I was recently looking for a way to quickly access a photo album from the home screen of my iPhone so I could show photos, plans and ideas to contractors while we were renovating our bathroom. It doesn’t take too long to launch photos, switch to album view and find the album in question but in my particular case it would break the flow of conversation and I knew there had to be a better way.

While I was looking for a solution I came across a few other people with similar questions. There was someone who frequently needed to show the same few photos to people in business meetings, there was an artist who wanted to be able to quickly show off her portfolio and there was a teacher who wanted to be able to quickly bring up maps of the school on an iPad to help special needs students navigate.

Whatever your reason for wanting this behaviour, the bad news is that there’s no built in way of doing so on iOS. The good news is there is a third party app called Workflow that lets you do this and MUCH more. I might write a whole article on Workflow one day but essentially it lets you create custom “workflows” that tie together a whole bunch of actions on iOS. Many of these actions happen within the app but it can also work with several third party apps and services. Once you’ve created a workflow, it uses a few different tricks to let you quickly launch it, including the option of adding an icon to your home screen1.

If you aren’t interested in how to create your own workflow then you can just download (and even modify) my “View Album” workflow. As downloaded it shows you photos from the “Recently Added” smart album but you can easily change it to an album of your choosing.

If you want to create your own workflow the steps are as follows:

  1. In the Photos App create a photo album and give it a name that makes sense to you (e.g. “Portfolio”, “Maps”, “Frequently Used”)
  2. In the Workflow App create a new workflow and add two actions (see first screenshot below)
    • Add a “Find Photos” action:
      1. Add Filter: Find Photos Where Album is Album Name (the name you chose in step 1)
      2. Sort by: [optional] Whatever makes sense to you, I chose “Last Modified Data”
      3. Order: [optional, only shows up if you use Sort by] I chose “Latest First”
    • Add a “Quick Look” action
  3. Tap the cog icon (see first screenshot) to go into the settings window (second screenshot below):
  4. Give it a sensible name (e.g. “View Album”). This name will show up on your home screen so don’t make it too long, 10-12 characters can usually be shown without being abbreviated
  5. Choose an icon and colour (e.g. the map pin icon) that will make sense to you
  6. Tap “Add to Home Screen” and follow the instructions to add it to your home screen

You now have an icon on your home screen (see third screenshot below) that will launch your chosen photo album and you also have a new multi-purpose tool in your iOS tool belt for automating and customising your iPhone or iPad. Check out the Gallery in Workflow for many more ideas.

Screenshot 1 - Actions and how to get to settings screen
Screenshot 1 - Actions and how to get to settings screen
Screenshot 2 - Settings and Add to Home Screen
Screenshot 2 - Settings and Add to Home Screen
Screenshot 3 - Shortcut on Home Screen
Screenshot 3 - Shortcut on Home Screen
  1. You may be aware that only apps, folders and “web clips” (shortcuts to a website) can live on your home screen. Workflow takes advantage of the latter and creates a special local webpage whose sole purpose is to launch the Workflow App and kick off your chosen workflow. This is why you will briefly see Safari open every time you launch a workflow.