iCloud Photo Library gives you access to all of your photos and video, on all your devices, all of the time. It's an optional part of Apple's iCloud service that you can enable at any time, and uses your iCloud storage to upload all new images and video from the Photos apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Shoot a video on your iPhone, take a picture with your iPad, import an image from your DSLR to Photos for Mac — if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled, all of these will upload to your iCloud repository, where they can be accessed (in full resolution!) at any time.

iCloud Photo Library can be many things: backup for your photos, sync service, storage optimizer, photography sharing site, and more. It helps you make micromanaging your pictures and videos a thing of the past. Here's how!

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What is iCloud Photo Library?

iCloud Photo Library is an optional feature of Apple's iCloud service that can automatically back up and sync any images and video you take to iCloud. It works with Photos for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and also provides sync services for devices like Apple TV. When you enable iCloud Photo Library, it uses your iCloud storage space to upload all images and video you've either taken, screenshot, saved, or imported on any of your iOS devices or Macs.

I've had a lot of people over the years ask me whether they should use the service: Is it safe? Is it secure? Is the cost of an iCloud plan worth it? Here's the skinny.

How to set up iCloud Photo Library

iCloud Photo Library will save photos, videos, GIFs, screenshots, and more — and even better, when you enable it, you can use Optimize Storage to send your files immediately to iCloud and keep them from cluttering up your iPhone's local storage space.

Here's how to set up iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, and Apple TV to back up your photos and video, optimize storage on your devices, and share images with your friends and family.

How to use and manage iCloud Photo Library

Once you've subscribed to Apple's iCloud service and have iCloud Photo Library enabled, you'll have access to your entire photo and video library on any device — even if it can't store those images locally. The Photos app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac (and the iCloud Photos app on PC) provides easy viewing for images you've taken or saved to your library on your current device; it also syncs with your iCloud Photo Library, where you can view anything you've saved from any device.

We've got guides on how to look at your iCloud-stored photos alongside your local images, edit and share them, view them while online or offline, keep your private photos private, and how to keep iCloud Photo Library from taking up all your storage space.

How to set up and use iCloud Photo Sharing

Apple's iCloud service includes iCloud Photo Sharing, which lets you share images and video with friends, family, and colleagues on an iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, or Apple TV. While technically considered part of iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Photo Sharing exists outside of the service: You don't have to use iCloud Photo Library to share your images, and shared albums don't count toward your iCloud storage.

Best of all, creating shared albums is simpler than uploading images to Facebook or Instagram, and safer, too: Your images and video stay private between your group, and you can take the album down at any time. If you want to reach a wider range of people, you can even create a public iCloud.com website to host your images for anyone with the link to view them.

How to back up and troubleshoot iCloud Photo Library


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iCloud Photo Library: The Ultimate Guide