I am trying to create a photo book in the new photos app, but it keeps hanging 'downloading photos from iCloud'. I see under preferences, it is downloading '1 item from iCloud', which appears to be stuck (I have left it for days). How can I see what photo is currently being downloaded so I can remove it form the project?

Side-question, is there a way to tell if a photo is the 'full version' or the storage optimised version? (Apart from guessing by the file size)?

This is Photos v1.1 on OSX El Capitan (10.11), running on a 2011 MBA.


1 Answer 1


Several things.

  1. Open https://www.icloud.com/#photos and you can see / download the full resolution photo.
  2. Then for the same photo - choose File -> Export -> Export Unmodified Original and compare the metadata and size difference between what came from your App and from the "truth" directly from the cloud. (Dragging or normal exports seem to be a different resolution than either the internal reduced version or the full, unmodified original in my experience.)

As to monitoring thing, that's easy too. Open the terminal app and use this command to monitor all cloud file operations up to and down from the cloud.

brctl log -w

Like many terminal command line tools, you need to send the exit signal or close the window/app to get it to exit. Control and C is that command. Two follow on items, the Photos 1.1 is a bit better, so you might upgrade your OS and you can also pause the download if you wish in the iCloud preferences for Photos. It lets things stabilize so you can see what you have and not be testing as things change/download from the cloud.

  • Awesome answer. Thank you. Is there any way to compare a set of photos to the cloud, instead of one-by one? (Seems very odd there isn't some kind of info in the meta data to indicate if it's been downloaded)
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 23:59
  • @ryan In the iCloud settings on Photos - how many items are outstanding? Not downloaded is a transitory state. I'm sure it's tracked, but not sure how you would expose that detail as a user.
    – bmike
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 1:01
  • I should clarify "fully downloaded" as the full resolution photo has been downloaded from the cloud (not that the full definition photo is in the middle of downloading)
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 1:33

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