What Happens After You Subscribe to a Shared Photos Album

by Sarah Dobson on December 30, 2019

Apple’s Photos app includes an album-sharing feature, which is a great way to show photos to your family and friends without sending them in large emails and text messages. Today we’ll look at album sharing from the opposite perspective: what to do if someone invites you to subscribe to their album. Why would this happen? Basically, a shared album makes it easy for a group of people to pool photos from an event, like a wedding, so everyone can view—and chat about them—both on the Mac and on iOS devices.

When an album is shared with you, you’ll receive an invitation in your email. Click the Subscribe button in the message, and the Photos app loads the album into its Shared category. To view the album on the Mac, look in the left-hand sidebar in Shared > Shared Albums and select the album. In iOS, tap Shared at the bottom of the Photos screen and then tap the album name.

Basic Viewing, Likes, and Comments

The main screen for an album displays thumbnail-sized previews of the media within, but it’s usually more enjoyable to view the images at a larger size. You can also chat about them with other people who are subscribed to the album:

  •  On a Mac, double-click any thumbnail to open it, and then press the arrow keys to navigate through the album. Click the subtle cartoon speech bubble at the lower left of a photo to click Like, leave a comment about that photo, or read other people’s comments.
  • In iOS, once you’ve tapped an album on the Shared screen, tap the Photos button to see thumbnails or the People button to check out who else is sharing the album. On the Photos view, tap a thumbnail to see it at full size, and work from the bottom of this screen to see and create likes and comments.

Contributing Your Photos and Videos

If you want to edit a photo or video—for example, to remove red-eye—do so before adding it to a shared album, since you can’t edit the version in the album. Also, don’t add media that effectively duplicates what’s already there; instead, add photos or videos taken from a different perspective or of different aspects of the event. To add media to a shared album:

  • On the Mac, click the blue “Add photos and videos” at the top of the main album view, and then click All Items or Favorites in the bar at the top. Select items you want to include, and then click the Add button. Another method is to drag items from the main portion of the Photos window into the shared album in the sidebar. (If “Add photos and videos” is gray, the album isn’t set up for subscribers to add media.)
  • In iOS, the last thumbnail in the shared album is a plus sign; tap it to add photos and videos. (If you don’t see the plus sign, the album isn’t set up for subscribers to add media.)

To remove an item that you’ve added to an album, select it within the album, press the Delete key, and then click the Delete button in the confirmation dialog. You can’t delete photos that others have added.

Importing Shared Items to Your Photo Library

You might want to import a photo or video from a shared album for two reasons. The first is to be sure you’ll have it if you lose access to the shared album, and the second is so you can edit it. To import an item:

  • On the Mac, drag the photo or video onto Photos at the top of the left-hand sidebar.
  • In iOS, you can save photos, but not videos. Tap the photo to view its screen, tap the Share button, and then swipe left in the bottom row of the Share sheet to see and tap Save Image.

Next time you’re invited by a friend or family member to join a shared album, don’t be shy! With just a little practice, you can see what everyone else has posted, offer your opinion through the commenting system, and even share your own photos and videos.

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