How to Set Up iCloud Photo Library


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Apple has released OS X 10.10.3 Yosemite and iOS 8.3 to the public. Each update brings some pretty big new features for the Mac and iPhone and iPad, respectively, but the two updates do sport one big shared feature: iCloud Photo Library. 

Apple has already released the beta of iOS 8.4 as well, although that update isn’t expected to hit gold standard for a good while yet. As we move through 2015 towards WWDC, Apple has officially confirmed that this year, ahead of the launch of iOS 9, will see the company renew its focus on stability and coherence, after a couple of years of hardcore innovation and upheavals within its mobile platform. 

Beats Audio combined with iTunes, AKA Apple’s Spotify rival is tipped to show up this year, as is the company’s new VOD service which will apparently feature access to 25 US cable channels for around $25-$25 a month. You can see what Apple has in store for iOS for the remainder of the year in our iOS 8 to iOS 9 piece

But before we get into that lets first take a look at what iCloud Photo Library is and how you set it up. 

But just what is iCloud Photo Library and how do you set it up? Read on.

iCloud Photo Library: What Exactly Is It? 

iCloud Photo Library stores every image and video from your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Macs in one central location: the cloud. That’s right: every picture and video you take lives online with iCloud Photo Library. The big idea behind this is if your photo library lives online you can access it from any device at any time, be it a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

But not only does iCloud Photo Library keep your photos and videos stored on a big hard drive in the sky, it also syncs all your edits you make across devices. So, if you take a photo on your iPhone it will automatically be uploaded to your iCloud Photo Library, which then makes that photo available on all your devices, including your Mac. Now if you make an edit to that photo on your Mac, that edit is synced across iCloud Photo Library so that picture now appears with that same edit on all your devices. Edits are synced the other way too: make an edit on an iOS device and that edit appears on your Mac.

Further, iCloud Photo Library stores all your pictures and videos in their original high-resolution format (including RAW). You can then choose to keep local copies of recent or favorite pictures in the original format or in a more compressed format on all your devices. The ability to keep device-optimized lower quality pics (like a JPEG version of an image on your iPhone instead of a RAW) means iCloud Photo Library allows you to save room on the smaller hard drives found in iPhones and iPads.

What Apple Devices Do I Need To Use iCloud Photo Library?

You need an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 8.3 or later and a Mac running OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 or later. If you only have a PC, you can also interact with your iCloud Photo Library via a web browser by going to the iCloud.com Photos app.

Does iCloud Photo Library Cost Money?

Yep. Well, mostly “yep”. Every iCloud user gets 5GB of free iCloud storage, which you can also use for iCloud Photo Library. Unfortunately if you have years worth of photos, your iCloud Photo Library is going to be much, much larger. If you want to upload it all to iCloud Photo Library (and it is an all or nothing proposition) you need to shell out money for extra iCloud storage space.  Right now that extra storage costs £0.79 a month for 20GBs, £2.99 a month for 200GBs, £6.99 a month for 500GBs, and £14.99 a month for 1TB. If you go over your storage limit iCloud Photo Library will stop uploading and syncing photos and edits between devices until you pay for more storage space.

How To Set Up iCloud Photo Library On iPhone, iPod touch, iPad:

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  1. First make sure you are running iOS 8.3. Go to Settings>General>Software Update to get the latest iOS.

  2. If you’ve got the current version of iOS, go to Settings>iCloud>Photos.

  3. Toggle the iCloud Photo Library switch to ON (green).

  4. If you’ve been syncing photos through iTunes, you’ll get a warning saying those photos will be removed. Click Remove Photos.

  5. Tap ‘Optimize iPhone/iPad/iPod Storage’ to keep the full-resolution photos and videos only in your iCloud Photo Library. You iOS device will download device-optimized versions of those photos to save storage space.

  6. Alternately, tap ‘Download and Keep Originals’ to store all the full-resolution, original file format photos on your iOS device. This could potentially eat up all the storage on your device, however.

Setting up iCloud Photo Library on a Mac:

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  1. First make sure you are running OS X Yosemite version 10.10.3. From the Apple menu in the Finder choose About This Mac. In the screen that appears if your OS X is anything less than 10.10.3 click the Software Update button on the same screen to update Yosemite to the latest version. OS X 10.10.3 and above includes the new Photos app, which you need to use iCloud Photo Library.

  2. If you’ve got the current version of OS X, open the Photos app. You can find it by activating Launchpad in your Dock or navigating to the Applications folder on your Mac.

  3. From the menu bar in Photos, select Photos>Preferences.

  4. Click the iCloud tab in the preferences window.

  5. Check the iCloud Photo Library box. 

  6. Photos calculates the amount of iCloud storage you need based on the size of your Photos library. If you need more than the 5GB basic storage, iCloud suggests a paid plan that will give you enough storage to meet your needs. Click the Next button to proceed with purchasing the additional iCloud storage.

  7. Select whether you want to ‘Download Originals to this Mac’, which gives you access to every single, full-resolution photo and video on your Mac even when it’s not connected to the Internet or ‘Optimize Mac Storage’, which stores the full-resolution photos and videos only in your iCloud Photo Library and downloads the full-res versions to the Mac only if you have enough free hard drive space.

After you’ve set up iCloud Photo Library on your Mac you’ll notice only one visible change with your Photos Library: if you had My Photo Stream enabled before, that album will be gone. My Photo Stream automatically downloaded the last 1000 pictures takes on your iOS devices. Since iCloud Photo Library downloads and syncs all your pictures and video, there’s no need for My Photo Stream anymore.

Besides the removal of My Photo Stream, all your other pictures and albums will look the same. The only thing that has changed is that any photos from your other Macs and iOS devices automatically sync and download to your All Photos album in Photos’ Source List on your current Mac. You can then interact with any of these photos as normal: favorite them, edit them however you want–and all the changes you make to them will be synced across all your iCloud Photo Library-enabled devices.

Once iCloud Photo Library is set up on all your Macs and iOS devices you’ll be able to access any photo or edit on any device as any time.

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