Another fine mess you’ve got me into

Google Photos IconOh! Wouldn’t it be nice if Google were to publish a road map, or better still a strategy of what they’re actually trying to achive with Picasaweb/Google+ photos/Google Photos.

The only sort of strategy (for users) we get is what they’re about to do, just before they do it! That doesn’t allow any users of their various services the time to assess whether they need to do anything themselves to make their continuing use of Google services worthwhile, or not. Of course Google will argue “what do you expect from a free service”, which is always a difficult one to counter, but peace, harmony and goodwill is always something good to foster in your user community.

So it appears that I’ve been doing rather a lot of posts on the subject of Google this year. First there was the question of which cloud storage solution you should use for your Photos. I discussed that in this post.  Prior to this there had been the changes to YouTube, and to Hangouts – including it’s spin-out from Google+ and into Google’s Business Apps division, and of course the announcements of the intention of splitting up Google+ into Streams and Photos.

I recognised that this could mean the demise of Picasaweb, something I quickly realised was probably not likely to be true but the issue of what Google Photos actually is, and how it fits into a photographer’s workflow is still not exactly clear as I wrote about here.

And now we have the announcement that Google is sunseting the Google+ Photos app, initially on Android, from August 1st. This has caused a lot of consternation and discussion because the wording of the announcement is just not very clear. Respected “insiders” who I respect and follow say “no panic, there’s nothing to worry about, nothing’s changing“, but still one’s left with the uncomfortable feeling

  • “what about me ?”
  • “how does it affect me ?”
  • “is my workflow affected in any way”?

We’re all different, we all use tools in slightly different ways, we all need to know the answers to a wide range of different questions. This is where Google could do themeselves a huge amount of good by publishing a road map with some detail to it – not just a statement of intent as the Google+ split was announced –  or better still a strategy, of where they are going, and what they hope to achieve – even if they don’t want to commit to timescales.

So we trawl the internet to try and piece stuff together, to surmise, nay guess, what’s going on. So even yesterday we have this post from which I extract the following …

“With the death of Google+ Photos, Google will be dropping from three Photo services down to two. Google Photos won’t entirely be taking over the duties of Google+ Photos, Picasa Web Albums will be covering some of the functionality, too. Yes that’s right, Google’s original internet photo service is still alive! Picasa will apparently be serving as the host for pictures shared during Google Hangouts chats. A letter went out to Google Apps administrators tell them to enable Picasa Web if they want to continue sharing photos over hangouts, and we’ve seen our personal accounts jump back and forth between Picasa and Google+ hosting as well. We guess then you make two of everything (or in this case three of everything) you have lots of options to fall back on when you kill one.”


… how chaotic can you get! Look at this as well on a Google+ Help page entitled “What’s happening to Google+ Photos“. Apparently if you want to see photos you’ve shared in Blogger (or Hangouts) you need to use Picasa Web Albums! But what about those of us who’ve been embedding Picasaweb images and albums in WordPress posts. [You have to do this because it’s the only API that’s available to developers !!!]  What a shambles. What a need for clear direction, so here it is, my attempt at writing Google’s Photos Application strategy (looking backwards as well as forewards).

  1. We need to buy a strong well respected Photos application with a web presence to complement our exisiting purchase of YouTube for videos. [Done – Picasa and Picasaweb brought into the Google fold]
  2. We need to find a way of counter-acting the growth of those pesky social media applications. Let’s call it Google+ and integrate Picasaweb into it. Better not switch-off the API though as there’s far too many people using it and we just don’t know what would happen if we did, so let’s just hide it. [Done – Google+ launched. Very pleased with ourselves. Cracked it! … or maybe not, photographers love it, but they’re about the only ones]
  3. We need to find a way of combining the power of (and information contained in) images with income generation. We need to decouple Photos from Google+. We can’t call it Picasaweb, lets’s just copy Apple and call it Photos! We also need to make it quite clear that Photos is a repository, not a social network so we’ll integrate it closely with Google Drive and make everyone happy by giving loads of free storage to make them feel happier. [Done – why is everyone confused though?]
  4. We need to have a simple desktop app to manage/edit images – we’ve also bought Snapseed, what about combining that with Picasa. Great idea, it (they) can upload directly into Google Photos. [TBA]
  5. Unfortunately people have been making comments about images ever since Picasaweb, so we need a way of preserving Comments, and of course Posts that appeared on Google+. Right … the answer is Streams, everything that has ever appeared in Google+, will now appear in a Stream pointing at an image in Google Photos. Now we’re getting somewhere … aren’t we? We can leave the Picasaweb comments where they are … can’t we? [TBA]
  6. But what about the API for Drive, Photos? Working on it … then we can officially retire the name – Picasaweb. [TBA]

Seen like this Google+ Photos was an aberation, an unnecessary step. They should have left Picasaweb unchanged and morphed it into Google Photos when they had the APIs ready.

Let’s hope I’m right!

Google Photos – some observations

I’m following up my previous post with some notes based on using Google Photos for a couple of days of testing and observation. This will lead into some thoughts on how I will use it, and what I need to do to make sure the Workflow is “right” for me. This might also be relevant to others, especially those using both DSLR and Smartphones, so I’d welcome comments.

The first thing to mention is that My Drive > Google Photos and the separate Google Photos menu item on your Google Drive are not the same! This is reflected in this note which advises you not to use Google Photos Backup (from your Desktop) and the sychronised My Drive > Google Photos  local folder at the same time.

What this means in practice is that if you have a Workflow that involves placing an image in your local Google Photos folder to sync to your My Drive folder on Google Drive for sharing, or for embedding in a blogpost (like the tasteful one above taken during the testing 😆 ), then you probably shouldn’t use the Google Photos Backup application.

What does this mean then? Well a couple of observations.

  1. Google Photos is a good repository for images taken with Smartphones; it’s painless, quick and ensures that if you have auto-sync switched on in either your Google Photos app, or in the Google+ app (for iOS 7, or earlier) that you have a safe and secure home for your images which will have lots of other advantages. read this excellent review by Mike Elgan for further information.
  2. If you’re a DSLR camera user then you have to think carefully whether you want to use the Google Photos Backup application on your desktop.
    1. If you don’t use any other Image Editing software then it might well be a good idea – setting the Image Quality probably to High (so that you don’t use any of your 15Mb of Free Storage) and following the guidance in the note referenced above about excluding your My Drive > Google Photos from your Google Drive synchronisation, if relevant.
    2. If you’re using something like Lightroom to post-process your images then it might be better to use the export options in the software to copy an image (or collection of images) from the software to your My Drive > Google Photos folder to sync up to Google Photos  and then on for sharing from either your desktop, or your mobile device a little later, and not using the Google Photos Backup application.
  3. Luckily none of the decisions you make now are irreversible, but a bit of careful consideration now may mean that you have the “right” workflow for your needs. For me as an iPhoneographer and DSLR camera user I’m happy to let Google Photos now be my Backup and Storage Solution of choice for the iPhone (see 1 above), but because I’m also a Lightroom user I’ll not use the Google Photos Backup application. Moreover, having made this decision it means that I can, if I chose, Import any images taken on the iPhone into Lightroom for post-processing, meaning I don’t clutter Lightroom up with images I don’t really want to keep.

Any thoughts?