Sharing all my photos with my wife

Hi, I would like to share all my photos with my wife. We each have a macbook pro. I don’t want to simply share an album; like many people, our whole life in pictures is on my mac and I’d like her to have access to all of them.

I’ve looked at shared folders, but I want to share all of them, more than 30K.



I think popping Photos Libraries (or any database) on a shared drive introduces possible errors, need to be careful about access and edits, I wouldn’t do that.

You could consider a third party in-between service like Flickr so long as you pop for Flickr Pro, 50 bucks a year, (infinite backup and other benefits).

  • You both log in to the same Flickr account.
  • You both sync your Photos Library (or any folder) to it (JPEGs only).

The combined library would only live on Flickr though. You would have access via the Flickr iOS apps or via Safari.

We struggled with this for years. It was fine while we both used the same Apple ID, but when my wife got a watch we had to move to separate Apple IDs (health data got merged), and our single shared photo album no longer worked.

I tried various things but the answer which works brilliantly for us, but costs, is Lightroom, the cloudy version (not Classic). It is installed on all our Devices and two Macs, and works exactly like Photos did when we used the same Apple ID, but now we are both signed in to the same Adobe ID.

Pictures we both take on our phones, or added from a camera, are automatically uploaded to the Adobe Cloud and sync’d to all devices. Edits and culls on any device are automatically shared across all devices.

We have 79,000 pics in our Lightroom library and available on all our devices. Unlike Apple, Adobe uses smart previews so that you don’t have to have the whole 600GB on any device (but you can keep a local copy if you want). The originals are all in the cloud.

PS There is a real demand for this, but Apple don’t provide a solution, so I have to give my money (£10 per month) to Adobe instead of Apple.

PPS Many people don’t realise that Lightroom (Cloudy) is a completely different and independent app from Lightroom Classic. Adobe have confused the hell out of everyone by giving them same name and allowing some complex syncing between Classic and Cloudy which is not needed.


Notice that mikebhm’s solution maintains separate user identities for personal use and shares only Adobe ID credentials for Lightroom access. This avoids the weakness of single login for everything. One simply cannot do what is necessary with only one credential – Capabilities and Data are hopelessly muddled together and vulnerable to a single point of failure.

A fundamental security maxim requires that credentials for macOS access should be different from those for iCloud access and different from Microsoft access and different from Bank A access and different from Bank A access and different from gmail access and… (You should grok this.) At minimum, different passwords are mandatory in each case to separately control access.

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I’ve not tried this, but my understanding is that Google Photos handles this sort of full-library sharing pretty well. Anyone tried it?

Adam, Not clear what you’re referring to her when you say “full-library sharing”.

Meaning that you want to share everything, rather than a particular album, as Apple allows via Family Sharing.

I use my iCloud Family account and have my photos stored in iCloud. There’s a special Family album in the shared albums. Any picture there is shared by everyone in your iCloud Family account. I went to the People album, selected my family members, and added them to the Family album. It appears that new pictures of my family automatically appear in my Family album this way. You can also share photos of your vacation this way too.

It doesn’t share all of your pictures, but probably allows you to share the most relevent ones. I’m sure my wife doesn’t want to see all the pictures of my coworkers (“Gee, you seem to take a lot of pictures of Cathy”, the various pictures of plants and birds that I take in order to use apps to identify them. Or, all the pictures of menus, manuals, IKEA codes, and other detritus that get added to my photo album.

If you really want all photos, you can select all pictures and share them to Family. It doesn’t take up any more room, but it doesn’t automatically update them. However, it takes just a minute or two, it doesn’t take up a lot more room in your iCloud account, and you can’t overshare a picture. Putting a picture twice into a shared album doesn’t create two pictures.

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That made me laugh. You must show us a picture of Cathy now… Anyway, this is the solution I came up with too. We have a Family album and we all share to it, we’ve roped in some significant relatives so it is shared beyond immediate family to a few favorite people. My use of Photos is such that it’s a mix. Typically, it’s snapshot photography, life out and about, but I also use it when I document an exhibition I’ve seen or a photo book I mean to research more. No one bar me wants any of that. So the shared album does it for us. I do any serious photography work in Capture One, I can’t see Photos for that.


Photos in Apple shared albums are reduced resolution so not so good for creating a master main library as the OP asked. Fine for casual short term use.

It all depends on your needs. I use Apple shared albums as well but it is different use case.

So, my takeaway from all this is that there is no simple way to share my entire library of photos and videos with my wife. I would have to use another app or use family share which as several limitations.

Am I tracking correctly?


Yes, you would need another app. Apple doesn’t provide the capability yet.

I think Lightroom Cloudy is brilliant. Adam suggested Google Photos which I don’t know anything about but from the little I do know might also be worth more investigation.

When I switched our 600GB Photos Library from Apple to Adobe, I was able to offset some of the £9.99 per month cost of Lightroom by reducing my iCloud Storage Plan from the 2TB plan to the 200GB plan.

PS I have edited this reply from my initial one as I misread your message!

I concur with Mikebhm - the Lightroom Cloud app has worked brilliantly for us over two years in managing our rapidly growing collection of 80,000+ photos. In addition we have successfully shared select albums with relatives and friends and provided them download capabilities using built in email access invites. The Lightroom workflow to import new photos from our two iPhones works seamlessly and without intervention thanks to auto syncing. Plus any picture saved from Facebook to a camera roll is automatically added to our Lightroom cloud database. Inspired by advice in the Take Control book “Your Digital Legacy” our family photos are not residing solely in the Lightroom Cloud. All original and edited photos are stored and synced locally on an external drive that, in turn, is continuously backed up using Backblaze.

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I assume they don’t need to be constantly in sync in real time all the time. So what about copying the entire picture folder from your Mac to hers and visa versa. Then use Carbon Copy Cloner to sync/clone your folder with the copy of your folder on you spouse’s Mac when ever you do want to bring it up to date and visa versa. If you are comfortable with using the terminal program and a command line program you could do the same thing with rsync.

I’d be VERY leery of doing this—the Photos Library package is a more than a bunch of static files, and I would worry that this would be a recipe for corruption. If someone is going to try this, test very, very carefully on a library that doesn’t contain your only copy of photos.

There is no reason to try and mingle to two libraries with CCC or rsync. I assumed, never a good idea, you would wind up with two folders with library files in side of each. I would require restarting ‘photos’ with the option key down and selecting your spouse’s library or your own. If you did want to mingle your spouses files with your own I would copy them to a folder on the desktop and then import them into your own library.

One additional thing I just thought of is neither spouse should attempt to clone their spouse’s folder back into their spouse’s computer. That would almost certainly cause problems.

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Oh, you’re suggesting a one-time thing? Or just an occasional copy? Yes, if you avoid syncing, that makes this a better approach.

If you just copy the Photos library and open it as a secondary library, that should work. It would be awkward and slow (my Photos Library is 148 GB), but it would let each spouse look at (but not edit or change any in way) the other’s photos.

Perhaps we are not on the same page yet but we both are looking at the same book. :slight_smile:

I am not sure of the nature of the Apple photo applications library files which is to say Apple has a way of making some “files” act like tar files which combine a number of files into one ‘file’. That being said it may be possible for either rsync or CCC to copy files like a plist and to also dig out what is in those tar like files and and rearrange the content so that the source and destination match. if they can do this then only changes would be moved from more machine to the other. If they can’t then copying all 148 GB every time you wish to sync the source and destination should probably be done overnight.

The crux of my approach is not to merge libraries and to try and keep them in sync but to keep each spouse’s library intact and the replicate their spouse’s library on their system and keep it up to date.

macOS has the concept of “packages,” which are really just folders that look like files. All apps are packages, for instance, and you can Control-click one and choose Show Package Contents to see what’s inside. However, if you or any other app make changes to what’s in there, it very likely will cause corruption. With Photos in particular, I’d be very hesitant because it maintains databases, and while you can copy an entire database, what might be necessary is copying records within the database.

Could work, if you’re willing to copy hundreds of gigabytes around regularly.

Yes, that is how I have shared my library with my wife. I have all iPhone photos synced to Google photos via the Google Photos app on my iPhone. I then share my entire Google Photos library with her and it shows up in Google Photos at the top of the list under the Sharing tab.

Not perfect, but inexpensive and fairly easy.