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How to switch to iOS 8’s iCloud Photo Library right now

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[UPDATE: Lots of readers report that the new option to activate iCloud Photo Library isn't showing up on their devices. I'm looking into it. So far I know that the GM version -- the one I used to write this guide --  and the final version are identical, build number 12A365. My guess is that Apple turned off the beta already]

iCloud Photo Library is rad. The idea is that all your full-res photos (including RAW photos) reside on Apple’s servers, and you access them from all your devices.

That’s a change from Photo Stream as it is now, which stores only the last 1,000 photos you took, not your whole collection. Apple has also introduced new tiers of iCloud storage pricing to cope with all your photos (and videos). This is now live, and I signed up for the 200GB option ($4 per month) to test it out.

Let’s take a look.

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iOS 8 gives the Photos app superpowers

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Photos on iOS 8 are so good that you will be able to ditch a whole home-screen folder’s worth of editing and organizing apps. That’s not an exaggeration: Apple’s new mobile OS packs in so many great new features that – even without the extending abilities of iOS 8’s new plug-ins – you can do pretty much any edit right there in the photos app.

The camera, too, has gotten an upgrade, and – maybe the most important for some – so has the iCloud Photo Stream, which will now give access to all your photos, from any device, whenever you want.

Sounds pretty good huh?

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The iPhone 6 camera is the only camera you need

Your iPhone 6 will take better photos than most pocket cameras.

Your iPhone 6 will take better photos than most pocket cameras.

Two things strike me about the camera in the new iPhone 6 models. One is that you can take better pictures; the other is that the iPhone is now a much better place for viewing those pictures.

With their bigger, brighter screens — and iCloud’s new Photo Albums feature (which stores all your photos, ready to view, in iCloud) — the iPhone 6 and its larger sibling, the iPhone 6 Plus, are looking to be the best smartphones yet, from a photographic point of view.

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For truly stunning portraits, photog zaps his subjects with a Taser

It happens all the time: The subject of a portrait tries to put their best face forward but the photographer senses a more authentic expression locked inside. To get to something real, the photographer utilizes a range of tricks and charms to peel back the subject’s veneer.

South Carolina photographer Patrick Hall used 300,000 volts.

Shockingly, close to a hundred people got zapped with a stun gun for Hall’s series of still photos and a slow-motion video that went viral soon after it was published on the Fstoppers website, which Hall co-founded.

“I wanted to start making more photo series of things I don’t normally do,” Hall told Cult of Mac. “Why don’t I get reactions of people doing something painful or joyful that is more than the standard portrait? What could I do to consistently get reactions?”

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Vintage-style lens makes impression with its dreamy bokeh

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Lomography’s Petzval lens clone will give your pictures a certain special something. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

A photo editor friend of mine will often say, “It’s getting harder and harder to make a bad picture.”

It sounds absurd but he is partially referring to technology and how it can remove some of the thinking from photography. Cameras can be set to figure out aperture, shutter speed and, with the touch of a button, do the focusing. You can massage a bad exposure with software or, if you snap photos with your phone, choose apps and filters to effect a variety of looks and feels.

So it’s not uncommon for serious photographers to occasionally reach back for a piece of analog gear to challenge their thinking and reinvigorate creativity.

This summer I reached back to 1840. Well, sort of.

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Vietnam War photos leave haunting impressions on artist’s unlikely canvas

The coiled hose left a mark on the grass, a fading of color where the sun could not shine.

From this moment on his front lawn, Binh Danh realized he could create a photographic process using sunlight, leaves and grass. He had no idea his method would develop into an organic process of self-discovery.

On leaves from his family’s garden, Danh brings fresh examination to an old war, printing haunted faces and horrific scenes from the Vietnam conflict with light and chlorophyll.

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Teen’s iPhone photos put vibrant face on homeless population

Nic Tullis has a summer project that doesn’t involve surfing or working at a frozen-yogurt shop.

The 18-year-old is at the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign to to raise $2,500 that will keep him out photographing with his iPhone 4s. His “Homeless But Not Hopeless” project aims to bring awareness about the homeless population of St. Louis, Missouri, which spiked 12 percent after the economic tsunami hit.

Tullis takes photos of homeless people that show how they live along with normal shots that show off St. Louis. The funding for the project would rent a gallery space to auction off prints as a fundraiser; proceeds would go to two local organizations that help people get back on their feet.

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Fantasy clashes with reality in wonky wonderlands

Real life gets old real quick. Work, chores, traffic jams, monotony — all the details of the daily grind infect the human body and build into a fever that only breaks when bags get packed.

The search for diversion leads to amusement parks and roadside wonders, roller coasters and stage extravaganzas. Kids can be kids, adults can be kids again, and sometimes, David Walter Banks is on hand to capture fantasy becoming reality with behind-the-scenes images that cast new light on tourist attractions.

Such moments of cognitive dissonance comprise The Fourth Wall. The entertainment industry takes in billions annually but even the most luxurious resorts and casinos provide an imperfect illusion. Visitors fill the gaps between animatronics and costumes with their own imagination, and the disconnect beats at the heart of Banks’ photo project.

“I love the idea of these places,” he says. “As adults, so many of us have lost our wonder and given up our urge to chase dreams. In a way, these places invite the adult population to chase an outlandish dream once more, even if only for a fleeting moment. Even if it’s plastic and cracked and they know it is all fake. They are still getting up, putting on their tennis shoes, and going out in search of magic.”

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Sci-fi toys spring to life in filmic photos

By day, Robert Larner works for an investment firm. By night he directs Stormtroopers, Transformers and Daleks.

Using toys, camera tricks and a keen sense of story, the photographer delights Flickr and Instagram fans with movie stills. But the movies don’t exist.

The Scotsman grew up a discerning cineaste with a taste for the Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters movie franchises, but his greatest inspiration — in film and toys — was Star Wars.

“I could probably track my interest in toys via Star Wars,” Larner says. “When I was a kid in the early ’80s, I was completely swept up by the original Kenner 3.75-inch range. Then, in the ’90s, the remastered movies came out along with whispers of the prequels so the Star Wars toy range was reintroduced, so that caught my interest again. However, it was when Lego had the bright idea of making Star Wars Lego sets in 1999 that I really got sucked in and I haven’t looked back since!”

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How a dev who couldn’t code built one of world’s hottest photo apps

Merek Davis, gets mexturized. Photo: Merek Davis

Merek Davis gets mexturized. Photo: Merek Davis

Merek Davis is not a coder. The developer never even made an app before 2013. Yet on his first iOS at-bat, he hit an App Store grand slam with Mextures, his photo-editing app that quickly became one of the top photo apps of the year.

Mextures is like Photoshop for your iPhone, only easier to use. The app’s editing tools and formulas let you tweak and re-tweak pics, adding light leaks, textures and color gradients that can turn even your crappiest pics into something majestic.

It’s a bona fide hit, with some of the most-followed names on Instagram using Davis’ creation. But it almost never happened.

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