Is there a point to having both iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Photo Stream enabled?

Is there a point to having both iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Photo Stream enabled? 1

Q: Now that iCloud Photo Library is out, I’m a bit confused about how this is all supposed to work. Apple says that iCloud Photo Library is used to store and sync all of your photos in the cloud, but I still see a setting for iCloud Photo Stream on all of my devices. I didn’t think I needed this setting any more to upload photos to iCloud. Isn’t iCloud Photo Library just supposed to do all that for me? If so, what’s the point of iCloud Photo Stream? It looks like I can still turn it on, even with iCloud Photo Library in use, but I can’t really tell what it’s supposed to do as I can’t see any difference at all. Should I just ignore it or do I still need it for something?

A: The short answer is that if you’re using iCloud Photo Library on all of your iOS devices and Macs (using the new Photos for Mac), you can pretty much leave iCloud Photo Stream off and just pretend it’s not there. The iCloud Photo Library feature will take care of uploading all of your photos and videos, making them available on all of your devices and syncing changes that you make, and even synchronizing your albums across all devices. Put simply, it’s basically like putting your entire photo library in the cloud.

Is there a point to having both iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Photo Stream enabled? 2

For the most part, iCloud Photo Library is the advanced version of the original Photo Stream feature, however, it’s not without its limitations. Firstly, you need to have enough iCloud storage to support your entire photo library, in full resolution. In most cases, this will mean that you have to pay for extra storage, as very few people have a small enough photo library to fit into the 5GB that Apple gives away for free. Hence, iCloud Photo Library isn’t really a “free” solution. To make it work across all of your devices, you also need to be using the latest version of iOS on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and you have to be using OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 on your Mac, with the new Photos app.

Since not everybody necessarily meets these requirements, or wants to pay Apple for cloud-based storage for their photos, the original iCloud Photo Stream remains in place as a fallback, and works pretty much the same way as it did prior to iOS 8. You get up to 1,000 photos or 30 days worth synchronized to your other devices via iCloud, without any of it counting against your iCloud storage plan, and it works with older iOS and OS X device versions, apps like iPhoto and Aperture, and the photos are viewable on the Apple TV.

However, iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Photo Stream aren’t mutually exclusive to each other, as evidenced by the fact that you can turn them both on, and there are situations where it can be an advantage to still use iCloud Photo Stream even when your entire library is stored and synced via iCloud. Keep in mind that Photo Stream and Photo Library are different “places” in iCloud, so photos stored in one are not stored in the other, and vice versa.

Hence, devices that have iCloud Photo Library enabled will synchronize your entire photo library with each other via the online iCloud Photo Library, but if these devices also have iCloud Photo Streams enabled, they’ll upload any new photos, taken directly on that device, to the iCloud Photo Stream. If you have other devices that only have iCloud Photo Stream enabled -— such as those that don’t support iCloud Photo Library like Windows PCs or an Apple TV — they’ll still be able to get copies of your new photos provided to them. Note that this works the same way iCloud Photo Stream has in the past: you won’t get edits or albums, or anything else synced to non-library devices — just the original photos themselves, essentially as static copies.

  1. Good call on the “Optimize iPhone Storage” option. I believe I had that selected, but I will try it again to make sure. The Apple rep didn’t even mention it. I’m dealing with more than 100k photos, spanning more than a decade. I was hopeful that iCloud would finally get me to the place where my entire family could access them easily. We have 5 iPhones, 3 iPads and 3 Macs. The phones, even mine, are only 16gb which is pretty limiting when it comes to media storage. I will make another attempt and let you know if that works. Thx, e

  2. Hmm, I’m wondering if the real problem is that 16GB is just too small relative to the size of your library. Even at the smallest possible optimized thumbnail size, 100K photos is probably going to push your storage pretty tight.Apple doesn’t provide details on what it scales the “optimized” photos down to, and based on my experience with Apple and photo optimization, it’s probably device-specific since the photos should ideally be in resolutions that would look good on your specific screen, so it’s difficult to say for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re still looking at a minimum of 30-50K per photo just for the thumbnails, and with 100,000 photos, that’s going to put you up around 3-5GB of storage just for that, and that’s assuming there are no higher resolutions stored as well, which seems unlikely, and of course that doesn’t even include videos.iCloud Photo Library, by default, wants to keep about two weeks worth of the most recent photos and videos stored in full resolution, and I’m not sure how much that varies based on how tight the space on your device actually is.

  3. I agree that the phone size is a limiting factor. I just didn’t expect it to fill up so quickly. And again, I also expected was that images would download small versions as I was viewing them. That they would be cached, and then the phone would clear the cache as needed. I didn’t read that anywhere so it’s just my thoughts. Seem like the easiest solution. I could then make collections to download if I desired. I really don’t want any photos on my phone unless I have chosen to do so. I love them, but they are a memory hog. It appears that the optimize selection may be helping. My phone is downloading more than 12k photos from 2014/15. The memory is filling, but seems to be doing so at a far slower pace. I’ll let you know what space it ends up taking.

  4. You’re correct that it should download them on-demand as you’re viewing them, and in fact you’ll see that happen with older photos — they’ll initially come in blurry and you’ll see a progress indicator in the bottom-right corner showing that it’s downloading a higher-resolution version. When viewing, this is still not the full-res version, but a resolution appropriate for your specific screen. If you tap on the “Edit” button it will go through another download process to get the actual, original full resolution version.That said, however, the thumbnails appear to be permanently stored, not downloaded on-demand, since you need to see them when you’re scrolling through your photo list, and I’m guessing it would probably not be a great user experience to see a bunch of empty blocks that had to be refreshed on a regular basis as you’re scrolling before you can see what those photos actually are.The thing is, those thumbnails are probably at least around 160×160, based on an iPhone 5s screen — likely larger on an iPad or iPhone 6/6Plus. Even optimized, they’re not going to be tiny, and 100,000 of them could add up quickly.

  5. Yeah, it would be nice Apple would include caching as an option in the app settings.The image download is still going. It’s used up a bout 600mb so far. Photos no longer says “preparing x number of photos” but most of the images are not available to view yet. The are the grey square with the iCloud icon in the corner. They do force a download when you try to view the individual image.

  6. That sounds about right. The grey squares should eventually fill in with actual thumbnails as they’re downloaded/generated. At this point, I think it’s more laying out the library structure.While I’ve been through this a few dozen times going back to the early betas, I’ve yet to deal with trying it with a huge library on a low-capacity device, so it’s entirely possible that maybe those grey boxes will stay grey to save space, and only fill in as you scroll through them, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  7. I Love Apple, but I am greatly disappointed in the new iCloud offering, especially in regards to having your entire photo library available on all of your iOS devices.I updated all of my family’s iOS devices to the latest iOS version and started iCloud Photo Library on each device. Simple enough……A couple hours later all of our phones literally had 0k of memory available. Upon checking app memory usage, photo memory usage had grown substantially. Mail was shutting down on start, or starting, but shutting down on opening any email. In addition, mail was not pulling any current emails. I deleted some apps to make room, only to have the available space fill up quickly with photos. I turned iCloud Photo Library off on our devices, deleted the photos it had downloaded to our phones, and memory, apps and functionality began returned to normal.I thought that iCloud Photo Library was going to be a cloud storage service for all of my photos. That’s basically what the information on Apple’s site says. I thought that I was not setting something properly, so I culled through Apple’s information and searched for others online who may have the same issue. From everything I dug through, I had it set up properly. I then opened a chat with an Apple associate to find out what I was doing wrong. I was’t doing anything wrong. iCloud Photo Library will store all of your photos as long as you have purchased a large enough plan to do so. But iOS will download all of them in some unknown size, for you to view, share etc.. The Apple person told me over an over that iCloud was not a storage service. We argued over the fact that their site repeatedly calls it that, and I dropped the chat frustrated.I assumed that my iOS devices would have access to a cloud library and be served with small images for browsing, and then downloading them if I desired. That to me is the no-brainer way of doing this. I assumed, regretfully, that Apple, like it does with so many other things, would do the simple, easy to use, and most functionally sound solution for photo library organization and browsing. Not so with iCloud Photo library. Sorry Apple, HUGE miss. This really is just an unlimited (or limited only by your icloud service plan) photo stream, that won’t fit on my phone!

  8. It sounds like you’ve been pretty thorough with the entire process, so I apologize for asking if you’ve covered this already, but did you select the “Optimize iPhone Storage” (or iPad, iPod, etc) on each device? By default, if this option is set, you should definitely only get smaller resolution versions optimized for viewing on your device. I have a 200GB photo library in Photos for Mac, yet it’s taking up around 20GB on average on each of my iOS devices, and does seem to be somewhat proportional to the free space that’s available — I suspect based on my own testing that, as with iTunes Match, iOS cleans up more high-res photos if you’re running low on space, but allows them to be cached for longer if you’ve got the room to spare. For instance, my 128GB iPhone 6 Plus has 32GB in “Photos & Camera” but it also has 30GB of free space. My 32GB iPad mini, on the other hand, which has the exact same library, only has it taking up around 12GB of storage.So this is the way that iCloud Photo Library is supposed to work. If you’re having a different experience, I suspect that it’s either a case of a gargantuan photo library or — much more likely — there are still some bugs to be worked out.

  9. I am also having really annoying space problems on my work-issued 16GB iPhone 5, after enabling iCloud Photo Library. I have a huge library dating back to 2001, and even with Optimize Storage turned on, it also quickly filled my phone. Even then, only a fraction of the thumbnails were downloaded, so most of my Photos app on the phone is just blank thumbnail holders.I can understand all of this, since my phone is small. But what’s infuriating is that I am CONSTANTLY getting “out of storage” errors, whenever I try to take new pics, or download podcasts, or even update apps. Usually I just have to say “OK”, then try again later. I assume in the background iOS starts to remove some of the downloaded full-size pics. But it’s not doing this nearly aggressively enough. In my opinion, iOS should NEVER report “out of storage” as long as it’s able to delete pics in the background.I know it’s a tough tightrope to walk about how aggressively to retain pics vs. delete them. But, if I’m actually telling the phone I want to do something that requires more storage (take new pics/vids, download a podcast, etc), then it should immediately clear up enough space for me to do that, instead of throwing up useless error messages that I can do nothing about. I can’t go into Photos and start deleting stuff, because then those are removed from my iCloud library, and therefore all of my devices. All I can do is wait until iOS decides it’s going to give me back some space. As far as I know, there is no way to force Photos to make more space on the phone, apart from disabling/re-enabling iCloud Photo Library on it, which is a huge waste of time and bandwidth.

  10. I have similar experiences with my iCloud Photos Library. I have 16.000 photos and they don’t fit on my iOS devices, even when the option to optimise storage is checked. The grey squares remain grey and when clicking one of them, the progress indicator gets stuck at 25%. No viewing photos for me 🙁 When I click the edit button, I get an error stating the photo could not be downloaded from iCloud because of an error. Please try again later.I still have 500MB available on my iPad, but the grey thumbnails remain there. Even after 3 weeks. Very disappointed in the lack of quality.I also contacted Apple Support and they suggested to force close all my apps and reboot. As if iCloud needed more RAM to function properly. Clearly, that didn’t help either. And get this: they claimed I have the biggest library they have ever seen. Crazy.I just can’t figure out why iOS cannot generate thumbnails for all my photos and download the actual pictures when I click on them. This shouldn’t take gigabytes of my device storage.Very very disappointing experience.

  11. This whole thing is hideously confusing. I want to simply put my photos and videos on an external drive, and manage them myself, ( would prefer to upload directly to FLICKR if I could edit the photos there and organize them… What I don’t want is to have to end up with a monthly charge for storage and the neccessity to hurry up and download them all again or start paying monthly charges. My pictures are important to me, but I have no clue what I’m doing and I don’t see how I can take charge of what happens with them. I would be satisfied to go the path of least resistance and let my system handle them in the best way… but I don’t know how what that would be or how to find them again… So far, I have to say, I’m not really loving my MAC…

  12. Shirley, don’t give up on your Mac just yet. 🙂 I think where iCloud Photo Library and Photo Stream excel is on the “front end”. It’s really nice being able to capture a photo on the iPhone while on vacation, and have it immediately backed up and available for editing / sharing on your laptop or iPad.One caveat, Photo Stream may be the better backup tool, because if I accidentally delete a photo from my iPhone, the backup is still available in Photo Stream. In contrast, Photo Library appears to be a true mirror that deletes all copies if I manually delete from one device.I’ve never found iPhoto or Photos useful for managing a large library. I use Adobe Bridge to manage decades of photos, which is nice because Bridge simply accesses folders as I’ve chosen to arrange them in the Finder on the hard drive. So my workflow is to capture, cull and cleanup new photos with the Apple tools, then move the files I want to keep from Photos into my own folders as soon as possible. I can selectively copy photos back into Apple Photos if I want to share them with others.

  13. What you said about deleting all copies is a problem for me. I want to delete everything off my phone….photos and videos….but I don’t want to lose them. I still want to be able to edit and keep them and I’m not sure what is the best way to handle it. Windows had pretty good picture editing and I have not found anything yet that works as well with MAC for that…If I had I guess I could cull and edit and then save the pictures externally….deleting from all my devices….but I was hoping that the software that came with MAC would include software for this… I will look into Adobe Bridge I guess and see if it is an answer…thanks.

  14. Well, one other possible solution would be to turn OFF “iCloud Photo Library” and perhaps just use “iCloud Photo Stream” or transfer your photos via a USB connection.Turning iCloud Photo Library OFF on your iPhone will remove any photos that have not been fully downloaded to your device, but will keep them in iCloud. It also basically “unlinks” the two libraries, so you can then delete photos from your iPhone without losing the iCloud copies.The only challenge then will be getting new photos and videos that you take uploaded to your Mac. iCloud Photo Stream will handle this for photos but sadly doesn’t cover videos, so you may find it’s simpler just to use a traditional USB connection to transfer them to the Photos app on your Mac and then delete them from your iPhone in the process.Of course, this assumes you want to stay with iPhoto or Photos. There’s certainly no requirement to do so, and as you say it sounds like you’d just prefer to drop them into a folder. In this case, there are a few options. If you only want them on your computer but not in the cloud, you can use Image Capture, which is built into your Mac, to transfer them from your iPhone over a USB connection, and put them into whatever folders you want.Flickr should also be a realistic option unless you have an absolutely massive photo library — they now give away 1TB for free to pretty much everybody, and the iPhone Flickr app can be configured to automatically upload all of your photos to the service, although they’ll be left in the cloud. If you want local backups, you’ll have to get a third-party utility to download them from Flickr back to your computer, or transfer them separately from your iPhone before deleting them.You can also look to other services like Google Photos or Dropbox. With Google Photos, you get unlimited storage for free as long as your photos aren’t any larger than 16MP or your videos aren’t larger than 1080p, and it integrates into Google Drive somewhat, so you could use that to sync the photos onto your own computer with the Google Drive app. Plus, the Google Photos app can automatically clear the photos from your iPhone once you’veIn the case of Dropbox, you n’t free 2GB would probably suit you well as a conduit for merely transferring photos, so you wouldn’t have to pay for storage. You’d run the Dropbox client on your Mac, and just move the photos from the “Camera Uploads” folder on Dropbox to your own set of folders on your external hard drive. There are third-party tools that can do this for you as well — personally I use a Mac app called “Hazel” which is designed to watch folders and automatically rename, move, and reorganize files as they come in. It does everything from cleaning up my downloads folder to filing away screenshots I take on my Mac into a date-based folder structure.…

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