Every existing photo storage option has major flaws.
Boxes and albums of non-digital photos take up space, can decay or be destroyed, and are hard to update and share. Hard drives filled with photos can be destroyed and are often hard to update and share. Cloud storage offers the promise of indestructible storage, but so far no program makes it sufficiently easy to sort, organise, update, or keep photos private.
I, like many people, have longed for an easier way to sort my visual history into a logical order, and am left with thousands of digital photos stashed across the cloud in no order other than default.
Yes, many cloud storage sites try, but they haven’t got it right. Molly Wood at New York Times gave a rundown of the disappointing options a few weeks ago in “The Best Photo Organising App? I’m Still Looking.” The lack of good options led Danny Sullivan to want to “declare photo bankruptcy” last summer.
Flickr, despite its generous storage costs and broad array of features, is “slow and hard to navigate,” writes Wood. I once used this site but left it in my own search of something better.
This Life by Shutterfly lured me in with its promise of recreating the photo album experience online, with less emphasis on sharing and features like facial tagging and visually appealing chronological sorting. But I gave up when I realised how limited its features were and how hard it was on the app to sort things myself.
Google+ offers cheap storage with basic editing, automatic uploading and organising, tons of sharing features, and that’s all some people like Business Insider’s Steve Kovach want in a photo app. But my problems with the site are that it doesn’t have a simple system for manually organising photos, its push toward sharing feels overaggressive, and it forces users to wade through the full Google+ social infrastructure that I don’t otherwise use.
Wood and Wall Street Journal’s Wilson Rothman discuss a few more unsatisfactory options, including Facebook and the current offerings from Apple (Rothman expresses frustration with all of them before concluding, “Flickr may satisfy my criteria the best, but it’s not perfect”).
Considering the lack of good options, I was happy to see news of an Apple photo organising program coming early next year, which was buried in a string of tweaks and features announced at WWDC.
Called Photos, the app offers a lot of the same stuff as the previously discussed apps, but I’m excited for a few of its unique features as well as what looks like a generally good design. I’m also just hopeful that Apple, despite its past struggles with online services, could be the company that finally gets this right.
What really jumps out at me is how the program apparently makes it easy to drag and drop photos into custom order, in addition to robust automatic sorting functions. Drag and drop folder systems work well for files. Could this system finally get my photo archives in order?
In addition to better organising features, the app appears to make it easy to access and find photos across Apple products, with search by date or time the photo was taken, location, or album name, as well as easy ways to access favourites photos taken nearby and at the same time last year. Beyond that, it’s got all the rest, including competitive storage options, auto-syncing, and fine-tuned image editing. You can see more features and images at Apple.
Of course, it’s far too early to judge Photos. But the early signs look good, and the competition has left the door wide open for a new leader.