How to download photos from iCloud

One of the most common questions regarding using iCloud and iCloud Photo Library is how to download photos from iCloud once they have been stored there. This is a deceptively simple question, and we’re going to push aside all the complexities and oddities of downloading pictures from iCloud Photo Library within Photos app on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and instead we’ll show you the single most direct method of downloading a picture from iCloud to a computer, since that is usually what people are looking to do.

You have a photo on iCloud, and you want to download that photo your Mac or PC – simple, right? Yes, but it’s done a bit different than you may expect, as we’ll show in the walkthrough here.


How to Download Photos from iCloud to Mac OS X or Windows PC

Have a picture or several photos stored in iCloud and you want the raw file downloaded locally on any Mac, Windows PC, or other device? Here’s how you can do that:

    1. Open a web browser and go to and login with your Apple ID as usual

Login to the iCloud website

    1. Click on the “Photos” icon once you are logged in to the iCloud website

Choose Photos on the iCloud website

    1. Click to select a photo you want to download

Choose the photo you want to download from iCloud

    1. When the picture is loaded on screen, look in the upper right corner of the web browser window for a little download icon, it looks like a cloud with an arrow coming out of the bottom of it – click that to download the photo from iCloud to the computer

Download the photo from iCloud

  1. Repeat as necessary for other photos you wish to download from iCloud

And there you have it, look where your web browser defaults to downloading pictures and you’ll find your photo (or photos) in their original resolution there, this is typically the user Downloads folder. In our example, it’s a picture of the Grand Canyon:

An example photo downloaded from iCloud

That’s how you download photos from onto a computer or device. This works the same with any web browser, so it doesn’t matter if you’re on a Mac or Windows PC, or Linux, you’ll be able to download the pictures from iCloud this way.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; why isn’t there a “download all” button on iCloud Photos? And why can’t we access iCloud Photos through iCloud Drive and copy them like you would from Dropbox on a computer? Those are great questions and certainly worthy feature requests for future versions of iCloud and iCloud Photo management, but what we just outlined above is what Apple is currently offering (outside of Photos and iCloud Photo Library anyway), so for now you have to manually download the pictures one by one. Hopefully a future version of the iCloud website will offer bulk downloading, and maybe even we’ll get comparable features in the Photos apps in Mac OS X and iPhone too.

There are other ways of downloading full resolution pictures from iCloud of course, but they require the usage of the Photos apps in either Mac OS X or iOS, which puts them off limits to Windows users or from Windows based access. And yes, iCloud Photo Library is supposed to automatically manage and handle photos if you use the service, it will upload them to iCloud, and then download them on demand if requested, but for those who have a large library of pictures or less than stellar internet access, it can be cumbersome or even unreliable. Furthermore, the feature can lead to unnecessary duplications across devices, excess data usage (both with your broadband connection and your local device storage), and just other strange behaviors that can make the feature challenging to use for some user situations (me personally, I like direct file access to my photos in their original format, maybe I am old fashioned in that regard).

What about downloading pictures from iCloud backups or iTunes backups?

If you backup an iPhone or iPad to iCloud, you may like to have direct access to those pictures, but that’s not how iCloud backups work. Instead, they arrive as a complete backup package. Thus, you can also get photos out of iCloud and iTunes backups made from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but it requires either restoring a device with that backup in question in the case of iCloud, or the usage of a third party tool if the backup was made with iTunes. You can learn more about recovering photos from iPhone backups here if you’re interested, but it’s quite a different process from the method outlined above about simply downloading pictures from on the web.

Downloading photos from iCloud to a computer

Do you know of another easy way to download photos from iCloud? Maybe you know of a method to bulk download all your pictures, or a group of pictures, in their original format and size, from iCloud to a computer? Let us know your iCloud photo tricks in the comments!


from OS X Daily