How to Turn On iCloud Photo Library and Share with Family

Setting up iCloud Photo Library is a simple process.

It’s a great way to store your photos without saving them to your device or to an external hard drive.

Photo files are large and take up a lot of space.

If you take any amount of photos, it doesn’t take long to run out of local storage. So free up space by uploading your pics to iCloud Photo Library instead.

 Do Really I Need a Paid iCloud Account?

The answer to this question is: “it depends.”

iCloud gives you 5 GB of free storage, which doesn’t go far if you have very many photos to store.

If you think you’ll exceed this amount of storage, create a paid account. Don’t skimp here, since other file types (such as documents) are automatically stored to your iCloud account as well.

Paid iCloud storage plans rates vary from country-to-country. You can check out plans here.

Note: If you go with a 200 GB or 2 TB plan, you can share your storage with family members. ( More details to come later in this post.)

How to Turn on iCloud Photo Library

There are a few critical steps to take before you start to save photos from iCloud.

Although these steps might seem a bit time consuming, going through them will sync your photos across all of your devices.

And if you happen to do any edits to your photos, they’ll appear across all of your devices registered to your iCloud plan.

  • Make sure that all devices you’d like to upload photos from are running the most recent version of iOS
  • Next, set up iCloud on all of your devices if you haven’t done so already. (For instructions on how to do this, click here.)
  • Sign into iCloud using the same Apple ID on all the devices which you’d like to upload photos from
  • Connect to WiFi and make sure the device you’ll enable iCloud Photo Library from is plugged in (you don’t want to run out of battery life midway through the process!)
  • Finally, turn on the iCloud Photo Library.
  • If you’re on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, to turn on iCloud Photo Library go to your device’s settings. Click on your name, then  > iCloud > Photos. That’s it!
  • Note: it can take some time, even up to a couple of days, before all of your photos from all of your devices will upload to iCloud.

From Now On, Your Photos Automatically Upload to iCloud

Setting up iCloud Photos and waiting for them to migrate from your device storage to iCloud can be a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it.

Now all of your photos will be available on every device where you’ve signed into iCloud, from any location in the world.

And just because you don’t have an iPhone doesn’t mean that you can’t use iCloud Photo Library.

 Can I Use iCloud Photo Library with a PC?

The answer is “Yes!” First, you will need to create an Apple ID. Click here to register for an Apple ID.

Next, you’ll need to download iCloud for Windows. Depending on your storage needs, you may need a paid account.

After you’ve downloaded and opened iCloud, go to Photos and click Options. Select iCloud Photo Library, then click Done and Apply.

From now on, your photos will automatically upload to iCloud.

Now that you’ve enabled iCloud Photo Library, here’s how to optimize to save some storage space.

Optimize Your iCloud Photo Library

The great thing about your Apple Photo Library is that it stores photos from all of your registered devices.

So any photo you’ve uploaded to iCloud will always be available on any of your iCloud registered devices, regardless of whether you’re using your Apple computer, iPhone, iPod or iPad.

If you want to free up more storage space,  use the Photos app to delete any old photos and videos that you no longer need. But removing unneeded images is only one way to save on your iCloud storage space.

You can save additional space by turning on “Optimize Device Storage” within your device settings.

With Optimize Storage turned on, Photos replaces original photos and videos with thumbnails. Any time you click on a thumbnail,  your original, full-resolution photos and videos are available in iCloud, ready to be downloaded at any time.

Accidentally Delete a Photo? No Worries!

Don’t sweat it if you accidentally delete a photo you wanted to keep. All Deleted photos are saved in a Recently Deleted album for 30 days.

Make sure to remove any content you’d like to save from the Recently Deleted album before the 30 days are up. iCloud permanently removes Recently Deleted content if you exceed your storage limits.

Your photo could be gone for good in that case, so be sure to remove accidentally deleted pictures from this album ASAP.

Speaking of saving space, you may want to check out yet another option to keep your photos  – Google Photos.

Bonus Content:  Google Photos

Google Photos is another excellent option to store treasured photos.

Get started by downloading the  Google Photos app from the Apple App Store or from Google Play. There is also a desktop version of Google Photos available.

Google is much more generous with their storage plans than Apple is. While Apple gives you 5 GB of free storage, Google provides 15 GB free.

And if you’re willing to limit your photo resolution to 16 megapixels and video resolution to 1080p (more than adequate for most smartphone photos) Google Photos provides free unlimited storage space.

However, if you need to store your photos in higher resolution than 16 megapixels, they count against your Google Drive storage limits.

As a bonus, Google Photos automatically detects where your photos are taken and arranged into albums –  without any additional effort on your part. It’s a handy feature to help you stay organized when you have a ton of travel and event photos.

Now Your Photos Are Organized and Safe

iCloud Photo Library or Google Photos? The choice is yours.

By utilizing one of these services is you won’t have to live in terror of what will happen to your photos if you lose your phone. And you’ll avoid running out of device storage just as you go to take a once-in-a-lifetime shot!

You Can Family Share iCloud Storage Too!

We’ve written another post which explains how you can take advantage and share iCloud storage with family. Now, all of your family members can save photos to iCloud and never run out of space on their devices.

Discover how to share iCloud storage with family here.

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Norma Rickman

About the Author

Norma Rickman

NormaR is our WeBananas tech blogger. She came to us as a crusty copywriter from the Far North who lives and breathes conversions. In her spare time, she's a diehard Edmonton Oilers fan (sadly), a foodie and a passionate landscape photographer.