iCloud Photo Library is a great way to back up the images you capture on your iPhone. But, if you don’t have much space left in your iCloud storage, or indeed on your device, then you might be considering turning off the feature. The big question is how can you do so without losing any of your precious photos?
We show you how to switch to another photo storage option without accidentally deleting any of your images along the way.
Back up before you begin
This almost goes without saying, but we always advise making a complete backup of your content before starting a process such as this. Of course iCloud Photos is itself a kind of backup, but if you want to stop using the service then you should read our How to download photos from iCloud to Mac.
Another way of backing up your photos, without needing a PC, is to download and set up the Google Photos app. This will transfer the images from your phone to the Google Photo servers for free, with unlimited storage for images below a certain size.
What to do if you’re running out of space on your iPhone or iPad
If all that’s wrong is that you’re running out of space on your iOS device, then you might not need to give up on iCloud Photos just yet. In Settings you’ll find an option that can reduce the amount of space the photos take up.
Go to Settings, tap on your account name, then iCloud > Photos, and check that Optimise iPhone Storage is selected. If not, turn it on and the app will now only store a thumbnail image of the photo on your device, while keeping the original in the cloud.
What do you lose by turning off iCloud Photos?
It can be a little daunting leaving the iCloud Photos service, as the worry is that some images of memorable events will suddenly disappear.
So, what will happen if you hit the off button?
This depends on whether iCloud Photos is only running on your iPhone. If so, then anything you haven’t downloaded or transferred to another service will potentially be lost. Apple will store them in the iCloud servers for 30 days, but after that they’ll be deleted.
If you’re going down this route, then once again we’d point you to the backup options listed above. One thing to make sure of before performing a backup is that if you have the Optimise iPhone Storage setting turned on, then be sure to switch it to Download and Keep Originals instead. That way you’ll know you have the full images.
Should you have iCloud Photos running on multiple devices, such as your iPad or Mac, then you’ll still be able to access the images so long as you keep paying for storage (or sticking within the 5GB you get for free).
How to turn off iCloud Photo Library
On your iOS device got to Settings, tap your account name, iCloud > Photos, then turn off the switch for iCloud Photo Library.
If you’re using a Mac then you’ll need to go to System Preferences > iCloud, then click on the Options button to the right of Photos. On the page that appears, untick the box for iCloud Photo Library.
Apple TV owners should got to Settings > Accounts > iCloud, then in the Photos section press Select to turn off iCloud Photo Library.
That’s it. As we said, Apple will hold your content on its servers for 30 days, so if you decide this was the wrong decision just reverse the instructions above and you’ll be able to pick up from where you were.