Google photos: the photos service that Apple should have developed

imageThe world of photos storage and manipulation, for the average user, has been turned on its head this spring with Apple releasing its new photos app to replace iPhoto, and now google introducing its own photos service that replaces Google+ photos and Picassa. Also the spring, Yahoo has greatly enhanced it’s Flickr service as a competitor to both the big dogs. With all these options for photo storage and manipulation, how does a person make a choice?

So let me start off by being perfectly clear. If you’re a Photoshop user these are not competitive products to you. If you use Lightroom to store your photos, then these are probably not services you’re going to have interest in either. If you were an Aperture user and Apple abandoned you, you’ve probably already looked into lightroom and likely selected it as your new system. But if you were in iPhoto user, someone who uses Windows Photo Gallery or still a Picassa user, the time is right to look at your other options.

I’ve written about Apple photos before and described how it was a good start at a new photo application for Apple. If you’re a Mac User this may be all you need. But if you’re a Windows user, or you’d like to get your photos into the cloud for storage without paying an arm and a leg, the other options are quite compelling.

imageNow I like Flickr. Flickr is very well developed and with its new release has many features that people will find very useful for dealing with their photos.  If your a Flickr user and have already worked out a workflow for putting your photos up at Flickr, then I see no reason to make a change. But if you have photos on your computer, that are haphazardly stored in folders, Google photos maybe just the ticket for you.

Like most Google services, Google photos is available as a web service in your web browser. First off you have to have a Google account to use the service. If you have a Gmail address you already have the account set up.  Once you connect to Google photos you have the ability to be able to put photos into the service and have them backed up. One of the benefits of Google photos is that they allow you to store up to 16 megapixel images uncompressed for free. If you’re using a camera that takes larger images, photos will down sample the image to that size or you can choose to pay for storage space to store full size images. For most users using the free unlimited storage is good enough.

So what makes Google photo special? Google photos has a lot of intelligence built-in similar to what iPhoto users had been used to with faces and places. Google photos gives you the ability to put photos up and then Google uses their algorithms to scan those photos to help organize them in a very simple way.

imageGoogle has made available a small application for both Macintosh and Windows users that allows you to automatically upload any photos on your computer. This application runs in the background and will send any new photos up to Google photos as soon as they’re on your computer. This makes using Google Photos extremely easy. You basically continue to work with photographs the way you always have and Google Photos sends copies of those photos up to their web service and stores them for you as a backup. If you’re in computer user that has photos stored on your computer and is not religious about backing them up I see no reason to not use Google photos just for that service. Even if you do nothing with the photos you put up in Google photos, just allowing Google to back them up for you at no cost is a big win. To do this you don’t even have to go to the website, you can just download the small application, run it, and let the backups begin.

But some of the real power of Google photos begins once your photos are stored with Google. As your photos are put online in an area that is secure and only accessible to you, Google analyzes these photos both by reading the metadata and also by analyzing the image itself. From this Google automatically creates things called stories that are basically short booklets of images that are related often by time or location. You really have to see this in action to understand it. I’ll tell you upfront I was pretty amazed. In addition Google organizes photos by peoples faces, locations, and generic terms such as lakes, mountains, flowers, and helicopters. I am certainly not very good at tagging my photos but the way Google analyze them and puts them into groups was amazing.

imageHere are some of the things googles literature says that it does.

• VISUAL SEARCH: Your photos are now searchable by the people, places and things that appear in your photos. Looking for that fish taco you ate in Hawaii? Just search “Hawaii” or “food” to find it even if it doesn’t have a description. Note: Face grouping is not available in all countries.
• AUTO BACKUP: Keep all your photos and videos safe and accessible from any device. Choose free, unlimited cloud storage available at high quality, or store up to 15GB original size for free (shared across your Google account).
• SAVE SPACE ON YOUR DEVICE: Google Photos can help you clear safely backed up photos and videos from your device so you never have to worry about deleting a photo to make space.
• BRING PHOTOS TO LIFE: Automatically create montage movies, interactive stories, collages, animations, and more.
• EDITING: Transform photos with the tap of a finger. Use simple, yet powerful, photo and video editing tools to apply filters, adjust colors, and more.
• SHARING: Share hundreds of photos instantly with shareable links and use whichever apps you’d like to share.
You can read more about some of the amazing things Google photos can do on Google’s website at

Google currently has applications for photos on the iPhone, iPad, and android devices. And for first releases, they are very good.  They also promise native apps for Macintosh and Windows coming soon.

So if you don’t have a photo storage strategy, or your strategy has been blown apart with the discontinuing of iPhoto, or even if you just want to try a good way to back up your photos automatically, I highly recommend Google photos as your new photo storage service. I’m not completely counting out Apple photos at this point, but Google photos is the app Apple should have released. So I’ll continue to use the Apple photos app in addition to Adobe lightroom to manage my imagery, but I’m going to let Google backup my photos because I can see the amazing potential of what they released this week.

Apple updates Mac OS and introduces new Photos Application

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.22.56 PMThe much anticipated update to Mac OS, Version 10.10.3, was released today and includes the often discussed new Photos application. I am been beta testing this application for quite a while and I’m happy to say that the release version is even better than the versions I’ve been testing.

Initially I have quite a bit of concern on the buggy state I had been seeing in the photos app but with the release today Apple seems to have truly cleaned it up and make it ready for the public. After converting my iPhoto library I find that much more of my information is now in photos than was there during the beta. My albums and slideshows all transfered without any problem.  The actual conversion took over an hour and a half but I have a very large photoScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.15.42 PM library. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Apple added automatically created albums for panoramas, videos, Slo-mo, and bursts.  To be able to see these, you must go to the view menu and turn on the sidebar.

A couple of things that deserve being mentioned. During the first time you run Photos, Photos will ask you if you want turn on iCloud Photo Library. I would recommend not doing this until you assess what you’re photo space need would because you will likely have to purchase additional iCloud space for this to work.  Also during the initial run, Photos will automatically convert your iPhoto library. There are ways to go back and still use your iPhoto library in iPhoto but just the act of running Photos is going to run a conversion.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.15.26 PMI’ve come to the conclusion that photos is a pretty good upgrade iPhoto after all. I would recommend if you update your operating system to move forward and give it a try.

Apple has some good information on the web about the features in the new Photos Application.  There is also a great article on The Verge that goes into detail about Photos and also the differences between iPhoto and Photos.

Apple “Photos ” iPhoto replacement is right around the corner

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 8.07.07 AMEarly last year, Apple announced it was working on a New photo application for the Mac called Photos. Later in the fall, Apple confirmed rumors that iPhoto and Aperture we’re going to go away and be replaced with this new application. They also said the application will be delivered in the first part of 2015. Well here we are in the first part of 2015 and early reports and reviews of this new Photos application are starting to hit the web.

While II have not actually seen the new application, I have read a number of reviews and descriptions of how it works. Many of these descriptions discuss the abilities of the app and some of them also describe the things the application will be missing when it’s first released. Overall, it looks like the new Photos application is going to be pretty nice and make some interface improvements from what we’re used to and iPhoto.

First off, there has been a lot of conjecture as to what the look and feel of the new application would be like. Just as I suspected, we’ve all been using Photos for a while now. At least those of us using iOS8. If you’re interested in the overall look and feel of the new photos app, take a look at Photos on iOS. The basic make up of the application is going to be very similar to what we’re seeing on the iOS version. Just as we’ve seen before, Apple continues to try to merge the interface of the iPad and iPhone with that of the Mac. This time though, it’s not the Mac features that are moving to the iOS, it’s the iOS app it’s moving to the Mac.

If you become comfortable with the moments, collections, shares, and cloud features in iOS8 photos, the new Mac application is going to be very familiar to you. Looking at screenshots that have been posted on the web, much of what you’re going to see on the Mac is similar to what you’re seeing on iOS today. Now don’t get me wrong, editing features on the Mac will be worlds ahead of iOS but still not quite up to the level of iPhoto. Apple will continue to add new features overtime as they generally do when they rewrite an application. We’ve seen this with their applications like iMovie.

Basically out of the box Photos is going to be very functional, provide nearly all of the things you normally do with photos in iPhoto, and provide one nice benefit. Photos, will directly read your iPhoto or Aperture library. There will be no conversion, no duplication of space, and no possibility of having things mixed up when you move to the new app.

Apple announced that it’s going to make a pre-release version available very soon for us to begin to learn and play with, and make the initial app release with Mac OS 10.10.3 this spring. I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity to work with it and also being able to write more about it. I can also pretty well guarantee that when the application is released, if your local to Jefferson City, we’re going to dedicate an appleJAC Macintosh user group meeting to this new application.

Neither iPhoto or Aperture will be going away immediately. Even the next release of the MacOS will continue to work with these applications. But like many things in life, change is inevitable, if you stick to iPhoto too long and don’t try the new application you’re going to get left behind and end up not being able to update your computer to the latest operating system, or forcing a move to the new application when you’re not ready. So my recommendation to you is as soon as the new release comes out in MacOS 10.10.3, start taking a look at the new photos app. We’ll have to see how well it works before we can make a final determination of whether that will be the time to move, but I’m absolutely sure the new application will be functionally complete enough for you to deal with most of your photo needs right out-of-the-box.

Here are a few good early reviews from people that have been able to work with the new Photos application.

The Verge

Perfect Photo Suite Offers Low Cost Focused Tools for Photographers

PPS BoxesPhotoshop: the gold standard for photo work is a terrific piece of software.  People who know the ins and outs of Photoshop can do literally anything they want to enhance or fix a photo.  But that’s the problem for us mere mortals.  Photoshop is not simple to learn.  It requires years of experience to get good at.  That is part of the learning process for someone in the photography industry but many people like myself need something to give us some of those dramatic effects possible in Photoshop without the large time investment.  Even Adobe sees this in its Photoshop Elements program that adds recipes for a number of these photographic effects.

There are many people who end up in the middle.  They have mastered organization programs like iPhoto or Picasa and want to take that next step.  One good place to start  is with Lightroom, as I have written about before.  But even Lightroom has its limitations particularly if you want to make changes to a portion of an image rather than the entire image.  There are a lot of good tools to assist you in these next steps including a few plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom but OnOne Software has a tool set that not only gives you some needed enhancements, it integrates with the tool you may already use.

Perfect Photo Suite 7 includes modules that allow photographers to focus on specific needs with tools that are created specifically for that workflow.  These include, Perfect B&W to develop black and white images, Perfect Portrait for easy portrait retouching, Perfect Effects and FocalPoint for creative effects, Perfect Mask for replacing backgrounds and Perfect Resize for image enlargement. This toolset also allows for a layered workflow without Adobe® Photoshop®, so you can combine the best parts of multiple photos, create composites, and quickly retouch portraits and landscapes. All of the products in Perfect Photo Suite 7 work together seamlessly as integrated modules to assist you in creating the images you envision.

With Perfect B&W you can achieve classic black & white looks instantly with a library of expertly crafted effects or customize your own unique look using powerful, darkroom-inspired controls that replicate old processing techniques. Enhance tone and contrast by boosting shadow and highlight details or bring back a touch of selective color. and control the exact appearance of your image using a set of adjustment brushes.  With Perfect B&W, you’ll infuse the artistry of black and white photography and create your own masterpiece.

Perfect Portrait lets you improve skin texture and color, remove blemishes, and enhance eye, lips and teeth. You’ll find that it’s never been so easy to create terrific  portraits

Perfect Layers lets you enjoy all of the benefits and creative power of a layered workflow, allowing you to combine, composite, and blend images—all without Photoshop.

Perfect Effects provides an easy, fast and powerful way to create images with impact with Perfect Effects 4. Choose from a robust library of photographic effects to add professional looks to your photos instantly, including the popular HDR and retro looks. You can also recreate the look of film and darkroom techniques, add glows, vignettes, borders, and correct common photography problems. With the ability to stack, combine and blend effects, and paint in effects to specific areas, your creative options are endless.

Perfect Resize, formerly known as Genuine Fractals, increases image size faster and without the loss of sharpness or detail that you might normally expect. The same patented, fractal-based interpolation algorithms that were in Genuine Fractals are at the heart of Perfect Resize with several improvements. Faster processing speeds, new presets that optimize clarity and detail of different image types, built-in output presets, and the redesigned user interface add to the power of Perfect Resize.

With Perfect Mash you can create high quality masks quickly and easily with new automated functionality and powerful tools. Automatic Background Removal, Drop and Refine Brushes, and clean-up tools make selecting subjects and isolating backgrounds for removal extraordinarily accurate.  You can create some amazing effects using this tool that really make you subject pop.

FocalPoint can create realistic selective focus and depth-of-field effects you would think could only be done in camera. Choose from a selection of lens presets to produce a specific effect or adjust controls to adjust the amount and kind of blur you want. You can even paint in sharpness or blur exactly where you want. It has never been easier or faster to focus your viewer’s eye and minimize distractions. This is like choosing you lens for the shot from an infinite lens bag and doing it after you take the shot.  It is really very cool.

Many folks will say, I can do all that in Photoshop.  Sure you can if you know how and want to spend the cost of using (not owning) this tool on a monthly basis.  You can even do some of these effects in Photoshop Elements or Lightroom but I will say you can’t do them as easy as you can with this toolset.

PPS PlatformsPerfect Photo Suite 7 is designed to meet specific workflow and budget needs with three different editions. It may be used as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, or Apple Aperture, and also works as a standalone. You simply choose the method that works best for the tools you already use.

Now for the best part.  These tools are truly inexpensive.  The complete professional suite for every workflow. Works with Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and as a standalone is just $199.  The same toolset for your Lightroom or Aperture workflow and as a standalone is only $129.  If you don’t have Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, or Apple Aperture, a stand-alone only version runs just $79.  Perfect Photo Suite is available for Windows or MacOS and offers a 30 day free trial from the company’s website.

Pro Photographers will scoff at the need for tools like this but those of us with ambitions for some of those Pro looking effects  in our photos but without the time to dedicate to learning advanced Photoshop techniques will grow to love this toolset.  When you can produce the look you want from an image, photography takes on a new light for you.  These tools are a great bulb to help turn on that light.