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Question: Photo Stream imports smaller file

Photo Stream automatically imports photos to Photos on iMac, but when I connect iPhone to iMac, all photos not previously manually imported show as new, and then when I import them to Photos, they are a larger file size than the automatically imported photos from Photo Stream (which, I presume, is why Photos sees them as different photos than the Photo Stream photos already automatically imported). The files look exactly the same and have the same resolution, but I presume the smaller file size versions must be optimized (with, again I presume, some loss of quality). This started happening only recently.

How can I make Photo Stream photos and manually imported photos recognized by Photos as the same photo, so I am not prompted to re-download photos I already have in my Photos library?

iMac, OS X El Capitan (10.11.6)

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Mar 2, 2018 10:03 AM in response to John Donald In response to John Donald

That is correct and there are many other ways (mostly incorrect) to see the file "size" - to help we have to have details and knowing that you are using a valid way to view the file size vs an invalid way is critical to helping you solve this

Are you using iCloud Photo Library (which is the only way photos can be optimized automatically on your Mac and if they are the original is always available on iCloud and is always used for editing and exporting)


Mar 2, 2018 10:03 AM

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Mar 2, 2018 10:28 AM in response to LarryHN In response to LarryHN

I am not using iCloud Photo Library. I have verified this on my iPhone and iMac—both are unchecked. I should note I am on El Capitan 10.11.6 / Photos Version 1.5 (370.42.0), and iOS 11.2.6.

As an example, a particular photo has been automatically imported by Photo Stream with a file size of 1.8 MB. The version of the same photo (all other details showing exactly the same in the information window) manually imported has file size of 2.5 MB.

Mar 2, 2018 10:28 AM

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Mar 2, 2018 10:32 AM in response to John Donald In response to John Donald

Using iCloud Photo Library will give you access to the full quality file across all of your devices signed into your iCloud account.

On iOS: Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud, Photos > toggle iCloud Photo Library on

On Mac: Open Photos > Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Photo Library

Mar 2, 2018 10:32 AM

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Mar 2, 2018 10:57 AM in response to zedkolk In response to zedkolk

Thanks but I do not want to use iCloud photo library. I just want to use Photo Stream to automatically import photos that I take with my iPhone and my understanding is that photo stream should import full-size full quality photos.

Mar 2, 2018 10:57 AM

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Mar 2, 2018 11:48 AM in response to John Donald In response to John Donald

As a test launch Photos with the Option key held down and create a new, test library. Take a couple of test photos with your iPhone, get them into the Photo Stream and imported into the library. Test to see if the same problem persists. Does it?

Next, if necessary, boot into Safe Mode, Mac OS X: Starting up in Safe Mode, and repeat the above test from there. Any differenc?

Just ran a test and the photos on the iPhone (verified by Image Capture), the Photo Stream and in the Library were all the same file and image size. No difference at all.

User uploaded file

Mar 2, 2018 11:48 AM

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Mar 2, 2018 12:55 PM in response to Old Toad In response to Old Toad

Thanks - I checked Image Capture and it imports the large size photo, matching the manual import into Photos.

The iCloud features are not available on Libraries other than the System Photo Library, so can't check on a test library.

I also tried deselecting My Photo Steam in both my iMac and my iPhone, restarted both, and then reselected both. No effect - new photos show up as a smaller file size when automatically imported from My photo stream, and show up as a "New" photo when connecting phone due to larger file size (I presume).

I didn't try Safe Mode, but that won't make a difference with a test library since I'll run into the same problem where that feature is not available.

I am starting to think that the only option left is to upgrade to High Sierra, which I have been hesitant to do on this old iMac. Or just stop using Photo Stream.

Mar 2, 2018 12:55 PM

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Question: Photo Stream imports smaller file