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iOS 5: How to Setup iCloud’s Photo Stream on Mac



Once you update your mac to OS X Lion 10.7.2 and iOS 5, you get iCloud and Photo Stream. With Photo Stream in iCloud transferring your pictures to your computer got a lot easier, something you will likely want to do with the nice new 8MP camera on the iPhone 4S. I use it with my iPad 2 to move pictures I take of documents, turning my iPad into a scanner.

With Photo Stream, when you take a picture with your iOS device, the photo will automatically transfer to iCloud and will be stored there for up to 30 days.

Using the steps below, you can easily download the photo to either iPhoto or Aperture or you can save it on your iPad, turning it into a mobile photo editor. The iPad’s much larger screen will make editing easier.iCloud

KT Bradford already showed you how to set up iCloud with your Windows PC, but here’s how to do it on a Mac.

Before you do anything on the computer, turn on Photo Stream in the Settings app on your iOS device. Do this by going into the iCloud tab and make sure the Photo Stream is set to On.

Photostream setting

While in that Settings page you may want to poke around and enable other services as you prefer.

Now you need to do the same on your Mac. Go to System Preferences (from the Apple Menu or if you have the icon on the dock click it) and choose iCloud from the Internet & Wireless section. If you haven’t already set up your iCloud account, it will ask you to do so now. Once  you’ve done that and are signed in, check off the Photo Stream item to enable it on your Mac.

ICloud Mac Settings

Now setup Photo Stream in iPhoto or Aperture, depending on which application you use and where you want Photo Stream to download the pictures. The process works the same for both applications. Open either iPhoto or Aperture and go to Preferences from the iPhoto/Aperture menu. Check Enable Photo Stream and then if you want photos to automatically be downloaded, check the first item – Automatic Import. If you also want all photos that you load into iPhoto to automatically be uploaded to iCloud, then check the second item – Automatic Upload.

IPhoto Photo Stream Settings

I will be unchecking the second item since uploading all of my photos to iCloud will quickly eat up the storage I have. I plan to just use iCloud’s Photo Stream as a way to quickly get my iOS device pictures to my computer rather than using it as a complete backup for my pictures. They will only stay there for 30 days anyway.

I did a test and shot a picture of my computer with my iPad 2. I waited just a few seconds and guess what? It showed up almost immediately in iPhoto.

If you try to enable both programs to use Photo Stream, the second one will throw the error below. You can switch Photo Stream capability to the second program instead. You just can’t use both at the same time.

Error Message in Aperture

Photo Stream will make life much easier for photographers, who also use their iPads for photo previewing in the field. Shoot your pictures, then import them into your iPad using the $29 iPad Camera Connection Kit Apple sells for connecting either a USB camera or an SD card to your iPad. Photo Stream will recognize the shots after you import them into the iPad and instantly upload them to iCloud. iPhoto or Aperture will then download them back to your computer.




  1. yanko pla

    10/13/2011 at 8:11 am

    So you NEED lion to use Photo Stream???….cant use it with Snow Leopard??..I cant find the “photo stream” option anywhere.

    • K. T. Bradford

      10/13/2011 at 8:29 am

      Yep, you need Lion. :(

    • subz0

      10/16/2011 at 8:05 am

      no only on lion

    • Glenn2008

      10/16/2011 at 8:55 am


      • Djfreequency

        10/19/2011 at 3:36 am

        leopard >> snow leopard >> lion! 
        Lion is the latest OS (10.7). Once you upgrade to Lion, you also need to run Software Update and instal the 10.7.2 upgrade. 

    • Glenn2008

      10/16/2011 at 8:56 am

      HELP! I HAVE LION and no photo stream!!  whats up wtih that?

  2. Muffa1968

    10/13/2011 at 8:40 am

    and apple tale another £20:99 off you .  terrrrriffffic

    • yanko pla

      10/13/2011 at 9:10 am

      No, they wont!!. I am not interested in Lion. My Imac and Macbook Pro works fine with need to upgrade.
      Anyway, the price is pretty cheap, because you can buy once and install in all your macs…its just that people told me that it could slow my macbook pro.

  3. Striped Sail

    10/13/2011 at 8:54 am

    Appreciate the article Kevin… most people are missing the real benefit of Photo Stream for “the rest of us”. While Photographers in the field will appreciate the new feature, Photo Stream will revolutionizes how we take, share, and review our pictures. 

    Imagine now how I can take a picture of my daughter in the park and my spouse sees it show up on her iPad sitting at her desk at the office seconds later. Now that’s COOL and USEFUL. The standalone iPad has some deficiencies as a full replacement of the digital photo frame though. I discuss that here in my blog: 

    • Glenn2008

      10/16/2011 at 8:58 am

      hi there.. please help me. im an avid mac guro but having the hardest time to get photo stream! im so lost. and im on Lion, got it the day it came out. can you help me by chance to set up photo stream? i would highly appreciate it when you have the time. thanks in advance! glenn

  4. Craig Sween

    10/13/2011 at 10:10 am

    Personally, I think it sucks that there is no way to view Photo Stream when you log into iCloud on a desktop browser (aka MobileMe gallery). Now I will have to email individual photos to family or upload them to flickr. The MobileMe Gallery was so nicely done; I can’t believe they killed it. So including no iDisk and Lion-only Back To My Mac, iCloud is not really the MobileMe replacement I hoped it would be. It’s a shame.

  5. Shondalittle

    10/13/2011 at 10:20 am

    This may be an odd question, but can I transfer from my Mac to my iPad. I tend to download the photos I take with my camera to the Mac, but would like to have the option of editing on my iPad while watching tv with my family. I would like to do minor proofreading also. I can’t seem to figure out how to do this. Thanks!

  6. Guestonsite

    10/13/2011 at 2:12 pm

    What a ripoff!!! This service requires iPhoto 9 or Aperture. Some of us with iPhoto 8 will have to pay to upgrade to iPhoto 9. I already purchased Snow Leopard and Lion. Why the h*ll wasn’t the latest version of iPhoto included in those updates?

    I wouldn’t mind paying if I used the program a lot. But the truth is I find it cumbersome and it is nearly impossible to permanently delete troublesome photos (from the program or on the hard drive, they just keep reappearing).

    I refuse to pay for a newer version of a program that I should already own and would only use occasionally to import pics from my phone. Guess it’s back to USB cables for me…

    • disenchanted

      11/10/2011 at 8:26 am

      Snow Leopard have been left behind when it comes to iCloud, no Photo Stream for us, yet people on Vista can enjoy it. Also people who have the iPhone 4 won’t be able to take advantage of Siri, not available to them. People who are still running Tiger, can’t even use their iPhone on it, but people as far as Windows XP can. Upgrade to Lion, some may say. Not possible if you have Intel Core Duo. As for the iCloud, stupid me, I got extra storage, and what for? Is not like I can store what I want on it. At least I discovered Skydrive thanks to it with its whopping 25 gb free storage, where I can put anything I choose to. So, is Apple the best? Maybe for their hardware, definitely not for their support to their own customers. Windows users seem to be getting a better bargain out of it and feel short changed.

  7. peter cook

    10/15/2011 at 3:24 am

    I have iphoto 8 and it photo stream won’t work unless I purchase iPhoto 9.2 but I can use windows 7

  8. Sascha Jazbec

    10/16/2011 at 4:38 am

    I don’t get it that Apple treats (again and once more ) Microsoft Windows Users far better with this whole iCloud idea then their own customers :

    First : Any Vista machine, regardless of CPU or special enhancements will be able to use iCloud ; that includes PCs as old as 2007 or older if the OS has been upgraded. On the Mac side : only 64bit core2duo Intel Macs are allowed, and only Lion on them.

    Second : On Windows Outlook 2007 as well 2010 is fully supported for Mail,Contacts and Calendar sync via iCloud . On the Mac : ONLY Apple built-in Mail,iCal and Adressbook. Entourage 08 or Outlook 11 for Mac will not sync calendars via iCloud.

    Third : Mac Users that want the Photostream are forced to Aperture or iPhoto both in their latest versions while the Vista or Win7 Users can just checkmark any folder and have the pictures transferred there, visible in any freeware app or the built-in Vista photo gallery application.

    These three facts ( not fiction, go figure ! )  are a punch in the stomach for many Apple Users.

  9. George

    10/16/2011 at 11:05 am

    How do i get my old alo account back, do not want!

  10. Mactopia

    10/26/2011 at 1:35 am

    mac users are rich,  Windows users are poor.  This is why mac users have to pay and windows users dont have to.

  11. Heidi Melms

    11/26/2011 at 8:54 am

    So I paid for the huge Lion upgrade, so I could use iCloud syncing between my ipad, iphone, and Mac.  Everything is syncing fine, but I’m unable to sync the photo stream onto my Mac without paying for an additional upgrade purchase for iphoto.   I can easily stream photos between my iphone and ipad, just not my Mac.  I don’t really want to pay $15 just so I can stream over a few cell phone photos to my Mac every once in awhile.

  12. Chrisbyatt

    12/03/2011 at 10:23 am

    Thank you so much this is great once you get over initial set up of icoud

  13. Mark

    12/17/2011 at 4:17 pm

    So it only lasts 30 days, what if I want it to stay backed up for longer?

  14. Jane_austen_champ1

    12/28/2011 at 6:46 am

    now i guess we have to be on wifi cuz i tired the 3g it didn’t work, and it works only with wi fi if both the mac and the iPhone are in the same connection! and it takes from the iPhone to the iMac but not from the iMac to the iPhone….hmmmmmmm am i right?

  15. Michael Patti

    02/11/2012 at 2:31 pm

    Would I need to update to Lion AND the newest iLife?

  16. Michael

    02/26/2012 at 8:46 am

    Hi Kevin…thanks for the great tips !! I have one for you. I purchased a few other ringtones, but can’t seem to add them to my ringtone gallery. Any advice on this one? Thank you.

  17. Liam Crean

    03/24/2012 at 2:45 pm

    Bypass Lion/iPhoto upgrade by simply using Dropbox. It’s not absolutely automatic, but once selected files are synced everywhere with no time limit…

  18. robbie vans

    06/05/2012 at 2:52 pm

    I have been using and enjoying Macs for 12 years now and am sorry to say it is time to move on. Brand loyalty is becoming Brand dependency. While there is little out there to compete with the build quality of Mac’s hardware such as Ipads, Iphones and Ipods, the sycronicity between them has become cumbersome and expensive. I now dont seem to own any of the music I have purchased as they are on a server somewhere with imatch and I am not sure what is happening to my photos. I have paid and downloaded Iphoto yet only seem to have it as an app on my iphone but not on my computer. Does this mean I have to pay again? The depency on Brand is our decision, however, the more we become dependent the harder it is to interact freely. I am thinking of dusting off my old NON digital film camera, taking some carefully framed and composed photographs, printing them and possibly put my favourite images in a frame and allowing my friends to comment on them over a glass of wine…yeah, that would be nice!

  19. Stephanie

    10/06/2012 at 3:35 am

    I recently lost my iPhone and I went on iCloud to try and retrieve some things my Photo’s were NOT there. Is this because I never turned on photostream?

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