I have 2 iMacs at the office and at home; an iPhone; and an iPad.

I recently installed the new Photos app on both iMacs. In both cases, I’m using iCloud Photo Library. So, any new photos I take on my iPhone appear on both iMacs. This is great — now I know my photos are backed up (both on iCloud and on two iMacs), and they're available from any machine on which I'd like to access them.

In other words, as I understand it, Photos and iCloud are keeping all my devices in sync.

The problem is that I don't want to keep all my photos on my iPhone. Once the photo is saved to iCloud and my iMacs, I’d like to be able to delete it from my iPhone, while keeping it on both my iMacs and on iCloud. As it stands now, if I delete a photo from my iPhone, it also disappears from my iMacs.

So my question is, how can I delete photos from my iPhone without deleting them from iCloud or my iMacs? Is there a setting that makes this the default behavior?

2 Answers 2


The default behavior is for iCloud Photo Library not to store full-size versions of your photos on your iPhone and iPad:

iCloud Photo Library Settings

The theory is that only thumbnails are stored on your iPhone/iPad until you decide to view/edit/share the photo, at which point a device-optimized or full-size version of your photo is downloaded from iCloud.

(Note: I know a full-size copy is downloaded when you edit/share, but it appears that if your iPhone has plenty of space it will download a full-size copy for viewing as well, as opposed to just a device-optimized version. This is likely to avoid having to do a second download later if you decide to share the photo.)

When you start running low on space, iOS will begin pruning less-accessed photos and return to simply thumbnails or device-optimized versions of those.

All of this happens automatically in the background and you shouldn't have to worry about managing space yourself.


iCloud Photo Library doesn't support doing that. All your photos have to be on all your devices where you've enabled it and deleting a photo anywhere deletes it everywhere.

Unless you have a huge library, it shouldn't be a big issue. My library has 11K photos and 300 videos but only takes a little over 2GB of space on my iPhone. The total space used for photos & videos might actually go down as full-sized images taken on the iPhone or synced to it get replaced by "device-specific" resolutions.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .