It’s really very simple set up and use iCloud Shared Photo Library. In this guide we will see step by step everything we need to know to be able to achieve it and we will notice that it is something that will take us very few minutes.

What is iCloud Shared Photo Library?

It is a shared media library where participants can contribute and access different content. The shared library is used in conjunction with the personal library and you can switch between them whenever you want.

Just like your personal library, iCloud Shared Photo Library can be used to share all kinds of media, including videos, live photos, RAW images, and anything else supported by the app. per se. We can do video and photo editing, delete, mirror media, add subtitles, basically everything.

You can create or join an iCloud Photo Sharing Library with up to five users or through a Family Sharing plan. In order to use it on Mac, we will need macOS 13 Ventura and on iPhone or iPad, we will have to be running the version of iOS 16.1 or iPadOS 16.1.

How to set up and use iCloud Shared Photo Library

From iPhone and iPad

Create shared photo library.

We will have to go to Settings and click on our name. Now we go to iCloud > Photos. We scroll down until we find the Shared Library option.


Here we will click on Start and we will be asked to add some participants for the library. If we click Add Later, we won’t need to do it now.

Share files.

In the next step we can choose if we want to move some items from our personal library to the shared one. We can pass all photos and videos, photos tagged with specific people, etc.

The last thing we will do is decide if we want to share automatically from our iPhone’s camera or only manually, we recommend the latter.

Set up from a Mac

Set up iCloud Shared Photo Library on Mac

On a Mac it’s too easy too, we’re going to have to launch the Photos app and then go to Photos > Settings at the top. Let’s click on the Shared Library tab and hit Start to create our library.

Add participants.

Here we will have the possibility to add people to it. In case we don’t want to add anyone yet, we’ll just click Add Later.

iCloud Shared Photo Library.

Next, we will be able to choose what we want to move to this library. Here we have the possibility to move all the photos and videos or only some specific ones. This will depend on us.

How to join someone else’s shared photo library

The only way to join someone else’s on iCloud is for that person to send us an invitation using the instructions above. After receiving the invitation, we will have to click on it (or click on Mac) and follow the instructions to complete the process. It is really something very easy and fast.

Join shared photo library.

The invitations arrive by messages. We can even find pending invitations from Settings > Name > iCloud > Photos > Shared Library on iPhone or iPad. From macOS we are going to have to go to Photos> Settings> Shared library.

Switch between shared and personal libraries

After joining or creating a shared library, we can switch between the two in a very fast and convenient way.

Switch between shared iCloud photo library on iPhone and iPad.

From mobile devices, we will have to click on the ellipses at the top of the Photos application and we will have the option to switch between the two.

Switch between shared iCloud photo library.

On Mac it’s pretty easy too because we have a dropdown button that’s just for doing this on the toolbar at the top.

Important things about shared libraries

We can only be part of a shared library at a time, the one we have created is included. Those people under 13 years old can only be part of one that is within a Family Sharing plan.

Only the creator can invite new people. To add more people from mobile devices we are going to go to Settings> Name> iCloud> Photos. On Mac, we are going to click on Photos> Settings> Shared Library and that’s it.

How to add media

It is possible to add media manually on iPhone or iPad easily. We will press Select in the Library tab and we will choose the media that we want to move. We press on the suspensive icons and then Move to shared library.

On Mac it is also simple, we can select the items we want to move, then we will right click and choose Move items to shared library.

Something that we must consider is that, when moving elements, they are moved and not copied. Which means that they will no longer exist in the personal library to be only in the shared one, so we must take this into consideration.

On mobile, we’ll see a logo next to an item that looks like two people (Shared) or one person (Personal). We will click on this icon to move individual photos between libraries. This icon does not appear on Mac.

On iPhone or iPad we will have to go to Settings> Photos> Shared library to be able to see all the camera controls and thus automatically share with the shared library. This will give us the possibility that all media is sent automatically using the button in the upper left corner of the camera.

We can enable Automatic sharing to be able to share photos via Bluetooth when it detects that we are with people who are also part of this library. Another option would be to choose the option to always add photos and videos to the library when iPhone detects that we are at home with Share when I am home.

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