How do I move Photos out of iCloud?

What is iCloud Photo Library?

iCloud Photo Library is Apple’s cloud storage service for photos and videos. When enabled, it automatically uploads all photos and videos from your iPhone, iPad, and other Apple devices to iCloud, so they can be accessed from any device signed into your iCloud account.

iCloud Photo Library stores the full resolution versions of your photos and videos in the cloud, while smaller resolution versions are stored on your devices to save storage space. This allows you to access your entire photo library from any device, while only storing lower resolution versions on the device itself.

The major benefit of using iCloud Photo Library is that it keeps your photos and videos synced across all your devices. Any photos you take on your iPhone will automatically be uploaded and available on your Mac, iPad, and other devices. It also serves as a backup of your photo library in case you lose or damage a device.

Why would you want to move photos out of iCloud Photo Library?

There are a few reasons you may want to download your photos from iCloud Photo Library and move them out of the cloud:

– You’re running out of iCloud storage space and want to free up room. iCloud only provides 5GB of free storage, so photo libraries can often exceed that limit. Downloading the original photos frees up iCloud space.

– You want to back up your photos elsewhere. While iCloud serves as a backup, many users feel safer also having local backups of their photos on an external hard drive or other storage medium.

– You’re switching away from Apple devices and will no longer use iCloud. Moving photos out lets you retain access to them.

– You want to edit or print your photos using desktop apps rather than mobile apps. The full resolution originals are required for this kind of work.

– You need to share or send someone your original photo files. Downloading them makes this easier.

So in summary, while the iCloud Photo Library is very convenient for syncing across Apple devices, there are times you’ll want to download the originals out of the cloud to store and manage them locally instead.

How to download photos and videos from iCloud Photo Library

If you’ve decided you want to save your photos out of iCloud, here are the steps to download your entire iCloud Photo Library or specific albums/folders:

On a Mac:

1. Open the Photos app on your Mac.

2. Click Photos in the menu bar and select Preferences.

3. Go to the iCloud tab.

4. Uncheck “iCloud Photo Library” to prevent photos from automatically uploading to iCloud.

5. If you only want to download specific albums or folders, open them individually and select File > Export to export the photos to your desired location on your Mac.

6. If you want to download your entire photo library, click the Download button next to “Download originals to this Mac.” This will download full resolution versions of all your photos and videos to your Mac’s storage.

On Windows PC:

1. Install and open the iCloud app for Windows.

2. Click on Photos.

3. Select the images or albums you want to download by checking the boxes next to them.

4. Click the Download button at the bottom to save them to your PC.

5. Repeat this process until you’ve downloaded your entire photo library.

On iPhone/iPad:

1. Open the Photos app.

2. Tap Select and choose the photos/videos you want to export.

3. Tap the share icon in the corner.

4. Select Export to begin transferring them out of iCloud Photo Library.

5. Choose whether to export the Original or an Optimized version. Original will download the full resolution file.

6. Select the destination, like Dropbox, or “Save to Files” to keep them locally on your device storage.

How to manage storage for iCloud Photo Library

If you don’t want to fully remove your photos from iCloud but are running low on cloud storage, there are a few options to manage your storage for iCloud Photo Library:

– **Optimize your library:** This keeps full resolution originals in iCloud while only smaller versions display on your devices. You can optimize on iOS devices in Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Photos.

– **Only keep recent photos in iCloud:** Set your My Photo Stream to transfer just your 30 days or 1,000 most recent photos. Older photos will be removed from iCloud but stored on your devices.

– **Use iCloud storage management tools:** Review large photos, videos, attachments, etc. that are filling up space and delete what you don’t need from the cloud.

– **Purchase additional iCloud storage:** You can upgrade your iCloud storage plan beyond the free 5GB if you consistently exceed the limit. Plans range from 50GB to 2TB of space.

– **Use another cloud service instead:** Services like Google Photos provide free unlimited high-quality photo storage if your needs surpass what iCloud provides.

The best local storage options for photos and videos

Once you’ve downloaded your photos out of iCloud, you’ll want to store them locally for backup. Here are the best storage options for keeping your photo library safe:

External hard drives: Portable external hard drives provide a simple way to back up your photo library locally. Look for a drive with at least 1-2TB of storage. Always keep a second backup in case one drive fails. Popular hard drive options include:

– Western Digital My Passport
– Seagate Backup Plus Slim
– LaCie Rugged Mini

Desktop hard drives: Desktop external drives have much higher capacities for massive photo libraries, like 8TB or more. They aren’t portable but provide reliable backup:

– Western Digital My Book Duo
– Seagate Backup Plus Hub
– LaCie d2 Professional

NAS (Network Attached Storage): A NAS device attaches to your home network so all your family’s devices can access and backup to the drive. Useful for sharing a photo archive at home. Popular options:

– Synology DS220+
– QNAP TS-251D
– Western Digital My Cloud Home Duo

USB flash drives: Small USB sticks provide an ultra-portable option for transferring photo files between devices or locations. Not ideal for permanent backup:

– SanDisk Extreme Pro
– Samsung BAR Plus
– Kingston DataTraveler Max

CDs/DVDs: You can burn photo files to CDs and DVDs for cold storage. However, their capacity is very limited compared to other options.

Photo printing services: To create physical photo prints as another form of backup, popular services include Shutterfly, Snapfish, and FujiFilm Prints.

How to use photo management apps to organize your library

Once you’ve moved your photos off of iCloud, you may need help organizing your now locally-stored library. Photo management apps can make this easier with tagging, search, automatic organization, and more.

Some top options include:

Adobe Lightroom: Lightroom is the gold standard for photo management, editing, and workflow. It provides in-depth organizational tools like:

– Facial recognition to auto-tag people
– Map view to browse photos by location
– numerous keyword tags and search filters
– color coding and flagging of picks
– ability to rate images

Apple Photos: Apple’s free Photos app replaces iPhoto and comes built-in for Mac and iOS. It includes:

– automatic organization by time and location
– facial and object recognition to auto-categorize content
– shared albums for easy sharing with friends/family
– editing capabilities like cropping and filters
– create photo books, prints, calendars, cards, and slideshows

Google Photos: Google Photos is free and works across desktop and mobile. It offers:

– visual search for finding photos of specific people, places, things or events
– automatically generated albums based on trips, people, or topics
– easy sharing capabilities
– basic auto-enhance editing tools

SmugMug: SmugMug is geared towards photographers, with premium plans and ecommerce sales options. It has:

– customizable organization using hierarchy of folders and galleries
– control to tailor privacy settings at gallery level
– ability to access photos on desktop, mobile, and via apps
– portfolio website building and sales tools

How to transfer photos from iPhone to computer

If you’ve taken photos on your iPhone that you now want to get onto a desktop computer for editing and organizing, there are several options for transferring them.

Using a wired connection:

1. Connect your iPhone to the computer using the USB to Lightning cable that came with your device.

2. Open the Photos app if you’re on a Mac, or the Photos import wizard if you’re in Windows.

3. Select the photos you want to import, then click Import.

4. The photos will now copy from your iPhone to the photo library on your computer.

Using wireless file sharing:

1. On your iPhone, open the Photos app and select the images to share.

2. Tap the share button and select AirDrop. This uses local WiFi to share between devices.

3. Accept the transfer request on your receiving Mac or PC to download the photos over the air.

Using cloud storage services:

– Upload photos from your phone to a cloud service like iCloud, Google Photos, Dropbox, etc.
– Then on your computer, sign in to the same service and download the photos to your local device.

Using third-party wireless transfer apps:

Apps like SHAREit and Instashare create a peer-to-peer connection between devices over the same WiFi network. Follow the app’s steps to send photos wirelessly.

Making sure your photo library is properly backed up

Once you’ve moved your photos out of iCloud and onto local storage, it’s essential to implement a comprehensive backup strategy. Here are some tips:

– Keep at least 3 total copies of your library in 2 different locations. For example, on an external hard drive and a computer’s internal drive.

– One copy should be stored offsite (like at a relative’s house) to protect against theft, fire, or natural disaster.

– Backup your library on a regular schedule, like monthly or biweekly. Set calendar reminders if needed.

– Occasionally test restoring from a backup to confirm the process works as expected.

– Use cloud backup services like Dropbox or Backblaze for additional redundancy.

– Backup your photo management app library database and settings files so your organization isn’t lost.

– Store media used for backups in a cool, dry, stable environment. Avoid humidity, heat, magnets, and dust.

– Migrate old media to new backups every few years as technology changes. CDs/DVDs degrade over time.

– Consider using a RAID array so hard drive failure doesn’t result in data loss.

– Encrypt backups to protect against unauthorized access. Use strong password protection.

What to do if photos disappear from iCloud

If some or all of your photos mysteriously disappear from iCloud Photo Library, don’t panic! Here are some troubleshooting steps:

– Check if your devices have a network connection. Photos won’t sync to iCloud if you’re offline.

– See if your photos still exist in Recently Deleted. They stay there for 40 days before being permanently deleted.

– Look in Hidden folders. Sometimes photos get hidden but aren’t actually deleted.

– Try updating iOS/macOS in case it’s a system glitch.

– Toggle iCloud Photo Library off/on to retrigger a sync.

– Use to log in to the web interface and browse your library.

– Restore from a backup if needed using Time Machine or another cloud service.

– Contact Apple support and they may be able to recover deleted photos within the last 30 days.

– Use data recovery software to scan your hard drive for recoverable photo files.

Following a comprehensive backup strategy for your photos is the best way to avoid potential disasters like accidental deletion from iCloud.


I hope this article has helped explain the various options for downloading your photos out of iCloud Photo Library and managing them locally. The key takeaways are:

– Reasons for removing photos from iCloud include needing local backups, switching platforms, or running low on storage space.

– You can use Mac/Windows apps or iPhone exporting to save photos out of iCloud to a hard drive or other device.

– Choose reliable local storage like external drives, NAS devices, or flash drives to store your library once downloaded.

– Photo management apps help you organize, tag, find, and share your now locally-stored pictures.

– Maintaining complete backups is crucial in case of data loss. Use the 3-2-1 backup strategy.

– If your photos disappear from iCloud, don’t panic! Follow troubleshooting tips or contact Apple support if needed.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

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