Having a picture of your genitals displayed on your living room's TV wasn't probably what the team of Apple engineers considered when working on Photo Stream. One of the potentially most useful features in iCloud just happens to be the most annoying. The brilliant service that backs up your pictures automatically to the cloud can turn into a nasty surprise if you don't control the snaps taken with your iOS devices... And users are learning the lesson the hard way.
Let's rewind to last June when Apple introduced iCloud. Advertised as "automatic, effortless and free", it isn't exactly foolproof. The back up service for all your pictures taken with your iOS devices automatically pushes a copy to all the other Apple products linked to that iCloud account, including your Apple TV, home iMac or your kid's iPod Touch. The service does not only manage to keep a safe record of your shots, but also fix one of the most annoying bits for every iPhone user: importing your pictures to your desktop.
If you're using the service, there's a reason why you're reading this post. Like many of us keeping every IIII picture taken with your iPhone cannot be a good idea. Unlike that camera roll where you can delete those blurry, embarrassing or simply compromising pictures in a couple of taps, Photo Stream doesn't have the option. Why? Many of us are still asking the same question and I don't want to be misleading: there's no easy way to do it.
I have, however, scoured the support forums and got some ways to get around this issue. I also noticed that this seems to be a very popular request from users who would like, or desperately need, to delete individual pictures from Photo Stream. I'm hopeful someone will look into this issue and introduce a reasonable way to do this in a future iOS update. In the meantime, we can try these solutions:
1. Disable Wi-Fi when you're not at home
Assuming that most of you iCloud supported devices are in your house connected 24h to your home Wi-Fi network, the easiest way to prevent them from syncing is killing one of the ends. If you're the sort of iPhoneographer that goes for a photo shoot session with way too many pics that you don't want on other devices you'll be fine until you get home. The moment your iPhone latches to Wi-Fi instead of the cellular network, iCloud will automatically work its magic.
I'll use the opportunity to plug these shortcut icons that could make the whole thing less of a chore. They have been designed by Jeff Broderick and are absolutely brilliant in situations like this one.
2. Switch off automatic import of Camera Roll
If you're using iPhoto on your Mac, this will be particularly handy not just to avoid embarrassing moments but also avoid your bandwidth being constantly used. You can still benefit from the syncing of the good pictures that eventually get to iPhoto, as long as you keep importing them with a cable as you used to do before iOS 5 came along.
There should be a delete button, it's as simple as that. If you take a crap / embarrassing / incriminating photo you should be able to delete it when you want, without going thermonuclear on your PhotoStream… Neddy123
3. Use alternatives to the Camera app
Some photography apps such as Taptaptap's Camera+ come with their own drawer where pictures are kept before saving them on the Camera roll. If you're used to this workflow, you won't have any major problem, but let's face it, most of us take quick snaps with the default Camera app anyway.
4. Reset your complete Photo Stream gallery
The last resort of action if the incriminating photo has already been synced is, well, delete the whole thing. You can choose to do this on iCloud.com or directly on your iPhone, but the radical effect will be the same. In those emergency case, just remember that the iCloud menu is accessible on Settings.
According to Jason Cipriani of Cnet, the next release of iOS 5.1 might include a proper delete feature as seen on the screenshots from the beta. At least it's reassuring that Apple is taking this omission in consideration and lets hope this makes it to the final version.