I use an iCloud shared photo album to share photos and videos with my family, but I'm slowly reaching the limit of 5000 photos and videos per album, so I'm considering migrating this album to Google Photos, with its current limit of 20000 photos or videos per album.

How can I copy this iCloud Photos shared album to Google Photos, ideally along with all metadata?

  • All photos and videos, the reduced resolution stored on iCloud is sufficient
  • Capture date/time, so that the pictures and videos are sorted chronologically
  • Comments, at least those I wrote myself, ideally also those added by my family

Because of the big number of pictures involved, I'd like to limit the number of manual steps in this procedure.

Maybe there's even an app for that?


3 Answers 3


Workflow on macOS Catalina:

  1. Ensure you have enough disk space and bandwidth available for downloading the Shared Album to your Mac.

    For migrating a shared album with 4800 photos and videos, I needed approximately 20 GB free disk space.

  2. Create a dedicated account for the migration on your Mac.

    This is an optional step. It is useful if you want to back up only the photos and videos from the iCloud Shared Album to Google, and not the other photos from your System Photo Library.

    In the System Preferences, under Systems & Groups, unlock to make changes and click the + button to add a user account. Log in with this account. When macOS prompts you to log in to your iCloud account, use an iCloud account that has access to the shared album.

  3. Open Photos, select Shared Albums, and wait for the Shared Album to be synced.

    In the meantime, deactivate iCloud Photos in the Photos Preferences, so that your photos and videos won't be uploaded and stored to iCloud another time.

    You can monitor the download activity in the Network tab of the Activity Monitor.

  4. Copy the photos from the Shared Album on your Mac (only the photos, videos will be tackled in the next step.)

    See Archive or make copies of the information you store in iCloud:

    a. Open Photos and select Shared Albums.

    b. Double-click the shared album.

    c. In the top right corner, next to Showing Only, choose Show only Photos.

    d. Select all photos (Command-A).

    e. Control click (or right-click) a photo and choose Import.

  5. Copy the videos from the Shared Album to your Photos library.

    a. Create a folder on your Mac, e.g. on the Desktop.

    b. Open Photos and select Shared Albums.

    c. Double-click the shared album.

    d. In the top right corner, next to Showing Only, choose Show only Videos.

    e. Select all videos (Command-A).

    f. Drag-and-drop the videos to a folder on your Mac.

    g. With all videos still selected in Photos, open the File menu and, under Export, click Export Unmodified Original for all Videos. Ensure that Export IPTC as XMP is selected in the dialog, and confirm the Export in the same folder.

    This creates XMP files containing the date for your videos. The Photos app currently needs this workaround with external XMP files so that the date information does not get lost when you import videos.

    h. Import the videos back from the folder to Photos: In the folder, Sort by type or Group by type in the View menu, and select all the video files: Only the video files, not the XMP files. Drag-and-drop the videos to Photos.

    i. Delete the folder you used to transfer the videos from the Shared Album to Photos.

  6. Use Google Backup and Sync to automatically backup photos from your Mac.

    Select Upload newly added photos and videos to Google Photos in the preferences.

    In the Network Settings, it is possible to limit the Upload Rate.

This procedure won't copy comments, though.

  • Creating a dedicated photos library in the same macOS account is not an option. Shared albums is only available in the System Photo Library. When you try to use another library as System Photo Library, you get a warning message indicating that switching the System Photo Library will turn off iCloud Photos, and Shared Albums will be disabled.
    – Pierre F
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 12:25
  • Importing videos from a Shared Album in Photos on macOS by control clicking it and choosing Import will lose the video taken date (more precisely, set the video date to today) for some videos - openradar.appspot.com/radar?id=4944997396774912
    – Pierre F
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 4:17
  • I had to adjust the date and time of some pictures: Approx. 20 photos were incorrectly displayed as taken today in my case. The Export Unmodified Original workaround doesn't work for pictures, as Photos currently doesn't consider the contents of the XMP file when importing photos. However, you can use this feature to export the date/time information for all photos. Then, use the file name from the photo Info window to search the correct date, and Adjust Date and Time manually in the Image menu.
    – Pierre F
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 12:41
  • Adjusted date and time in Photos doesn't seem to be taken over in Google Photos when uploading the Photos Library using Backup & Sync - I had to adjust date and time for the same photos and videos there as well :-/
    – Pierre F
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 7:54
  • When using Google Backup & Sync to upload the Photos Library, Live Photos will be considered as 2 separate files: photo & video.
    – Pierre F
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 7:55

Apple has a cloud to cloud solution to export your photos and videos from iCloud to Google. In the initial form, this transfer tool does not move shared albums, just your personal albums, do you might need to convert all of the shared albums to local ones and then re-share them out later on the Google side.

The transfer process takes between three and seven days. We use this time to verify that the request was made by you, and to make the transfer

Only content stored in iCloud Photos is transferred. Photos and videos are transferred either in the original format or in industry-standard formats that are easy to open and read.

This service is initially available to customers in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States for transfers to Google Photos.

  • Thanks for sharing! Sounds like a great solution for iCloud photos users. Unfortunately with the current limitations, it wouldn’t help for the use case of transferring a shared album including Live Photos 😕 > Some content—including shared albums, Live Photos [...]—is not transferred at all.
    – Pierre F
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 5:22
  • The Live Photo restriction seems odd @PierreF since videos can go - would making the shared albums into local ones before you transfer work? Those albums should copy over.
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 12, 2021 at 12:42

You can do this on your iOS device e.g. iPhone. Workflow on iOS 13.5.1:

  • Based on your needs, clean up the photos and videos on your device before proceeding, as all photos and videos present on your device will be uploaded to your Google photos account.
  • Ensure there's enough free space on your device to download the photos: In the Settings, under General, check the iPhone Storage. I needed approx. 20 GB for my shared album containing approx. 5000 photos and videos.
  • Ensure that the iPhone won't get to sleep, as the download / upload operation might take some time, depending on your network bandwidth: In the Settings app, under Display & Brightness, set Auto-Lock to Never.
  • Download the photos and videos from the iCloud shared album to your device:
    • Open the Shared Album you want to download in the Photos app.
    • Tap Select in the top-right corner, then Select All in the top-left corner.
    • Tap the Share button. You might want to include All Photos Data in the sharing Options before you tap the Save x Items.
    • Now wait until the download operation is completed... First, there'll be a Preparing download circular progress indicator. When it disappears, the Photos app will seem to freeze. That's where the upload takes place, so leave your iPhone alone for a while. To track completion, rotate your iPhone and wait until the Photos app rotates to adapt to the screen orientation.
  • Upload the photos and videos to Google Photos: Open the Google Photos app, select the desired Upload size and activate Backup and Sync. You can follow the Backup progress by tapping on your account picture in the top-right corner.

When done, remember to set the Auto-Lock back to your preferred settings and feel free to remove the downloaded pictures from your device.

This procedure does not copy comments, and it lost the date & time information for most of my videos: 500 out of 800 videos appear as if being taken at the time when I downloaded them to my device.


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