REVIEWED: iCloud Photo Library

Apple’s backup and sync for travel photos adds editing, but with 4K video and more megapixels, you’re going to need a bigger cloud

Apple iCloudTravel everywhere. Photograph everything. Phone gets full. Or lost. These are both nightmare scenarios when travelling, and they’ve happened to use all at some stage. So why don’t we all just use the cloud? We’re happy to stand outside Macdonald or Starbucks to upload a photo to Facebook or make a Skype call, but few of us are properly using the cloud tools our smart devices already have.

Embrace the cloud

Apple iCloud Photo Library isn’t cheap, and that’s the problem with the cloud thus far. Who wants to pay for something you can’t hold in your hand? It’s the same deep-seated fear of digital that causes most of us to print-out our boarding passes when we know we can just have barcodes on our phones scanned at the airport gate. Apple gives you 5GB for free, and while that’s not much, 200GB costs UK£2.49 per month and a whopping 1TB costs UK£6.99. It’s not cheap, but hardly a fortune – and it could save all of your travel photo pain, as we’ll explain. With the latest phones taking photos over 10 megapixels in size, and capable of 4K video, storage is a problem that’s not going to go away.

Creaking cloud

Like Dropbox, Google, Drive and MiMedia, Apple iCloud Photo Library stores all the photos and videos on phone, iPad and even that dusty old iMac, and puts it all in the cloud. It also does documents and, well, anything. Since a Photos app library on a computer could be huge – perhaps an archive of 20+ years of travel – expect to pay for it. However, try to back-up all that the iCloud and you’re in for a wait. I mean, days can go by before Apple manages to finish this simple task. We’re not clear on why – MiMedia zapped it all up in a few hours. iCloud, it seems, creaks into action.

Things get complicated

Backup to Photo Stream? Full-res? Download originals? Things do get a little complicated when you’re configuring iCloud, not least because there’s not really much point uploading a terabyte worth of photos to the cloud if every devices you’ve connected – chiefly your phone – then has to attempt to host everything, too. So understanding how iCloud works is crucial; it’s all about lo-res previews, so while you can see thumbnails every single image you ever took, they’re not really there. Still, you’re bound to want to download the original now and again for showing off, probably on your phone. In that case, you’ll need WiFi or a phone signal.

Magical cloud

The magic of iCloud is that you can take a photo on your iPhone and almost immediately it’s available on your iPad, and your iMac. But the best feature? Photo editing. It’s what iCloud Photo Library is really all about, at least when compared to the others out there; edit a photo on one device and the changes you made are locked-in to all versions you’ll ever see from then on. iCloud’s auto-sync features work like a dream, too. Pricey but worth it, iCloud Photo Library is worth spending some time with before you go on your travels, for sure, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it really can be the answer for travel photographers short on space – and patience.

Price as reviewed: from free

Get Apple iCloud Photo Library