Q: I am using iOS 6 and my brand new iPhone 5 with a Windows 7 PC. I really like them all and the iCloud features. However, I can’t seem to figure out an easy way to do a simple task: What is the best way to store a bunch of photos I have on my PC in iCloud? I have a bunch of folders organized nicely with photos in them on my PC that I would like to put into iCloud, but when I copy folders into the Photo Stream folder on my PC, they don’t seem to upload. From my remedial testing, it appears that ONLY files in the top-level folder upload, not anything inside sub-folders. Is the Photo Stream folder designed this way on purpose? Who the heck wants to put a bunch of photos into one folder with no real organization? Help!
A: The Photo Stream folder originally introduced in iCloud last year basically worked exactly in that manner, as it was never really intended as a way to organize photos, but merely a way to keep a collection of everything you had recently taken or added to your library.
The good news, however, is that with the release of iOS 6, Apple introduced a new feature known as Shared Photo Streams that allows you to create multiple, named photo streams that automatically synchronize out to all of your iCloud-enabled devices and can even be easily shared with other iCloud users. On the desktop side, Shared Photo Streams requires a Mac running OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 with iPhoto 9.4 or Aperture 3.4 or later or a PC running Windows 7 or Vista and Apple’s iCloud Control Panel v2.0 or later.
Once you’ve installed the iCloud Control Panel on your Windows PC and enabled the Photo Streams feature, a new Photo Streams section should appear under Computer in Windows Explorer.
Selecting this option opens a virtual folder for all of your Photo Streams. Initially you’ll only see one entry here—My Photo Stream—representing the main stream of photos you’ve taken with your iPhone. Any Shared Photo Streams you create will also appear here.
From here, you can create new Shared Photo Streams simply by clicking the “New Photo Stream” button. You’ll be prompted to give your new Shared Photo Stream a name and optionally add other iCloud users to share it with or allow public access to it via a web browser.
Note that if you only want to create a Shared Photo Stream between your iPhone and your PC, you can simply give it a name and leave the “TO” field blank. The Shared Photo Stream will be created in your iCloud account and synchronized to your iPhone and any other devices that are using the same account. You will also be able to manage the Shared Photo Stream and add or remove photos from either your PC, iPhone or any other iCloud-enabled device.
If you do choose to invite other users to your Shared Photo Stream, they will only be able to view the photos in your stream, as well as comment on or “like” them. Only the owner can add or remove content from a Shared Photo Stream. The owner can also add/remove users from a Shared Photo Stream or toggle the public website setting at any time.
You can add photos to your Shared Photo Stream during the creation process, or afterward by going into the Photo Stream and selecting “Add Photos” or right-clicking on a photo or group of photos from elsewhere on your computer and choosing “Add to Photo Stream” from the context menu.
Note that you must use the Windows Explorer interface to add or remove content from a Shared Photo Stream; despite the fact that the Shared Photo Streams live in a sub-folder of your “Pictures” folder, it seems the iCloud Control panel will not pick up any changes made directly in the file system.