iCloud Storage


One of the key concepts to using Apple Photos is understanding and taking advantage of iCloud storage. So what's the problem this solves?

Traditionally, we've all taken pictures whether it was on our camera or our iPhone, but how did we get it to the other devices and how did we make reliable backups of it?

iCloud Photo Storage is designed to solve that problem. So if I take a picture of an onion ring, the picture goes up to the iCloud storage and also gets distributed down to my other devices connected to Apple Photos. It's a great system because it solves both of those problems. It distributes the picture and it makes that backup in the cloud.

Now I've done that with just one photo here. But the problem is my library has 50,000 pictures in it. And they've been taken over many years and I'm constantly adding new ones to it.

And that's what iCloud Photo Storage does for me. It allows me to manage those 50,000 pictures without worrying about losing them.

I've been using iCloud Photo Storage since it premiered something like five years ago. And I'm not aware of losing a single picture.

Now let's take a look at the advantages of iCloud Photo Library. It's available everywhere. When you take a picture, you get it on all your devices. Also, it's less work.

Traditionally, putting these pictures into manually created folders and trying to make sure they got copied to your various devices was a real pain in the neck.

That's not true anymore with iCloud Photos, it just takes care of it for you. It's also easier to share because once you've got them stored in the cloud, it's very easy to send the links to those images and make it easy to give people full size images, and there's a whole section in this field guide on sharing. But most importantly, it gives you a way to have your pictures backed up. If you don't have something like iCloud Photo Storage turned on and you take 1,000 pictures on your phone and then you drop your phone into a lake, you just lost 1,000 pictures. There's no way you're going to get them back.

With iCloud Photo Storage, you just go to the Apple Store, buy a new iPhone, connect it to your Photo Storage, and they all get re-downloaded. This is the most important reason to have iCloud Photo Storage. There's a whole section in this field guide on backup, and I'm going to talk about it more throughout. I think this is probably the single most important thing you need to do when you're taking digital photos is make sure you have them backed up. So you're going to hear about it a lot, but iCloud Photo Storage is the starting point for just about everyone that uses Photos. 

Now, it doesn't come without a price. I wish Apple would just give you free iCloud Photo Storage for all your pictures. Unfortunately, they don't. They've got pricing plans. So it's 50 gigabytes for $1 a month, so that's $12 a year to get 50 gigabytes. Honestly, with most current iPhones, people are going to have libraries that are bigger than 50 gigabytes. They also have a pricing plan at $3 for 200 gigabytes, and one with 2 terabytes for $10. I use the 2 terabyte plan because I use family sharing with my family and we're able to share that 2 terabytes with the entire family, in that way everybody's photo library is backed up. But if you've got 300 gigabyte library, you've got to pay the whole $10. And I still think you should pay it because this is so important to backup your pictures. So this is one thing I'm not really happy about telling you to give more money to Apple but you really should. This is just so important.

And if you're going to use Photos, definitely get iCloud Photo Storage. It's such a big deal for me that I even pester my family and friends about it because everybody who doesn't pay for that extra storage and then they lose their device, you know, when they drop the phone in the lake, they lose pictures and that's just terrible.

Running over in the preferences for Photos on the Mac. There's a specific iCloud tab there. And again, there's a separate video on settings but I just want to point this out while we're talking about iCloud Photo Storage. In order to use iCloud, you need to check that box to get it started.

As I keep saying, this is just super important that you backup those photos. There's a couple options underneath that. The first is to Download the Originals to the Mac. Now I'm shooting this screencast on my iMac that has plenty of storage. And I love the idea of having all those original photos downloaded to my Mac. The advantage to this is, of course, in addition to the copy in the cloud, I've got a copy on my Mac, and all of my Time Machine backups and all my other backup regimen I do on this MAC makes additional copies of my Photos Library.

Now in theory, you could just click the box for Optimize Mac Storage. And what that does is just downloads as many photos as it can to fit within the storage limitations of your device. If you've got a laptop with a limited space, SSD drive, that's probably going to be what you have to check because your whole library may not fit on that device. But if you can avoid it, I really prefer downloading all the originals to the device.

Now in theory, you should be having no problem if you optimize storage. Apple has their cloud backups. I have not heard of anyone, I know I'm going to get emails as soon as I say this on the screencast, but I have not heard of anyone losing photos through iCloud Photo Storage. I personally have not lost any. So you could probably be safe with that. But if at all possible, I would recommend you try and download those originals to the Mac. 

And in fact, I've got an additional video in this section talking about moving your library to an external drive, just to make sure you can get copies of those images. But, you know, you just got to go with what you have space for. Indeed, if you go to your iOS devices like your iPhone and your iPad, that is optimizing for your storage all the time, there is no option for you to download all the photos to your iPad and iPhone. So you're already rolling that way on your iOS devices. But like I said, ideally, you're downloading the originals to your Mac, so you've got that additional backup.

And then the last box here is for shared albums and there's a whole section on sharing, but you need to check this off if you want to be able to create shared albums. To set up iCloud Photo sharing on your iOS devices, just go to your settings and click on your name at the top and the iCloud button.

And from there, you'll see Photos as the first option. It's turned on for me. And you've got the same type of options here, Optimize iPhone Storage, Download and Keep Originals, I can upload to a photo stream, or use shared albums. The iCloud Photos button, the very top one, is the one that allows you to turn them on or off. Now the addition of Download and Keep Originals is relatively new. I said earlier that wasn't even an option on the iPhone and the iPad but I guess it is. However, unless you buy the largest size iPhone and iPad, you're going to be space constrained. And most likely, you are going to need to optimize on this device. 

Now the initial upload, when you first get this thing rolling, is going to take a while. You know, you're uploading very large files to the Apple servers and it needs to kind of grind on all that. It usually takes a day or two to get it done. It's very important you leave your device going.

I also recommend you really don't spend a lot of time in Photos while it's doing that initial upload, just let it get itself sorted out. 

If you have a laptop, make sure to leave your laptop plugged in because if it's unplugged, it's going to try and save power and it's going to delay that upload even longer.

But once the initial upload is done, you're good to go. At that point, I would make a copy of the library. And I've got this covered in the backup section. But I can't help myself, I'm going to keep talking about making those backups.

Complete and Continue