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iCloud Shared Photo Library vs. Shared albums in Photos

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Shared albums and iCloud The shared photo library has restrictions and can be confusing, but both work well in certain scenarios. Here’s what Apple did right with the new iCloud Shared Photo Library, what they got wrong, and how to use it.

Introduced with iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1, iCloud Shared Photo Library offers users another way to share photos and videos with a selected group, such as your family or a circle of friends. We’ll explore the features and potential shortcomings of this new option, and compare it to the Shared Albums option.

In short, iCloud Shared Photo Library is hosted by a given iCloud Photos user and creates a separate library where images and videos can be stored by that host and invited guests. Those not running the latest versions of Apple’s operating system – or those on other platforms – can only see the resultsrather than participate.

iCloud Shared Photo Library vs. Shared albums in Photos

Apple has clearly designed iCloud Shared Photo Library to be almost exclusive to Apple users on very recent equipment, with all active participants required to have an Apple ID, up-to-date software, iCloud Photos enabled, and of the use of photos.

If a guest is on an older Apple device that can’t be upgraded — or on a non-Apple device — they’ll only be able to see the shared library. Even then, they’ll need iCloud for Windows and/or an Apple ID to sign in to iCloud.com, where they can finally see the shared library.

iCloud Shared Photo Library is very limited compared to Apple’s other photo sharing option, Shared Albums. For starters, Shared Albums can have up to 100 guests, against a total of six Shared Library participants, and up to 200 Shared Albums against a Shared Library at a time.

You create a shared album by first enabling Shared Photos in iOS or iPad OS settings in the Pictures control panel or on a Mac by activating it in the preferences of Photos. Once done, simply create a new shared album in Photos, drag photos or videos into it, and then share it with anyone in your contacts or who has a iMessage phone number email address.

On the other hand, an iCloud shared photo library gives your other five participants full control over editing, adding, or deleting photos in that library. Photos deleted in a shared library, like photos in general, go into a Recently Deleted folder – and only the shared library host has the authority to empty that folder.

Shared albums can contain a maximum of 5,000 items, but guests can only add photos — they can’t edit or delete items. Shared libraries, on the other hand, can have an unlimited number of items – limited only by the amount of space available in the host’s iCloud storage.

With a shared iCloud Photo Library, the host’s contribution and photos and videos contributed by others count against the host’s iCloud storage space limits. With shared albums, only the host’s photos and videos count towards this limitation.

If a shared album is no longer shared or deleted by the creator, guests no longer have access to it. They don’t lose their own photos that they added to the shared album.

When a shared library is deleted, any attendee (including the host) who has been involved for more than a week automatically gets a copy of every photo that was in the shared library in their personal library. If someone has been involved for less than a week, they only get their own contributions back.

What Apple got right and wrong about iCloud Shared Photo Library

iCloud Shared Photo Library seems ideal for a tight-knit group or small group to have a common pool of photos and can contribute, edit, or delete any photo. It is ideal for a shared event, such as a wedding, party or vacation.

After a week or more — or whenever another iCloud Shared Photo Library needs to be created — the original Shared Library can be safely deleted. Everyone involved automatically receives a copy of the old shared library added to their personal library.

Although setting up a shared library is relatively easy, the restrictions on a shared library vs. a shared album are bound to confuse most users until they start using both on a fairly frequent basis. . The limitation to a single library shared with only five other users imposes a level of simplicity and focus on the purpose of the library, but also restricts the circle of contributors quite severely.

Receiving an invitation to a shared library comes in the form of a notification.

Receiving an invitation to a shared library comes in the form of a notification.

What seems completely missing from Apple’s thinking is that other photo-sharing services exist, and are fairly simple to use. From Flickr to Facebook and many more in between, it’s not difficult to upload photos to third-party servers and invite others to share their own photos – albeit with a “price” less security and privacy, and a potential loss of some say how these shared photos might be used.

The purpose of Shared Albums and the Shared Library is to make it easier to share media without clogging up inboxes or spending time dropping photos before the gang goes their separate ways. Importantly for those who use their photography skills for more than casual fun, both of Apple’s solutions are very secure and as private as possible.

In cases where more than half a dozen people need to be involved, particularly if some of the likely viewers are using older or different brand devices, the obvious choice is: a shared album in Photos. For a smaller group of attendees, but everyone involved is using recent Apple gear and iCloud Photos, Shared iCloud Photo Library is probably the way to go – it makes it clear what’s being shared and what’s not. ‘is not.

For large groups of people sharing photos and videos across multiple events, shared albums or a third-party solution is probably the best option. Each attendee’s photos and videos rely on their iCloud storage rather than everyone’s contributions.

Users now able to film 4K video On most high-end mobile devices, running out of space on lower iCloud storage tiers is becoming more and more likely. There’s no real penalty for filling up storage, either way: participants simply won’t be able to add more media until the person who has no more storage moves to the next level – or find a way to

How to Create an iCloud Shared Photo Library

As with shared albums, the purpose of a shared photo library is usually to document an event, such as a wedding or birthday party, alongside others also taking photos or videos. Unlike shared albums, the shared library must be created in advance, and this is done in the Photos control panels on Mac, iPhone or iPad.

You can preview how a shared library will look before setting it up.

You can preview how a shared library will look before setting it up.

When creating the shared iCloud Photo Library, the host should understand that they are dedicating an increasing portion of their total iCloud space to this project. Thus, it is important that you have enough space for the total number of photos and videos that you and your guests plan to add.

When creating the shared library, the host can choose to add images or videos later, or seed the new shared library with existing photos and videos (and preview how it looks). Once added to the shared iCloud Photo Library, these items are removed from the user’s Personal Library (the default Photo Library), so this option won’t create any duplicates.

Using the shared library

Once the iCloud Shared Photo Library is created, in the Photos app, you can choose to see only your personal library, only the shared library, or both. In the latter case, an icon shared by two people appears in the upper right corner of the images that are in the shared library.

You can view each library, or both, on your Apple devices.

You can view each library, or both, on your Apple devices.

It’s important to remember that you can only have one shared iCloud Photo Library at a time, and you can only invite five other people. Children under 13 can only invite members of their Family Sharing group.

Two different ways to direct future photos directly to the shared iCloud Photo Library.

Two different ways to direct future photos directly to the shared iCloud Photo Library.

You can send invitation messages at the time of shared library creation or later. If your intention is for guest users to contribute images, make sure they have an Apple ID and at least one device running the latest version of iOSiPadOS or macOS.

There’s an option to send future photos or videos directly to iCloud Shared Photo Library, or you can choose to switch between sending them to Personal Library or Shared Library directly in the Camera app. Pictures accidentally placed in the shared library or personal library can be moved to the right place later.

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