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Shared Photo Library

I am guardedly optimistic about Apple’s announcement of an iCloud Shared Photo Library. Since we moved from primarily digital cameras to two parents snapping pictures with two phones storing them in the cloud, photo library management has been a pain. The desire to keep things simple meant that I did not go out and look for an alternative to Apple’s iCloud solution. So my only option was to make my library the main one, each year exporting everything from my wife’s library to merge in to the main library.

With iOS 16, it seems there will be options for family sharing, which sounds great now that we have five phones in our family snapping pictures and storing them in the cloud.

iCloud Shared Photo Library gives families a new way to share photos seamlessly with a separate iCloud library that up to six users can collaborate on, contribute to, and enjoy. Users can choose to share existing photos from their personal libraries, or share based on a start date or people in the photos.

Sharing based on start date sounds like the thing we’ll want, at least on the parent side. What we truly want as parents is a unified library such that each of us can browse any picture either of us took or imported through all time.

Looking at the screenshots of this in action makes me a little less hopeful. Apple shares one screenshot of photo selection with the option to “Move to Shared Library.” What does this mean? Are the photos duplicated into the shared library, symlinked in, or literally moved out of my library and into the shared library? And this doesn’t sound great, especially when sharing with children:

Moving these 5 items to the Shared Library will allow all Shared Library participants to view, edit or delete this content at any time.

No, this isn’t feeling quite like what I want. Or maybe it’s just part of what I want. I would like:

  1. A unified library with my wife. Yes, I suppose we each should have edit and delete rights to that library, though some user controls would be nice. I know she would appreciate some protection from accidentally deleting photos.
  2. A view-only library with my family. I would like my children to have access to all our historical family photos, but I would prefer they not be able to accidentally delete anything. I would also like them to be able to add photos to our family library.

It seems like both of those things could be supported with a few individual user permissions. We shall see how Apple implements this. Maybe it will work fine as a wide-open, anyone-can-do-anything library as long as I have a good incremental backup system in tow to save us from any accidents.