How Photo Stream Works

What is Photo Stream?

Apple’s Photo Stream is a cloud-based photo sharing service that allows one to easily share photos between various devices. These photos can be viewed on the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV, as well as Macs and Windows PCs. Photo Stream keeps the last 30 days’ worth of photos or the last 1,000 photos - whichever occurs first.

How Photo Stream Works

If you have Photo Stream enabled on both the iPhone/iPad and iPhoto on your Mac, any picture you take on iPhone/iPad is automatically uploaded to Photo Stream. Photos on Photo Stream can either be manually or automatically imported into iPhoto on the Mac according to your preferences.

Do you want to keep Photo Stream photos permanently?

Because your Mac has more storage than your iPhone/iPad, you can choose to download all of your My Photo Stream photos manually or automatically.

Manually Importing Photo Stream Photos into iPhoto on Your Mac

Open iPhoto on your Mac and click on "iCloud" in the left sidebar to allow iPhoto time to download any recent Photo Stream photos. If you take photos frequently, it is important to make sure to go into iPhoto on the Mac periodically and click on "iCloud" in the left sidebar to give iPhoto the chance to download the photos from your Photo Stream and automatically place them into iPhoto's permanent library.

Automatically Importing Photo Stream Photos into iPhoto on Your Mac

If enabled in iPhoto's Preferences (see screenshot), iPhoto can automatically import any Photo Stream photos and place them into iPhoto’s permanent photo library. To do this, on your Mac, launch iPhoto and go into its Preferences. Select iCloud -> My Photo Stream -> Automatic Import. All of your Photo Stream photos will import into your Events, Projects, Photos, Faces, and Places folders in iPhoto on the Mac.

You can also set up “Automatic Upload” so that any new photos you import to iPhoto on the Mac automatically upload to your Photo Stream when you’re connect to Wi-Fi network. If the button is unchecked, you will have to manually select photos to be uploaded to Photo Stream from iPhoto on the Mac.

Uploading Photos to Photo Stream

Photo Stream only uploads photos from iPhone/iPad while connected to a Wi-Fi network. In other words, if you're using a cellular connection and take a photo, the photo will not upload to your Photo Stream. Occasionally, a picture doesn't get uploaded to Photo Stream because it was taken when you were on a cellular connection while you're out and about. Currently, there is no way to trigger an upload to Photo Stream after the fact. If a photo fails to upload to Photo Stream, you can manually synchronize your iPhone/iPad with iPhoto on the Mac to synchronize missing photos and videos. You will have to connect your iPhone/iPad to your Mac with its Docking cable (older generation iPhones/iPads) or its "Lightning" cable (newer iPhones/iPads). Incidentally, videos are not currently being uploaded to Photo Stream given their large file size.

Syncing iPhone/iPad with iPhoto Manually

Plug your iPhone/iPad into your Mac. Then in iPhoto, click on your iPhone/iPad in the left sidebar. You should see an Import button. The import process will automatically skip any photos previously imported from Photo Stream. Once imported, you can choose whether to remove them from Camera Roll on the iPhone/iPad. If you do this, make sure you are syncing them back to the iPhone/iPad in iTunes if you want them on the iPhone/iPad in albums.

Deleting Photos

Photos can be deleted from two (2) locations:

Deleting from Photo Stream

When you delete a photo from Photo Stream, it removes it from Photo Stream entirely. In other words, if the photo was taken with one iOS device and shared with other iOS devices, and you delete it from the Photo Stream, it will be deleted from all devices. If it was already downloaded into iPhoto on the Mac, however, the photo will remain there under the (MonthName Year) Photo Stream album (e.g. August 2014 Photo Stream), but not in the Photo Stream area.

Deleting from the Camera Roll

When you delete a photo from Camera Roll on a particular iOS device, it removes the photo from that the Camera Roll but does not delete it from Photo Stream.

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