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Friday, August 21, 2015

Google Photos

OK — I know I said these weekly blog entries would avoid as much as possible talking about “techie” stuff, and I’m going to stick to that — almost. I believe we must at this point steer toward the cliffs of techieland, and hope that we don’t run aground.

The reason — the ever present question: “What do I do with all my photos?!!!”

I hear that a lot. And often when I ask, “What do you use to edit and organize your photos?”, the answer is, “Um, I just keep them on my computer.”

Bad idea. Very bad idea. Very very bad idea.

Ever hear of fires and floods? Hurricanes? Whenever they interview someone that has evacuated from an oncoming forest fire, they often say, “We just were able to grab the family photo album and the cat; everything else we own is gone.”

That was when folks had photo albums. Now, more often than not, they have them on their computer. And you never hear them say, “We just had time to unplug the computer, grab it and the cat ...”

Computer — gone. Photos — gone. Even a lightning strike — photos gone.

When I was teaching photo editing, I always emphasized backup strategies. Then it involved having backup hard drives and backup software. And — you guessed it — no one ever bothered.

But now there are clouds! There’s Dropbox; there’s OneDrive; Amazon Drive; Mega. They all offer a fair amount of free storage. But one cloud in my view outshines them all for photos:

Google Photos

Use it and you’ll never have to worry about fires, floods, or hurricanes again (as far as your photos go). Let me explain quickly the wonders of Google Photos, and then this weekend spend some time reading more about it at the Google Photos website. You can also “google” (verb) Google Photos for even more tips and tricks.

On the opening page of the Google Photos site, they lead with this subhead:

“All your photos, organized, and easy to find. Now that you can find your photos and videos faster, editing and sharing them just got a lot easier.”

True enough. But they should have added “stored safely forever”:

“All your photos, organized, easy to find, and stored safely forever.”

Peace of mind.

Now that we are content, you might ask, “Surely there’s a catch; they’ll let you store so many for free, and then they start charging you.”

Nope. Infinite storage. For free. And of course they don’t just store them on one rinky-dinky hard drive that’s bound to fail someday. No, being Google, there is redundancy — hard drives all over the world, which means you’ll never lose them, and they will be quickly viewable whether close to home or if you want to show them to someone when you are visiting in England.

And there of course is a great editing interface — simple to use and failsafe because the original photo doesn’t get touched. And there are some other nifty features, like making a movie from a selected group of stills and videos, with a soundtrack. Or letting Google put together a story of your weekend at the beach — automatically. Or stitching together a panorama from single photos.

Just One More Thing

I’ll end this blog post by saving the best for last: the verb “google.” That’s what Google is best known for — incredible search. Now, with Google Photos, they’ve raised the bar (incredibly) to include your own personal search engine of your photos — all of them.

Let’s say you spend an afternoon this weekend taking all your photos on your computer and putting them into Google Photos (for free). Once they’ve finished uploading, prepare to have your mind blown. Hit the search icon in Google Photos, and the first thing you’ll see at the top of the page, is a grid of faces. Faces that you will recognize, because that first group of eight headshot thumbnails are the people you have most often photographed.

Now here’s the amazing part: Click on one of the headshot thumbnails and Google will instantly show you all your photos of that person. And here is the even more amazing part: let’s say the headshot you clicked on is your 23-year-old daughter. But you’ve got photos of her when she was five. How far back will Google recognize her as the same person? All the way back!! Facial recognition done the Google way.

Below the headshots, there’s another group — “Places” — and then another — “Things” — and then “Types”. But search doesn’t stop there. The other day I needed to find a particular photo of my guitar, so I searched for “guitar” — and there it was, instantly, along with some other nice photos I had forgotten about. You of course can search by date.

Make albums, make videos. Edit them. Share them.

Google photos. Free and amazing. If you aren’t already using it, you’d be foolish not to.

Next week — back to non-techie stuff. But in the meantime:

Get Google Photos!