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Understand how the iCloud Photo Library works

per Rui Silva

you often see users running out of storage space on their devices and, therefore, want to send photos to iCloud in order to delete them locally. But if you use the iCloud Photo Library and delete a photo from a device, it will also be deleted from your library as a result, disappear from * all * your devices. So, what's the use of having 1TB or 2TB of space if I can't delete the pictures from my iPhone?

this is where the magic begins: you don't need to delete the photos from your equipment; iOS takes care of all that for you.

ICloud Photo Library settings on an iPhone

When iCloud Photo Library is activated, two options appear: “Optimize on iPhone” and “Transfer and Keep Originals”. The latter, as the name implies, will download everything from iCloud to the iPhone.

When it comes to optimizing on the iPhone, this is one of the most efficient functions of iCloud: if the iPhone has a lot of free space, the photos will be kept in full quality; if the iPhone starts to run out of space, the photos and videos will start to be compressed on the device or even deleted, in extreme cases of lack of space so that you can take more photos and continue using the iPhone naturally.

Like on Facebook, the thousands and thousands of photos are not on our devices, however we managed to see them: the same is true of optimized photos. Does this mean that you send poor quality photos to my friends? At the! Part of the Apple-style magic does not give the user trouble. As soon as you open a photo, it is automatically downloaded if it is not yet in maximum quality so you can upload, edit, crop, annotate everything with the original photo, in maximum quality. As the iCloud Photo Library is a synchronized service, all of these changes are synchronized across all devices.

ICloud library

So, easily, a 16GB iPhone can have 200GB or 2TB of photos available of course, with Wi-Fi or cellular connection since these, especially the oldest and least used ones, are being downloaded as needed. In this way, 256GB iPhones end up not even being necessary, since 200GB of iCloud for two years is cheaper than an extra 128GB of space for physical storage on the device.

Below is a compilation of interesting questions and answers about the iCloud Photo Library:

Is there a limit on photos?Yes, h: the limit of your space on iCloud. 😊

Can any photo or video be uploaded to the iCloud Photo Library?Photos and videos are stored in iCloud in their original format. All photos are kept in the original formats and at full resolution: JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, TIFF and MP4, as well as in the formats you capture with the iPhone, such as slow motion, time-lapse, 4K video and Live Photos. Photos and videos deleted on a device are deleted from all devices using the iCloud Photo Library. If you want to recover a deleted photo, do so by accessing the “Deleted” album within a maximum period of 30 days. If you accidentally deleted a photo and emptied the “Deleted” album, contact Apple support: for a reduced period of time, it may still be possible to recover.

Does the resource use my data plan to send photos / videos to the cloud?As we can see in the screenshot above, sending to iCloud happens only when we are connected to a Wi-Fi network otherwise, with Live Photos and 4K videos, your data plan would be over in a few minutes.

What if I run out of space during the trip but have not yet connected to a Wi-Fi network, will I have my photos compressed and will I have low quality images?As Phil Schiller said in the last keynote, photography, as well as music, is a factor of attention and love and Apple would never do that with your photos. If by chance the device has not yet sent your photos to iCloud due to a lack of internet connection, the photos and videos are kept at full quality on the iPhone until this happens. If you run out of space, those that have already been sent will be optimized; in even more extreme cases, all cache of the deleted iPhone, leaving only a few white squares in place of the photos); Only after that will all happen that you will be alerted about lack of available space and will no longer be able to take pictures or videos.

Are the photos included in the backup?If you don't use the iCloud Photo Library feature, yes. If your photos are already in the iCloud Photo Library (since they are already in iCloud), it would be redundant to back it up in addition to using too much space. So, intelligently and efficiently, Apple does not include them in the backup if they are already being synchronized.

Additionally, if you have an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Mac (obviously, with iCloud Photo Library enabled), they will all share the same library. This means that any photo you take or delete on a device will appear / disappear in all; any album that is created appears in all (it is worth noting that the “People” feature is not synchronized). In this way, as they are the same albums on all devices (and everything is already in iCloud), the backups of the four devices will be much smaller since the photos are no longer part of the backup.

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Below, some final observations:

  • Photos can only be viewed on iCloud if you use the iCloud Photo Library.
  • If you turn the feature off ICloud Settings Photos iCloud Library, remove the photos from the device in question but they will remain in the cloud, available on other devices.
  • To delete the service from iCloud itself you must go to ICloud Settings Storage Manage Storage iCloud Photo Library Delete. From then on, you have 30 days to download your photos from iCloud before they are completely deleted. You will receive an email informing you and another email when there are 5 days until they are summarily deleted.
  • If you want to activate the iCloud Photo Library because you are out of space on your device, you need at least 300MB for uploading and optimization to start. If you are already completely out of space, nothing will happen.
  • Devices using iCloud Photo Library send photos to the My Share feature (Photo Stream), but do not receive.

Your question was not answered in this article? So let's exchange stickers in the comments! 😉