3 ways to sync only some pictures between your Apple devices

By activating iCloud Photo Library, all the albums and folders get synchronised via iCloud.

This is great but it usually requires to buy additional iCloud storage.

So, what if you wanted to sync only some pictures and/or albums?

In that case, I can suggest 3 options, each with their pros and cons:

  1. iCloud Photo Sharing
  2. IFTTT (with third-party online storage service)
  3. iCloud Photo Library (w/ or w/o third-party online storage service)

iCloud Photo Sharing

iCloud Photo Sharing allows to manually push photos and videos between iDevices via iCloud.

There are 2 big advantages:

  1. it does not use any of your iCloud storage quota
  2. it is compatible with older devices (iOS 7 and OS X 10.9 Mavericks)

There are limitations and a few disadvantages with this method though:

  1. Photos are resized to 2048 pixels on the long edge
  2. Videos are trimmed to 5 minutes in length
  3. Once in the shared album, photos and videos can’t be edited anymore (unless they are imported and shared a second time).
  4. A shared album can contain a total of maximum 5,000 photos and videos

This is not the same kind of synchronisation that iCloud Photo Library provides natively.

IFTTT (with third-party online storage service)

You could use IFTTT (If This Then That) in case:

  1. you don’t want to activate iCloud Photo Library
  2. and the limitations of iCloud Photo Sharing are not acceptable

IFTTT can automatically upload photos and videos to a third-party online storage (OneDrive, Dropbox, …), each time you assign them to a particular album on your iDevices.

This album won’t be synchronised via iCloud (since neither iCloud Photo Library, nor iCloud Photo Sharing are active), but rather via a specific folder located on the third-party server, and accessible via the third-party iOS app.

This could be a good option if you already pay for third-party online storage space and you’re not afraid to try out new stuff.

Having said that, this solution does not work with favorites and requires a bit of upfront work:

  1. Create an IFTTT account
  2. Install the IFTTT app on the iDevices where photos and videos are taken
  3. Connect IFTTT to a third-party cloud storage provider (OneDrive, Dropbox, …)
  4. Create recipes to trigger the automatic upload of photos and videos when assigned to one (or more) specific album(s)

Similarly to iCloud Photo Sharing, editing, on your iDevices, the photos and videos stored on the third-party online storage provider is usually cumbersome.

This is why I decided to still include the next option.

iCloud Photo Library (w/ or w/o third-party online storage service)

iCloud Photo Library remains the easiest and most integrated way to synchronise photos and videos between iDevices:

  1. Favourited photos and videos, as well as folders and albums are synced automatically
  2. Edition, duplication and hiding operations are synced too

If you mostly take photos and very few videos, the 50 GB plan at €0,99 per month is usually enough. The next storage tier (200 GB) is priced at €2,99 per month.

Now, if your main concern is about the purchase of additional iCloud storage, let me offer you a workaround:

  1. Install the native iOS app for a third-party service like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Photos.
  2. Activate the automatic upload of all your photos and videos to a third-party service
  3. Delete from the Photos library on your iDevices, the photos and videos that you don’t want to synchronise

This could be a good option if you already pay for third-party online storage space.

Like IFTTT, this again adds some complexity to the process and should be thought through before being implemented.

This is the reason why, in my opinion, it’s usually counter-productive to try to “fight the system”, even if embracing it means spending a little bit of money every month.


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