iCloud Photo Sharing vs My Photo Stream: do you need both?

Apple offers iCloud Photo Sharing AND My Photo Stream on its various Mac OS X and iOS devices. Do you need both? If not, which one is best for you? Let’s see if we can simplify matters.

With My Photo Stream, you can access the recent photos that you take with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch on your Mac and PC as long as you have iCloud set up on all of your devices. Photos are stored for 30 days. To save or back up your pics, you have to save them from My Photo Stream to your iOS or Mac OS X device.

However, iCloud Photo Library stores every photo and video you take, and keeps ‘em up to date on all your devices. Any edits you make are automatically updated everywhere. iCloud Photo Sharing lets you share photos and videos. For example, you can create a shared album and invite friends and family to add their photos and video clips.

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Unlike My Photo Stream, you’ll need an iCloud storage plan to use iCloud Photo Library. You can 5GB for free, 50GB for $0.99/month, 200GB for $2.99/month, and 1TB for $9.99/month. If you take many pics, 5GB isn’t enough. I’d recommend starting with the 50GB option and using it until you run out of space. 

Once you turn on iCloud Photo Library on your device, any photos you add to My Photo Stream from other devices will appear in the All Photos tab in the Photos app, and organized in Moments, Collections, and Years. iCloud Photo Library automatically syncs your photos and videos, while My Photo Stream doesn’t.

On a Mac or PC, your photos are downloaded and stored in full resolution with My Photo Stream. On iOS devices and the Apple TV, they’re saved in a device-optimized resolution designed to save storage space and enable quick downloads.

iCloud Photo Library stores full-resolution photos on the server and on your Apple gadgets. It supports popular file formats such as JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, and TIFF. Note that you can’t sync albums and photos from your Mac or PC via iTunes of you’re iCloud Photo Library, and any existing albums/photos will be removed should you quit using the service

Do you need both services? No If you don’t want to pay for iCloud storage, use My Photo Stream. 

If you’re willing to pay for iCloud storage, use iCloud Photo Library, be sure it’s enabled on all of your iOS and OS X devices using the Photos app, and disengage My Photo Stream. The iCloud Photo Library feature upload of your pics and videos, make them available on all of your devices, sync the changes you make, and sync your albums across your Macs, iPads, iPhones, and Apple TVs.