Any Mac or iOS user will know and benefit from the fantastic Photo Stream service – it quickly and automatically syncs your photos across all of your Apple devices the instant the photos are taken or added to the stream. It’s a very useful tool, but it does have one or two drawbacks. The main one is that on Macs, you have to go into iPhoto in order to access your photo stream. Although I think it’s a good app, on older Macs, iPhoto isn’t exactly the fastest app to launch, and in my opinion the process of simply finding a photo in your Photo Stream and then copying it or moving it somewhere is overcomplicated.

Sadly, you cannot (by default) access your Photo Stream from Finder in OSX – but luckily there is a way around this, and it works just as nicely in Mavericks as with almost any version of OSX. Read on to find out how to do it!

Find the Folder


First of all, we need to locate the folders where our Photo Stream images are kept. It’s quite tricky to find if you go through Finder, so the quickest way is to use a shortcut. In

Finder, use the Go menu, and choose Go to Folder.

gofolderThis will bring up a pop up box where you can type in a link to a file destination, which helps speed things up a bit! Paste in the address below, and click Go.

~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub

subNow you see a bunch of randomly named folders within sub. It’s these mix of folders that contain your Photo Stream images – so it’s best to leave things alone incase you delete something you didn’t mean to.

Now, in the next step, we will set up a Smart Folder to sort out just the Photo Stream images from all of these folders.

Set up a Smart Folder

It’s all very well having found the folders that contain our image files, but you hardly want to rummage through all of them looking for your specific photo – so we need to create an easier way to find them. Finder’s Smart Folders can do all of this for us.

While the folder sub is still selected, press CMD + F to run a search, where we will create the Smart Folder. Make sure it only searches the folder sub and not This Mac. Next, change the Kind to image, and choose while image type you want to search for. If you want to be specific and only find PNG files (hence only shows screenshots from your devices), go ahead, but the recommended option is All.

Once done, it should look something like this:


Save the Smart Folder


Now, click Save. This will bring up a menu allowing you to name and choose where to save the Smart Folder, as well as allowing you to tick Add To Sidebar. Of course, this isn’t required, but it is one of the easiest ways to get to your photos in a hurry.

All that’s left to do is click Save. You’re done! As you can see below, you’ve successfully added your Photo Stream to your Finder sidebar. You can still order the photos by whatever you like, open them, copy them, move them, delete them – all without once opening iPhoto.


  • Derek

    I have followed these instructions to the letter but the images that pop up under ‘sub’ are not my photo stream pictures? Any help for what I may be doing wrong? Again this is correctly selected under sub where the kind is set to image and all.

    Thank you for any help!

    • James Duquenoy

      Hi Derek, thanks for getting in touch. It’s often the case that the photos in all of the various folders in ‘sub’ aren’t in a particular order, so it’s possible you just don’t recognise them.

      If you haven’t tried this already, carry on with the tutorial and get the photo stream into your sidebar, where you can more easily order the pictures by date. If you still aren’t getting your photo stream images, leave another comment and I’ll see what I can do.

      • Derek

        Hey James,

        2 months later… you think I would’ve checked back! Well I’ve tried so many variations of your directions and no matter what I do only a few pictures from my photostream show up in this “saved search” in my side bar. Currently I have 40 pics in my photo stream but only the first 4 are showing up in this saved search. If you are getting your setup to work well, I would love to know how you’re doing it! I am baffled! lol thank you so much for your time!


  • Dan Z

    James, thanks for this great tip. I did it on my MacBook Pro and it worked perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. For some reason, some images are not showing up in this smart folder. They are images that I took on my phone. They show up on my phone, my MacBook Pro’s iPhoto library, and even on my AppleTV, but they are not in this smart folder. I have painstakingly gone through every photo on my phone while simultaneously going through this smart folder on my MBP, but they are not there. Out of about 720 photos, about 130 are missing in this search folder. In some cases, photos of an event are missing, even though other photos from the same event show up in the smart folder. Many, (though not all) of the missing photos were taken between 12/18/2013 and 1/5/2014.

    Does this make any sense? Where might these photos be? They are obviously in my MacBook Pro somewhere since they show up in iPhoto, but I really want access to the JPEGs. Any assistance that you can provide wold be greatly appreciated!

    • joe

      i had this same issue. i found that all my photos were actually in the “sub” folder, under the gibberish folder names, but the spotlight search doesn’t find them all. there didn’t seem to be any logic to which ones showed up in the search, but only about 60% of them would show up.

      i actually never solved this issue on OS X MLion, and now that i am on Mavericks the search only turns up one photo.

      sadly, the Windows Photostream function is much better than the OS X system…

    • Chris S

      I am in the same boat as Dan & Joe – I have it setup and working – but only about 40% of the images are showing up? I did verify that the images I am looking for ARE in the cryptic folders under SUB – so what’s the issue with Spotlight not seeing them?

  • Margaret

    Hi! I’ve been searching for a way to get Picasa on my Mac to automatically recognize the photostream pics in the Smart Folder. Any thoughts? I tried “Hazel,” but she won’t recognize Smart Folder. Can’t figure it out on IFTTT. THoughts? Thanks!

  • thea

    Many thanks for the comprehensive instructions!

  • Mario Roda

    Fantastic tip, but same problem happened to me: just few images shown using this process. Apparently this has to due with a Finder or Automator limitation/bug. I found out that if you move the folder with the image to another place and then move back this folder to it’s original place (~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub) oddly everything will work perfectly. So additionally to the process explained in this page I attached to the folder an Automator Folder Action that simply moves the last folder to another place and then moves the folder back to it’s original place.

    • James Duquenoy

      Thanks for the tip!

    • Could you help me with this Automator Action? I’ve tried to do this myself but it doesn’t work properly… A screenshot of the actions should be enough! Thanks in advance!

  • Andreas van den Hoogen

    Thanks for this, perfect!!!:) But the same problem for me only 200 of 1100 pic visible…moved the folder and than back again and now I se everyone of them:) Hope it will last


  • Jeremy Gugenheim

    Hi – I had the same “not all images appearing” problem. This is how I fixed it.

    The Apple support article I used was this:

    Specifically I did this::

    1. From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences.
    2. Click Spotlight.
    3. Click the Privacy tab.
    4. Drag the ~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement folder to the list.
    5. If prompted for confirmation, click OK.
    6. Remove the folder you just added to the list by clicking it and then clicking the minus (“-“) button.
    7. Close Spotlight preferences, Spotlight will re-index your PhotoStream.

    I left it all alone for five minutes then when I clicked on the saved search all my photos were there.

    Hope this helps!

    • adam

      Thanks so much for this! Fixed my problem 100%

    • Matt

      I’m trying to add the sub folder to spotlight> privacy but the smart folder is greyed out.

  • Steve

    This tip would be even more perfect if there was a way to set the screensaver to point to this smart folder. I have my iPhoto collection on an external drive that is not always connected to my rMBP. The screensaver in Mavericks (and now Yosemite) for some reason does not let you point to a smart folder, so it always defaults back to the National Geographic pictures.

  • Blake Jennings

    Has anyone been able to get this to work in Yosemite? I’m unable to locate ~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub.

    • damon

      I’m in the same boat.. damn.