Events and Life Photography

Family photos are a generational thing

I love this video from Google Photos. It captures the generational differences when it comes to family photos perfectly!

I am definitely more on the “take-a-gazillion-photos-and-put-them-into-albums-that-some-fancy-technology-can-index-for-me-for-later” category when it comes to family photos!

Where my photos go these days

Why Flickr is better than Google Photos

My photos are typically uploaded to Flickr and Google Photos by default. I also sometimes share albums on Facebook but I don’t have complete archives there at all. I also make multiple backups of my primary photo library and RAW files because I am more than a little neurotic about losing my family photos.

At the same time, I love living in a time where we can take so many great photos and share them so easily. Having machine learning systems go through our photos and make them so accessible, despite taking 23 photos of the same sunset, is amazing.

Google Photos definitely has the edge when it comes to identifying what is in our photos. As long as I have my Flickr (and other) backups for full resolution images, I’m happy to keep sending all my photos to Google Photos too.

Smarter photo albums with Google Photos

Not sold on Apple Photos yet

I haven’t used Apple Photos much. The libraries tend to become pretty big. My current edited library is about 128GB. That is stored in Flickr in full resolution (I uploaded most of that when we arrived in Israel – a decent upload capacity and no data caps is a must) and in Amazon S3.

I don’t really see me using Apple Photos for my full library. For one thing, I don’t have the drive capacity for that on my current MacBook Air. For another, iCloud storage pricing is still relatively expensive compared to other storage options. Still, I created a small Apple Photos library to play around with the new Apple Photos app.

One of the changes that I like is that I don’t have to replicate my photos in the Apple Photos library. I can “import” photos that I have stored on different drives without actually moving or copying them. That saves a lot of space.

That said, Apple Photos still seems to take up a lot of extra space on my drive relative to the imported photos. At the same time, the library may seem to be relatively big because I activated the Photos iCloud Library and it is importing photos shared through my iPhone and iPad.

I probably need to play around with Apple Photos and use a bigger subset of my library to get a better sense of how much space it will actually use once I’ve accounted for my iCloud library.

Those old family slides

Old memories with my Dad

My current mission is to have about 150-200 slides from my childhood scanned and added to my digital library. The big challenge with older generations’ photos is that there either aren’t many or they are in physical formats that will only degrade over time.

The slides are mostly in pretty good shape and there are a lot of amazing memories in there. So much I have forgotten from my childhood.

My Grand Plan is actually to co-ordinate with my brother and sister to have all the slides they have from my mother digitised and shared as a collected family archive.

When I look at photos of my parents’ childhoods, I’m struck by how few I have access to and just how few there are altogether. It isn’t quite as bad as the great grandfather in the Google Photos video with just two photos in his whole life but there really aren’t many photos going back a couple generations.

If anything, our kids will have too many photos of our lives and theirs but, hopefully, machine learning will keep developing and the (likely) terabytes of family photos we leave for them when we eventually leave this life will become a rich and valued archive of memories.


How to upload 80GB in a day with the help of a friendly ISP

I have a lot of photos I have been backing up to the cloud for a long time. I use a few services to backup my essential data:

  • Dropbox for all my documents (I upgraded to a 50GB account this year);
  • I use Picasa to backup photo albums as I go (I upgraded my Google Account’s storage to 80GB for this purpose);
  • I use Amazon S3 for my primary backups and I have automatic backups running through JungleDisk; and
  • I have a free Backupify account which I managed to grab during a promotion and which backs some Web services data up to my S3 account too.

I’ve been thinking of ways I can back my photos up to the cloud. I have about 80GB of photos I want to preserve. These are family photos and they are irreplaceable. I back them up to 3 separate physical drives but because of my MacBook Air’s relatively small hard drive (250GB just aint what it used to be) I can only keep a few albums (I keep my full iTunes library on my MacBook Air, its not practical to keep it elsewhere) on the drive. Despite this storage capacity locally, drives can fail and I almost had a huge problem when my one external drive almost failed recently, almost taking all my data with it (2 of my backup drives are partitioned with 1 partition for Time Machine and the other for general archival).

My plan has been to backup all my photos and other family data to S3 using JungleDisk but with our available transfer rates this will literally take months. I had a boost last week when I managed to upload 10GB at a conference at the CSIR but that leaves about 70GB to go and doing nightly uploads means taking my backup drive home to do it there rather than leave everything at my office.

When I thought about writing this post I was going to write about how cool it would be to have access to an ISP’s core network for a day or two to get my data up to S3. It turns out that it would take about 12 hours at about 15 Mb/s to get 80GB up to the Web.

We just can’t achieve that on the ADSL we have generally but ISP’s have much faster lines than that at their offices so I could probably backup all that data even faster. My thinking is that it is a matter of getting permission from a sympathetic ISP and agreeing on a price for that data. I pay Afrihost R950 for 100GB of data a month (we use most of it) so I’d be happy to pay that much for the 80GB I need for my photos. Its really a matter of access together with BFF status for the ISP and gratuitous posts about how awesome the bandwidth is and how hard it is to lift my jaw from the ground.

While that is first prize, another option occurred to me as I started this post. I have about 20GB of my photos on Picasa already. I still need to add the remaining 60GB and could do that incrementally through the Picasa app’s sync capability but once that is done I could use Backupify to back that data up to my S3 account. That way I have 2 online photo backups (as much as I like Google and its services, I don’t have any guarantees its services will always be available to me – S3 seems to be a little more reliable in the longer term and gives me much needed redundancy). This option still leaves me needing to upload the rest of my archived albums (once the older stuff is up, its only a matter of uploading new stuff as I go and my ADSL connection is just fine for that).

As an aside, rationalising my S3 storage will probably help get the cost down a bit too. I could then limit JungleDisk backups to lighter weight documents and data with photos going up via Picasa and Backupify.

So … any ISPs interesting in helping a guy out?

Awesome idea: Ooh ooh, just had an awesome idea for ISPs. How about offering photographers and other content creators a service to upload massive amounts of data from a location hooked up to the core network as a periodic service at a reasonable price? They could do what I want to do and arrive at an upload station with their drives, upload to their preferred cloud service and pay for the data and service! The ISPs who can accommodate that would get the credit for being utterly awesome in so many respects and the packages could be priced to manage demand. You can thank me later.

Update: Mike Blackburn tweeted this link. This is an option if you are happy to ship a drive to Amazon.