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Photos big mess from syncing and iCloud - help please!


macrumors member
Original poster
Nov 27, 2016
Hi, please forgive me if I am posting this in the wrong forum. I figured digital photography users would be experts in managing photos.

Macbook Late 2008 C2D / 320gb HD & 8gb of RAM / El Capitan 10.11.6
HD saying 24.56GB allocated to photos

iPhone 6 / 64gb / iOS 10.3.2
13.72GB allocated to photos
All Photos Album: 8674 (equal number to all photos)
Last iCloud back up: never (last backup was to iTunes, which I'm no longer wanting to do)
iCloud photo library: ON
Optimize iPhone storage: OFF
Download and keep originals: ON
Upload to My Photo Stream: OFF
iCloud photo sharing: ON
Summarize photos: OFF
HDR/Keep normal photo: ON

iPad Air / iOS 10.3.1 (child essentially took over and I put restrictions on it so not really concerned with pictures as far as this device goes)
Last iCloud back up: yesterday

1. Best way to create a back up of the entire mess just in case? Old school drag and drop to HD and/or external HD for backup? (I have done the old school drag and drop to ensure my daughter's pictures are safely backed up)
2. Best way to back up for the future with cleaned up photo directory?
3. Best way to clean up this duplicated mess?
4. Best way to change setting to streamline management of photos?

Any and all advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you


macrumors newbie
Jun 22, 2017
Your hardware is similar to my setup. I'd start by offloading the photos from your phone and ipad to the macbook through the Photos app. Then you have a centralized library, all in Photos. At that point, you can remove the photos from your iOS devices if you like.

Make sure your macbook is backed up often and you should be all set. Additionally though, I'd consider adding 50GB of iCloud storage and turning on iCloud photo library. This will allow you offsite sync and will automatically add any new photos from your phone and ipad to your macbook. Definitely worth $12/year.


macrumors 68020
Aug 26, 2009
I have 3 devices too (Mac iPhone iPad).

I don't have photos going to the iCloud because I can better manage them myself. Some of my photos are so random on my iPhone that I will upload to a social media site (random pics) and the one I want to keep are backed up to an external drive. This way I can access them quickly.

The sharing is turned off on my iOS devices because the sizes of my devices are different. At some point my iPhone and iPad were made in the same year. Now my iPad 32GB not upgradable and some day I will replace it. So this is why I don't sync the photos across iCloud. Storage issue.

My iCloud right now is a mess and I haven't even backed all my photos. For some reason its saying that I've used the 5GB when I'm only showing 0.10GB being used.


macrumors regular
Sep 19, 2013
I'm working through something like this right now. Here's what I've done: used Photos to import every picture in every folder I could find. Photos did a fair job of not re-importing pictures that had already been imported. So this was my quick and dirty way to get a first consolidation and cleanup. Next, I download a 99 cent app called Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro. It doesn't work with iPhotos, only with Photos, but they have a free older version that does support iPhotos. At this very moment, I'm backing up my Photos library. Then I'm going to rebuild the library. Then I'm going to keep going through it with DPFP to remove duplicates - there are too many to do in one pass. Couple things I wish I'd known earlier:

1. The "keep original photo" setting for HDR is a pain. You wind up with two images on the drive, and it can be hard to see which one you want. If I set that, I go back in that day and delete the photos I don't want to keep. If you are comfortable with a decent photo editing app, something as basic as Photoshop Elements is excellent and Pixelmator is also very good, you will get better results that you will get through Photos tools.

2. I despise a few things about Photos. One is that it's not a folder full of files, it's an opaque database. You can't copy files directly into and out of Photos, you have to import and export. You also can't edit the files in an external editor, such as Elements. I see that there are some add-ons to Photos that allow this, but I hate tacking more and more things onto the software. The Photos window is not the best interface to view files. So..

Once I have the Photos library where I think it should be as far as files, dates, duplicates gone, etc. I'm going to export everything in original format to a folder structure on my hard drive, then use a different app from then on to manage and edit them. Some one recommended a program called Corel AfterShot, or I might break down and buy a standalone copy of Lightroom. If that new software does a good job of importing images from the mobile devices, I won't use Photos any more at all. If it doesn't, I'll create a new Photos Library and point the app to that, and then as photos collect there I will export them to the folder structure.

I also can use this structure to upload all my photos to Amazon Prime storage for free, so I don't have to pay the exorbitant iCloud fee...and have a good backup. Plus I have a small SSD external drive to back up the library and then throw in the safe deposit box. I don't want to lose my pictures.


macrumors regular
Dec 14, 2015
Bristol, UK
I too have 3 devices: iPhone 7 (128gb), iPad Pro 1st gen (32gb) and MacBook Pro with TB (256gb).

I generally only take photos with my iPhone, but screenshot from iPad. All are saved to their respective camera rolls.

I then have Microsoft onedrive which gives me 1TB of cloud storage, and I sync everything from both camera rolls to onedrive. All my photos / videos are available on all 3 devices as a result. I use folders in one drive to create albums for better searching. The only downside is I can't see these on my MacBook.

Additionally any photos taken with my LUMIX, I transfer to my camera roll, by sticking the microSd card into a Sandisk wifi USB stick if I'm without my Mac. These then sync through onedrive. If I have my MacBook then I've got a sdcard dongle for transferring.

I use time machine to back up the MacBook HDD.

I've also got an old Windows pc which I use as infrequent back up, connecting iphone and iPad through USB, and copying the camera roll to the HDD.

There are probably better ways of achieving, but I never really got on with iCloud camera roll sharing and as I needed Microsoft Home for Word, Excel etc, at £59.99, it seemed a sensible choice.
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