Those of you running the latest and the greatest version of OS X (Yosemite, at the time of writing) are now able to replace iPhoto with a new app called Photos, which closely mimics the iOS approach to photo management.
Photos also enables (and pushes) iCloud Photo Library, Apple’s new feature that allows you to access your photos on every single Mac or iOS device you own. Yes, Apple wants you to choose iCloud as your central photo storage facility.
Here’s what you need to know about iCloud Photo Library, how it works and what it will cost you.
It Replaces The Old Camera Roll & Photo Stream
Where you used to have the Camera Roll and the Photo Stream, you now have a section called “All Photos”. This has some serious juice — there used to be a restriction of 1,000 photos, for 30 days on your device. Now those are gone. If you have the space on your device, and on iCloud Photo Library, then you can keep the images there forever.
iCloud Photo Library keeps your photos and videos organized into various sections. These are called “Moments”, “Collections”, and “Years”. These are synced across all your Mac and iOS devices. You can also create new folders and those too will be synced across devices.
Switching It On Is Easy-Peasy
On a Mac, go to the Photos app. Then from the menu bar, go to Photos > Preferences > iCloud. Then check the box beside iCloud Photo Library.
You then need to decide if you want to keep the original copies on your Mac or whether you want them “optimized”. This means the originals go to iCloud, and lightweight versions are left on your device to save as much space as possible. Since each device can have a different setting, you can enjoy the full downloads on say your iPad, while only having optimized versions on your iPhone.
How long it takes to upload your images and videos depends on how many you have. If the uploading process is slowing apps down, you can choose to pause for a day, by clicking the button shown above.
On an iOS Device
You can switch on iCloud Photo Library by going to Settings > Photo & Camera. There, you will see an option to switch the feature on, as well as whether or not you want to “optimize your storage” or “download and keep originals”. There are a few other options which are self-explanatory.
You Can Create & Contribute to Shared Albums
iCloud Photo Library also allows you to create shared albums, and as the creator, you can control who sees what. This feature isn’t entirely brand new, with shared “photo streams” being around for several iOS iterations now — but the feature has been refined over the years to get where it is now.
First, select the images you want to share. Then hit the “share” button at the bottom left of the screen. This brings up the familiar sharing menu. Choose iCloud Photo Sharing.
This brings up the screen for you to write a message. Write your message, decide on which album it is going into (you can use this interface to create a new album), then tap Post.
If you now visit the Shared tab at the bottom of the screen, you will see your shared folder sitting there complete with your recent upload.
Tap the new album to open it (in this case “Dog”), and at the bottom of that screen, you will see two options – Photos and People. Hit People to see the sharing options.
As you can see, this is where you can invite your friends and family to their exclusive access to your images. You can also decide to allow them to add their own photos and videos to the album.
But what is great is that you can create a public website on iCloud, for anyone to view your photos (those that have the link that is). Here is the link to the Dog folder I created for the purposes of this article.
When You Edit an Image Using Photos, All Changes Are Synced to iCloud
Whenever you edit an image using Photos, on any device (be it your Mac, iPad or iPhone) all of the changes are synced to iCloud. This means that all of your edited images can then be viewed on all of your other devices, with their edits in tact.
It’s worth noting that edits created in Photos are non-destructive — which means you can revert to originals at any point if you want to. There’s not much more that can be said about this feature, but it is very smooth and should encourage you to use the provided editing features a little more.
It’s Freaking Expensive!
Every iCloud user gets 5GB free of charge. But if you are snap-happy, then it doesn’t take long for that 5GB to be obliterated. I know. I speak from personal experience.
Now there are two things you can do. You can either download the photos and videos to your desktop Mac (a folder other than the iCloud folder obviously), or a removable hard-drive. Then delete them from your iOS device.
The other option is to open up the wallet or purse, and get your money out for a storage upgrade. But you might want to take a seat first because the prices will floor you.
20GB: $0.99 a month
200GB: $3.99 per month
500GB: $9.99 per month
1TB: $19.99 per month
The 20GB option is quite good value. This is the plan I subscribe to, and it stops the nagging screens on my devices when I accidentally slip over the 5GB mark. And seriously, what is $1, €1 or £0.70 every month?
It’s when you want to go higher than 20GB that the pricing seems to go totally haywire. As a good example, look at the top 1TB option. Apple wants $20 per month for that 1TB. But look elsewhere for that 1TB and the price drops. Dropbox and Google Drive only want $10 a month, and OneDrive only charges $7 a month including a free Office 365 subscription! Time to drop the prices, Apple?
iCloud Photo Library still has the bubble wrap attached to some degree, so there are bound to be tweaks and improvements to make it better over the coming months. Even more so with the imminent launch of the next OS X operating system, El Capitan.
Have you upgraded to iCloud Photo Library yet? Is Apple barking up the wrong tree with iCloud storage prices?