How to export images from Photos for Mac in their original format

Photos for Mac stores your images in a dedicated library file, which can pose a problem when needing to deal with individual files. You can easily export images from Photos for Mac by way of dragging, but know that the app’s changed its export behavior since its initial release.

In Photos, dragging an image out of the app would save your selection as a downscaled JPEG file. In the most recent release, dragged images retain their original resolution but are still recompressed as JPG files.

However, you can avoid this behavior and preserve the original image file format, resolution, and other parameters when exporting images from Photos to the Finder.

Edit image in Mac Photos app

How to export images from Photos as unmodified originals

Here are two ways to do that. Feel free to use any that’s comfortable for you.

Using Drag & Drop

  1. Launch Photos on your Mac.
  2. Hold down the Option key while dragging images to the Finder.

All of the original parameters of your images will be entirely preserved.

As shown on the screenshot below, dragging a photo without the modifier key (left image) exports the processed image as it appears in Photos, with all your edits. It also saves exported images in JPG format. With the Option key pressed, the unmodified source image gets exported in its original file format and resolution, as seen in the right image.

Export unmodified original image from the Photos app on Mac

Using menu command

1) Launch Photos on your Mac and select the image(s).

2) From the top menu bar, click File > Export > Export Unmodified Original For N Photo.

3) In the image export window, optionally click the File Name menu to choose how to name your exported files. You can name the files using the titles you’ve given them in Photos, their original filenames, or opt to have a filename numbered sequentially, in which case you can specify the text to appear before each number (for example, Image001, Image002, and so on).

Export original from Photos app

In the Subfolder Format menu, optionally select whether to export images from several different moments as a subfolder named after the moment (select the Moment Name option) or export as individual files without subfolders (choose None).

Tip: Click the Export IPTC as XMP checkbox to also export any assigned image metadata and keywords in the form of a sidecar XMP file.

4) Click the Export button.

5) Choose where to save your unmodified originals, then click Export Originals.

Again, both methods preserve the original file formats in which the images were imported into the Photos library without downscaling, recompression, cropping modifications, image filters, or any other effect.

Exporting images from Photos to the Finder comes in handy when you need to work with them in other apps, such as Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator. And if you use iCloud, you can also export image files to iCloud Drive, then access them from any Mac, iOS device, or Windows PC set up to use iCloud Drive.

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