Apple Photos is a Miss

The pain I suffered trying to share media with Apple Photos, and how I worked around it.

A single lonely, useless cloud.
Photo by Alexandre Boucey / Unsplash

I'm fairly new to the apple ecosystem, I just passed my 1 year anniversary with my iPhone as of writing this. I was a staunch Android defender for years, but recently I feel like Apple has really pulled ahead so I made the jump. I've found Apples commitment to excellence in all aspects of their devices very impressive. However, when something doesn't hit the mark it stings so much worse than it did before. I think a lot of these issues would be expected from a competitor device, but since Apple executes at such a high level these issues are much more annoying.

To start, Apple Photos takes a much different approach than Google Photos. Apple Photos is a very device/local first approach which I found really cool. Instead of requiring Googles servers to do all the heavy processing on my pictures and videos, the iPhone has the horsepower to do it itself which is really impressive. My biggest gripe with the app is that sharing is awful, which I think stems from this local first architecture.

Whether its between iPhones with iMessage or with my Windows PC, sharing even a few things from Apple Photos is extremely painful. I assume this is due to the aforementioned local first approach that the app takes, but once my media is in iCloud I expect to be able to share any amount of media instantly. There are 2 'normal' ways to achieve sharing groups of media from the app.

The first is selecting your media and hitting share. This is usually fine for a few photos or short videos but there is a reupload step that happens, and the more content you select the longer this step takes. I recently tried sharing about 10 minutes of video and 10 photos with a friend and the loading just got stuck. Why don't I instantly get a link and then the rest happens in the background since my stuff is already in the cloud.

The second method is using a shared album. The UI on shared albums is kind of bad, but that is besides the point. It is also important to note that sharing a normal album has the same issues as the first approach I outlined. The shared album also has to seemingly reupload all of your media to create the album. Is this using double space? Who knows, because the size calculations are also famously incorrect. To its credit the upload to a shared album seems much more reliable than just sharing the media. There is one massive caveat to this approach in that the media isn't uploaded in its full resolution! Half the iPhone marketing is about the quality of the damn camera so why would I ever be able to share a blurry image?

There is a third way, and its how I was able to share a massive amount of content. I was recently asked to film a friends destination wedding. I have no filming experience whatsoever, so, I thought I would film everything on my iPhone and DJI mimo (I won't even go into how hard uploading content from an SD card was), upload it to Apple Photos, then be able to share the 4k60fps content with everyone. What a shit show this turned into. I had hundreds of gigabytes of content essentially locked away in my iCloud that I couldn't figure out how to share.

The solution ended up being, going to the Apple Photos website to download everything. Note I said the website and not using the iCloud windows application. The windows app simply could not parse through my entire library of 13,000 files, to enable me to download just the files I wanted. So, I had to use the website, figure out how to download the full quality of everything, and then upload it to my Nextcloud instance (shout out Hetzner Storage Share). This was excruciating since transfers from iCloud are horribly slow, and you end up with a massive zip file that is really unwieldly to unzip and transfer to my personal cloud.

In my Android days this wouldn't have been a problem. I would have had a collaborative, platform agnostic, album that would be able to share with the whole family as soon as the files were done uploading. Alternatively, if any of these same issues arose outside of Apples perfectly trimmed walled garden, I probably wouldn't have minded enough to write a blog post about it.