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.

20 thoughts on “Apple Photos Needs Selective Sync

  1. The problem w selected folder syncing is that it doesn’t work in macOS iTunes. I can designate selective folder sync in iTunes but it has never completely filled the selected folders on my iPad Pro, so I’m stuck with complete photo library sync. Luckily I have enough room and that complete photo library sync actually works.

  2. The problem w selected folder syncing is that it doesn’t work in macOS iTunes. I can designate selective folder sync in iTunes but it has never completely filled the selected folders on my iPad Pro, so I’m stuck with complete photo library sync. Luckily I have enough room and that complete photo library sync actually works.

  3. Why not use multiple photo libraries, with only the primary library synchronizing?That is what I do – I have my iPhone photos and some JPGs in the primary library and that synchronizes. I have all my (huge) RAW files in a separate library that doesn’t synch.

    David

    • That’s an option, but I want the raw and JPEG files together, in case I want to change my edits to any of my photos. I guess a solution would be to export the photos I want in the cloud to a second library, and sync that, but it seems like a lot of work to keep it up to date.

      • Not my approach. I don’t want the RAW and JPGs together. I have discovered that Photos only “groups” the RAW and JPG images together if they are imported at the same time. I shoot RAW + JPG (Sony A7RM2) all the time, but I import the RAW and JPG images separately, so they are stored separately (I put the RAW and JPG images in separate albums). I have found that, if the light is good, and I expose correctly, the JPGs out of the camera are just fine – you have to pixel peep to see any difference, and I don’t print large. If I have a difficult exposure issue, I go to the RAW images for adjustment. Just the way I work. (Incidentally, I also have given up on Lightroom – overkill for my needs and I refuse to rent software. The RAWPower extension is all I need for RAW editing.

        David

        • I do want them together. If I see that the JPEG isn’t quite good enough – especially because of dynamic range – then I want to switch to the raw file. I often see differences in mine without “pixel peeping” because of the extended dynamic range of the raw files. And they allow you to do more edits without degrading the file, as is not the case when you work with JPEGs.

          They are paired if they’re imported at the same time, as long as they have the same file names (not counting the extension).

          I don’t use Lightroom ether; I do almost all my editing in Photos, though I’ll sometimes use another app for very specific edits that Photos can’t handle, but that’s relatively rare.

  4. Why not use multiple photo libraries, with only the primary library synchronizing?That is what I do – I have my iPhone photos and some JPGs in the primary library and that synchronizes. I have all my (huge) RAW files in a separate library that doesn’t synch.

    David

    • That’s an option, but I want the raw and JPEG files together, in case I want to change my edits to any of my photos. I guess a solution would be to export the photos I want in the cloud to a second library, and sync that, but it seems like a lot of work to keep it up to date.

      • Not my approach. I don’t want the RAW and JPGs together. I have discovered that Photos only “groups” the RAW and JPG images together if they are imported at the same time. I shoot RAW + JPG (Sony A7RM2) all the time, but I import the RAW and JPG images separately, so they are stored separately (I put the RAW and JPG images in separate albums). I have found that, if the light is good, and I expose correctly, the JPGs out of the camera are just fine – you have to pixel peep to see any difference, and I don’t print large. If I have a difficult exposure issue, I go to the RAW images for adjustment. Just the way I work. (Incidentally, I also have given up on Lightroom – overkill for my needs and I refuse to rent software. The RAWPower extension is all I need for RAW editing.

        David

        • I do want them together. If I see that the JPEG isn’t quite good enough – especially because of dynamic range – then I want to switch to the raw file. I often see differences in mine without “pixel peeping” because of the extended dynamic range of the raw files. And they allow you to do more edits without degrading the file, as is not the case when you work with JPEGs.

          They are paired if they’re imported at the same time, as long as they have the same file names (not counting the extension).

          I don’t use Lightroom ether; I do almost all my editing in Photos, though I’ll sometimes use another app for very specific edits that Photos can’t handle, but that’s relatively rare.

  5. I don’t see the advantage of keeping the images together – you have to designate which image you want to make primary one image at a time. When I have both RAW and JPEG loaded (in separate libraries) it is easy to focus on the version you want to edit.

    As far as I can tell, Photos won’t let you browse two images at the same time, so you can’t view both JPEG and RAW for comparison. You would have to go out to another application like Preview (or Fast Raw Viewer) to do the comparison. Of course, you know that RAW is better if you are going to do extensive editing, so if you are unhappy with the JPEG you are going to try to fix the RAW image, not the JPEG.

    Sony has a camera feature called DRO (Dynamic Range Optimization) that I have turned on all the time (using the “Auto” setting – which is pretty conservative) and it helps with dynamic range issues. Other cameras have similar features. DRO can make in-camera adjustments that are very difficult or impossible to do later. (And the A7RM2 has great native dynamic range.) But this is really a feature for people like me who are not hyper-sensitive to these issues (and prefer to spend time taking photos, not sitting in front of a computer editing them!).

    David

  6. I don’t see the advantage of keeping the images together – you have to designate which image you want to make primary one image at a time. When I have both RAW and JPEG loaded (in separate libraries) it is easy to focus on the version you want to edit.

    As far as I can tell, Photos won’t let you browse two images at the same time, so you can’t view both JPEG and RAW for comparison. You would have to go out to another application like Preview (or Fast Raw Viewer) to do the comparison. Of course, you know that RAW is better if you are going to do extensive editing, so if you are unhappy with the JPEG you are going to try to fix the RAW image, not the JPEG.

    Sony has a camera feature called DRO (Dynamic Range Optimization) that I have turned on all the time (using the “Auto” setting – which is pretty conservative) and it helps with dynamic range issues. Other cameras have similar features. DRO can make in-camera adjustments that are very difficult or impossible to do later. (And the A7RM2 has great native dynamic range.) But this is really a feature for people like me who are not hyper-sensitive to these issues (and prefer to spend time taking photos, not sitting in front of a computer editing them!).

    David

  7. Kirk as I understand it the newest Mac OS (High Sierra) and the newest iOS for the phones/pads will share ALL CLOUD data with other members of your family if you have home sharing (And if your family members who are part of the home sharing are running High Sierra and/or the newest iOS for their phones/pads.

    I have home sharing for a few reasons most of which is our family Apple Music subscription for 15 dollars a month. I am making the assumption that I HAVE to have home sharing turned on so my children will be able to be a part of the “family plan” for Apple Music.

    I realize this is only tangentially related to your article and I apologize if this question is to far off subject.. My question to you is do I have to turn off family sharing if I do NOT want other members of my family to have access to my other files in iCloud? I realize there are music files and photos that are usually the topic of iCloud sharing BUT my understanding is that other files that I store in the cloud (my business files for instance which consist of word documents pdf documents and jpeg files) will also be accessible to ALL who are a member of my family. Is this true or not? Thank you in advance to helping me understand this aspect of iCloud and it’s complete relationship to home sharing.

    • I don’t use family sharing, but I don”t think it shares all data; each user has their own email, calendar, contacts, iCloud Drive files, etc. They also have their own iTunes / Apple Music accounts. As for Photos, I’m not sure.

  8. Kirk as I understand it the newest Mac OS (High Sierra) and the newest iOS for the phones/pads will share ALL CLOUD data with other members of your family if you have home sharing (And if your family members who are part of the home sharing are running High Sierra and/or the newest iOS for their phones/pads.

    I have home sharing for a few reasons most of which is our family Apple Music subscription for 15 dollars a month. I am making the assumption that I HAVE to have home sharing turned on so my children will be able to be a part of the “family plan” for Apple Music.

    I realize this is only tangentially related to your article and I apologize if this question is to far off subject.. My question to you is do I have to turn off family sharing if I do NOT want other members of my family to have access to my other files in iCloud? I realize there are music files and photos that are usually the topic of iCloud sharing BUT my understanding is that other files that I store in the cloud (my business files for instance which consist of word documents pdf documents and jpeg files) will also be accessible to ALL who are a member of my family. Is this true or not? Thank you in advance to helping me understand this aspect of iCloud and it’s complete relationship to home sharing.

    • I don’t use family sharing, but I don”t think it shares all data; each user has their own email, calendar, contacts, iCloud Drive files, etc. They also have their own iTunes / Apple Music accounts. As for Photos, I’m not sure.

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