One year ago I wrote a post on ‘digital strategies’ – on how to manage our digital lives. That was not professional advice and it was never meant to be. Just like everybody else, I was struggling to manage my digital life and that post reflected my thoughts & workflow. Over the year, as our one year old kid started to grow, we started snapping his pictures in reckless abandon on our phones and cameras, storing them in our mobiles, laptops and desktops. When I wanted to see his gradual growth over the year, I couldn’t to my satisfaction because his pictures were scattered between my iPhone, iPad, my wife’s iPhone, my laptops (work & personal), my wife’s laptops (work and personal), my digital camera, my handy-cam and my desktop. With 10 devices to collate from, I went mad. How do I get all of them to one place? Is there a way to do it without losing my mind? Is there a way I can ensure I don’t fall into this situation again?
So, one day I sat down and made a battle plan to get all my pictures in one place and manage them from there. I wrote down what I wanted to do:
For Photo Backup:
- Store them in one place
- Sort them into folders
- Remove duplicates
- Re-name based on Exif info
- Make them available all time
For Photo Sharing:
- Put in a place easy to share via social networks, messaging apps, or email
- Auto sync/Background sync in devices possible
- Pull tagged photos from Facebook
I understood that I had to opt for a cloud service (to make them available all time) in addition to backing up my photos to one home computer & Time machine. With this in mind, I started my hunt and googled-through for days. There were two paths recommended by tech bloggers–
- Upload them to a cloud for backup (like Dropbox or similar cloud service) or
- Upload them to an online photo management service (like Everpix, Loom, or Picturelife)
From Online Photo Service to Dropbox:
Some bloggers even advised both the ways. The key difference between the two being, cloud services let you store all your pictures and treat them as files (folders in cloud instead on your system) whereas photo management services let you view photos in a stream (like Apple’s photos app), let you edit them on the fly, share them, and exclusively deal with photographs. With budgetary constraints in place, I couldn’t opt for both. So, I decided to go with a dedicated photo service as I wanted to deal with my pictures as memories (and also, because Dropbox (the cloud service I trust), had no smaller plans than 100GB which was way lot of space for me). No service met all my requirements, but many did if I compromised on one or the other feature. And, after realising uploading photos to Flickr was a big mistake (with no batch download/batch delete options; even if they were, they were so lost in the menu options that we lose track of what were searching in the first place by the time we get to them), I shortlisted three services – Everpix, Loom & Picturelife from the plethora of others. Based on excellent reviews everywhere, I wanted to try Everpix, but, ’was late to the party as Everpix shut down that very month. Now, it was between Loom and Picturelife. Though Picturelife boasted a robust feature set, it costed almost double the amount of what Loom offered for and the minimum plan they had was for 100GB which I didn’t need. So, even though Loom fell a bit short in features I bit the bullet and purchased a year plan. After (sometimes painstakingly) uploading pictures to Loom via the web browser, mac uploader, iOS apps, and arranging them into folders, I finally felt settled. I even had my wife install Loom and pestered her to keep it updated so that she could share pictures with me and I back them up to my Loom account. Did I finally achieve ‘photo management’ bliss? No, but I felt nirvana was at hand.
However, I did have a nagging doubt if Loom would survive for long. It was a startup, and if it failed to convert free tier customers to paid plans, it would go the Everpix way. So, I told myself, one day I’ll invest in dropbox also and have a proper back-up solution. Then, one fine morning I woke up to the news that Loom was bought over by Dropbox. Did I feel sad that Loom was going? Or happy that I inadvertently moved to Dropbox? I had mixed feelings. Dropbox did announce Carousel app a few days back, but it was a very underwhelming app compared to Loom’s. Though I felt secured, now that I’m with dropbox (which sure is not going to go away anytime soon), I felt disappointed with the app. But, alas, there was no choice. I can now only look to the future hoping they’ll integrate all of Loom’s best features and make Carousel robust. And, so I moved from Loom to Dropbox (I did consider moving to Picturelife, but seeing the debacle of Everpix and Loom, I decided against it).
Renaming & de-duplication of photos – I have some rules related to taxonomy and that meant to rename photos based on their ‘Exif’ data. EXIF, short for Exchangeable Image File, is a format used by most digital cameras usually consisting information regarding the file format, the type, exposure settings, focal length, of the camera, etc collectively known as ‘metadata’ tags. This way I can rename all my pictures based on the date taken. Hazel app should’ve solved this problem on my mac, but due to system limitations in Mavericks, it could not pull the Exif information from (all) files. So, I found myself online again searching for an easy method to rename all my pictures & videos and Exif Renamer was the best software I could find. It took me some time to get it working, but, I could now rename files in YYYY-MM-DD – Event/Person/Place (Counter) format without any issues. I then used Gemini app to get rid of all the duplicates in my photos folder which were many.
Folder Structure: With files renamed, I got my folder structure into place – Persons/Events/Place/Misc
- Persons – For pictures independent of any event, but were shot just for one person.
- Events – For any pictures shot for a particular event.
- Place – For any pictures shot on a trip, or at a particular place (like office).
- Misc – For any pictures which don’t fall into any of the above categories.
With all pictures renamed & sorted into folders, I setup some Hazel rules to rename any new image added to ‘camera uploads’ folder in dropbox with date created (the default location pictures to get uploaded to is the ‘camera uploads’ folder, when auto upload is enabled on our phones). I’ve setup another Hazel rule to move pictures shared by someone on Carousel to move them to ‘camera uploads’ folder. Weekly once, I move all the pictures from this folder to other respective folders. My wife has installed Carousel on iPhone & dropbox on her laptop, I have auto upload enabled on all the devices I use, and, we dutifully save all the pictures we receive via other means (email & messages) which then get pulled into dropbox. I also setup a IFTTT rule to pull any photo I was tagged in Facebook to dropbox. With all my pictures renamed, arranged & backed-up locally & in dropbox I now felt better. But, is this the ideal setup? Probably for the time being.
Almost all platforms push their apps to users and encourage sharing predominantly on them and I see that problem with Carousel now. I had to pester my wife to install it, which she was noticeably wary after the Loom debacle. It is easy to share pictures with those who have Carousel. But, I cannot persuade everyone I want to share my photos with, to install Carousel (I faced the same problem with App.Net). So, we all have a choice — either upload pictures to a platform everyone is on to make it easy to share and more or less give-up on saving them (’cause you don’t space on any social network, it is their space) or, adjust with the limited and clunky sharing setup these back-up services offer. For the time being, I choose to be with back-up services, ’cause having my photos safe is more important to me than sharing them. So, until someone comes up with a platform, which offers solid back-up options and is such a hit with the masses that everyone we know are on it, making sharing on the same platform a meaningful option, I’ll stick with dropbox.