Handle the Limited Photos Library in your app

Written by Ammar AlTahhan

Description: Access the photos and videos you need for your app while preserving privacy. With the new Limited Photos Library feature, people can directly control which photos and videos an app can access to protect their private content. We’ll explore how this feature may affect your app, and take you through alternatives like PHPicker. Check out “Meet the New Photos Picker” to learn more about PHPicker and how this this fully private picker can help you avoid requiring full Photos Library access in your app.

Full and Limited Photo Library Access

  • Unlike previously, where full access meant being able to read everything in the user’s photo library, with the limited access, you’ll only have access to selected number of photos chosen by the user
Full accessLimited access
  • For apps that haven’t adopted the new API, when asking for permission, the user will be prompted to either grant a full access or only select a limited number of photos to grant access permission to, once a limited access is granted, app won’t be able to receive any updated authorization or extra photos until it asks for the permission again in the next app lifecycle
  • Another way the user can update photos access is by visiting the Settings app on their iPhone and updating the given access


  • UIImagePickerController replacement
  • It has improvements such as search and multi-select
  • Doesn’t require the user to grant photo library access

Querying for authorization status

  • There is a new authorization status value: .limited
  • Also, a new enumeration is introduced: PHAccessLevel, this can be either .addOnly or .readWrite
  • Now you can will need to use one of those two access levels values to query or update the current authorization status granted, here is how you can query the current status:
import Photos

let accessLevel: PHAccessLevel = .readWrite
let authorizationStatus = PHPhotoLibrary.authorizationStatus(for: accessLevel)

switch authorizationStatus {
case .limited:
	print("limited authorization granted")
	//FIXME: Implement handling for all authorizationStatus values
	print("Not implemented")
  • Requesting an access manually will only prompt the user if the current status is undetermined, here is how you can manually request an authorization for a specific access level:
import Photos

let requiredAccessLevel: PHAccessLevel = .readWrite // or .addOnly
PHPhotoLibrary.requestAuthorization(for: requiredAccessLevel) { authorizationStatus in
	switch authorizationStatus {
	case .limited:
    	print("limited authorization granted")
    	//FIXME: Implement handling for all authorizationStatus
  • The old query and request authorization status APIs aren’t aware of the new access level and they will always return .authorized even if the access was .limited, hence they are marked for future deprecation

In limited access, PHPicker will behave differently in these notable scenarios:

  • When the app creates a PHAsset, they’re automatically included in the available photos to access for your application
  • User albums cannot be fetched nor created
  • No access to cloud shared assets or albums

Control photo library management UI

  • To present a limited library management UI:
import PhotosUI

let library = PHPhotoLibrary.shared()
let viewController = self

library.presentLimitedLibraryPicker(from: viewController)
  • Changes to access can be monitored through PHPhotoLibraryChangeObserver updates

Preventing the automatic prompt on first access

  • Set PHPhotoLibraryPreventAutomaticLimitedAccessAlert to YES in app’s info.plist

Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃


Written by

Ammar AlTahhan

Ammar AlTahhan

Software Engineer