Commentary: The lack of family photos on iCloud is a glaring problem that dates back to the days of iLife (2023)

iCloud-Photosit's probably one of the most impressive services Apple currently operates. It's built into every iOS, macOS, and tvOS device (and, and Apple has billions and billions of photos and videos to sync across its data centers. As great as iCloud Photos is, it still lacks a proper family sharing feature to help families unify their photo libraries. Another year of iOS announcements has come and gone, but we're no closer to allowing families to properly share their libraries, especially between spouses.

What's Missing in iCloud Photos Family Sharing

Although Apple allows you to createshared albumsIn iCloud Photos, families cannot create a single library for all their family photos, or even allow someone else to copy the photos to their own library. For many people, the iPhone is their primary camera, which is why Apple needs a way to help families unify their photo library.

I receive multiple emails every week from people having issues with iCloud Photoshare in family. Currently, families must use various solutions to "sync" their photo libraries so they can see the entire core library. You have to "mark" someone's iCloud account as "home library" and everyone else has to make sure they get your photos. Even with this core library setup, keeping the libraries up to date is still a very manual process.iOS 12I've added a "smart share" feature, but it really focuses on events and travel (as opposed to everyday photos). If your family is anything like mine, we have _a lot_ more everyday photos to share than "special event" photos.

Keep iCloud photos up to date with families

Now, if you want to share your iCloud photos with a family member, you must use different methods like AirDrop or iMessage to do so. The problem with these methods is that they are manual and you probably forget to keep the core library up to date. Another option (which I use) is that I have my wife's iPhone set to automatically upload her camera roll to Dropbox when it gets Wi-Fi. I take the uploaded photos (which download to my Mac) and combine them into iCloud Photos. This method stores all of our photos in a "master library" that you can iterate through my backup strategy. I should mention that I only import recent photos of our kids and other important stuff. If I took a random photo of something in the store, I would throw it away.

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The problem with this method is that my wife cannot see our photo library on her device (for editing, sharing on Instagram, requesting photos for Christmas cards, etc.). I previously used Google Photos as a secondary upload destination, but now that the free version is gone, I'm not sure I want to pay for additional storage when I reach my 15GB of free storage. Until then, if my wife wants to see our library, she opens the Google Photos app that is shared with her account. This method is a complete hack, but it's the only way to have our libraries in one place and we both have access to them.

My wife is accessing my Google account to see our library, but even though she doesn't want to, Google has solved this problem through a function calledpartner exchange.

You can share photos of specific people or photos from a specific date. Photos are automatically shared when they are saved to your account.

As you can see in the picture below, Google has completely solved this problem with multiple sharing options. Sharing photos of only specific people is done well, as Google's facial recognition software is excellent.

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Commentary: The lack of family photos on iCloud is a glaring problem that dates back to the days of iLife (1)

To be completely honest, as much as I love iCloud Photos for my own use, there are times when I seriously consider giving up completely, canceling my Apple One package, and just using Google Photos for family sharing. In that case, you would probably also search for music on Spotify.

How Apple Could Handle Family iCloud Photo Sharing

I had high hopes that Apple would address this with iOS 15, but that obviously didn't happen. At this point, we can only hope Apple addresses the issue with iOS 16. Switching to Google Photos will be an easy fix for families struggling to merge/keep their libraries up to date. At this point, it becomes my recommendation for families struggling with this issue. Still, it negates the benefits that iCloud Photos brings to someone who uses all Apple devices from an integration and privacy perspective. Apple's lack of support for a true family solution is forcing families to consider options that aren't as privacy-focused as iCloud Photos.

Log into another iCloud Photo account for Family Sharing accounts

A little-known iOS feature is that you can use an App Store account other than your regular iCloud login. I take advantage of this because my main app purchase history is an old Gmail account I had before iCloud was a product. This feature is linked to Family Sharing because I share purchases on this account with the rest of my family. Apple may allow users who want a single library to sign in to an iCloud Photo Library other than their main iCloud account. In my situation, my wife would log into my iCloud account to take pictures. While she could "fill" my library with random photos, she could easily delete it to keep our iCloud family photo library free of photos we don't need. I prefer this solution than having to process them manually on my laptop.

Face scan sharing

Another idea to solve these iCloud Photos Family Sharing issues would be to designate the faces I want in my wife's library. This would mean that facial information would be synced with Family Sharing. The way I envision this working is I could say I want all the photos of these five people (my family) automatically added to my library via iCloud. The flaw with this solution is that I would lose all other photos and also have to wait for your iPhone to do the facial scan (happens when iPhone is on charger and on Wi-Fi).

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Read Access to iCloud Photos for Families

Apple may also give family members "read-only" access to other libraries connected to Family Sharing. This would also allow parents to be aware of what their children are doing. If this was turned on, I could go to my wife's iCloud photo library and copy anything I had taken that I wanted to keep in my library. She could do the same if she wanted something I took to share on Instagram or send to print. Of all the methods I could think of for Apple to allow families to share iCloud photos, this is probably my favorite option. This gives me control over what's in my library and lets me do it from within iOS.

Another way to do this is in case of death. I've been paranoid for a long time that if I die, my wife will lose access to our family photo library. I have a shared note (password protected) on how to access my devices and which friend to call to make sure she has access to everything. If she had read access to my library with the ability to copy photos/videos to her library, we would make sure someone always had access.

To involve

Whatever Apple is doing to address this issue, it should besimply. My current method requires a third party service to do the job. Uploading my wife's photos to Dropbox isn't ideal, but it's better than using AirDrop for me. We also pay for storage. We are now connected to Family Sharing. It's about time Apple addressed the problem of families sharing and syncing photos and videos, which has been an issue since version 1 of iPhoto. Hopefully we will have a solution in 2022 as I get emails every week about the best way for families to share photos via iCloud. People who love Apple products shouldn't have to use Google Photos to easily have a unified family photo library.

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Commentary: The lack of family photos on iCloud is a glaring problem that dates back to the days of iLife (2)

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What happens when you stop using family iCloud storage? ›

What happens when you stop sharing? Your Apple ID is removed from the family group and you won't have access to any services shared by your family, such as an Apple Music family subscription or a shared iCloud storage plan.

Can all family members see my iCloud photos? ›

Everyone's personal files and preferences stay private

When you share iCloud+, family members can't see each others' photos, files, or documents. And when you share other subscriptions like Apple Music, Apple Fitness+, or Apple TV+, each person sees their own preferences and recommendations — not the whole family's.

Why is my iPhone storage full when I have no pictures? ›

This is because the device is syncing with iCloud where the photos you deleted on your iPhone will still be available. This will lead to the “iPhone photo storage full but no photos” problem.

How does iCloud photos work on family plan? ›

When you share an iCloud+ subscription, everyone in the family group uses their own account. That way your photos, documents, and other information stay private, even though you're sharing access to the service.

Should each family member have their own iCloud account? ›

Most of the time, I recommend having at least a separate personal Apple ID for iCloud, iMessage, and FaceTime and (if desired) have everyone share one Apple ID for the iTunes and App Stores.

What happens to my photos if I cancel iCloud storage? ›

We already mentioned that disabling iCloud Photos will remove your access to all images stored on cloud storage except the ones captured on the same device. Therefore, if you want to disable iCloud Photos, make sure that you have created a backup of the images on iCloud that you might need in the future.

How do I share my entire photos library with family? ›

On a Mac, go to System Preferences > iCloud and click Manage Family. Click Add Family Member or click the “+” button at the lower left and then follow the onscreen instructions. On an iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud > Family > Add Family Member. You'll need each family member's email address.

How do I view hidden photos in iCloud? ›

When you click on the Photos app, you should see iCloud Photos and to the right of it an icon for the Sidebar. If you hover with your mouse to the right of the word Library, you will see the option to show or hide the Library. When you choose to show the Library, you will see four views: Photos.

Does deleting photos on phone delete from iCloud? ›

For these reasons, the iCloud's memory is more permanent and preserved better than the memory on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. However, the connectivity between iPhone and iCloud means that if you delete a picture on your iPhone, it's also scrubbed from iCloud.

Why is photos taking so much storage when I have iCloud? ›

Your photos and videos are stored on your device in their original, high-resolution version. This means that they use a lot of space on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

What is eating up my iPhone storage? ›

Open your iPhone's Settings menu, tap General and go to iPhone Storage. You'll see a list of your apps along with how much space each app occupies and the last time you used it. Scroll through the list and try deleting apps that you haven't used in a long time.

How do I merge iCloud and family photos? ›

You can open up the ‌Photos‌ app on the ‌iPhone‌ and scroll down to the "Utilities" section to access the Duplicates album to merge photos in the Shared Library.

How do I move photos from family to iCloud? ›

Make sure that you set up iCloud and sign in to iCloud with the same Apple ID on all of your devices. If you have a PC, you need Windows 7 or later and iCloud for Windows.
On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
  1. Go to Settings > [your name].
  2. Tap iCloud.
  3. Tap Photos, then turn on iCloud Photos.
Oct 26, 2022

Is iCloud Family Sharing worth it? ›

Whether you need to implement some parental controls for your youngster's iPad or you just want an easy way to share app and media purchases with your partner, Family Sharing offers you the tools across your Apple devices. Given it can save you actual money, it's well worth taking the time to set up Family Sharing.

How can I check if someone is using my Apple ID? ›

Use the web to find where you're signed in

From the Devices section of your Apple ID account page, you can find all of the devices that you're currently signed in to with your Apple ID, including Android devices, consoles, and smart TVs: Sign in to,* then select Devices.

How do I know if my iPhone is linked to another device? ›

How do I know if my Iphone is linked to another device?
  1. Tap Settings > [your name], then scroll down.
  2. Tap any device name to view that device's information, such as the device model, serial number, OS version, and whether it's a trusted device that can be used to receive Apple ID verification codes.

How do I separate Family Sharing from iCloud? ›

To do this from your iPhone or iPad: Head to Settings. Tap your name. Tap Family Sharing, then select your name.
Alternatively, you can do this on your Mac.
  1. Go to System Preferences > Family Sharing.
  2. Go to your name on top of the list, then click Details.
  3. Click Stop Family Sharing.
Aug 23, 2021

Will deleting iCloud storage delete everything? ›

Deleting iCloud backup is not as bad as it sounds. Here are the main points you should know about: It will erase the data you previously backed up to iCloud. So, in case you need to set up your iPhone from scratch, you will not be able to recover data from iCloud.

Is it worth paying for iCloud storage? ›

Whether you should upgrade your iCloud+ account depends on your device usage and storage needs. For instance, if you store a lot of data and transfer it between multiple Apple devices, you'll benefit from the services of iCloud+. At the very least, you won't waste time backing up your data manually.

What is the best way to backup family photos? ›

Here's our list of the best ways to store photos to avoid disaster.
  1. Don't Rely on Storing Images on Memory Cards. ...
  2. Store Your Photos on External Hard Drives. ...
  3. Backup Your Photos on the Cloud. ...
  4. Save Your Photos as Email Attachments. ...
  5. Go Old School and Burn Your Photos to CD. ...
  6. Print Your Favorite Photos and Put Them on Display.

How do I keep up with family photos? ›

How to Preserve Your Old Family Photos
  1. Handle the photos carefully. ...
  2. Identify the people in the photos. ...
  3. Place the pictures in archival storage containers. ...
  4. Store the boxes or albums in a cool, dark, and dry place. ...
  5. Make a digital copy of the photos.
Sep 21, 2021

Can other people see your iCloud photos? ›

iCloud Photo Sharing lets you share photos and videos from your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, or Windows computer. You can even share photos with people who don't have iCloud Photo Sharing set up on their device. Unlike Instagram or Facebook, shared iCloud albums only let people you've invited see photos.

Do photos automatically upload to iCloud? ›

iCloud can keep your photos in sync across all your devices, for example – iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC. You can set up your devices to automatically place a copy of all photos in iCloud, and you can manually upload photos from your Mac or Windows PC to iCloud as well.

How to turn off iCloud photos without deleting everything iPhone? ›

How to turn off iCloud Photo Library without deleting photos on your iPhone
  1. Within the Settings app, tap your name.
  2. Tap iCloud.
  3. Tap Photos.
  4. Toggle iCloud Photos to the Off position.
  5. Tap Download Photos & Videos.
Oct 29, 2020

How long do photos stay in iCloud? ›

When you delete a photo or video from Photos on, it's also deleted from all your devices that have iCloud Photos turned on. If you change your mind, you have 30 days to recover it before it's permanently deleted.

What happens if I turn off and delete iCloud photos? ›

Your device will immediately remove any photos and videos that you delete and they won't be available for recovery in your Recently Deleted album. If you're out of storage, your devices won't back up to iCloud, and new photos, videos, documents, and your information won't stay up to date.

Where do permanently deleted photos go? ›

If you delete a photo or video that's backed up in Google Photos, it will stay in your trash for 60 days. If you delete an item from your Android 11 and up device without it being backed up, it will stay in your trash for 30 days.

What happens when your iCloud storage is almost full? ›

If your iCloud storage is full, you can prohibit apps from creating backups via the “Manage storage” option. Photos, videos and email attachments also tend to take up a lot of space.

What is the best way to save photos from iPhone? ›

iCloud Photos always uploads and stores your original, full-resolution photos. You can keep full-resolution originals on each of your devices, or save space with device-optimized versions instead. Either way, you can download your originals whenever you need them.

What should I delete to get more storage on my iPhone? ›

  1. You can free up space on an iPhone by deleting apps, photos, and videos.
  2. To free more space on your iPhone, clear Safari's cache and delete old messages.
  3. To see how much storage space is left, head to Settings > General > iPhone Storage.
Jul 21, 2022

How do I clear my phone storage without deleting anything? ›

Top 7 Ways to Free Up Space on Android Without Deleting Apps
  1. Find and Remove Large Media Files. ...
  2. Delete Downloads From Streaming Apps. ...
  3. Clear Cache for Frequently Used Apps. ...
  4. Try Lite Apps. ...
  5. Use Cloud Storage. ...
  6. Free up Storage From Google Photos. ...
  7. Check Storage Manager. ...
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Aug 10, 2022

How do I clean out my iCloud account? ›

Delete files and folders from the iCloud website
  1. Open in a browser.
  2. Log in with your Apple ID.
  3. Click "iCloud Drive."
  4. To delete a folder, select it and then click the Delete icon.
  5. To delete files, double-click a folder.
  6. Hold down CTRL while clicking each file.
  7. Select the Delete icon.
Sep 18, 2020

Does iCloud photos automatically share with family? ›

For example, when Family Sharing is set up, a Family album in iCloud is automatically created but this requires family members to manually add photos and videos to it, and it's limited to 5,000 items. "When you set up your family, a shared album is created automatically in the Photos app on all family members' devices.

Which is better iCloud or Google Photos? ›

Unlike iCloud, Google Photos allows users to edit directly from the cloud, and the features are more advanced. In all, Google Photos is better compared to iCloud in terms of editing photos, as it offers more advanced editing features.

What is the downside to Family Sharing? ›

Because family-sharing accounts allow for so much heightened access across your family's devices, it also poses some safety concerns. Namely, if a person's device gets hacked, it means that the whole family is then at risk. That could mean the compromising of sensitive information and passwords.

What happens if I stop using family storage on iCloud? ›

What happens when you stop sharing? Your Apple ID is removed from the family group and you won't have access to any services shared by your family, such as an Apple Music family subscription or a shared iCloud storage plan.

What is the disadvantage of Apple Family Sharing? ›

Here's a potential downside: with location sharing enabled, every family member has the power to wipe every other device, iOS and Mac, that's part of the family group. Apple recognized that not all families are happy families, and that hardware might fall into the wrong hands.

What happens if I leave family storage? ›

What Happens When You Stop Family Sharing. Before you cut off yourself or anybody else from your family group, know that doing so will cut off that member's access to shared Apple services and subscriptions. This includes iCloud storage plans, apps, subscriptions, and DRM-protected content.

What happens when I stop Family Sharing? ›

What happens when you stop sharing. Google One family plan members will: Stop using your available storage. If they run out of storage, their files will stay safe, but they won't be able to store anything new.

What happens if I don't renew my iCloud storage? ›

What happens when you downgrade or cancel iCloud+ If your iCloud storage exceeds your new storage plan capacity, iCloud won't sync or update your information. iCloud updates again when you increase your storage capacity or delete information to make more space.

What happens when you stop paying for cloud storage? ›

You will no longer be able to synchronize or access your data from your local computer. But, rest assured all the data will remain safe inside the cloud storage. None of the data will be deleted from your cloud storage account and you can still access all your files without any problem.

Does using family storage share photos? ›

Family members share the storage space that comes with your Google One plan. But your family group can't see what you store unless you specifically share it with them from Google Drive, Gmail, or Google Photos.

How do I stop Family Sharing photos? ›

You'll still see photos that other people added, unless you remove them.
To stop people from adding photos:
  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Photos app. .
  2. At the bottom, tap Sharing .
  3. Open an album.
  4. In the top right, tap More. Options.
  5. Turn off Collaborate.

When you remove someone from Family Sharing does it notify them? ›

The removed person immediately looses access to shared purchases (though they will remain on any devices until deleted), the Family Photo Stream, Family calendar, and everything else Family Sharing entails. The removed family member receives a notification of the removal.

What age does Family Sharing stop? ›

NOTE: To use Screen Time with Family Sharing, you need to be the family organizer or parent/guardian in your family group, on at least iOS 12 or iOS 13. Your child must be under age 18, in your family group with their own Apple ID, and on at least iOS 12 or iOS 13.

At what age does Family Sharing turn off? ›

Children under 13 years old must be part of a family group managed by a parent or guardian.

Will iCloud delete my photos? ›

When you delete a photo or video from Photos on, it's also deleted from all your devices that have iCloud Photos turned on. If you change your mind, you have 30 days to recover it before it's permanently deleted.

Does iCloud delete photos when you delete them off your phone? ›

For these reasons, the iCloud's memory is more permanent and preserved better than the memory on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. However, the connectivity between iPhone and iCloud means that if you delete a picture on your iPhone, it's also scrubbed from iCloud.

Why should I not use cloud storage? ›

Cloud based storage is dependent on having an internet connection. If you are on a slow network you may have issues accessing your storage. In the event you find yourself somewhere without internet, you won't be able to access your files. There are additional costs for uploading and downloading files from the cloud.

How much does iCloud cost per month? ›

How much does iCloud storage cost? Apple offers four storage options: 5GB (free); 50GB (99 cents/month); 200GB ($2.99/month); and 2TB ($9.99/month). If you use other services, such as Apple Music or Apple TV+, then you may find it makes sense to subscribe to the Apple One service, which may save a few bucks.

How do I get rid of iCloud storage without paying? ›

You can free up storage in iCloud by deleting content that you're not using:
  1. Reduce the size of your iCloud Backup.
  2. Delete photos in iCloud Photos.
  3. Delete folders or files in iCloud Drive.
  4. Delete texts and attachments in Messages.
  5. Delete messages and manage Mail.
  6. Delete voice memos.
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