I’ve been doing a bit more thinking on Photo Stream and the options that it provides and it may just be that I’m too damn geeky to use the service. So this post is admittedly a self-centered collection of thoughts about how to organizem my photos and videos, as well as what to really make […]
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Here’s How I Work With and Around Photo Stream for Pictures and Video

I’ve been doing a bit more thinking on Photo Stream and the options that it provides and it may just be that I’m too damn geeky to use the service. So this post is admittedly a self-centered collection of thoughts about how to organizem my photos and videos, as well as what to really make of Photo Stream now that I’ve had it for about a month.

What Photo Stream is Supposed to Be

From all of the copy on Apple’s website, you’d think that Apple had solved the issue of having to worry about photos and where they are. The idea behind Photo Stream being that you snap, upload invisibly over Wi-Fi, and then enjoy seamlessly across all of your devices.

One use case that Apple likes to show is a family coming home from soccer practice. In the ad the kid will run through the door, pick up the iPad, and swipe through the photos of soccer practice that have (quite incredibly) been transferred straight from the iPhone. It just works.
But what about video, though?

What I Want

I’ve hit a few major stumbling blocks in my attempted use of Photo Stream over the past few weeks, but before I get into my running list of issues, here is a quick rundown of what I would like:

  • Easy Importing of Photos and Videos
  • Efficient photo navigation
  • Easy media deletion
  • A good looking UI (why I went to Apple)
  • Ability to sort images into folders (or albums or “Events”)
  • Easy Sharing

But really, after thinking on it for a few hours, that’s really just me being too idealistic. I don’t actually look at my photos often enough to warrant that much versatility in terms of library management. In fact, fussing over all of those fine controls actually distracts me from simply enjoying the media I’ve created and assembled. I don’t actually need to tag every face or label every album or video, but that’s what I’ve been doing in my attempts to stay organized, and it has actually been stressing me out.

I really only want to be able to show people vacation pictures when they’re relevant, as well as share recently shot photo and video. So here’s an updated list of stuff that I’d like and that I would actually use in the everyday:

  • easy video importing and filing
  • easy backups of all photos I take (even the crappy ones)
  • having the most recent, relevant photos and videos automatically on my iPad
  • keep the raw (unedited) stuff from the approved (handpicked and edited) stuff

If I relax a little on the “control everything” meter, I think it is possible to be happy with the syncing options that Photo Stream and iTunes offer, and I believe I have found my solution.

The Solution

I have decided that manually syncing my iPhone 4S and Nikon D40 with programs like Aperture and iPhoto while disabling Photo Stream’s and auto-import functionality is the way to go.
This way I control exactly what goes into my permanent library, so I can prune things as I go instead of managing tens of extraneous or blurry photographs later on.

I rely on Photo Stream to send all of my iPhone and imported D40 pictures to my iPad, so that I always have the latest 30 days’ worth of pics. I have also set up the Photos tab in iTunes so that a Smart Album full of videos from the last month will be transferred to the iPad upon each sync.

It’s true that I need to remember to sync for this solution to be of any use to me, but I’m used to syncing a couple of times per week to move music to my devices, anyway. I believe it also strikes a decent balance between effortlessly keeping relevant media on-hand,

Bonus Whining: The Camera Roll is a Big Freaking Mess

I’ve always thought of the camera roll as a folder to be cleaned up, as if it were an inbox for my e-mail. As such, it always stressed me out to see 200+ photos and videos in there. I have made it a habit to purge the camera roll every week or so, but this has been made more difficult by the fact that albums created on the iPhone or iPad don’t actually move photos out of the camera roll – they just tag them so that you can find them more easily. Deleting all of the Halloween pictures in the Camera Roll will also destroy the album of Halloween pictures I have set up, and that’s just no good.

Then it struck me that it’s actually much more like the “All Mail” view in Gmail: it’s a lens through which you can see ALL the content on your device. Realizing this has also helped me not panic over the growing number of photos in the Camera Roll. I’d still very much appreciate some content filters in the Photos app, though: allowing me to see just the videos or just the pictures that aren’t in albums would be so insanely helpful that I can’t believe Apple hasn’t implemented this.

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