Rethinking Google Photos

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Earlier this year I pronounced doom for Flickr and Google. And while I may still use imgur for embedding photos in blog posts (maybe), I have changed my mind about Google. Here’s why…

There are several steps in my typical photography workflow:

  • Take photos
  • Cull bad photos
  • Make backup copies of photos
  • * local drive
  • * online
  • Share photos
  • * Social media
  • * Blog post embeds

My original interest in imgur came from the difficulty I found in pulling in pictures from Flickr and Google Photos. This became even more tricky when I switched my blogs over to static files only (no database!). Just finding a link to the actual photo in Flickr was maddening, and still seemingly impossible in Google Photos. So for blogging, I began experimenting with imgur.

Unfortunately imgur doesn’t appear to have a good bulk upload option, and it definitely doesn’t synchronize photos automatically. This isn’t a problem for a few photos in each blog post, or even the occasional gallery. But for backing up nearly 40,000 photos? Yeah, problem – BIG problem.

Google Photos, on the other hand, has an upload tool that runs in the background. It’s automatic. On top of that, they are recently doing some other very interesting things with any photo that you upload. So for the last few days I have been uploading a backup of all my photos to them. Here are my initial observations…

First, the backup is smooth, seamless. I don’t have to think about it. If my internet goes out, or if I shut my laptop, the backup resumes automatically when the connection is re-established. It will also automatically backup any new photos I take with my iPad or Android smartphone.

Second, photos are accessible everywhere - browser, phone or iPad.

Third, Google looks at all my photos and sorts and categorizes them and does interesting things. Here are the pros and cons as I see them so far.

Pros

Panoramas

Any time I have taken two or more photos somewhere Google tries to stitch those together. Fortunately I have always attempted to take several photos of wide landscapes with the thought of manually making a panorama photo in mind. With Google, all of these photos are now automatically stitched together. It is wonderful. Photos I took in Alaska eight years ago are now beautifully wide and large. This is an amazing feature, and it just works, very well.

Stylized Photos

Google takes certain photos and applies special effects. These are most often wonderfully done.

Albums

Generally works well

Stories

This is where Google shines. These are often incomplete, but easily modified. Sometimes they combine things I would normally group separately, but overall are very nice.

Cons

Animations

I have found these to be very hit and miss. In some situations they work well, but most I have discarded. Now that I know that Google will be attempting to do this, I can change the way I take photos in order to give them something better to work with.

Collages

This has been very hit and miss as well. Often collages are made out of identical photos (from bracketing attempts) or multiple photos taken as part of an auto-HDR feature on the camera.

Video

This rarely works as intended.

Embedding

For embedding photos and albums into blog posts I will still be using imgur. Google wants all the eyeballs on their own site, which they don’t get if their images are embedded elsewhere, so this is no longer allowed.

Conclusion

I think that some of the problem areas could have been avoided if I had finished organizing my photos before uploading them. Some photos have a file date that is years away from the date I actually took the photo, and the EXIF data is either incomplete or missing. Hopefully Google will adjust or re-upload once I clean things up a bit.

So for backing up your photos, and for finding and creating memorable moments to share with others, Google Photos is pretty amazing. For embedding in blog posts, not so much.

Copyright © by Glenn Dixon