Working with Photo Stream

Photo Stream is an iCloud feature that, once set up, will sync your photos with your desktop and any iOS devices you have. For example, a few seconds after taking a photo on my iPhone, that photo is uploaded to iCloud and copies are synched to my iPad and my desktop (Mac or Windows). On my devices, Photo Stream is a section within the Photo Gallery app. On my Mac it’s an item within iPhotos or Aperture.  In addition, I can create photo streams from photos already in iPhoto, Aperture or on my devices to share with others or display on my television using Apple TV.

A collection of old photos from iPhoto set up as a public photo stream for viewing on the web.

You need an iCloud account to use Photo Stream. An iCloud account is free and includes 5GB of storage which is used for photos, music, documents and other content maintained in the cloud. For Windows users, download and install the iCloud Control Panel app. As part of the iCloud set up, you’ll see a setting to turn on Photo Stream. Do this on your desktop and any device you want to use with Photo Stream.

Photos do not reside permanently in iCloud. When you take photos on your iPhone or import them from your camera to your iPad using the connection kit, new photos are automatically sent to iCloud when you make a Wi-Fi connection (doesn’t happen over cellular). On your desktop, you can set iPhoto to automatically upload or just upload photos you drag to the Photo Stream item in iPhoto’s sidebar. Once uploaded from one device, those photos will remain in iCloud for 30 days.  The next time one of your Photo Stream-enabled devices connects to Wi-Fi, those photos will be downloaded to it. Because of the limited space on an iOS device, Photo Stream, it will maintain a rolling stream of no more than 1000 photos on that device. If you want to keep a photo there permanently, move it from Photo Stream to an album in your Photo Gallery. By default, all Photo Stream photos are permanently stored on your desktop. It’s still a good idea to move them to albums for organizational purposes.

The photos are stored in iCloud at their highest resolution and downloaded to your desktop at that resolution. On iOS devices, however, they are downloaded to them at a “device-optimized” resolution to save download time and space on the device.

When you delete a photo from Photo Stream on a device, you’re also deleting it from iCloud and any devices that are also connected. If you want to keep photos, they should be moved from Photo Stream to permanent albums.

Photostream02.pngSharing photos via Photo Stream is quite easy. First, create an album in Photo Stream and add the photos you want to share to it. On an iOS device, in Photo Gallery tap the Edit button, then tap to select the photos you want. Now tap the Share button and choose Photo Stream. It will show up as a new photo stream. Tap on it and you’re taken to this screen where you can give the album a name and decide to share it either to selected people or as a public site. If you only want selected people to view it, tap the blue plus icon to display your contacts and choose the people you want to invite. Tap the Next button at the top of the screen. If you’d rather share it to everyone, turn on Public Website and then tap Next. The next screen will allow you to add a comment if you wish. When you tap the Post button, the message is sent or public site is created and your photos are shared. This photo stream is listed within the Photo Stream app and you can look at the details of it at any time. For public streams, the details pane offers the ability to share the link to the steam via email, Message, Twitter or Facebook.

Once you understand the basic operation of Photo Stream, it can be a great way to automatically move photos from your iThings to your desktop as well as an easy way to share them with others. Spend a few minutes getting familiar with the app and you’ll find it quickly becomes a useful part of your photo management workflow.

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