Create Smart Albums for Your Lenses and Cameras in Apple Photos

Smart albumsApple’s Photos app includes the ability to create smart albums. These work like smart playlists in iTunes, where each album matches one or more criteria, such as when you took a photo, what keywords or description it contains, and its file name. You can also use criteria about the way the photo was shot: its aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, and more.

I use smart albums to group photos I’ve shot by lens and camera. One reason is that I like to see what I’ve used each lens for, and this is a good way to see how often you use a given lens. (In other words, if you don’t use it often, you may want to try it out more, or sell it.)

You can see my smart albums to the left. They cover cameras – the iPhone, two Olympus cameras I no longer own (the E-M10 and the Pen-F), and my current cameras, the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and the X100F. I’ve not included older cameras which I didn’t use much. It’s worth noting that I no longer have some of these lenses – those for the Olympus cameras – but I still want to keep them to see what I’ve shot with certain focal lengths.

To create a smart album, choose File > New Smart Album.

New album

Click the menu at the left to choose a condition.


You can see that the top section contains conditions about the non-technical elements of your photos, and that the bottom is about the technical elements that are stored in the photos’ EXIF data.

To create an album for a lens, choose lens, then, in the second menu, choose Is. Start typing the name or focal length of a lens in the third menu, or click the arrow to the right of it to see all the lenses represented in your Photos library. Select a lens, then click OK to create the album.

One thing to note is that, sometimes, a lens may appear in the list with two different names. This can happen when you’ve updated firmware for a lens or camera. For example, my Fujifilm 18-55mm zoom lens shows up as both XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS and 18.0-55.0 mm f/2.8-4.0. So if you select a lens and don’t see all its photos, click the arrow next to the menu to see if there are multiple listings. If so, click the + button to the right of the first condition, and add a second condition for the second name.

The same is the case for cameras. Say you have used multiple cameras from a given brand, and want them all in the same album. Just choose one, click +, choose another, and so on. Or, if you want all your iPhone photos together, set up an album where Camera Model Includes iPhone.

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0 thoughts on “Create Smart Albums for Your Lenses and Cameras in Apple Photos

  1. Do these sync with Photos on iOS? I’d like to create smart albums but would prefer to view them on my iPhone or iPad. Happy to create them on my Mac but I barely use it these days however if they sync across then all is good…

    Otherwise any idea if there’s an iOS app that can sort/filter by EXIF data?

      • A workaround would be to make a parallel album to the smart album, called ” static” and then have an AppleScript you can run to keep it in sync: always containing all/only the items in the corresponding smart folder. This may be ‘worth it’ if it’s that important enough to you. Ultimately, the best thing would be feedback to Apple requesting that smart Photos albums sync between macOS & iOS – as smart Music albums do. It’s not impossible at all, and Apple already has a similar feature with Music – evaluating these ‘smart’ filtering rules on server, on iCloud. They could (and should) do the same with Photos.

        • Yes, that’s certainly possible. But, as you say, it depends on whether it’s important enough to have them. For me, these smart albums are for reference when I look at what I’ve shot with a given lens or focal length, to see how I work with that.

          • Thanks for confirming that it doesn’t sync to iOS.

            On a side note, is it possible to use smart albums in photos on the Mac to show your most commonly used focal lengths? I quite often see people talk about that but not sure how to do it!


            • You can choose Focal Length as a condition, so you could do the following for a smart album, where both conditions are matched:

              Focal Length is greater than or equal to 30mm
              Focal Length is less than 39mm

              Or you could use precise focal lengths if you only use prime lenses.

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