For starters, Google Photos is now a standalone service. It is no longer tethered to Google+ and its not clear what this means for Google+ as a social stream.
One of the best features of Google Photos is what Google described as a “single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device”. You can store “unlimited, high-quality photos and videos, for free”. That bit got my attention immediately and features strongly in any discussion about Google Photos. It is a bit misleading, though, and I’ll get into that below.
One feature which was carried across used to be called Auto-Awesome. It is now called “Assistant” and it takes your photos and does some really cool stuff with them; adding effects, creating animations and a number of other really nice effects. It is one of my favorite features of Google’s photo service (here is a cool example based on some of these photos) and I’d love to see this in Flickr even though I’m not sure anyone other than Google can really pull it off.
Google Photos will take your photos and organize them automatically based on when you took them, where you were when you took them, who features in the photos and what is in the photos. It potentially takes a lot of that manual effort you usually put into organizing your collections. You can create manual albums too and you can even create Collections (these used to be called Stories in Google+) which are also very cool ways of telling stories using your photos from events and locations.
Another feature is your ability to share your photos using other services (like Twitter or Facebook) or even using a link that gives people who have the link access to your photos even if they wouldn’t otherwise have access. That is something Dropbox practically pioneered and Flickr emulated. It is great to see services supporting sharing across more external services.
Google has released iOS and Android apps as well as a new desktop uploader that, like the Flickr Uploadr, watches specified folders and uploads automatically. The apps are very clean and work pretty well. The iOS version works on iPhones and iPads.
Overall the update is a great one. Google Photos is a pretty compelling option for consumers who never really saw the point of Google+ as a separate social thing.
Google’s bait and switch
Google says users have “unlimited” space for their photos but there is a catch, a big one. The “unlimited” space applies to photos uploaded from now (or probably photos which were previously covered by Google+ Photos unlimited option – roughly 2 megapixels if I remember correctly) and only if you choose the option to upload “high quality” versions of your photos.
High quality images are compressed versions of your photos and are limited to 16 megapixels. That is probably fine for most casual users but it becomes a problem for more serious users and users whose devices natively shoot more than 16 megapixels (it won’t be long before this is the norm).
There is more, though. Your existing photos aren’t included in this new unlimited plan if they exceeded the resolution that qualified for the original “unlimited” so don’t expect space you paid for to suddenly be freed for other uses. Also, even though Google Photos will upload RAW photos (something Flickr doesn’t do), those photos probably won’t be included in the “unlimited” storage – RAW photos are usually very high resolution images and will probably use your normal storage allocation.
Videos can be up to 1GB each and playback on Flickr is limited to the first 3 minutes;
Photos can be up to 200MB each (that is probably the equivalent of a direct export of a RAW file at maximum resolution for most DSLRs);
Photos can’t be more than about 31 times wider than they are tall (not sure what this is about but I usually don’t encounter this problem).
Flickr prefers JPG and PNG images and will convert to JPG for viewing. That said, it retains your original files which you can download as and when you want:
The original, completely uncompressed version of your content is always saved to Flickr, along with several alternate photo sizes for you to use around the web.
Google Takeout will let you download your photo albums but bear in mind that you will be downloading the compressed, “high resolution” versions of your photos if you take advantage of the “unlimited” space. This means you can’t count on Google Photos for uncompressed photo archives unless you pay for enough storage.
The real losers
Google Photos isn’t going to replace Flickr for me but it is going to be a great option for casual users, especially people who use Google’s other services like Gmail, Google Drive and others (which is a lot of people). It is also going to be an easy choice for Android users (as you would expect).
I don’t need to do that anymore. I have pointed Flickr’s and Google Photos’ desktop apps to a local folder outside my Dropbox folder and they will upload new exports as soon as they appear. This means I can remove all my stored albums from Dropbox and keep that space available for other files I need to store on an ad hoc basis.
Dropbox’s appeal is your ability to store your photos in their original format on Dropbox and that includes RAW and other more specialized formats. Of course that means you need a fair amount of space but if you have followed all the suggestions to earn more free space you probably have more than the basic 2GB for use for a variety of storage requirements.
Paying for premium Dropbox accounts to accommodate photo libraries has become an unnecessary extravagance and, despite ripping off many of its features, Dropbox’s Carousel is just less compelling than Flickr and Google Photos now. If I were a casual user, I wouldn’t even bother with Dropbox.
Other losers include all the other paid photo storage and sharing services. Some of them, like 500px, are really good services but they are becoming niche services for professional photographers who want more advanced analytics and the ability to charge for their work.
Flickr and Google Photos have won the consumer space
The elephant in the room is Facebook with its huge market share. It doesn’t have the features Google Photos and Flickr have and may add those in down the line but my preference is to stick with a relatively free-standing service for my memories.
Consumers who feel similarly have no real reason to go with services other than Google Photos and Flickr. If you want to share high quality versions of your photos and be able to store them reliably (as much as you can with 3rd party services), stick with Flickr. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a secondary backup to Amazon S3 in addition to local backups and I recommend a similar setup. Don’t trust your only backup to just one service, whether it is Flickr, Google Photos or something else. Have multiple backups and blend local with online to keep your stuff safe.
When it comes to an overall winner, I still pick Flickr and you should take another look if you dismissed it previously.
I knew I had to do something absolutely insane for Michael (Gray) & Jane. With Jane being my wife’s identical twin and Michael being one of Australia’s best wedding photographers… I just had to go all out.
I wanted to surprise Michael & Jane with something that they’d never forget. We also had to deliver this surprise before the end of the wedding day.
I can only imagine the stress he and his team were under on the day to do what everyone else said would be impossible but the expressions on the bride and groom’s faces, alone, was probably worth it. This video will give you an idea of what went into making this happen:
I’m intrigued by how iPhone camera apps handle HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos. The default camera app has a pretty decent HDR setting which I use routinely. It tends to result in much richer images than without the setting enabled.
I thought I’d try out the TrueHDR app which I’ve had on my phone for a while and forgot about for much of that time. You can definitely see the difference between the two and I think I may start using TrueHDR more going forward.
iOS Camera app (iPhone 5):
At least I hope I didn’t confuse them … The results from both are pretty appealing, especially for a mobile phone camera.
Is anyone using Lightroom to manage a photo library? I’ve been using Picasa but I am considering switching my habit to Lightroom to manage my libraries (I already using Lightroom for all my photo editing).
I need to be able to manage photos on multiple drives which preferably update dynamically (I know I can also do an import to refresh the folders). I’d also like to upload easily to Picasa (I use Picasa for online photo storage), Flickr and Facebook. I know about some plugins that do that but any recommendations would be great.
I’m pretty sure this is possible but I’m interested in your experiences if you are using Lightroom like this.
I’ve been using TrueHDR on my iPhone, on and off, for a little while now. The app takes HDR photos by taking 3 separate photos and combining them into some really spectacular looking images.
I was playing around with the app the other day and noticed that, like Instagram and Camera+ (two photo apps I use all the time) it now has a couple cool filters.
Add these filters to the HDR photos you may be taking and you get some pretty awesome results for such a simple setup. I noticed this piece of foil on a road the other day and snapped this shot with TrueHDR. I applied one of the filters and really like the result.
The challenge, though, is remembering that whatever you are taking a photo of can’t be moving! I have some great shots of a tree and the sun behind it this morning but the tree was moving enough in the wind to result in a spectacularly blurred photo.
The app is $1,99 in the US iTunes app store and worth the price.
I just came across an app called Phoshare which should enable you to fully migrate from iPhoto to Picasa and other file-based photo management tools. The big challenge migrating from the current version of iPhoto, iPhoto ’11, is that the iPhoto library is no longer represented in Picasa in the same way. Album structures are not preserved in Picasa and you have to navigate a complex folder date-based folder structure in Picasa to figure out which album is which. That makes it a lot more difficult to migrate from iPhoto to Picasa and manage your photos. It looks like Phoshare may be a pretty good answer to that problem:
Phoshare allows you to export and synchronize your iPhoto library to a folder tree. It preserves both the original and modified image, your event and album organization, and applies your iPhoto titles, descriptions, keywords, face tags, face rectangles, places, and ratings to the IPTC/EXIF metadata of your images. You can export a full copy of your library, or just build a tree of linked images that require very little additional disk space. You can re-run phoshare at any time to synchronize any changes made in iPhoto to your export tree quickly. phoshare works well with file-system based photo management tools like Picasa, Adobe Bridge, or Windows Live Photo Gallery.
iPhoto is pretty slow on my old MacBook and while it might be perfectly awesome on a newer MacBook Pro, it is a real pain to use. The big advantage to using it is that it syncs with my iPhone perfectly (as you would expect) but iTunes does give you the option to sync specific folders with your iPhone so that might be an answer. iPhoto also integrates better with Facebook and Flickr than Picasa. Picasa has certain benefits over iPhoto like far better face recognition and is somewhat more lightweight than iPhoto.
My ideal is still to switch to Lightroom for all my photo needs but I don’t have the cash right now to cover the cost of that app so I am working with what I have. I imagine Phoshare would come in handy when I make my move to Lightroom, though.
Dan Warne published a really helpful blog post explaining how to export your iPhoto library for upload to services like Dropbox or S3 here. The same steps could be used to simply export a slightly smaller version of your main iPhoto library if you don’t need the full resolution.
I am envious of iPhone users generally because they have these sorts of apps available. I still love Android but Android doesn’t have these sorts of apps just yet. When you consider the iPhone 4‘s camera and capabilities, this app becomes so much more appealing.
It doesn’t mean all that much to say it right now but I am already thinking about jumping ship to the iPhone 4 once it becomes available here in SA. If I do, this will become my preferred camera app, for sure!