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 & Pets will be updated everywhere. This makes it quick and easy to find the moment, family member or friend you're looking for.
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. 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.
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 will be reflected across all of your devices.
Edits appear on all of your devices
When you make edits in the Photos app on your iPhone or iPad or on your Mac, the 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
When you delete photos and videos on one device, they'll be 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 will be 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.
- To download in the highest resolution, click the download button in the top right-hand 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. 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 5 GB 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 you don’t need any more and can delete.
Turn on Optimise Storage
iCloud Photos keeps all of 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 will manage the size of your library automatically 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 or iPad
- 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 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 may 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.