Photo Stream is essentially a feature which enables users to automatically share photos between iCloud-connected devices such as iPhones and iPads. Although it uses iCloud to sync these photos, Photo Stream should be considered as separate from iCloud storage, as usage does not count towards your iCloud storage limits.
It is also very different from iCloud storage in that the Photo Stream photos are only temporarily stored on iCloud for syncing purposes and it should therefore not be thought of as a backup solution. More about this later on.
First lets look at what you need to use Photo Stream and whether indeed you should be using it at all!
What do I need to use Photo Stream?
- you need an Apple device such as Macbook, iMac, iPad or iPhone or a PC running Windows 7 or later
- you will need to already have an iCloud account
- you will need to have Photo Stream enabled on the relevant device(s)
When you take a photo on one linked device (such as your iphone), Photo Stream automatically uploads this photo to your iCloud account and your iCloud account in turn downloads the photo to all your other linked devices such as your iPad.
This syncing will only happen over WiFi or Ethernet, so you do not need to worry about eating into your data package.
Can I use Photo Stream for backing up my photos?
In a word – no. Photo Stream is temporary storage, allowing photos to be synced to iCloud-connected devices. The photos that are downloaded through Photo Stream are stored in an Album called ‘My Photo Stream’.
Photos are stored for 30 days in iCloud in order to give all the linked devices a chance to connect and download these photos. The most recent 1000 photos are stored on individual devices. If you want to keep any of these shared photos, you should save the photo to your Camera Roll.
Saving pictures from Photo Stream to the Photos App
Go to Photos > Albums > My Photo Stream
Tap the sharing icon on the top of your screen
Tap to select the photos to copy to the Photos App
Just ‘Save’ to save the photos to the Camera Roll or ‘Add To’ to save to a different photo album
You can also go into individual photos in the Photo Stream Album and share from there.
How can I free up space on my iPhone or iPad?
If you do not have linked devices which you want to sync photos to, then you do not need to enable Photo Stream. If you have just an iPhone for example and have Photo Stream enabled, then your most recent 1000 photographs are being unnecessarily uploaded to iCloud and downloaded to the ‘My Photo Stream’ Album. This means that you will have duplicates of your 1000 most recent photos.
Also, you may not need to share photos between devices if you sync these devices individually to iTunes for example. Photo Stream is an optional feature but may not be useful for everyone, particularly if storage space is an issue.
Only enable Photo Stream if you have multiple devices and want to view photos between these devices.