iCloud Photo Library was introduced with iOS 8, but with the launch of the Photos for OS X app, it's now available on the Mac. In a nutshell, ‌iCloud Photo Library‌ is Apple's newest photo service that lets you sync all of your images across all your devices and to iCloud.

icloud_photo_library_large
‌iCloud Photo Library‌ supports several photo and video formats, storing photos in their original format, and it makes all of your media available on any device that has ‌iCloud Photo Library‌ turned on. This how-to will walk you through how to turn ‌iCloud Photo Library‌ on for each of your devices and how to minimize the space your photos take up on each device.

Tips Before Getting Started

In order to fully take advantage of ‌iCloud Photo Library‌, you should turn it on for multiple computers, if necessary, as well as your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It is compatible with iOS 8.3 or later and OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 or later.

You must be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi in order to begin the ‌iCloud Photo Library‌ upload process. Additionally, your device batteries must be fully charged, or at least connected to a power source.

Apple provides 5GB of ‌iCloud‌ storage for free. It is highly likely you will need more than that to store all of your pictures and videos. If you go over the 5GB limit, Apple will prompt you to upgrade to a larger storage capacity before continuing. ‌iCloud‌ storage starts at $0.99 per month for 20 GB of storage. The 200GB storage plan costs $3.99 per month, while the 500GB plan costs $9.99 per month and the 1TB plan costs $19.99 per month.

Be sure that all devices you wish to sync photos and videos on are signed in using the same Apple ID.

Turning on iCloud Photo Library

On OS X Yosemite:

iCloud Photo Library 4

  1. Open ‌Photos‌ for OS X.
  2. Select ‌Photos‌ from the menu bar.
  3. Select Preferences from the available options.
  4. Click on the ‌iCloud‌ tab in the pop up window.
  5. Check the box titled "‌iCloud Photo Library‌."

Uploading of photos may take a long time, depending on the number of photos in your library and the speed of your Wi-Fi network. Some users have also found photo upload affecting overall performance of their Wi-Fi networks, so if you need to temporarily pause upload, you can do so for one day in preferences, with the option to manually resume uploading sooner than that if you wish.

Follow the steps above for any computer you wish to store and access the ‌iCloud Photo Library‌ from.

On iOS:

iCloud Photo Library 3

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap ‌iCloud‌.
  3. Select ‌Photos‌.
  4. Toggle ‌iCloud Photo Library‌ to the On position.

Now all of your photos and videos (not just the most recent 30 days worth, or 100 photos) will be available across all of your devices. You will also see all folders, albums, and smart albums. You will be able to search for keywords and find people based on Faces tags.

Additional features such as creating books, cards, calendars, and slideshows, last imported albums, and Faces Tiles and data will only be available on computers they were originally created on.

You can keep the amount of pictures stored on a mobile device or computer with limited storage to a minimum. Although you have complete access to all pictures and videos, you don't have to store them all on your device thanks to Apple's "optimized storage" option, which places recent, favorite, and frequently accessed images on your ‌iPhone‌, ‌iPad‌, or Mac and stores older, less accessed ones in ‌iCloud‌. That way, you are only storing full resolution images of the most important pictures on your device.

Turn on Optimize iPhone Storage

iCloud Photo Library 5

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Select ‌Photos‌ & Camera from the list.
  3. Tap "Optimize ‌iPhone‌ Storage." This will also de-select "Download and Keep Originals," which will help keep the amount of space you use on your ‌iPhone‌ or ‌iPad‌ to a minimum.

Turn on Optimize Mac Storage

  1. Open ‌Photos‌ on OS X Yosemite
  2. Select ‌Photos‌ from the menu bar.
  3. Click on Preferences from the available options.
  4. Click the ‌iCloud‌ tab in the pop up window.
  5. Select Optimize Mac Storage.

With ‌iCloud Photo Library‌ turned on across all of your devices, you have access to every picture you've ever taken and stored in ‌iCloud‌, including older photos, pictures you've uploaded to the ‌Photos‌ app from a DSLR camera, and videos you've taken since your baby’s birth.

Top Rated Comments

extricated Avatar
101 months ago
iCloud Photo Library Kills Internet for Some Users

I wanted to warn our forum members of an isolated, but significant, bug that I (and some others) encountered.
When I started the upload process, my Internet died and would not respond until I reset my modem. It only took a couple of times for me to link this problem to my new iCloud/Photo settings.
And, no, it has nothing to do with my upload speed or internet connection.

I found a post in Apple Support Communities (https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6992427) that speaks to this and one of the users offered a workaround (https://mayallit.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/how-to-fix-apple-photos-icloud-photo-library-upload-using-network-link-conditioner/).
Definitely worth visiting if you run into this issue and can't figure out what the heck is going on! It was maddening for me (still is, honestly).

Walt Mossberg ran into the exact same bug, detailed in his Photos review (https://recode.net/2015/04/14/review-photos-apples-replacement-for-iphoto/). Comments about the bug are near the end, under the section on iCloud Photo Library.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dayv Avatar
101 months ago
I wanted to warn our forum members of an isolated, but significant, bug that I (and some others) encountered.
When I started the upload process, my Internet died and would not respond until I reset my modem. It only took a couple of times for me to link this problem to my new iCloud/Photo settings.
And, no, it has nothing to do with my upload speed or internet connection.

I found a post in Apple Support Communities (https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6992427) that speaks to this and one of the users offered a workaround (https://mayallit.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/how-to-fix-apple-photos-icloud-photo-library-upload-using-network-link-conditioner/).
Definitely worth visiting if you run into this issue and can't figure out what the heck is going on! It was maddening for me (still is, honestly).

Walt Mossberg ran into the exact same bug, detailed in his Photos review (https://recode.net/2015/04/14/review-photos-apples-replacement-for-iphoto/). Comments about the bug are near the end, under the section on iCloud Photo Library.

This isn't a bug, it's your provider not allowing you to use the service you're paying for. As the link regarding Network Link Conditioner states, "It appears that some ISPs (mine is Comcast) heavily throttle your connection if your computer is hitting the limit."

That's not a description of a bug, it's a description of an internet service provider ripping you off.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rkRusty Avatar
101 months ago
Can this be achieved if you're using a Family plan (two adults and a child) so all three IDs under the plan consolidate photos to within one paid icloud plan?

No.

You cannot consolidate photos into one plan that is then shared by everybody who joins. You can only share individual photos by either right-clicking an image in Photos for OS X, hovering over 'share', selecting 'iCloud photo sharing' and adding it to your Family, or by selecting 'iCloud photo sharing' under the share button on images in iOS. As yet, there is no other way to allow all members of your Family plan to view your photos.

Ridiculous really. Apple seem unaware of what the term 'family' means.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dancochran Avatar
101 months ago
Can this be achieved if you're using a Family plan (two adults and a child) so all three IDs under the plan consolidate photos to within one paid icloud plan?

This isn't possible given Apple's current implementation of "Family Plans". My wife and I would like to share all our photos in my 200 GB iCloud Photo Library. But since she has her own Apple Id for mail, contacts, calendars, etc, this can't happen. You can "share" photos with any family and friends but you have to select them manually and place them in a "shared" album.

Basically, Apple needs to change things to allow family members with their own Apple Id's to share my iCloud Photo Library seamlessly.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong...
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cameronjpu Avatar
101 months ago
I think what the original poster is saying is that it would be very nice to have the option to say "I would like no more than 4 GB used by the library".
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gorbok Avatar
101 months ago
Can this be achieved if you're using a Family plan (two adults and a child) so all three IDs under the plan consolidate photos to within one paid icloud plan?

That would be the obvious implementation of the Family scheme, and one that many people are calling for. I'd say Apple are considering it, but iCloud has always been so buggy, and they have only just got it working how it should have when it was first released, so combining photo libraries is probably too difficult to implement at this time.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone trade in

Apple Adjusts Trade-In Values for iPhones, Macs, and More

Wednesday January 25, 2023 9:40 am PST by
After announcing new Mac and HomePod models last week, Apple adjusted its trade-in values for select devices in the United States. iPhone trade-in values decreased by up to $80, and most Android smartphones also went down. Mac trade-in values remained unchanged or increased by up to $40 depending on the model, while some Apple Watch models increased in value and others decreased. Trade-in...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Expected Later This Year With These 7 Exclusive Features

Tuesday January 24, 2023 4:53 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least seven exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the seven features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...
Mac mini M2 2023

New 256GB Mac Mini and 512GB MacBook Pro Have Slower SSD Speeds Than Previous Models

Tuesday January 24, 2023 1:11 pm PST by
While the new Mac mini with the M2 chip has a lower $599 starting price, the base model with 256GB of storage has slower SSD read and write speeds compared to the previous-generation model with the M1 chip and 256GB of storage. A teardown of the new Mac mini shared by YouTube channel Brandon Geekabit reveals that the 256GB model is equipped with only a single 256GB storage chip, while the...
apple tv 4k red image

Apple Releases tvOS 16.3

Tuesday January 24, 2023 10:10 am PST by
Apple today released tvOS 16.3, the third major point update to the tvOS 16 operating system that originally came out in September. Available for the Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, tvOS 16.3 comes six weeks after tvOS 16.2, an update that added Apple Music Sing. The tvOS 16.3 update can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the ‌‌‌‌Apple TV‌‌‌‌ by going to System > Software...
watchOS 9 Feature

Apple Releases watchOS 9.3 With New Watch Face, Bug Fixes

Monday January 23, 2023 10:06 am PST by
Apple today released watchOS 9.3, the third major update to the watchOS 9 operating system that first launched in September. watchOS 9.3 comes over a month after watchOS 9.2, an update that added new Workout functionality and Crash Detection optimizations. watchOS 9.3 can be downloaded for free through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone by opening it up and going to General > Software Update. ...
iOS 16

iOS 16.3 for iPhone Launching Next Week With These 4 New Features

Friday January 20, 2023 11:43 am PST by
In a recent press release, Apple confirmed that iOS 16.3 will be released to the public next week. The software update will be available for the iPhone 8 and newer and includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped bigger features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for Apple ID accounts, worldwide ...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New M2 Pro Mac Mini

Tuesday January 24, 2023 1:45 pm PST by
The new M2-series MacBook Pro and Mac mini models launched today, marking the debut of the first M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. We have the M2 Pro Mac mini on hand, and thought we'd take a look at the machine and do a series of benchmarks to see how it fits into Apple's lineup. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Base model Mac mini machines come with either an M2 or M2 Pro...
Ventura Macs Feature Blue

Apple Releases macOS Ventura 13.2

Monday January 23, 2023 10:09 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Ventura 13.2, the second major update to the macOS Ventura operating system initially released in October. macOS Ventura 13.2 comes more than a month after macOS Ventura 13.1, an update that added the Freeform app and other changes. The ‌macOS Ventura‌ 13.2 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System...