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iCloud Photo Library downloads thumbnails of your pics, but only full quality ones as needed
Stop iCloud Photo Library from stealing storage
QI’d avoided iCloud until recently, when I wanted to show photos from my iPad 2 on a TV. I put them into my iCloud Photo Library using my Mac, and they duly showed up on the iPad. However, they appear in the iPad’s Photos app even when the device’s Wi-Fi is turned off. I don’t want hundreds of pictures cluttering up the device. How can I only collect them from the cloud when I need them?
AiCloud Photo Library stores all of your pictures in iCloud, but doesn’t necessarily lumber all the devices you’ve connected to your iCloud account with the whole library. Control its behaviour by going to Settings > iCloud > Photos.
When you enable iCloud Photo Library on that page, your iPad will inevitably keep indexes and thumbnail images for your whole library. Below that, though, you have an option of choosing either Optimise iPad Storage or Download and Keep Originals; inevitably, the latter of those uses more storage space, but tap the former and your iPad will manage its use of local storage as efficiently as possible.
If your iPad has ample free storage, it may well still keep copies of your most commonly used photos and videos locally on the iPad. However, when the iPad is more pushed for free space, it’ll leave the full-size originals in the cloud, downloading them only as needed.
You can tell how much local storage iCloud Photo Library is using by going to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage (under the Storage heading, not iCloud). Scroll down the list to find the total used by Photos & Camera, tap that, and you can confirm how much local space your photo library is using. You could turn on iCloud Photo Library only when you need it, but you’ll need to be happy waiting for it to sync each time.
Tap the Optimise iPad Storage item if you’d like the storage space used by photos on your device kept to a minimum.