Understanding Photos in an Apple environment

It’s important to understand how pictures are stored and shared between your devices. Read on to learn more about photos in an Apple environment. This will include Macintosh computers, iPhones and iPads.

Each separate

  • If no iCloud settings are turned on, each device will have pictures that are only on that device.
  • Anything that is deleted will only be deleted on that single device.

Sync on demand

  • One way to move pictures from one device to another is to email them to yourself, or to use AirDrop. This method will not result in a shared photo library, each library will be unique to the device.
  • One way to maintain a single unified photo library, is to periodically plug the iPhone or iPad into the computer and download the pictures into the photo library on the computer.
  • When you do this you should delete the pictures on the mobile device.
  • You can then sync your iphone or ipad with your computer using itunes and choose which pictures you want copied onto the mobile devices eg the last few months, or certain albums.

iCloud Photos

Another way to maintain a single unified photo library, is to use “the cloud” to sync your devices. Using Apple’s iCloud, there are two ways to do this.

  • iCloud can be used to store all of your photos in a single unified library.
  • To do this, turn on iCloud Photo Library for each of your devices.
  • The pictures on those devices will be stored together in the cloud and shared on each device automatically.
  • The camera roll goes away. The pictures are immediately uploaded into the iCloud Photo Library.
  • If a picture is deleted on one device, it will be deleted on all devices.
  • This method also saves space on your devices, because the real picture is stored in the iCloud, not on the device. When you click on a picture it downloads a full size copy to your device.
  • Apple also has a setting called My Photo Stream. If turned on, then any pictures you take on that device will be shared temporarily onto all other devices that have My PhotoStream turned on and are logged into the same Apple ID.
  • My Photo Stream is treated as an album within Photos, and will contain any photos taken on any other connected device within the last 30 days.
  • If you want to keep those photos on another device, you need to save them to an album on the second device.  
  • If you delete a photo in My Photo Stream, it will delete from My Photo Stream on all devices, but the original device’s copy will not be deleted.

For Apple’s description of understanding photos in an Apple environment, read this guide.

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