One of the greatest features of both Mac OS X and iOS these days is iCloud, Apple’s solution to cloud storage. Although there is an assortment of advantages to using iCloud — i.e. the ability to automatically sync our calenders, reminders, notes, contacts, and other important content across Apple devices — none of them are quite as time saving as the intuitive Photo Stream. With Photo Stream turned on, your iOS device will automatically upload a copy of every photo you capture via any available Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection, essentially allowing you to share communal albums with whoever you choose and ditch manual uploads altogether. The service even supports JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and most RAW formats, while conveniently skirting the 5MP cap other services within the iCloud suite must adhere to. However, accessing your Photo Stream on your Mac is not quite as transparent as the upload process. That said, here is a quick guide for doing so in Mac OS X.
Related: Our guide on how to use iCloud
Turn on Photo Stream in iOS
Before you can access your Photo Stream on your Mac, you’ll need to have it turned on through your iOS device. Once you do, each photo will be automatically uploaded to your Photo Stream, and remain there for 30 days (or until you’ve reached the 1,000-picture limit, at which point the oldest ones will be replaced with newer photos).
To enable Photo Stream on your iOS device, navigate to the main settings panel and select the iCloud option. Then, tap Photos near the top of the resulting menu and toggle on the My Photo Stream option in the middle to enable the feature.
Access My Photo Stream using iPhoto
The absolute simplest way to access your Photo Stream photos is through Apple’s iPhoto. The exact process may vary depending on which version of iPhoto you’re currently running, but the directions below should still work with most incarnations of the native software.
Step 1: Launch iPhoto as you would normally, click iPhoto in the left corner of the application taskbar, and select Preferences from the resulting drop-down menu. Afterward, navigate to the iCloud tab within navigation bar and check the box directly left of My Photo Stream.
Step 2: Click iCloud in the Source List located on the left side of the application window and select the Use iCloud option. Doing so will allow any new photos that you import into iPhoto to be uploaded to iCloud and added to My Photo Stream. Moreover, any photos added to My Photo Stream via your iOS device will automatically be imported into your iPhoto library. Keep in mind disabling Photo Stream on iPhoto will automatically remove access to these photos through iPhoto — though, you can re-add your Photo Stream at anytime.
Access My Photo Stream using a saved Smart Folder
If you’re not a fan of iPhoto, fear not: There is another, slightly more complicated (but still totally easy), way to access your Photo Stream from your Mac.
Step 1: Open Finder.
Step 2: Click “command,” “shift,” and “G” (⌘⇧G) all at the same time, which will bring up the “Go to folder” option in Finder.
Step 3: Paste the following text into the “Go to folder” field: ~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub. Hit “Enter.
Step 4: Click “command” and “F” (⌘F) together to bring up a new search interface.
Step 5: At the top-left of the window, you should see two options after the word “Search”: “This Mac” and “sub.” Click “sub” to highlight it.
Step 6: Underneath that line, you’ll see the word “Kind.” Leave that be. But in the next drop-down menu, change the type to “Image.” Another drop-down menu will appear. Change that one to “JPEG.” Now all your Photo Stream images will show up in the window. (There will probably be some other pictures in there as well. You can tell Photo Stream images because they will have a green check mark on the thumbnail.)
Step 7: Finally, click the “Save” button on the right side, and name the Smart Folder whatever you like. (We’d go with “Photo Stream,” for simplicity’s sake.) Leave the “Add to sidebar” box checked for easy access in the Finder window. And you’re done!
[Note: Smart Folder instructions via Ben Ward]
This article was originally published on December 4, 2012, and updated on October 3, 2014. DT writer Brandon Widder contributed to this post.