I have been using Photos on macOS and iOS since they were introduced. I also jumped into iCloud Photo Library at it’s introduction. It’s not that unheard of that, as an early adopter, I run into issues from time to time. This latest issue was very tricky to figure out.
It all started when I made a iTunes backup of my iPhone 7. I do not have a lot of data on my phone, with the bulk being photos and videos in iCloud Photo Library. After the backup, my Mac was running low on available disk space and I discovered by looking at the backup in the Finder that it was over 50gb. This seemed too large so I started investigating.
First I looked in Settings on the iPhone in General -> Storage & iCloud Usage. iOS reported that I only had 70gb of 200gb free in my iCloud storage, which did not make since because I mostly had videos and backups in iCloud.
Tapping Manage Storage for iCloud revealed that my iCloud Photo Library was using 75gb, which made since, but my iPhone was using 50gb! This didn’t make sense, but it did match with the size of my iTunes backup.
Now the problem is, tapping my iPhone on this screen did not explain where the storage was being used. It claimed to be telling me this information, but the numbers simply did not match up. My largest usage of storage was iMovie at 7gb. It did not list Photos nor Messages.
I backed out to Storage & iCloud Usage, but this time I tapped Manage Storage under “Storage” instead of “iCloud” A ha! My photos and Camera was using 35gb, when it should have been using much less. Messages was using 7gb.
I verified that iCloud Photo Library had all of my photos by looking on iCloud.com. Next came something unexpected.
I turned off iCloud Photo Library and iOS told me it would remove Photos and Videos. I told it to go ahead and do this (I had several clones of my entire Mac with all of my photos) and when it was done, over 5000 photos and videos remained on the iPhone.
Several hours later, I realized I needed to remove these by hand. Import in Photos was doing nothing, so I used the Image Capture application on the Mac to download all photos and videos from the phone, just to be safe, and then used it to delete all 5000 photos and videos.
I was back to only using a few GB for photos. Next, I turned on iCloud Photo Library and iOS brought down all 13,800 photos.
Since then, my Photos has blossomed back to using 11gb, but the backup size is still only 14gb instead of 50gb.
These issues may not affect a normal user, but it never hurts to validate storage usage and expectations from time to time. iOS doesn’t make this very easy to understand where all of the data is being used, nor how to manage it, but it is far better than the hidden Library on macOS..