How iCloud Photos works
iCloud Photos keeps every photo and video you take in iCloud automatically, so you can access your library from any device, whenever you like. Any changes you make to your collection on one device will be reflected on your other devices too. Your photos and videos are organised into Years, Months, Days and All Photos. And all of your Memories and People are updated everywhere. This makes it quick and easy to find the moment, family member or friend you're looking for.
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 may vary.
Turn on iCloud Photos
Make sure you set up and sign in to iCloud using the same Apple ID on all of your devices. If you have a PC, you need Windows 7 or later and iCloud for Windows.
On your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch
- Go to Settings > [your name].
- Tap iCloud.
- Tap Photos, then turn on iCloud Photos.
On your Mac
- Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
- Click Apple ID.
- Click iCloud in the sidebar, then select Photos.
If you have an earlier version of macOS, go to System Preferences > iCloud. Click Options next to Photos, then select iCloud Photos.
On Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD
- Go to Settings > Users and Accounts.
- Select iCloud.
- Turn on iCloud Photos.
On your Windows PC
Find out how to set up and use iCloud Photos on your PC.
What happens when you edit or delete photos?
Your photos and videos are stored in iCloud in their original format at full resolution. Formats include HEIF, JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, TIFF, HEVC and MP4, as well as special formats you capture with your iPhone or iPad, such as slo-mo, time-lapse, 4K videos and Live Photos. The photos and videos you capture with these devices are stored in HEIF and HEVC format. When you edit or delete photos or videos, the changes you make will be reflected across all of your devices.
Edits appear on all of your devices
When you edit a photo in the Photos app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, or on your Mac, the amended photo will be updated automatically across all of 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 that you made.
Photos will be deleted from all of your devices
The photos and videos that you delete on one device are deleted everywhere that you use iCloud Photos. Photos and videos stay in the Recently Deleted folder for 30 days before they're deleted permanently.
Download copies of your photos and videos
When you turn on iCloud Photos, your photos and videos are uploaded to iCloud automatically. 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 you want to download.
- Click and hold the download button in the top right-hand corner of the window. If you want to download your content as it was originally captured or imported, choose Unmodified Original. For JPEG or H.264 format – including edits and even if it was originally in HEIF or HEVC format – choose Most Compatible.
- Click download.
Download photos and videos from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch
- Open the Photos app, then select one or more photos or videos.
- Tap the share button .
- Tap AirDrop, then select the device you want to share with. Learn more about using AirDrop.
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. As long as you have enough space in iCloud and on your device, you can store as many photos and videos as you like. Find out more about iCloud storage and device storage.
If you need more iCloud storage
When you sign up for iCloud, you automatically get 5 GB of free storage. If you need more space, you can buy more iCloud storage. Plans start at 50 GB for £0.79 (GBP) a month. If you choose 200 GB or 2 TB plans, you can share your storage with family. Find out how to buy more iCloud storage.
If you need more device 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 Optimise Storage.
If you turn on Optimise 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 only optimised 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 mobile data 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, iPad or iPod touch
- Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud.
- Tap Photos.
- Choose Optimise [device] Storage.
On your Mac
- Open the Photos app and click Photos in the menu bar.
- 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 may take more time than usual. You can see the status and pause the upload for one day.
- On your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, 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.
- Rediscover favourite and forgotten occasions from your photo library with Memories.
- Get help with iCloud Photos.
- Find out what to do if you're missing photos in the Photos app.
- Find out more about deleting photos on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.