iOS 5: Photo Stream, warts and all

photostream-feature

Updated. The overall theme of iOS 5 is disconnecting your device from your computer. Photo Stream eliminates one big pain point I had with my iPhone: getting photos off of it. I’d take a funny picture with my iPhone and completely forget about it. I might show or send it to one or two people, but half the time, syncing photos was too much of a pain for me to bother.

Now, with iCloud and Photo Stream, that hassle has been eliminated. Once I take a photo with my iPhone, as long as all my devices are connected to a Wi-Fi network, my photo will appear on all of them. My photos also appear on my Mac (in either Aperture or iPhoto, so long as they’re installed), or in the My Pictures folder on Windows. It’s one part of iCloud I can say worked exactly as advertised, but even so, it has both strengths and flaws.

Setting up Photo Stream

On a Mac: Go to the iCloud System Preferences pane and make sure Photo Stream is checked.

iPhoto: To enable Photo Stream in iPhoto, just go into the Preferences and make sure Photo Stream is checked.

Once you’ve done that, click on Photo Stream in the sidebar and you’ll see your photos.

Aperture: To enable Photo Stream in Aperture, just go into Preferences and make sure Photo Stream is checked. In this case, I’ve intentionally left Upload unchecked since I don’t want photos imported from my DSLR to go into the Photo Stream; just those I sync.

Once that’s done, click on Photo Stream in the sidebar to see your synced photos.

On a PC: First, download and install the iCloud Control Panel. Once you launch it — you guessed it — make sure Photo Stream is checked. You will also need to click on Options next to it to specify the Upload and Downloads directory.

The gotcha: You can’t delete from Photo Stream

Photo Stream’s directive is simple: keep either the last 1,000 photos you’ve taken or the last 30 days worth, whichever comes first. Update: It’s only the last 1,000 photos you’ve taken on an iOS device, not on iCloud.com. But right now, it seems to require a chicken, two goats, and a shaman to get a photo deleted. None of my devices can delete directly from Photo Stream, and deleting the source image on the device where it originally appeared doesn’t delete it from Photo Stream.

I’m perfectly fine with Photo Stream uploading my Camera Roll on a moment’s notice. What I’m not thrilled with is not being able to delete from Photo Stream. Part of my job description is taking iOS screenshots and during a heavy review week (like this week), I’ll take a ton of screenshots. I don’t need them or want them after they’ve been put in the article. Now, I’m kinda stuck with them. There’s been a lot of attention paid to this Photo Stream failing, so I expect Apple to issue a fix soon.

Update: Apple points out that you can delete photos, but only by completely resetting your Photo Stream data, and removing all images stored there:

  • You can reset your Photo Stream at icloud.com. This removes your photos from iCloud but keeps photos already on the device. For more information, see Photo Stream Help.
  • Photo Stream photos can be removed from your device by turning Photo Stream off in iOS settings or in OS X Lion System Preferences. You can also delete any photos imported into your iPhoto or Aperture library on a Mac, or in the folder they’re imported to on a PC.

Until then, be careful what you take pictures of if you plan to make Photo Stream a part of your digital life.

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