How to set up iCloud Photo Sharing on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC

Icloud Photos Iphone
Icloud Photos Iphone (Image credit: iMore)

Apple's iCloud service includes iCloud Photos, a free service Apple offers for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC. It lets you create shared albums that your friends, family, and co-workers can access, comment upon, and even add their own images and video. By default, iCloud Photos uses iCloud accounts, but you can also create a private iCloud.com website for non-iCloud users to view photos and video.

Why use a shared album instead of a service like Instagram or Facebook? iCloud's albums allow for greater privacy than both services — iCloud Photos is encrypted, and your activities are only shared with the people you've invited to the group instead of the general public.

How to enable iCloud Photo Sharing

When you enable iCloud Photo Sharing, you can create and share albums with other people that also have an iCloud account. You can also be invited to share someone else's album after you've enabled it.

How to enable iCloud Photo Sharing on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Scroll down and tap Photos.
  3. Toggle the Shared Albums switch on.

Enable Shared Albums in iCloud on iOS by showing steps Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, scroll down and tap Photos, toggle the Shared Albums switch on. (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable iCloud Photos on your Mac

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Select Photos from the app menu in the upper left corner.
  3. Select Preferences from the drop-down menu.
  4. Select the iCloud tab.
  5. Tick the box for iCloud Photos.
  6. Tick the box for Shared Albums.

Enable iCloud Photos on Mac by showing steps Launch the Photos app on your Mac, Select Photos from the app menu in the upper left corner, Select Preferences from the drop down menu, Select the iCloud (Image credit: iMore)

How to enable iCloud Photos on your PC

  1. On your PC, open the Start Menu and navigate to the iCloud folder.
  2. Open the iCloud application.
  3. In the box that pops up, click on the Options button next to Photos.

Icloud Photo Library Windows Setup Screens

Icloud Photo Library Windows Setup Screens (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Check the box labeled iCloud Photos to enable this option.

Icloud Photo Library Windows Setup Screens

Icloud Photo Library Windows Setup Screens (Image credit: iMore)

How to disable iCloud Photos

Want to turn off iCloud's photo-sharing features? You need only switch off the option in settings.

How to disable iCloud Photos on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Scroll down and tap Photos.
  3. Toggle the Shared Albums switch off.

Enable iCloud Photo Sharing by showing Launching the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, Scroll down and tap Photos, Toggle the Shared Albums switch off. (Image credit: iMore)

How to disable iCloud Photos on your Mac

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Select Photos from the app menu in the upper left corner.
  3. Select Preferences from the drop-down menu.
  4. Select the iCloud tab.
  5. Untick the box for Shared Albums.

Disable iCloud Photos on Mac by showing steps Launch the Photos app on your Mac, Select Photos from the app menu in the upper left corner, Select Preferences from the drop down menu. (Image credit: iMore)

How to disable iCloud Photos on your PC

  1. On your PC, open the Start Menu and navigate to the iCloud folder.
  2. Open the iCloud application.
  3. In the box that pops up, click on the Options button next to Photos.
  4. Uncheck the box labeled iCloud Photos.

Icloud Photo Library Windows Setup Screens

Icloud Photo Library Windows Setup Screens (Image credit: iMore)

Navigating iCloud Photos

There are a lot of ways you can organize, view, and interact with shared albums in iCloud Photos. You can view and create shared photo albums, but you can also interact with them in a social media-like way by liking, commenting, and adding subscribers as well.

Now you're all set!

iCloud Photos is easy to use once you have it enabled on your iPhone, iPad, or computer. Keep in mind it can take a while for the photos on your devices to sync to the cloud, so don't be alarmed if some content doesn't show up right away. Once everything is synced up, your library will look the same across all devices.

Updated May 2022 Updated to reflect the latest on iCloud Photos.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

5 Comments
  • People new to Photo Sharing should know you can't delete photos other people upload to share. You would have to ask that person to delete it. And that can be touchy. Who wouldn't like a photo of Aunt Gertie eating oatmeal? LOL
  • Makes sense, it would be a nightmare having other people delete your photos
  • What I don’t like is that you can’t share your existing albums. You have to create a duplicated album and maintain both.
  • It is a bit annoying xToddrick but it makes sense. You can edit your "real" photos, rearrange them, name them, tag them, all without breaking what you shared with others. The shared ones are a lower resolution too by the way.
  • I like the emphasis Lory puts on the privacy of your photos. Once in a while though, you might want to share an album more widely. You can do that within a shared album. On the Mac, click on the little people icon where you share to humans and you'll see a checkbox that says Public Website. If you check that box, you get a unique URL that you can share to anyone you want. I used it recently in a review of a new $16 lens attachment for mobile devices to show off how cool the macro lens photos were:  https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0KGWUKfSGWmUni