Susette Horspool, CA-BY-SA 3.5, private collection I was sitting at my computer one day, letting my mind drift with the screen saver, and suddenly became aware of something: That blanked-out state when I’m resting my brain feels a lot like mini-hypnosis—which is a perfect state in which to influence oneself. So, I wondered, could I insert my own photos into the screensaver and use it to embed a vision of my goals? I knew already that it was possible to pull down photos from the Internet to use as screensavers. It made sense that I should be able to use the same tool to set up my photos for the same thing. I immediately checked into it, and what I’ll show you below has evolved from what I found out that day.

Why Use Personal Photos for a Screensaver?

The main reasons I use my own photos are to influence myself in positive ways and to take pride in the quality of them, since I like photographing a lot. Here are a few potential ways you could use them too: You may think that setting up your photos as the screensaver is a hard thing to do, but it isn’t really. What takes the most time—but is also the most fun—is organizing your photographs so they can be seen by the screensaver program, then editing them to look good on your desktop.

Where are Screensaver Photos Stored?

On the Mac, Apple’s screensaver photos are stored in a designated folder in your computer’s library: /System/Library/Screen Savers/ But the desktop/screensaver program is not limited to that folder. It also lets you choose a folder within Photos or your Pictures storage. You just need to set it up properly, which is pretty easy. I’ll show you that below, and also show you how to edit your photos so they make the best showing on the desktop.

Set the Screensaver to Show Your Own Photos

Those of you who are already well aware of how your computer operates may not need any more than this summary of steps to take: Susette Horspool That’s all you really need to do. Note that, under Apple’s new operating system, if you skip #4 the unedited version is what will show up as your screensaver. There are details to all of these steps below, so if you’re uncertain of any, be sure to check out the relevant section . . . or just read on.

1—Choosing Your Photographs

First you need to have a purpose, so you know which photographs to choose. Let’s say motivation is your purpose. You’ve set up the goal of buying a new house. You’ve already thought it through, imagined what you want it to look like, and have talked about it with others involved. You know the search can be discouraging, so you want to use screensavers to keep yourself focused and upbeat. Here’s how to start:

2—Formatting Photos to Use as Mac Screen Savers

Most screens have a similar shape, whether you’re using a Mac screen or a small TV screen as your desktop. That shape takes a 3x5" photo, but that’s not how most photos show up, so you’ll need to change it. Here’s how: Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5, own photo Now your photo will fit the screen properly, without anything more being cut off. Depending on the strength of light coming from your screen, you’ll now want to edit the photo to look good as well.

3—Editing Photos to Look Good on the Desktop

There is still more you can do to enhance the looks of each photo for your screen, especially if it’s darker than you want it, or not quite as colorful: Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5 Note: Once you get used to using these tools and seeing the results, it will be easier to see what a photo needs before you start. That will make the editing time shorter.

Photo Editing Before & After

4—Setting Up Your Screen Saver Folder

If you’re like me, you’ll have a number of goals you’re working on. You might want to put all related photos in one folder and have them rotating through the screen saver, or you might want to focus on your house photos one week and your relationship photos the following week. Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5, own photo Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5, own photo This is how I started my collection. Then I realized I would rather show photos of different seasons, so I set that up. Now, every month I change my desktop and screensaver photos to that month’s album.

Screenshot of My Photo Collection

5—Telling Your Computer Which Folder to Use for Screen Savers

Now that your favorite house photos are all formatted, edited, and filed, it’s time to tell your computer to use them as the official screen savers: Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5 You may notice a certain pattern in the way your screen savers rotate in and out. Did you know you can change that pattern? That’s next.

6—Changing the Rotation Pattern of Your Screen Saver

To the left of the screen saver window you will have noticed a column of bright green shapes with different labels. Each of those shapes represents a different way of moving photos in and out of the screen saver. Click on one and you’ll see your photo in the screen saver window start to move differently. Click on another one and the type of movement will change again. Try them all to see which works best for your photos and your goal in choosing them. Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5, own compilation Also note the little time menu under that column. Mine is set for 20 minutes, which means my screensaver will start automatically 20 minutes after I’ve stopped using the computer (while taking a break or whatever). If you want the screen saver to start whenever you tell it to, but without opening System Preferences, check the “Hot Corners” button on the far bottom right. That lets you select one of the four corners on your screen to start the screen saver with. When you need to leave your work for awhile—to walk around, eat, rest your eyes, go to the restroom—you just push your mouse up to that corner and the screen saver starts.

Examples of Photos to Use for Different Purposes

Each of the photo collections below represent different reasons for using your own photos as a screensaver. You can, of course, set it up just because. For your screensaver to influence you in a constructive direction, though, it would be wise to be more selective. The themes suggested above were: Goals, loved ones, parties/holidays, and seasons. There are a myriad of choices within each of these themes or completely separate from them (of course). You’ll choose what’s important to you. The following are just samples to trigger your creative juices.

Sample Goal: Write a Book About Peacocks

Sample Family Photos

Sample Holiday Photos

Sample Seasons Photos

I started this whole process, ten years ago, by changing my desktop photo to one that reflected a goal I had—to enhance my income. I chose a desktop photo of three mailboxes, one of which I invented as being only for incoming money and the most active of the three. Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5 Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5 Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5 Susette Horspool, CC-BY-SA 3.5 At the time I was working for a water conservation consultancy, so it wasn’t long before I was taking photos of drought tolerant plants. Then I got interested in neighborhood gardens and how they changed with the seasons, so I set up folders to reflect the seasons. When I got too many of those, I organized them by month. Now I go to System Preferences to change my desktop and screensaver folders at the beginning of each month. I also change my Facebook backdrop at that time.Here’s the thing. You don’t have to stick with just one collection. In Photos you can create a file folder called Screen Savers, and under that create a bunch of albums with their own names. Then you go to System Preferences and the Screen Saver chooser to select your new album. Hopefully you’re seeing the possibilities for yourself now, and are excited about developing your own process. Have fun! © 2020 Sustainable Sue


Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on May 01, 2020: Useful article. Well presented. Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 01, 2020: Sue, this is a good and wonderful creative venture. Thanks for sharing.

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