iCloud Photo Streams: Your Public or personal, invite-only Instagram-like service


A feature largely unknown, is that iOS 6 allows users to create and share a photo stream; they can invite certain people, or share the stream publicly on an iCloud page. If you’ve updated to iOS 6, you’ll recognize the options shown in the image to the right, in the Photos App; and you may have more or less the same thing depending on if you sync your photos with iPhoto.

With the Photo Streams feature, your friends can invite you to subscribe to their Photo Streams, you can invite them to subscribe to yours, and you’ll receive notifications when they update their albums, or like and comment on your photos.

Just to make it clear, when I refer to Photo Stream, I am not talking about the default Photo Stream that’s been around for the last few versions called “My Photo Stream”; that automatically updates with your last 1,000 images and can not be shared – for some people, this is an awesomely good idea, especially after a weekend.

You can use it to share a trip you’re on, use it as an easy way to share funny photos between friends and family. You could, as I have in my example, use it to set up a Photography Portfolio. One of the KEY things I love about this feature, is that I can share straight these straight to Facebook and Twitter; using this to share family photos is great!

Creating a Photo Stream


Simply go to Photo Stream in the Photo App and tap the + Symbol in the top left. You do NOT have to invite people straight away. This will give you time to get your stream “just right”; and even edit the albums’ name, if you like.

Each Photo Stream is completely controlled by you; you control if it’s private or public, and who to invite – and when they can’t subscribe any more. You’ll need their Apple ID to invite them. (Don’t forget to add the address to your contact list!)

Photo Stream albums exist as is, even if you delete the photos from your camera roll or the “My Photo Stream” album; If you want to delete photos, remove them from the album, and the changes will be sync’d with the streams on your subscribers’ devices – and the web version, if you activate one.

When you hit Create, the steam will appear under the default “My Photo Stream”; to access the options tTo delete the album, rename it, and invite or remove subscribers, tap the blue circle. I’ve made this a Public Website, and you can view it here. I personally love the auto-magic layout; the style is clean, minimalistic, and has a wonderful professional feel about it.


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Adding & Sharing Photos

There are a few ways you can add photos to your Photo Steam.

In Bulk from within the Photo Stream:

1. Enter the Photo Stream Album
2. Tap “Edit”
3. Tap “Add”
4. Select the images you want.
5. Tap “Done”

Individually from Albums:

1. Go to the Camera Roll or Album your photo is in
2. Select the image you want to share
3. Tap the Sharing Options icon
4. Select which Photo Stream you want to put it in, or start a new one!
5. Add a comment for the image.
6. Tap “Post”!

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In bulk from Albums:

1. Open the Album your photos are in.
2. Tap “Edit”
3. Select the Photos you wish to add.
4. Tap “Share”.
5. Tap “Photo Stream”.
6. Select which photo stream.
7. Add an optional comment.
8. Tap “Post”


This is one of my favourite things in the new Photos app; and you can share photos from your subscriptions to Facebook and Twitter, too!


Inviting people to subscribe

When you’re happen with your album, invite some friends or family to subscribe! Open up the options for the PhotoStream Album you wish to share, and tap “Add People”. The people you invite will receive an e-mail notifying them that you have invited them to subscribe to your PhotoStream; if you enter their iCloud address, they’ll also receive a notification on their iDevice. In the Options screen, you’ll be told if the invitation has been declined, accepted, or if it is pending action.

Opening this screen on PhotoStreams you have subscribed to will list other subscribers, and their subscription status; and identify the owner (Which is also listed on the PhotoStream listing anyway.)


The iPhoto Connection

A wonderful discovery while playing with this feature was that because it’s sync’d to iCloud, iPhoto picks up the Photo Streams you’re subscribed to and allows you to browse, like, and comment on the photos from within iPhoto!

7 thoughts on “iCloud Photo Streams: Your Public or personal, invite-only Instagram-like service

  1. Sort of. It’s not a replacement for Instagram; It’s just Instagram-like.

    A major difference is that it’s all part of the Photos app that is already on the phone; rather than having to, as I was, maintain a Google Web Albums account and update my Picasa App on the Mac, and then access it via a different App on my iPhone. The entire thing is integrated between devices; and automatically syncs.

    I now no longer need to pay $50 or $80 or whatever it was for Google space; and the UI is far more user friendly and elegant that Web Albums, which I always found to contain a HELL of a lot of crap I never use, but I had to wait to load each time.

  2. Part of it, yes.

    I’m working on digitizing all the photos I have in the albums, so I want somewhere that offers decent photo management.

    Picass was good; and for the longest time I was split between it and iPhoto; but with the iOS 6 update for iPhoto and iDevices, it was a done deal – as Sharing wasn’t well implemented in iPhoto, at least not as well as it was in Picasa.

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