How to Upload & Download Photos to & from iCloud on Your iPhone, Mac & PC

Mentioning iCloud is the quickest way to confuse people. I know plenty of people who won’t try to use iCloud services because the idea of it boggles their mind. But once you’ve set it up, you can seamlessly use it to upload photos to the cloud automatically, be able to access iCloud photos on your PC or Mac, and easily download your iCloud photos. We’re going to cover everything you need to know about iCloud photos. We’ll start with how to upload photos to iCloud, which is also how to set up iCloud for storing photos. Next, we’ll go over how to access iCloud photos on an iPhone, a PC, and a Mac. Lastly, I’ll show you how to download photos from iCloud. I’m going to avoid all unnecessary information here so that I can show you the easiest way to manage your photos with iCloud. Here’s how to upload photos to iCloud from iPhone, as well as how to download those photos from iCloud.

Related: Top Tips for Understanding and Using iCloud

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

iCloud Photo Library: How Much Does It Cost & How Does It Work?

When you have iCloud Photo Library turned on, every photo you take on your iPhone will upload to iCloud. If you’re connected to the internet (via Wi-Fi or cellular), photos and videos will upload automatically. If not, your device will sync to iCloud, and your content will upload once you’re connected. Having your photos in iCloud allows you to access your photos from any computer, PC or Mac, with an internet connection. This means you can easily download your iCloud photos to any PC or Mac.

If you’re wondering how to download photos from iCloud to your iPhone, that’s even easier because all you need to do is log in to iCloud on your iPhone and turn on iCloud Photo Library. Having iCloud Photo Library enabled means that all of your devices (and iCloud) will have synced photos. So if you delete a photo from your iPhone, it will be deleted from iCloud and vice versa.

It’s good to note that your iPhone comes with 5 GB of free iCloud storage. I pay a dollar a month to get 50 GB of storage. You can also get 200 GB for $2.99 a month or two terabytes for $9.99. You can also share iCloud storage plans with anyone who is part of your iCloud family if you enable Apple Family Sharing.

How to Upload Photos to iCloud & Download Photos from iCloud with Your iPhone or iPad

Funnily enough, uploading photos to iCloud from an iPhone and downloading photos from iCloud to an iPhone is done in the exact same way: you have to log in to iCloud on your iPhone and turn on iCloud Photo Library. With iCloud Photo Library turned on, your photos will automatically upload to iCloud. Likewise, when you log in to iCloud on your iPhone and turn on iCloud Photo Library, the photos you already had stored in iCloud will sync to your iPhone.

So, in order to both automatically upload photos to iCloud and get your photos from iCloud (download them) to iPhone, this is what you need to do:

  1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app.
  2. If you aren't already logged in to your Apple ID/iCloud account, you’ll need to tap Sign in to your [device].
  3. Then enter your Apple ID email and password.

    apple id sign inapple id and password
     
  4. If you are already signed in to your Apple ID/iCloud account, tap your name at the top.
  5. Tap iCloud.

    apple id banner in iphone settingstap icloud
     
  6. Tap Photos.
  7. Toggle on iCloud Photos.

    tap photos in icloud settingstoggle on icloud photos
     
  8. Your iPhone will then take some time to both upload the photos on your device to iCloud and download the photos from iCloud to your iPhone.
  9. Once it’s done, select whether you want your iPhone to Optimize iPhone Storage or Download and Keep Originals of all your photos on your iPhone.

That’s it! From now on, when you take a photo on your iPhone, it will automatically upload to the cloud and be saved in iCloud. If you want to download those photos to your PC or Mac, keep reading.

How to Access iCloud Photos

You can see and access your iCloud photos on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC as long as you have an internet connection. Just log in to iCloud with your Apple ID and password. If you forgot your Apple ID or forgot your Apple ID password, go ahead and do an Apple ID reset or reset your Apple ID password so you can log in to iCloud.

  1. In a browser on a computer, visit icloud.com.
  2. Use your Apple ID and password to sign in.

    icloud sign in
     
  3. Click Photos.
  4. That’s it! Here you can see and access all of the photos in your iCloud Photo Library.  

    how to view icloud photos
     

If you want to upload photos to iCloud from your Mac or PC, the next tip will show you how. Then we’ll go over how to download photos from iCloud to your Mac or PC computer.

How to Upload Photos to iCloud from Your Mac or PC

  1. First, follow the steps above (How to Access iCloud Photos) to access your iCloud Photo Library and click Photos.
  2. From here, select the cloud with an up arrow in the upper right corner.

    how to upload photos to icloud
     
  3. Select the photo or photos you want to upload from your computer, then click Open.

    upload photos to icloud
     
  4. Under Library, select Photos.

    icloud photos

The photo(s) you just added will be at the bottom of the page—just like how new photos appear at the bottom of your iPhone screen in the Photos app. Speaking of which, once you’ve added the photo to your iCloud Photo Library, you can look at All Photos on your iPhone and see the new photo(s) you added. It’s good to note that iCloud Photo Library will not add duplicate images. Otherwise, that’s all there is to it! All that’s left is how to download photos from iCloud to your Mac or PC computer.

How to Download Photos from iCloud to Mac or PC

First, follow the steps above (How to Access iCloud Photos) to access your iCloud Photo Library.

  1. Select the photo you want to download by clicking on it.
  2. Select additional photos by holding the Shift key while clicking on the photos you want to download.
  3. Once you've selected all your photos, tap the cloud icon with the down arrow in the upper right corner.

    how to download photos from iphone to mac
     
  4. Choose where on your computer you want to save the photo and click Save.


That’s all there is to it! Now you can easily upload, download, and access your iCloud Photos on iPhone, iPad, PC, and Mac computer. Let me know if there’s anything else related to iCloud photo management that you want me to cover.

Master your iPhone in one minute a day: Sign up here to get our FREE Tip of the Day delivered right to your inbox.
Conner Carey's picture

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.