Upload the Pictures, and Let Google Photos Do the Rest
- Ver Original
- Junho 3º, 2015
I DON’T take a lot of photographs. I have a pretty decent camera with me at all times — my iPhone 5s — but organizing hundreds or thousands of photos has never seemed worth the effort.
My habits may change now that I’ve tried Google Photos, a free service introduced last week that may do for image storage what Gmail did for email.
The premise behind Google Photos is simple, and it works. Take all the photos you want, back them up automatically into the cloud and use Google’s powerful image search abilities to find them later — no sorting necessary.
Photos has its roots in Google Plus, the company’s less-than-popular social networking service, which had photo backup and editing tools, although not to this degree. But Katie Watson, a spokeswoman for Google, said Photos was “more than just a shift over from Google Plus Photos and rather an entirely new experience.”
My photo library wasn’t exactly bursting at the seams, so to give this software something to work with, I uploaded about 8,000 of my wife’s photos from my desktop computer using some additional software Google offers. The uploading ran overnight and was finished by the time I woke up in the morning.
The experience is simple and clean and will be familiar to Google users. The photos initially are displayed in a chronological stream. Scroll down and the years roll by. Pinch to zoom and the display can show just a few pictures or zoom out for smaller thumbnails and quicker scrolling.
Searches are impressive. I knew I had a lot of dog photos, but I didn’t realize I had so many photos of waterfalls and mountains. It automatically sorts the pictures into People, Places and Things, and the facial recognition is eerily accurate. It showed me dozens of people who recur in my photographs and did a pretty good job of sorting them accurately.
The photos are easy to edit. Click a picture and tap the icons for editing and filters, or post the picture on Twitter or send it as a Snapchat.
Google says there is free unlimited storage, and that is true with a couple of caveats: Photos can be no bigger than 16 megapixels and high-definition movies can top out at 1080p.
Since Photos seems aimed primarily at smartphone shutterbugs, this should not be a major concern.
The iPhone 6 has an eight-megapixel camera and shoots up to 1080p video. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, the latest model of this popular Android phone, has a 16-megapixel camera — right at Google’s ceiling for photo resolution. However, the S6 Edge shoots video in the ultrahigh-definition format known as 4K, so those video clips stored free with Google will be downsized.
Even at the smaller file sizes, some of the photos and videos get compressed, losing some detail if you want to print them large. To store photos and videos at their original size without compression, or above those size limits, they count against Google’s storage meter. The first 15 gigabytes are free, and after that, 100 gigabytes will run $2 a month; one terabyte costs $10 a month.
All that free storage is great. But the real magic of Google Photos lies in search and the service’s array of features known as the Assistant.
With the 8,000 images I uploaded, the Assistant — part editor and part wizard — had been hard at work. The feature automatically creates stylized photos, making a pretty landscape into something more surreal, or a Las Vegas street scene gritty and black and white. (There are filters the user can apply as well, in a solid but simple suite of editing tools.) The Assistant will also automatically stitch together photos it suspects are suitable for panoramas, put together collages and create animations from sequences of photos.
The animations aren’t always perfect. I wish I’d taken more photos at the far turn during the Kentucky Derby a few years back — three or four photos don’t make for a particularly good animation. Another, of players during a baseball game, turned out great.
The panoramas, in particular, are well executed. Pictures of the Manhattan skyline seen from Queens during the 9/11 Tribute in Light became even more striking, no Photoshop necessary.
The Assistant also creates “Stories,” essentially a photo album with a few neat tricks. The best of these are albums from vacations. The Stories neatly compiled day-by-day trip reports using our vacation photos. There are little map animations, too, so a trip that started in Madrid is traced with a red line to Zaragoza, Spain, because the data knows our date and location. (That information is generally embedded in smartphone images.)
These pictures have so much personal information with them that privacy concerns are a given. Ms. Watson, the Google spokeswoman, said user photographs would never be used commercially, unless Google asked for the user’s explicit permission. For a little extra security, Google will strip out the location data when you share any images. (To make that change, select the last item in the Settings menu.) If you are comfortable with Gmail, Photos should not be a concern.
The initial draw for Google Photos is probably going to be all that storage. But don’t be surprised when the search power and the sweet personal touches of the Assistant keep you coming back again and again.
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