Apple Photos Needs Selective Sync

Apple tends to dumb down many of their features, and this is very obvious in their cloud tools. With iCloud Music Library, for example, you can’t choose to not sync certain albums, playlists, or genres; it’s all or nothing. With iCloud Photo Library, it’s the same: you sync everything, or you sync nothing.

It’s problematic with iTunes, but you can always remove the music you don’t want to sync to the cloud. In addition, you don’t pay for cloud storage; iCloud Music Library lets you sync up to 100,000 tracks, more than enough for most people.

With Photos, however, you may have lots of content that you don’t want or need to sync. You may have videos that you don’t need in the cloud. You may have albums of photos that you don’t want to access on other devices. And you may have raw files in your library; these are larger, uncompressed files that you use to create photos to export, but that you don’t need to access in the cloud. Photos pairs raw files and JPEGs shot at the same time, but you generally only need to use the raw files when you are editing photos. (You might want to edit raw files on an iOS device, however.)

With my two cameras, the raw files are 20-50 MB each. Because of this, my Photos library which contains about 2,400 photos, takes up nearly 40 GB.

Photos library

This is a problem for two reasons. The first is that I have to pay for iCloud storage, and I’m getting close to the 50 GB that I currently pay for; the next tier is 200 GB, which I won’t be able to fill for some time. The second is the fact that syncing all these files takes a long time. I only have 1 Mbps upload, and if I shoot a lot of photos, it can take hours for them to sync. And the way iCloud Photo Library works means that if I ever have to sign out of iCloud for troubleshooting – something I’ve had to do in recent months – then sign in again, it uploads everything, even though all the photos are in the cloud. And that takes days with my bandwidth.

Apple could offer an advanced sync option, whereby you would choose to either sync to the cloud certain albums or exclude them (similar to the way you choose to sync or not sync music to an iPod or iOS device), and allow you to choose to not sync videos, raw files, and perhaps other types of photos. Or perhaps only sync favorites, or other types of selections.

Apple has designed iCloud Photo Library for people using iOS devices, who don’t have these issues, but more and more people use Photos to store photos shot with other cameras. The launch of the new Lightroom, which is subscription only, will probably lead a lot more people to look at Photos as a solution for both managing and editing photos. It’s a great tool, but the lack of selective sync hobbles it for many users.