How Many Photos Can 5GB iCloud Storage Hold?

5GB can hold approximately 3500 photos. However, stuffing up all your iCloud storage space with photos is an unsafe choice that could lead to errors. Knowing how to manage them is important.

Hi, I’m Devansh. Being a Mac user and an avid photographer, I’ve often had to use iCloud storage to back up my photos and access them across my devices. So, I have a good level of experience working with the platform.

In this article, I’ll share a data table with estimates on how many photos you can store in 5GB with three types of image file formats, then I’ll share some ways to minimize photo size without distorting the quality. Finally, I’ll finish off with some commonly asked questions.

If you have a large library of pictures you’d like to offload to iCloud, keep reading!

How Many Photos Can 5GB iCloud Storage Hold?

It depends on the file format and the size of the photo.  So, I’ll cover the three most common photo file formats– JPEG, HEIF, and ProRAW.

Compressed Format (JPEG)

The following data table is based on one developed by Sandisk. They created it using these technical generalizations.

  • One Megapixel = 1,000,000 pixels
  • 1MB = 1,000,000 bytes and 1GB = 1,000MB
  • JPEG photos have visually lossless compression with 1:10 ratio of RAW photo

Of course, since these numbers are based on general estimates, they’re not exactly accurate in a real world scenario, but they give you an overall idea of how many photos can be stored in 5GB.

MegapixelEstimated File Size (MB)Number of Photos


The above was a general overview of JPEG files which is widely adopted in the tech landscape. However, since we’re talking about storage space in the context of iCloud, there’s a good chance that you’re using an iPhone or iPad, and those don’t use the JPEG format by default.

Instead, they use HEIF, which stands for High Efficiency Image File Format. Introduced in iOS 11, each iPhone and iPad since has captured photos in this format by default. As the name suggests, it is generally more efficient than JPEG, resulting in smaller sized files without sacrificing image quality. Here’s an example.

As InputMag has pointed out in the above test, an HEIF photo (2MB) takes up significantly less space than a similar JPEG photo (3.6MB). And I can make an estimate based on the average size differences between HEIF and JPEG just demonstrated here.

Taking a ratio (3.6/2 or about 1.8x more than JPEG), you can store between 1,170 to 6,435 HEIF photos in 5GB iCloud storage. Of course, just like JPEG, this also depends a lot on megapixel, file size, and other factors.

Overall, though, you’ll be able to store a lot more HEIF images in your iCloud account compared to JPEG. Since HEIF is the default format on modern Apple devices, that’s great news!


If you’ve dabbled with photography on a professional level, you probably know about ProRAW. Stored in the industry-standard digital negative (DNG) file format, right off the bat these photos are up to 12 times larger than HEIF or JPEG ones. Needless to say, you’ll be filling up your storage space with these real quick.

What’s the reason behind this? ProRAW combines the power of a standard RAW format and advanced iPhone image processing. The resulting photos offer a wide range of possibilities in post-processing, allowing for more flexibility in terms of exposure, color, and white balance.

That being said, this feature isn’t mainstream yet, being available only on the iPhone 12, 12 Pro Max, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max. It’s focused on a niche group of professional users. For more info on RAW image file size, check out this post.

Based on Apple’s estimate (“10 to 12 times larger than HEIF or JPEG files”) and the camera specs of the above iPhone models, it’s safe to say that around 100 to 360 ProRAW photos, depending on the file size and megapixels, will be enough to fill up 5GB of iCloud storage.

How to Minimize Photo File Size?

Now that you have an idea of how many photos you can store in your iCloud account, let’s talk about ways to increase efficiency. These tips will allow you to take full advantage of available space and store as many pics as possible without sacrificing greatly on quality.

Tip #1: Resize Image

This is the most straightforward way to cut down on photo file size, and it’s a breeze on Mac. Just select the photo you want to resize and open it in Preview. In the top toolbar, select Tools and then Adjust size.

In the dialogue box that appears, you can adjust the width, height, and resolution of the image as you want. Be mindful to use this in moderation, unless the photo might end up being unusable.

Moreover, if you want to resize several photos at the same time, select them in a window and then select Tools and Adjust Size. Alternatively, you can also use Shutterstock’s Image Resizer tool to do the same from your browser instead.

Tip #2: Compression Tools

Before you upload your images to iCloud, using web compression tools could be useful. Here are some great ones: TinyPNG, Image Smaller, and Kraken. Although these do take some manual effort, especially if you’re working with a large library of photos, they can lower an individual photo’s file size by over 90% without sacrificing visual quality.

Tip #3: Delete Metadata

It’s an old saying that every picture is worth a thousand words. That might’ve only been a philosophical statement in the olden days, but now it’s a technical fact. Every digital picture has metadata saved to it: ranging from camera used, settings, and IP address.

Most of us have no use for such metadata, so it’s always better to remove it, both to reduce file size and to improve privacy and security. For doing this, you’ll need an app called EXIFPurge. Follow these steps when you’ve installed it.

  1. Add images into it by either clicking Select Images or via drag and drop
  2. Choose where you want to save the resulting pictures
  3. Crack your knuckles and click Purge EXIF Info

Besides this, there are some general steps you can take to free up space as well. For one, you can take older photos offline, those that you don’t need access to across all your Apple devices. You can offload them to an external drive or SD card. Besides that, also try to cull out duplicates often.

To add to this knowledge, if you want to learn more about the factors that affect photo file size, like aspect ratio, compression, and color depth, check out this article.

Managing iCloud Storage Space

Any new photo taken on an iPhone or iPad is automatically uploaded on iCloud in the highest resolution format. Combine that with the fact that most people take multiple shots of a photo before landing on one can quickly fill up the space. It’s not long before this warning shows up.

I don’t need to tell you that this could lead to issues, since Apple devices are so heavily reliant on iCloud for smooth and secure operations. By knowing the culprits, the apps that take the most space, your purging sessions can become all the more effective.

To get a better idea, you could check how your current iCloud storage is being filled up. To view it, open the Settings (iOS) or System Preferences (Mac) app, click on the Apple ID section, and then on iCloud. Here you will see a bar chart of your available storage space.

If you want a deeper breakdown in terms of apps, you can click on Manage Storage. Although this isn’t the case for me currently, it’s possible that photos take up a large part of your available storage space.


To increase your knowledge on the subject and address any other queries, here are three interesting questions you might be curious about.

How Much Storage Does Apple Offer in iCloud by Default?

Signing up for an iCloud account automatically gives you 5GB of free storage. No matter how many Apple devices you buy, it stays the same. This space is used to keep your devices in sync, for various apps like Notes, and for general storage as well.

How to Upgrade iCloud Storage?

I admit, 5GB of free storage is measly when compared to what other companies offer. So, if you need to upgrade, you can check out iCloud+. The three plans available are 50GB, 200GB, and 2TB. Of course, beside just the increased storage space they also offer a few premium features. You can check for localized pricing and more info here.

Can You Organize Your Photos into Albums with iCloud?

Yes! This can be done using the Photos app and also the Photos section in iCloud. Simply click on the ‘Add to an Album’ button, choose ‘New Album’, enter a name, and then add photos as you wish. Of course, the changes you make are synced across all your devices, making the right photos much easier to find.

How to Change Default Photo File Format from HEIF to JPEG?

The truth is that JPEG still wins out on HEIF in terms of compatibility. If you want to switch over to JPEG by default when taking photos, there is a way to do it. Open the Settings app, and head over to Camera. From there find and tap on “Formats.”

Here, you can choose “Most Compatible” and then your device will start taking photos in JPEG by default.


Overall, you can store around 3500 photos in the free storage that iCloud provides you with. However, it’s important to be careful about this since that storage space is not only meant for photos. It is also used for important backups and security-related info like passwords.

So, try to be mindful about how to utilize your available storage. To make sure that you store your photos in the most efficient way possible, follow the tips I mentioned above.

Which is your preferred photo file type to use in iCloud? Share your answer with me in the comments!

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