iPhone and iPad Mac

5 Things You Need To Know About iCloud Photo Library

Mark O'Neill 08-07-2015

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 A Cleaner, Faster iPhoto: Upgrade to Photos for OS X Yosemite Photos for OS X has finally arrived, replacing iPhoto with an image management application that Mac users will actually want to use — but is there enough here to satisfy Aperture refugees? Read More , 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

5 Things You Need To Know About iCloud Photo Library allphotos

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

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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

5 Things You Need To Know About iCloud Photo Library iosicloudpl

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.


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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.

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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.


5 Things You Need To Know About iCloud Photo Library sharedalbums

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.

5 Things You Need To Know About iCloud Photo Library sharedfolders2

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

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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!

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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 How to Fix Your External Hard Drive Being "Read Only" on Mac Is your external hard drive showing up as "read only" on your Mac? Here's how to fix a locked Mac drive and get it working again. Read More . 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 Free Cloud Storage Upgrades: Grab 100GB of OneDrive and 2GB of Google Drive Cloud storage is getting cheaper by the day, but nothing beats downright free. Some of the top services have come up with a few schemes that will raise your online gigabytes without spending a dime. Read More $7 a month including a free Office 365 subscription An Introduction to Office 365: Should You Buy Into the New Office Business Model? Office 365 is a subscription based package that offers access to the latest desktop Office suite, Office Online, cloud storage, and premium mobile apps. Does Office 365 provide enough value to be worth the money? Read More ! 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 What's New In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan"? (And How to Try it Yourself) While the changes don't seem that big on the surface, there's a lot going on under the hood that could make this incremental upgrade one of the most significant to date. Read More , El Capitan.

Are you using iCloud? You might also want to know how to download photos from iCloud How to Download Photos From iCloud We explain how to download photos from iCloud on your iPhone, Mac, or Windows PC so you can have a copy of your favorite images. Read More .

Related topics: iCloud, Photo Album, Photo Sharing.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Kelly
    January 18, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Only my photos show the "share" option. Videos do not offer the "share" icon!!!! I cant post any videos to Youtube or with friends!!! I can't even download them to another file. So theyre pretty much gone. I have no control of my videos!!!

  2. Nick Leggat
    December 30, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Simple question needs a simple answer please

    My phone runs out of memory - when I look at storage tis the photos taking up a huge amount

    If I delete all photos from my phone - have they deleted from iCloud or just the phone??

    So if I delete are they gone forever??

    SO confused!!!!!!

  3. Newspaniard
    October 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    I have spent decades organizing my photos into folders, sub folders and in some cases, sub, sub, sub, sub, sub folders. Carefully labeling all folders and photographs. I recently purchased my first iPhone and have tried uploading my photos to both Google and iCloud. They immediately scramble the photo sequence and ignore my labels and invent their own categories. I was considering using clouds for backup as well as for viewing on my smartypants phone but no longer seems viable as they both seem to think that their labeling is better than mine. Is there any software around which will maintain my data structure and its labeling?

    • James
      November 3, 2016 at 2:52 pm


  4. Rina
    September 27, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    I regret buying a Mac pro Retina for that much, and I can't not even share freely my pics and videos directly from photo??? They sign this to get more money and make more complicate every s...d thing.

  5. PJ
    September 8, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Agree! I'm trying to figure out how to slim down my photo library so I can stay within the 20GB. none of my recent photos are synching --only old ones stay there. Need to go through and delete and back up elsewhere. Wish Apple allowed you to select which photos or albums or years to back up....