I have an iPhone and a Macbook running macOS Catalina. I would like to keep my photos in sync between both devices, specifically:

  • I want to have on the laptop all the photos that I take with the phone.
  • I would like to be able to delete photos so they disappear from both devices.
  • I would prefer that my phone only has photos that I took with it (i.e. I don't want other photos from my laptop to appear on my phone).
  • At the moment I have plenty of available storage on both the phone and the laptop, so space is not going to be a problem in the foreseeable future.

Having the photos on iCloud seems to be what I need, however I ran out of space there so all recent photos taken with the phone are not uploaded to the cloud and I cannot see them on the laptop.

I could pay to have additional storage on iCloud, but I'm looking for alternatives.

I can use the Photos app to import all new photos from the phone to the laptop every once a while. This works and this is actually the kind of solution I'm looking for, but I don't know how to delete photos from both devices without having to delete them manually on both places.

I don't know if it's possible to have iCloud store only the most recent set of photos, and have the older ones offline. If it's possible, how to do that?


  • The iCloud solution is what Apple wants you to do and what does this. Would cleaning up your photo album so it fits again, be an option? Oct 4, 2020 at 12:54
  • That's a bit what I asked with my last question on the original post: is there a way to decide what photos go to iCloud and what photos remain on the laptop and/or the phone? If I can have iCloud store the photos from the past couple of years then that would work for me. Oct 4, 2020 at 14:29
  • I’m also looking for two-way sync between devices but seems like it can only be achieved through iCloud. Apple probably has no incentive to do so, quite the opposite unfortunately.
    – Jules
    Aug 27, 2021 at 2:24

2 Answers 2


The short answer is no. The iCloud sync doesn’t have an easy configuration place to push data to AWS S3 storage or Azure storage or Backblaze storage. You can back up the Mac to lots of places, but the sync process uses Apple encryption and online services exclusively. You would need to use a different photo app on iOS and MacOS if you wanted different sync options.

I’m facing a similar dilemma. For years the 200 GB storage was an easy decision, pay a little each month and don’t spend any time cleaning up all the photos I take. Everything could sync everywhere.

I have a license to PowerPhotos so I could manage two Photos libraries on my Macs and thin the system library that syncs, but in honesty, my time is probably worth more to me to pay for easy sync than use this super powerful software to fork my libraries. I may do some light cleaning and avoid paying the next tier for a few months, but for me the cost is low to have everything in iCloud. It’s not always apparent to me when I find a photo I almost deleted, and then later use it when making a slideshow to celebrate a birthday and I have evidence of them doing something goofy in the background. I’m hesitant to delete photos and don’t spend hours a month curating them. The good news is everyone can choose their preference for time / money / tools so I totally get some people prefer to not pay for any extra storage. If you clean things better than I or have a different way to archive your important photos, keep things clean in iCloud.


You can use DropBox to manage and sync your photos across iOS and MacOS; Google Photos is another option.

While you may be able to hold all your Photos on the cloud server and selectively download, I don't think there's any way to avoid 'back-sync' of photos from your Mac being seen on your phone.

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