How iCloud Photos works
iCloud Photos automatically keeps every photo and video you take in iCloud, so you can access your library from any device, anytime you want. Any changes you make to your collection on one device change on your other devices too. Your photos and videos are organized into Years, Months, Days, and All Photos. And all of your Memories and People & Pets are updated everywhere. That way you can quickly find the moment, family member, or friend you're looking for.
Your photos and videos are stored in iCloud in their original formats at full resolution. This includes HEIF, JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, TIFF, HEVC, and MP4 as well as special formats you capture with your iPhone or iPad, like slo-mo, time-lapse, 4K videos, and Live Photos. The photos and videos you capture with these devices are in HEIF and HEVC format. Depending on your internet speed, the time it takes for you to see your photos and videos on all of your devices and iCloud.com might vary.
Turn on iCloud Photos
Make sure that you set up iCloud and sign in to iCloud with the same Apple ID on all of your devices.
On your iPhone or iPad
- Go to Settings > [your name].
- Tap iCloud.
- Tap Photos, then tap the switch next to Sync this [device].
On your Mac
- Choose Apple menu > System Settings or choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
- Click Apple ID.
- Click iCloud in the sidebar, then select Photos.
- Click the switch next to Sync this Mac.
On Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD
- Go to Settings > Users and Accounts.
- Select iCloud.
- Turn on iCloud Photos.
On your Windows PC
What happens when you edit or delete photos
When you edit or delete photos or videos, the changes are reflected across all of your devices.
Edits show up on all of your devices
When you make edits in the Photos app on your iPhone or iPad or on your Mac, the photo automatically updates across all your devices, including your Apple TV. So when you crop or enhance a photo from your iPhone, you see the changes when you access your library from your Mac. Your original photos and videos are stored in iCloud and you can go back to them at any time, and revert any changes you made.
Photos delete from all of your devices
When you delete photos and videos on one device, they're deleted everywhere that you use iCloud Photos. If you delete something accidentally, you can recover it in the Recently Deleted folder for 30 days. After that, it's deleted permanently.
Download copies of your photos and videos
When you turn on iCloud Photos, your photos and videos automatically upload to iCloud. They're not duplicated in your iCloud backup, so you should keep backup copies of your library. Use the steps below to download copies of your photos and videos to your Mac or PC. Or you can import your library to your Mac or PC.
Download your photos and videos from iCloud.com
- On iCloud.com, click Photos.
- Select the photos and videos that you want to download.
- To download in the highest resolution, click the download button in the upper-right corner of the window. Or click the More button , then click More Download Options.
To download in the format most compatible for your device, JPEG or H.264, select Most Compatible. To download your content as it was originally captured or imported, select Unmodified Original.
- Click download.
Download photos and videos from your iPhone or iPad
Download photos and videos from your Mac
- On your Mac, open the Photos app.
- Select one or more photos or videos.
- Drag the content to your desktop, or Control-click and select Share > AirDrop.
Make sure that you have enough storage
The photos and videos that you keep in iCloud Photos use your iCloud storage and your device storage. And as long as you have enough space in iCloud and on your device, you can store as many photos and videos as you like.
Get more iCloud storage
When you sign up for iCloud, you automatically get 5GB of free storage. If you need more space, and access to premium features, you can upgrade to iCloud+.
Check your iCloud settings for recommendations
In iOS 17 or iPadOS 17 or later, you can go to your iCloud settings to check whether there are photos and videos that you don't need anymore and can delete.
Turn on Optimize Storage
iCloud Photos keeps all your photos and videos in their original, high-resolution version. To save storage space on your device, you can turn on Optimize Storage.
If you turn on Optimize Storage, iCloud Photos automatically manages the size of your library on your device. Your original photos and videos are stored in iCloud and space-saving versions are kept on your device. Your library is optimized only when you need space, starting with the photos and videos you access least. You can download the original photos and videos over Wi-Fi or cellular when you need them.
If you turn on Download Originals, iCloud Photos keeps your original, full-resolution photos and videos in iCloud and on your device.
On your iPhone or iPad
- Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud.
- Tap Photos.
- Choose Optimize [device] Storage.
On your Mac
- Open the Photos app and click Photos in the menu bar.
- Click Settings or click Preferences.
- Go to the iCloud tab and choose a storage setting.
Pause library uploads to iCloud
When you turn on iCloud Photos, the time it takes for your photos and videos to upload to iCloud depends on the size of your collection and your internet speed. If you have a large collection of photos and videos, your upload might take more time than usual. You can see the status and pause the upload for one day.
- On your iPhone or iPad, open the Photos app, go to the Library tab, and tap All Photos. Then scroll to the bottom of your screen.
- On your Mac, open the Photos app. Select Library in the sidebar, then click All Photos in the list of tabs in the toolbar. Scroll to the bottom of your photos and click Pause.