iPad: Sharing Photos in iCloud

From your iPad, you can share your photos with other Apple devices (iPhone, iMac) and your PC. Open Settings, select Photos & Camera, then choose from three Apple options for photo sharing:

  • Use iCloud Photo Library if you want to share photos with your newer iPhone or Mac (iOS 8.3 or higher).
  • Use My Photo Stream if you need to share with an older iPhone or Mac.
  • Use iCloud Photo Sharing if you want to share albums privately with friends and family members.

You can choose one option or any combination of all three options.

Compare services

The following table describes some of the differences among these options:

More details

iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream complete a similar task of sharing photos among multiple Apple devices. My Photo Stream is the older service that Apple did not discontinue when the iCloud Photo Library was introduced. If you are using some older iOS devices, you may need to use My Photo Stream to share photos. You can enable both services at the same time.

Note: These services are not storage services – they are designed for sharing, not for storing files. The photos are synced across devices. For example, if you delete a photo from Photos on your iPad, it will also be deleted from the iCloud Photo Library.

Because I find the way these services work and overlap confusing, the following summaries reflect my current – and possibly flawed – understanding

iCloud Photo Library

  • Store unlimited photos and videos in iCloud, but only the first 5GB are free.
  • Store the original photo in iCloud, but optimized copies on other devices.
  • Your photos are synced and downloaded to all the devices that use iCloud Photo Library. Any edits are also synced.
  • If you turn off iCloud Photo Library, all the photos and albums on your device will still be stored in iCloud, but no new files will be uploaded.
  • If you disable and delete the iCloud Photo Library, all the photos and albums on your device and in iCloud are deleted.

My Photo Stream

  • Store 30 days or 1000 photos, whichever is greater. When you reach one of those limits, older photos will be deleted.
  • Store optimized copies in iCloud and on other devices.
  • Your original photos are shared among devices, but edits are not.
  • If you turn off My Photo Stream, photos you have already synced with other devices are not deleted.

iCloud Photo Sharing

  • Store up to 5000 photos and videos in albums to share with friends.
  • You specify who can see your albums.
  • Store optimized copies in iCloud and on other devices.
  • If you turn off iCloud Photo Sharing, shared albums will disappear on your iPad, but will still be stored in iCloud. If you turn iCloud Photo Sharing back on, you can access them.


Download a cheatsheet:

Share Photos in iCloud (PDF)