10 Things you should know about iCloud Photo Library

BY Gautam Prabhu

Published 18 Jan 2015

iCloud Photo Library

iCloud Photo Library was one of the major new features showcased at the WWDC Keynote last year, and was rolled out along with iOS 8.1. It allows you to sync all your photos and videos to iCloud, so that you can access them from any device.

1. What is iCloud Photo Library?

iCloud Photo Library allows you to keep all your photos and videos in iCloud, so you can access them from any device. It also gives you an option to keep optimized and lightweight versions of your entire library, thus allowing you to save space on your device. The original resolution of your entire library is stored in iCloud Photo Library.

It is also important to note here that the Camera Roll and My Photo Stream album will replaced with an All Photos album when you enable iCloud Photo Library.

Previously with My Photo Stream, only photos from the last 30 days (up to 1000) were synced with other devices. But with iCloud Photo Library,  all your photos and videos (note also videos) are automatically synced across your devices. One of the limitations currently is that Albums are not synced to iCloud Photo Library. The files are stored in All Photos (which includes videos), Videos (which only has videos), and Favorites (which has all your favorited photos and videos).

One of the common misconception about iCloud Photo Library is that it is part of iCloud Drive, which is not the case.

2. Should I upgrade to iCloud Photo Library now?

iCloud Photo Library is currently in beta, so please proceed with caution. It’s great if you want to sync all your photos and videos across your iOS devices. However, I am also backing up the videos and photos to Dropbox till it is in beta to be on safe side.

3. How to turn on iCloud Library?

On your iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos & Camera, then tap on the on/off toggle for iCloud Photo Library (Beta) to enable it. Please note that your device needs to be on iOS 8.1 or higher to enable iCloud Photo Library.

4. How do I access the photos and videos in iCloud Photo Library?

You can access the photos and videos in the All Photos album on your iOS device. There is currently no native app available for iCloud Photo Library. Apple plans to launch Photos app for Mac later this year, but until then you can access your photos and videos only on iCloud.com. Login to iCloud.com on your iOS device, click on iCloud Photo Library to access the files.

One of the limitations of iCloud.com currently is that Albums are not synced to iCloud Photo Library. The files are stored in All Photos (which includes videos), Videos (which only has videos), and Favorites (which has all your favorited photos and videos).

5. How to save space on my iOS device?

You can save space on your iOS device, by going to Settings > Photos & Cameras > iCloud Photo Library or Settings > iCloud > Photos and select Optimize iPhone Storage.  You can follow our guide for a detailed step-by-step instructions:

➤ How to save storage space on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch

Please note that the full resolution of your recent photos and videos will be available on your device if you’ve enough storage.

6. How can I upload photos manually to iCloud Photo Library?

You can also use AirDrop to copy the photos from your Mac running OS X Yosemite to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

You can upload photos by going to iCloud.com on your Windows PC or Mac running OS X Mavericks or earlier. You can sign in to iCloud.com using your Apple ID, then click on Photos, followed by the Upload button at the top. Select the photos you want to upload and click Ok.

7. Which photo and video formats does iCloud Photo Library support?

It supports the following formats: JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, TIFF, and MP4.

8. How do I prevent photos from syncing to other iOS devices?

You can go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and disable Upload to My Photo Stream to prevent your photos from being synced to other devices.

9. Does iCloud Photo library get counted against your iCloud storage?

Yes, your entire library does get counted against your iCloud storage. iCloud storage is used for iCloud Backup, iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo Library beta, iCloud Mail (your iCloud.com email account), and data from apps that use iCloud. However, purchased music, apps, books, TV shows, movies, My Photo Stream do not get counted against your iCloud storage.

If you exceed your iCloud storage limit, new photos and videos won’t be uploaded to iCloud, so they won’t be available on your other devices. You will need to upgrade your storage plan or reduce the storage you’re using.

Tips on how to free up storage space in iCloud

10. What happens when I edit or delete photos and videos?

When you edit a photo, the changes are updated across all your devices. If you’ve selected Optimize iPhone/iPad Storage then it will download the original photo or video for editing. The original photo is stored in iCloud so you can revert back the changes at any time.

When you delete a photo or video from the Photo app, it also gets deleted from iCloud Photo Library. However, you have the option to recover the photo from Recently Deleted album for 30 days. The photos are deleted from your device permanently after 30 days. However, a little known fact is that photos are backed up on Apple servers for 30 days after they’re deleted from your device. If you need to recover these photos during that time, contact Apple Support here.

I hope this article gave you a good idea about how iCloud Photo Library works, and clears any confusion. Please feel free to drop me a line in the comments if you’ve any questions.

You should also read:

➤ 12 Things you should know about iCloud Drive