What You've Been Waiting for Since the First iPhone

Andrea is one of those people that if something happened to her iPhone, the only thing she would care about are the photos. She's in the prime of her career in a broadway musical touring all over the world in a leading role. You can imagine the memories she's capturing are some of the sweetest she'll look back on.

Andrea isn't the best at backing up her phone to her computer, though. She's busy with other things that keep her from religiously grabbing her computer and plugging in her phone to sync and back up.

Unfortunately, that made for a mess when things went wrong with her phone and she had a couple nightmare experiences at the Apple Store. I won't go into detail, but we got it all sorted out and she's a happy camper. Especially once we got her set up with iCloud Photo Library.

iCloud Photo Library is the service everyone wanted when the iPhone first came out. And of course with every major update for the past 7 years they heard complaints from us users when they didn't release it. That is, until earlier this year.

What iCloud Photo Library does is keep your photos in perfect sync across all your Apple devices automatically. Not only that, but if you have more photos than would normally fit on that device, they'll shrink the older photos for you so you can still see everything. Don't worry, they keep full resolution copies of everything on iCloud for you so there's no permanent downsizing of your stuff.

This means that you can finally delete a picture from one device, and it deletes it everywhere. When you move a photo or video into an album, the same thing happens on all devices. Finally!

So, now that have this available I expect you're wondering the cost. Of course, they're going to charge you for just about anything they can. The good thing is though, you may not have to upgrade much, if any.


As of December 2nd 2015, the tiered pricing for upgraded iCloud Storage looks like this:

You get 5 GB for free, but that's usually not enough for most of us. The thing is, every new model of iPhone gets better. Better photos and video usually means bigger files. Which means to back up to iCloud, you need more space.

As you can see, I'm on the 50 GB plan. For me, this is perfect. I need more than 5 GB to back up my phone, but I don't have an enormous photo library so I've found my sweet spot. 95% of users won't need more than 200 GB.

I confess I have more than 50 GB of photos, but I'm using an app called Lightroom for the photos I take with my professional camera. It has more editing features than Apple's Photos app and I need to keep my skills up for my clients who use this app and storage system. More on this in a later post.

How is this sounding? Pretty cool, huh? Ready to get started with iCloud Photo Library? Great! First things first...

System Requirements:

  • iOS Devices need to be on iOS 8.3 or later.

  • Macs need to be on 10.10.3 (Yosemite) or later.

  • An Apple ID (This means iTunes, iCloud, App Store... It's all the same.. sort of)

If you want to turn on iCloud Photo Library on all of your devices, follow these steps:

  • In iOS 8.3 or later, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos, then turn on iCloud Photo Library.

  • In OS X 10.10.3 or later, go to System Preferences > iCloud > Options next to Photos, then select iCloud Photo Library.

Things you should know:

  • Your photos and videos only upload on wifi so it doesn't use up all your data. So make sure to connect to wifi whenever you get a chance, especially when traveling and you want to make sure those photos are safe.

  • If you don't want your photos taking up all the space on your phone, turn on Optimize Photo Library in settings when you turn on the service. They'll make sure to downsize older photos automatically.

  • The time to upload all your photos can be shocking. It's not uncommon for it to take a few weeks to upload all your photos if you have a lot on your Mac. If you want to speed up the process, go to System Preferences > Energy Saver > Check the box that says "Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when display is off." If you have a laptop, check that box and when you're finished at night, don't close the computer. Just leave it open.

  • This doesn't mean you shouldn't have a backup of your computer. What if something goes wrong with iCloud? Don't put all your photos in one basket. Use an external hard drive to back up the computer every once in a while. I use this.

Have questions? Leave a comment below, I'll get back to you as soon as I can!

Have a mess of your photos and need some advice or someone to clean things up for you? I'm your man. Give me a shout at shawn@shawnlemon.com or leave a comment below.