How to use iCloud Shared Photo Library on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

iCloud Shared Photo Library opened on an iPhone's screen

Update (September 13, 2022): iOS 16’s iCloud Shared Photo Library feature has been delayed and It will arrive later this year (Source: Apple).

Apple introduced an array of interesting features with iOS 16. Among them, the iCloud Shared Photo Library is a significant addition. Once you share an iCloud library with someone, they get owner access and can edit, delete and add captions.

More interestingly, you can make videos or take pictures and upload them directly to the Shared Library. In this article, I’ll show you how to create and use an iCloud Shared Photo Library on iPhone, iPad, and Mac and share selected photos with friends and family.

iCloud Shared Photo Library requirements

  • To create and access the iCloud Shared Photo Library, all members of the Shared Library must have an iCloud account and be using one of the following:
    – An iPhone running iOS 16,
    – iPad running iPadOS 16 or later,
    – Or Mac running on Ventura.
  • You can share your library with a maximum of five people at a time.

iCloud Shared Photo Library vs. Shared Album

I won’t blame you if you’re confused between the two ways of sharing photos. Apple should have worked a little harder while naming. While the iCloud Shared Photo Library and Shared Album are somewhat similar, they’re different in a few ways:

iCloud Shared Photo Library iCloud Shared Photo Album
Platform and OS supportApple-specific (iOS 16 and Mac with Ventura or later)Apple-specific (iOS 6 or later and Mac with macOS 10.8.2 or later)
Subscribers6 max100 max
Smart filterAvailable (you can filter shared photos by date or people)Not available
Photos app filteringEfficiently filters your photos by librariesShared photos are saved in shared albums

If you haven’t tried Shared Albums, check out these guides on how to make Shared Albums on your Mac or iPhone.

How to create iCloud Shared Photo Library on iPhone or iPad

  1. Open your iPhone settings → Photos.
  2. Tap Shared Library. Then tap Get Started.
  3. Tap Add Participants to select people from your Contacts.

    Setting up iCloud Photo Library for sharing
  4. Type an email or phone number in the recipients’ field or tap the cross icon (+) to select from your contacts.
    Hint: Remember that you can only add a maximum of four people while sharing an album for the first time.
  5. Once done adding people, tap Add at the top right.
  6. Tap Next.
  7. Now, you’ll be presented with three options (sharing preferences):
    • All My Photos and Videos: Share your entire photo library, except screenshots and hidden or deleted items.
    • Choose by People or Date: Sort your Shared Library by identifying specific people or dates from your library. You might want to do this for partners, for instance. This also doesn’t include screenshots and hidden or deleted photos.
    • Choose Manually: This lets you manually select what you share. It’s pretty handy if you only want to hand-pick specific photos. It ensures that you only share the chosen pictures with the recipients.
  8. Tap Next after picking an option.
  9. In the following menu, you’ll see the people with whom you’re about to share your library.
  10. Tap Next if you’re satisfied with the list.

    Sharing photo library with partner on an iPhone

If you’ve selected All My Photos and Videos:

  1. Select Preview Shared Library.
  2. Tap Continue at the top-right.

    Sharing all photos from iCloud Library on an iPhone

If you opted to Choose by People or Date:

  1. You’ll get a prompt to identify the added contacts from your photos. Tap this prompt to sort your Shared Library by people. Ensure you select at least two people to continue. Tap Done at the top-right after identifying people.
  2. Next up is sorting pictures by date. Tap Start Date and set the date you want your Shared Library to span.
  3. Tap Next.
  4. Then select Preview Shared Library to view the pictures before sharing.
  5. Tap Continue at the top-right.

    Choosing photos in iCloud library by people or date on an iPhone

If you’re choosing pictures manually:

  1. Select the pictures you want to include in your Shared Library by tapping each.
  2. Tap Add at the top-right.
  3. Then tap Preview Shared Library.
  4. Tap Continue at the top-right.

After you have selected the photos, tap Invite via Messages to send an invite MMS to participants or tap Share Link to share the URL via social media. Choose to share your library Automatically or Manually via Bluetooth when participants are nearby. Finally, tap Done.

Sharing photo library via Bluetooth Automatically or Manually

How to save camera pictures to a Shared or Personal Library

Once you share an iCloud Library, you get to select where to save the output while making a video or taking a shot. For instance, if you choose Shared Library while taking a picture or making a video, the iPhone shares the output automatically.

  1. When you open your iPhone camera, look to the top left. You’ll see a double profile icon (showing two persons).
  2. Tap that icon to toggle between Shared and Personal Library for storage.
saving camera pictures to shared or personal library on an iPhone

Filter your pictures by library type in the Photos app

After creating a Shared Library, you can choose to show only the pictures you’ve shared, a personal library, or a mixture of both.

To do this:

  1. Once in the Photos app, tap the profile icon at the top right.
  2. Next, tap Both LibrariesPersonal Library, or Shared Library to filter your pictures accordingly.
Filtering Photo Library in Photos app on an iPhone

How to remove a participant from a Shared Library

You can remove a participant from a Shared Library if you change your mind:

  1. Open Settings on the iPhone or iPad → Photos.
  2. Tap Shared Library.
  3. Select the contact you want to remove.
  4. Tap Remove from Shared Library. Then select Remove from Shared Library.
Removing a participant from iCloud shared photo library

How to delete iCloud Shared Photo Library

To delete an iCloud Shared Library:

  1. Go to iPhone Settings → Photos.
  2. Tap Shared Library.
  3. Next, tap Delete Shared Library.
  4. Finally, tap Delete Shared Library, then Delete Shared Library again to conclude.

How to use iCloud Shared Photo Library on Mac

As mentioned, Mac running on Ventura or later comes with the iCloud Shared Photo Library feature. To set it up:

  1. Go to Photos. From the top bar → Settings.

    Choosing Photo Settings in top bar on a Mac
  2. Click Shared Library.
  3. Next, click Get Started to begin.

    iCloud Shared Photo Library Settings on a Mac
  4. Choose your sharing method. You can select: All My Photos and VideosChoose by People or Date, or Choose Manually.
  5. Click Continue at the bottom-left.
  6. Then follow the prompt for the option you select to finish setting up.

Filter your photos by libraries on Mac

As with the iPhone, you can also filter your pictures by the library type on Mac. To do this:

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Click Both Libraries at the top left.
  3. Now switch between Personal Library and Shared Library to filter pictures accordingly.

That’s it! Now that you know how to set up an iCloud Shared Photo Library on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, it’s time to start sharing memorable moments with your loved ones. I find this feature sleeker than album sharing since it feels more flexible and less repetitive.

As you know, this feature is exclusive to the latest OS. So, to experience the power of the new iCloud Shared Photo Library, consider upgrading to the iOS 16 beta version if you’ve not done so already.

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