Storing Photo Library in Google Plus Photos
Photos are memories. When you manage your photo library, you manage your memories, your life. These days there are many tools and services to help you with the photo management process. I want to share with you how I am using the modern technology to take care of my everyday photo managing needs.
First of all, I should admit that I am not a photographer and I take pictures just for general purposes. I do not use a DSLR camera, and I am more than happy with an iPhone as my primary photo and video taking device.
My basic photo management needs
I want photos I take on my iPhone (or sometimes iPad or Nexus 7) to be automatically uploaded to the cloud in full resolution without any loss in quality. Then, I want these photos to be available for viewing, managing and sharing on all of my devices, with perfect two-way synchronization.
I use devices run by iOS, Android, Mac, Chrome OS and Windows. I need all of them to work seamlessly together, so even if I wanted to, I could not use a solution that is not cross-platform. For example, Apple’s iPhoto plus PhotoStream (or Dropbox) combination worked great for me when I was using only Apple's hardware, but when I added a Nexus 7 and a Chromebook Pixel to my arsenal, I had to change the way I deal with my photos.
There are services like Dropbox, Flickr or OneDrive (previously SkyDrive) that provide the similar functionality and work on all platforms. Every service has its advantages and disadvantages, but after trying all of them I have decided that Google Plus Photos is the best choice for my needs.
Later I might do a comparison post on the best photo managing services available, but for now I will just stick to explaining how I use the Google + Photos.
Auto importing of photos
Like I mentioned above, I use a smartphone as my main camera. There are a lot of apps you can use to automatically upload your photos from your smartphone, including Google’s own Google Plus app. On my iPhone, I use the app called ‘Web Albums’ (by Pixite), that seamlessly uploads all the photos I take to my Google + (Picasa) account, without any loss in quality.
On my Chromebook I use the packaged Google + Photos app, which automatically uploads the new photos from SD cards or USB sticks I plug into my computer. On Mac or Windows, you can either use Picasa from Google, or just the web interface, that works perfectly fine.
I prefer to keep my photo library organized in Albums. What I like about having my photo library in the cloud is that I can start creating and managing my albums on one device and finish the process on another. For example, sometimes I start to move the freshly taken photos in my cloud library to albums using my iPhone, then when I get to use my laptop, whatever it is MacBook, Chromebook or Windows machine, I can continue the process from the point I stopped.
I do recommend you backup your photo library every once in a while, so even if there will be any problem, you will always have the backup version of your library. Thanks to Google Takeout, it is very easy to do backups of your library almost completely automatically. Just choose to create an archive of Google + Photos and it will prepare and let you download one archive file with all your albums inside.
Since photos in my library are in the cloud, every time I edit a photo using Google + photo editing tools, the changes I make instantly apply to photos on all my devices. It is always nice to know that next time when I open my library on any other device I will be able to see the changes I made right away.
Of course, if you need to work with RAW files or you just like to mess around with your photos, you will have to download the photos you want to edit them in native apps and re-upload them after you are done. But, for the absolute majority of people, the functionality provided by the cloud based photo editors are more than enough. Also, If you edit your photos on your phone or tablet like I do, you can upload the edited files right from your device.
Viewing and sharing
There are many ways to view photos stored in Google +. You may think that because photos are stored online it is impossible for me to view them without an internet connection, but I am glad to tell you that this is not the case. I like to use my tablet to view my photos, and there are a lot of apps that let you access your Google + photo library without an internet connection. For example, the app I use (Web Albums) lets me select the albums I want to cache for offline viewing. For information on offline viewing of photos on Chromebooks, check my previous post: "Using a Chromebook Offline".
Since these days it's easy to find an internet connection almost anywhere, you can always use the web interface to easily access your photo library and share the photos with your family on any device.
Managing your photo library in the cloud is very efficient and comfortable. Once you have finished organizing it, you will be able to access the exact same library on almost any device. You won't have to worry about loosing your phone or laptop, because everything is backed up online.