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Question: How do I download individual original photos from iCloud to my Mac?

When printing from Photos, the driver needs the original (unedited) file and tells me to find it. But it's not in Finder either, so it must be in the iCloud Photo Library. But I can't get there to restore it to my Mac. Grrr.

MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014), macOS Sierra (10.12.6)

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Nov 17, 2017 5:08 PM in response to ELM sandy spring In response to ELM sandy spring

In addition to Eric's advice:

When printing from Photos, the driver needs the original (unedited) file and tells me to find it.

This error message usually occurs, when the original image file cannot be found on your Mac by Photos.

It will not appear, if the original needs downloading from iCloud. Then you will just see a busy indicator, while Photos is waiting for your photo to download from iCloud.


The most frequent reasons for missing originals are:

  • The Photos library may have become damaged, for example by sharing it with another user, or storing it on an unsupported external drive, keeping it on a NAS or similar. Is your Photos Library on an external drive or in your Pictures folder?
  • The Photos Library may have been damaged by running cleaning applications to remove duplicates.
  • The original image files may have been removed by cleaning applications or by importing the original image files as referenced - did you perhaps disable the Photos > Preferences General > Importing: Copy items into the Photos Library? Then the original image files will be stored in their original location outside the Photos Library and you must not remove or modify them.

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Nov 17, 2017 10:58 AM in response to ELM sandy spring In response to ELM sandy spring

Do you have Photos set to sync with iCloud in Photos/Preferences/iCloud? If you do, is Optimization set to on? That would cause you to have lower resolution photos on your computer. If you have space on your hard disk, try setting Download originals. If you double click the photo, will the original download?


More direct answer to your question. Using a browser, go to iCloud.com/Photos, select the photo, and click the cloud with the downward pointing arrow.

Nov 17, 2017 10:58 AM

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Question marked as Helpful

Nov 17, 2017 5:08 PM in response to ELM sandy spring In response to ELM sandy spring

In addition to Eric's advice:

When printing from Photos, the driver needs the original (unedited) file and tells me to find it.

This error message usually occurs, when the original image file cannot be found on your Mac by Photos.

It will not appear, if the original needs downloading from iCloud. Then you will just see a busy indicator, while Photos is waiting for your photo to download from iCloud.


The most frequent reasons for missing originals are:

  • The Photos library may have become damaged, for example by sharing it with another user, or storing it on an unsupported external drive, keeping it on a NAS or similar. Is your Photos Library on an external drive or in your Pictures folder?
  • The Photos Library may have been damaged by running cleaning applications to remove duplicates.
  • The original image files may have been removed by cleaning applications or by importing the original image files as referenced - did you perhaps disable the Photos > Preferences General > Importing: Copy items into the Photos Library? Then the original image files will be stored in their original location outside the Photos Library and you must not remove or modify them.

Nov 17, 2017 5:08 PM

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Nov 17, 2017 5:31 PM in response to léonie In response to léonie

Thank you for your clues. However, it's not just a matter of iCloud behavior or the state/location of my Photos Library. I have used no cleaning applications, and regularly back up my entire MacBook to an external hard drive via Time Machine. Backups to iCloud occur automatically.


1. My Photos Library is synced to iCloud with the Optimize Mac Storage option checked, so all originals reside "up there."


2. After editing photos in Photos, I must export them to a folder in Finder/Pictures, so I can access them from Pages in order to place them in a DTP document. Sometimes, I change the filenames at this point. I believed this might be the source of the error, but changing the filenames back to match Photos didn't help.


3. KEY POINT: I would like to be able to access my photos in iCloud and restore selected ones to my MacBook (preferably into Photos with unique filenames) so they are detectable by the printer driver. I DO NOT want to have to download all my photos from iCloud and then sort through them to find the originals I need. For one thing, I suspect downloading 5K+ photos will choke the Mac.


4. Currently, I can neither print the edited photos from Photos or Finder/Preview nor access them in iCloud. This feels like a major problem.


(BTW, Preview's printer driver for my Canon Pixma won't let me print four 3x5 photos on one sheet; I can only do this through Photos. That's how this all started....)

Nov 17, 2017 5:31 PM

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Nov 18, 2017 3:29 AM in response to ELM sandy spring In response to ELM sandy spring

I have used no cleaning applications, and regularly back up my entire MacBook to an external hard drive via Time Machine. Backups to iCloud occur automatically.

You are aware, that the Time Machine backup will not save your photos, because you are using "Optimize Storage"? Time Machine does not backup the originals of photos, that are only in iCloud and not downloaded to your Mac.

If the copy in iCloud is your only copy, you have no backup of the photos at all. So you need to occasionally use "File > Export > Export original file", to save new originals to a folder on an external drive. Whenever I import new photos to Photos, I am saving the originals on my backup drive for originals. Since the originals should never change, saving them on Import should suffice.

3. KEY POINT: I would like to be able to access my photos in iCloud and restore selected ones to my MacBook (preferably into Photos with unique filenames) so they are detectable by the printer driver. I DO NOT want to have to download all my photos from iCloud


The download from iCloud should be automatic. When you double-click a photo in Photos to enlarge it and go to edit mode, the photo will automatically be downloaded from iCloud, if there is no problem with your internet connection. Try to enlarge a photo and go to "Edit" before you try to print it.


You did not yet tell us, if you checked, if "Photos > Preferences > General: Importing: Copy items into the Photos Library" is still enabled or had been turned off for a while. Please check this, if you have not yet done so. The error message you are citing suggests that Photos is expecting the originals to be stored locally and not in iCloud. And photos you imported while "Copy items into the Photos Library"is disabled, cannot upload to iCloud, but will be stored locally, outside he Photos Library and must not be renamed or moved.

Nov 18, 2017 3:29 AM

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Question: How do I download individual original photos from iCloud to my Mac?