How to Use iCloud Photo Library on Your iPad

Store your pictures and share them from the cloud

A woman holding an iPad
Public Domain / Pixabay

iCloud Photo Library is Apple's photo-sharing solution that stores photos permanently on the cloud. It lets you share pictures more efficiently using your iPad or iPhone. You can also view the iCloud Photo Library on your Mac or Windows-based PC.

iCloud Photo Library synchronizes your photos by automatically uploading new photos to iCloud after they are taken. You can then view the photos across all devices that have the feature turned on.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 8 and later.

How to Turn On iCloud Photo Library on Your iPad

To access your iCloud photos, the first thing you must do is turn on the iCloud Photo Library service. Here's how to do that:

  1. The iPad Settings app
  2. On the left-side menu, scroll down and tap "iCloud."

    iCloud in iPad settings
  3. In the iCloud settings, choose "Photos."

    iCloud settings on an iPad with Photos highlighted
  4. Tap the switch next to iCloud Photos to on/green.

    iCloud Photos settings on an iPad with the switch highlighted
  5. The Optimize iPad Storage option will download thumbnail versions of photos when the iPad is low on space. Selecting Download and Keep Originals will mean you'll always download full-size versions of images from iCloud.

    Photos section of iCloud settings with the check next to Optimize iPad Storage highlighted
  6. The "Upload to My Photo Stream" option will synchronize the full images across devices that have this option turned on (e.g., your iPhone or Mac). This setting is useful if you need access to the photos even when you don't have an Internet connection.

    iCloud Photos settings with the Upload to My Photo Stream switch highlighted
  7. Turn the Shared Albums switch to on/green to enable the ability to create sharable photo albums that you store on iCloud.

    iCloud Photos settings with the Shared Albums switch highlighted
  8. These settings save automatically, so you can go to the Home screen when you're done.

How to View Photos in the iCloud Photo Library

There is nothing special you need to do to view iCloud Photo Library photos and videos on your iPad. Pictures and video you've taken on other devices are downloaded and stored in your iPad's camera roll as if you took the photo on your iPad. You can view them in the Photos app on your tablet.

If you're low on space and have chosen to optimize storage, you will still see thumbnail versions of the photos, and the full-size photo will download when you tap on it. However, you will need to be connected to the Internet for this to work.

You can also view your photo library on your Mac or Windows-based PC. If you have a Mac, you can use the Photos app to see them the same as on your iPad. On a Windows-based computer, you can view them from the "iCloud Photos" section of the File Explorer. Both the Mac and Windows-based PCs can use icloud.com to view the photo library.