The rise of iPhone photography has resulted in a need for more storage, a gap that many have tried to fill by signing up for iCloud Photo Library, assuming that would allow them to free up storage on their phone, only to discover that deleting photos from their iPhone would also delete them from the cloud. In this article we'll investigate which is the best way to back up your images.

This article is about backing up the photos on your iPhone, if you are looking for a solution to back up a Mac or the Best Mac backup software we have separate articles (click on the links).

How to back up iPhone photos with iCloud Photo Library

This isn't a great solution to the problem of backing up your photos, as we will explain. However, because it's an Apple service, and you'd probably assume that it would provide the solution to backing up your photos, we will start by explaining why it doesn't.

Apple's iCloud comes baked in with iOS and, by and large, it doesn't disappoint; you get 5GB of free storage and it essentially means that if you lose your iPhone or iPad you can just recover your old back up onto your new device.

You may be wondering whether iCloud provides a means to back up your photos - perhaps so you could remove them from the device they are stored on.

This is where iCloud Photo Library could provide the solution, but unfortunately doesn't.

If you sign up to iCloud Photo Library all your photos can be accessed on all your devices, and any changes you make to an image will be replicated on all the devices too. It's also a great way to protect yourself should you lose your iPhone (or if it's stolen) because you can recover your data onto a new handset.

However, should you try to delete a photo from the iPhone you took it on, for example, you will see the message that it will be deleted from all your devices and from iCloud. There is no option to keep the image in iCloud. For that reason, it's not a solution for backing up your images if you were hoping to free up space on your iPhone.

You could choose to download the full res image in Photos on your Mac before deleting it: Right click on the image and duplicate it. That should make a 'back up' of the image on your Mac, and allow you to continue to view it on your iPhone. But if you delete it from your Mac, it will be lost from iCloud too.

There's another issue with storing your photos in iCloud: its security was famously exposed in October 2014. when celebrities found their accounts had been hacked, and personal photos (some very personal) were leaked.

The other disadvantage is that iCloud prices aren't cheap. That free 5GB is not going to go very far, so you will need to upgrade to 50GB storage for £0.79/$0.99 a month, but more likely, you'll be looking to pay for 200GB storage, at £2.49/$2.99 a month, or 2TB storage at £6.99/$9.99 a month.

How to back up iPhone photos using iCloud Drive

Despite what we said above, you could back up your photos using iCloud, but it would require a bit of a workaround.

If you have signed up for iCloud storage you could choose to save photos you don't want to lose to a folder in Files, here's how:

  1. Click on a photo.
  2. Choose Save to Files from the options that appear.
  3. Choose the folder you want to save to and click Add.
  4. That photo will now be availiable to access on the Files app on any of your iOS devices, or from the Finder on your Mac.

Alternatively, if you have a Mac, you could back up your iCloud Photo Library to your Mac (or an external drive if there isn't enough space on your Mac). We explain how to do this here: How to move your Photos library (and iCloud Photo Library) to an external drive.

To automatically download your iPhoto Library onto your Mac do the following:

  1. Open Photos on your Mac.
  2. Click Photos > Preferences.
  3. Click iCloud.
  4. Choose Download originals to this Mac.

Now you only need to back up your Mac and you will also back up of all your photos.

However, if due to lack of space on your Mac, you’d like to transfer your Photo back up to an external drive, follow these instructions.

  1. Quit Photos - you won't be able to do this if it's running.
  2. Find the Photos Library in Pictures Folder and move this to the External Disk (you can drag and drop).
  3. Once it's copied over, press the option/alt key and hold it while launching Photos.
  4. Choose 'Other Library' and navigate to the folder on the external drive.
  5. Photos will open and your library should appear as normal.
  6. Next click on General > Preferences and choose Use as System Photo Library (if you don't do this your new library won't work with iCloud Photo Library).
  7. Open System Preferences > iCloud > Photos > Options and Select iCloud Photo Library.
  8. Once you are happy that all is working properly, you can delete your original library from your Mac.

How to back up iPhone photos with Dropbox

Dropbox is arguably the poster boy of cloud storage, and it’s easy to see why.

The service is available cross-platform, it is exceptionally easy to share links to albums and to use the desktop software to drag-and-drop files into. In addition, hi-res images are supported and there are no file size restrictions on Dropbox Business. It’s also very quick to enable the auto-uploading of photos (including over WiFi or cellular when using a mobile app).

And while the amount of free storage (2GB) isn’t much, you can top this up by referring Dropbox to friends (500MB for each friend, up to 16GB in total) or completing the Getting Started tutorial (250MB). Uploading photos automatically nets another 3GB.

If you need more storage than that - likely if you are an avid photographer - then you'll be looking at paying £6.58 a month for 1TB storage on DropBox Plus.

You can enable camera uploads from your iPhone to DropBox, but you will need to download the DropBox app and upgrade to Dropbox Plus or Professional. 

  1. Open the DropBox app on your iPhone or iPad. 
  2. Tap the person icon to access Account settings
  3. Select Camera Uploads
  4. Turn on Camera Uploads

There are various choices you can make here including whether uploads happen over a cellular connection, or only via Wi-Fi. You can also choose whether to upload video or not.

If you want to upload images manually the instructions are slightly different:

  1. Open the DropBox app on your iPhone or iPad. 
  2. Tap +
  3. Tap Upload Photos
  4. Locate the photos you want to upload
  5. Tap Next
  6. Choose or create a folder to upload the photos to
  7. Tap Upload

Dropbox isn’t perfect, especially given the limited free data, and the inability to control how files are presented, but there are few cloud services this versatile.

How to back up iPhone photos with OneDrive

Microsoft's OneDrive might be a mainstay of Windows devices but it is a strong cross-platform service with numerous benefits.

Everyone can get 5GB of storage for free, but there's a 50GB option for £1.99 a month, or Office 365 Personal subscribers can get 1TB of OneDrive storage for £5.99 a month. 

The service promises full image back-up that will be available on all your devices, and supports Two-Factor-Authentication (2FA), which is an extra security layer.

Here's how to back up your photos using OneDrive

You'll need to download the OneDrive for iOSapp from the App Store here

  1. Open the OneDrive app
  2. Tap the Me icon (looks like a Person) at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Tap Settings.
  4. Tap Camera Upload.
  5. Turn on Camera Upload - now your iPhone will automatically upload photos and videos to OneDrive.
  6. If you want to set your device to upload pictures while you are using a different app, tap Upload in Background.
  7. You can also upload videos automatically - to do so, turn on Include Videos.

How to back up iPhone photos with Google Photos

There are numerous advantages of using Google Photos to back up your iPhone photos. It will backup and sync all your iPhone photos, storing 'High quality' copies of your photos (at a reduced file size). The best thing is that you only have to play for storage if you want full resolution back ups of your images.

You get 15GB storage for free though from Google, whille Apple only gives 5GB free space in iCloud.

Follow these instructions to automatically sync your iPhone photos to Google Photos.

You'll need to download the Google Photos app from the App Store here.

  1. Open the Google Photos app.
  2. Sign in to your Google account.
  3. Choose Back up & Sync. (If you don't see the option, tap Menu > Settings > Back up & sync).
  4. The app will start backing up your photos (it may take a while if you have a lot!)

We have this article about Google Photos so you can see what it's like to use: Apple Photos versus Google Photos.

How to back up iPhone photos with a hard drive

If you would prefer not to use a cloud service, a better idea would be to set up a separate storage device and move the photos currently stored on your iPhone there.

We have this article about the best external storage devices for iPhone.

For example, you could use the Verbatim iStore 'n' Go, which comes with a free companion app that you'd download from the App Store that will make backing up your photos simple. 

Read next: How to keep your photos safe on your iPhone.

How to back up iPhone photos using social media

You could upload your photos to Facebook, there's even an option to set to private so you don't have to flood your friends with photos. Its limited storage, and the image quality, or privacy terms, are not ideal, but it's an option.

Instagram is a more obvious choice as it lets you upload an unlimited number of photos and short videos for free, while Flickr offers a tempting 1TB and a slick interface for free (don’t expect to back-up videos).  Amazon Cloud Drive is attractive for Amazon Prime customers, while Mega gives you 50GB for free and above-average security.

You may also like to read How to transfer photos from iPhone to Mac and our Tips for using the iPhone camera.