Set up and use iCloud Photos

iCloud Photos works with the Photos app to keep your photos and videos securely stored in iCloud and up to date on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple TV, and iCloud.com.

How it 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 stay organized into Moments, Collections, and Years. And all of your Memories and People are updated everywhere. That way you can quickly find the moment, family member, or friend you're looking for.

Your collection uploads to iCloud each time your device connects to Wi-Fi and your battery is charged. When you have iOS 11 or later, your library can update over cellular too. 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.

Before you begin

  1. Update your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to the latest iOS or iPadOS, your Mac to the latest macOS, and your Apple TV to the latest tvOS.
  2. Set up iCloud on all of your devices.
  3. Make sure that you’re signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID on all of your devices that you want to use with iCloud Photos.
  4. If you have a Windows PC, update to Windows 7 or later and download iCloud for Windows.

Turn on iCloud Photos

  • On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Photos, then turn on iCloud Photos.
  • On your Mac, go to System Preferences > 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 > iCloud. Then turn on iCloud Photos.
  • On your Windows PC, follow these steps.

In earlier versions of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and iCloud for Windows, iCloud Photos was called iCloud Photo Library.

See your edits on all of your devices

When you make edits in the Photos app on your iOS or iPadOS device or your Mac, the photo automatically updates across all of your devices. So when you crop or enhance a photo from your iPhone, you see the changes when you access your library from your Mac. If you change your mind and want to revert to the original view, it's no problem. The original photos and videos are stored in iCloud and you can go back to them at any time.

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.

You can make edits on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac, and you’ll see them on your Apple TV automatically. Your entire collection is available on Apple TV, including your Memories and shared albums.

File types that you can use with iCloud Photos

Your photos and videos are stored in iCloud exactly as you took them. All of your images are held in their original formats at full resolution — HEIF, JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, TIFF, HEVC, and MP4 — as well as special formats you capture with your iPhone, like slo-mo, time-lapse, 4K videos, and Live Photos.

Back up 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. You can download your photos and videos from iCloud.com to your computer and store them as a separate library, transfer them to another computer with Image Capture or Photos, or store them on a separate drive.

If you're on a device with iOS 11 or later or macOS High Sierra or later, the photos and videos you take are in HEIF and HEVC format. These formats use less storage, with the same quality.

Download your photos and videos

You can download a copy of your original photos or videos on iCloud.com, iOS, iPadOS, or Mac.

  • On iCloud.com, click Photos, then select the photos and videos that you want to download. Click and hold the download button  in the upper-right 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 orginally in HEIF or HEVC format — choose Most Compatible. Click download.
  • On iOS and iPadOS, you can use AirDrop: in the Photos app, select some photos or videos. Tap the share button , then select the device that you want to share with. Learn more about using AirDrop.
  • On Mac, select one or more photos. Drag the content to your desktop, or right-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.

When you sign up for iCloud, you automatically get 5GB of free storage. If you need more space, you can buy more iCloud storage. Plans start at 50GB for $0.99 (USD) a month. If you choose 200GB or 2TB plans, you can share your storage with familyLearn more about plans and prices in your region.

Save space on your device

iCloud Photos keeps all of your photos and videos in their original, high-resolution version. You can save space on your device when you turn on Optimize Storage.

On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud.
  2. Tap Photos.
  3. Choose Optimize [device] Storage.

On your Mac:

  1. Open the Photos app and click Photos in the menu bar.
  2. Click Preferences.
  3. Go to the iCloud tab and choose a storage setting.

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. You can use Optimize Storage on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.

If you turn on Download Originals, iCloud Photos keeps your original, full-resolution photos and videos in iCloud and on your device.

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, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Photos. You can also open the Photos app, go to the Photos tab, and scroll to the bottom of your screen.
  • On your Mac, open the Photos app. Select Photos 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.

Learn more

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