I'm rather confused about the 'proper' way to use Photo Stream and an iPhone and iPhoto.

Here's how I use iPhoto and my iPhone: (This workflow was as far as I can tell the correct way to operate before iCloud)

  • Getting photos into iPhoto:

    • Take photos on iPhone.
    • Every so often connect the phone to my mac and in iPhoto import any photos and videos from the phone's camera roll into iPhoto (deleting those photos from the camera roll once they are imported.)
    • This means that iPhoto is the canonical store for my photos - the camera roll on the phone was just a temporary store until i could get them into iPhoto.
  • To get photos from iPhoto onto my iOS device:

    • in iTunes, select the device and in the Photos tab of the settings choose 'Sync photos from iPhoto' - only including events from the last two years (for limited phone storage reasons.)

This worked well until iCloud came about - now with photo stream every time I import into iPhoto it warns me of duplicates as the photos already exist in monthly photo stream events. I end up with both monthly photo stream events and 'real' events which are groups of photos taken on the same day.

So - what is the correct workflow now that photo stream exists?

Do I not ever import from my iOS devices into iPhoto and just allow photo stream to do its stuff?

If so

  • Do I just let the camera roll on my iPhone get bigger and bigger and never empty it? This seems wasteful as there would be duplication of photos between the camera roll and the photo stream events.

  • How do I import videos from the iOS devices?

Or is there a more correct workflow?

What strategies do you use?


4 Answers 4


Photostream will store the previous 30 days worth of photos automatically. That means, every photo you take on your iOS devices will be sent to Photostream, but only the last 30 days worth of photos will be available there.

If you enable 'Automatic Import' of Photostream in iPhoto (Preferences > Photostream > Automatic Import) then when you launch iPhoto, it will automatically download a copy of any photos that are in your Photostream, and automatically create an Event titled: {MMM YYYY} Photo Stream (eg. "Jul 2012 Photo Stream")

This Event will be automatically kept up to date, as long as iPhoto is open long enough to sync everything required (depends on your connection).

In effect, as long as you open iPhoto once every 30 days and leave it open long enough for your Photostream to be imported, you should never have to manually import a photo from your iOS device at all.

As for removing items from your Camera Roll on your iOS device, as long as you see that they are present in Photostream (or in iPhoto), then it is safe to delete them from your device. (There is no way around this but to do it manually as far as I know.)

Currently, Photostream does not support videos. To import videos, connect your iOS device to iPhoto and import these manually.

As a side note, in order to keep some photos on the device, you can create a smart album in iPhoto along the lines of "Photos taken within the last 30 days" or "Photos rated 4 stars or more", and configure iTunes to sync these to your device. That way, you can be sure that no matter if you clear your Camera Roll on your device, or delete certain photos, you maintain some convenience.


It turns out that my copy of iPhoto was not behaving properly - it should ignore photos already imported by photo stream when you connect an iOS device.

I managed to get it to work correctly again by resetting photo stream from iCloud.com and turning photo stream off and on again in iPhoto and all my iOS devices.


I know everyone has been finding a culmination of solutions to be helpful...my chosen course which I will hope meet with great success is as follows -

  1. Import all existing photos from my iDevices into iPhoto.
  2. Turn off 'Automatic Import' in iPhoto under (Preferences > Photo Stream).
  3. Turn off 'Keep Normal Photo' in my iDevices under (Settings > Photos & Camera)

Under this method, my workflow will be to manually import my photo roll into iPhoto (ensuring I will get my videos as well), when I choose to. It also enables me to use features such as split events native to iPhoto. I still have access to all my photo stream photos on all my iDevices and thru the Shared > iCloud link in iPhoto. I should be covered this way if a device is lost so I don't lose those pics in my camera roll.

Now if Apple would just allow me to take a pic on a failed login attempt. Between that and an iCloud location, the police might actually be able to recover the device. That would be if the police in your particular area care about such recover....Hartford, CT police just want to give you a case # and don't care if you can see it online. Their response was go find it then.


As far as I know, the Photo Stream storage is different from the Camera Roll. Photo Stream stores the pictures in the cloud. And I think once it's pushed to the cloud, even if you delete the item in the Camera roll it will not be deleted from the stream. I'm not really sure about this though.

I kind of follow your original workflow myself, so if you're used to this you can turn off the Photo Stream with no problem.

I'll wait for a better answer myself, since I want to know some strategies about using the Photo Stream too.

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