sync to iPad and iPhone. Yeah, I know. 

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