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How to open two instances of Photos simultaneously using different photo libraries

Fototecas vs Carpetas con Fotos: ¿qué modo de almacenar las fotografías elijo?

Photo libraries , both in macOS and iOS, may seem simple on the outside but hide many complications when you consider organizing collections of tens of thousands of images. Proof of this are the guides to understanding why they take up so much space and how to divide them up, without going any further.

How to open two instances of Photos simultaneously using different photo libraries
How to open two instances of Photos simultaneously using different photo libraries

Because when a photo library starts taking up a lot of space, you have to consider working with several of them no matter how much hard drive you have on your Mac. Or is there a way to open multiple instances of Photos on a Mac at the same time ? Well there is, and it can save us a lot of time.

Imagine you have two photo libraries, and you want to pass a few pictures from one to the other. Since you can only open one photo library, you open the first one, export the photos to a temporary directory, close Photos, reopen it with the second photo library and import the photos from the temporary directory to the one above. It’s rudimentary, and in addition you lose things like Live Photos animations in the process.

But there’s an easier way. Let’s take it one step at a time:

  1. It opens photos with the first photo library. You can choose the photo library with which you want to open it by double-clicking on it directly.
  2. Open a terminal window and type the following command but do not press ENTER yet: open -n -a Photos
  3. Press the ALT (Option) key, and while keeping it pressed, then execute the command by pressing ENTER.
  4. A second instance of Photos will open, but with a dialog box offering you to choose another photo library to open with it. Choose the second photo library.
  5. There, you have two instances of Photos open at the same time, each with a different photo library.

What are the advantages of this? For example you can drag and drop photos from one photo library to another without losing anything and without having to deal with temporary directories and excessive disk space consumption. Remember, though, that only one of these photo libraries can be synchronized with iCloud. The best thing is to have a main photo library and one or more “warehouse” photo libraries. If you want to organize your photo library, that is.

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