Sharing photos on your iPhone or iPad is about to get a lot easier thanks to new features introduced in the latest version of Apple’s iOS operating system, but there are a few potential pitfalls.

New in iOS 16, introduced at this year’s WWDC, is a shared photo library designed to help you share your pictures easily, or even automatically, with a select group of up to five other people, typically family or close friends.

The new iCloud Shared Photo Library lets the members of your group keep their shared memories together in one place and is designed specifically to encourage such sharing through a range of new supporting features. It’s like a more powerful version of Google Photos’ “partner sharing” feature expanded to work with multiple people rather than just one other.

The Shared Photo Library lets you decide what you want to share and what you want to keep private, allowing you to make your original selection of images based on criteria such as start date or which people appear in the photos.

After this initial setup you can then add additional photos manually, or take advantage of Apple’s new automated settings that share content for you, meaning you’re less reliant on people remembering to upload their photos after an event.

One such setting is a new toggle switch built into the camera app that, when enabled, sends every photo you take straight to the shared library so everyone in the group will immediately be able to see it. Another setting uses Bluetooth to turn on the automatic sharing mode for you when it detects that members of your group are nearby.


Once added, content from the shared library will appear in memories, featured photos, and in the photos widget for all group members. Every member of the group has the same level of access and is able to add, edit or delete images from the library.

But be careful!

I can see how these options will encourage and simplify sharing of important images which should turn into a valuable collection over time. However, I can also see the potential for some embarrassing situations should inappropriate photos inadvertently find their way into the shared library.

Apple notes that you can temporarily turn off the automatic sharing option for any personal images, but what if you forget? The potential for accidental oversharing may cause some to think twice about enabling this option in the first place. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. The same goes for people who love to take dozens of selfies before selecting the best one. No one wants to see those.

Similarly, with everyone able to edit, caption, or delete images from the shared library, I can see the potential for conflict over who has the final say over what stays in the album. For example, being able to delete a horrible group photo that caught you mid-sneeze may seem like a great idea to you, but not so great for the person who originally shared the picture because the moment was important to them.

Furthermore, in Apple’s presentation, photos are shown being moved to the shared library rather than copied. I hope that any photos deleted from the shared library are not then permanently lost from users’ personal libraries too, but at this point, it’s not clear.

I’m sure Apple has considered these scenarios, but it remains to be seen how such situations will pan out when iOS 16 is released later this year.

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