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How to upload photos to iCloud to sync across devices

Have peace of mind by backing everything up in iCloud.

Published onAugust 2, 2023

We’re all eager photographers these days, since owning a smartphone means having a camera in your pocket. Photos are meaningless, though, if you can’t see or share them when you need to and keep them safe. It’s vital to backup your library to the cloud, and for an Apple device, that usually means iCloud. Here’s how to upload photos to iCloud so you can have them on all your devices.


To upload images to iCloud, go to Photos settings on your Apple device, then switch on iCloud Photos. You'll also need to decide if you want storage-optimized versions kept on your device, or full-quality media.


How to upload images to iCloud from an iPhone or iPad

To upload photos to iCloud, first make sure you’re logged into your account, and that you have enough cloud storage for your photo/video library. That’s likely multiple gigabytes, possibly dozens. Whenever you’re ready, go to Settings > Photos.

ios settings Photos

Toggle on iCloud Photos.

ios enable icloud photos

Two new options should appear. Optimize iPhone Storage leaves lower-quality copies of your images in local storage while uploading the full-size originals to iCloud. Download and Keep Originals preserves maximum quality everywhere, but can easily overwhelm devices with 128GB of space or less.

ios settings icloud photos options

Once you make a selection, your photos should begin uploading to iCloud in the background and sync with other devices logged into the same account. To check if sync is underway, open the Photos app.

How to upload images to iCloud from a Mac

On a Mac computer, open the Photos app and go to Photos > Preferences.

macos photos preferences link

In the iCloud tab, check iCloud Photos to begin the sync process. Also, choose whether you want full-sized versions of everything on your Mac, or smaller optimized versions. Macs are typically less storage-restricted than iPhones or iPads, but you should seriously consider the Optimize Mac Storage option if you have 256GB of total space or less.

macos photos icloud tab

Manually uploading a photo to iCloud on a Mac

If you’re sent a photo by email, Messages, or some other method, you can put it in iCloud by adding it to the Photos app.

macos add to photos

Locate the file in Finder and right-click. Go to Share > Add to Photos. The photo will automatically be uploaded to iCloud, assuming of course that iCloud Photos sync is enabled.

Read more: How to use iCloud on your Android device


There are several possibilities. One is that you don’t have enough iCloud space, so you’ll need to make some by cleaning up or upgrading. The second is simply that iCloud Photos sync isn’t on, but a third possibility is that you’re using unsupported file formats. Currently iCloud Photos supports the following filetypes:

  • GIF
  • JPEG
  • HEIF
  • HEVC
  • MP4
  • PNG
  • RAW
  • TIFF

If you’ve checked that iCloud Photos sync is enabled on all your devices, Low Power Mode is the likely culprit. This temporarily pauses sync on iPhones and iPads, so you’ll need to turn it off to resume.

No, but if you share a photo or video in an iCloud Shared Album, it will be compressed to make it easier to send. If you want to share an uncompressed version of the file, send it by email.

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