Long term readers who’ve stuck with me through the thick and thin (hello!) will know that photo sharing is a real problem I’ve been examining for years. I even almost managed to start a service — FamilyShare — to fix the problems I perceived as needing addressing. Readers pitched in with ideas and offers of financial support. The major challenge I had was finding the time to dedicate to making it all happen.
A spent a good few thousand pounds mocking up the ideas though — to the point of being able to show off a rather basic but thorough service.
What I was looking for primarily was the simple ability to upload photos from multiple devices into one master account. Then I needed to be able to send these photos to my parents and friends with one click (or similar). I wanted to retain full control over the media rather than having to rely on the likes of Facebook or similar.
For a while we muddled on with Picasa. I even spent the extra money on a 200GB account if memory serves.
I’ve listened politely to suggestions from all quarters. I wondered if Yahoo’s update of Flickr would be meaningful enough to bother using. I wanted *one* service to rule them all. Fundamentally I wanted to pay, as well. I don’t want to mess about when it comes to family resources such as photos and video.
All the while I was hoping someone, somewhere would pick up the bat and finally fix personal photo management and sharing. And, simultaneously, recognise that when I use the word “photo” I mean video as well.
I’ve held off pronouncing the search finished — I thought I should give the latest service to come to my attention, Picturelife, a proper hammering.
I have now.
I’ve got over 300GB of photos stored there. I’ve used it’s clear and simple management console to effortlessly import everything. I mean everything. I connected it to Facebook — boom — it sucked in all the media I’ve uploaded there. I did the same with Flickr. Like a reverse firehose, Picturelife’s servers to a copy of everything from there. I took great pleasure watching the progress counter jump through my gigabytes of Google Picasa photos, transferring them to the wonderful Picturelife world.
I even hooked in my Instagram. Now, whenever I take a photo on any of those service I’ve connected, it’ll be copied into Picturelife. Love it.
Finally, I installed the Picturelife desktop uploader. That’s where the real fun began. I pointed it at almost dozens of various iPhoto and Picasa libraries. I had versions of libraries named “2011-Temp” or “2010-MacBook-Air-General” from when I’ve been tidying out. I couldn’t remember what was in those, what was uploaded to Picasa already or whether I’d left a set of precious memories deep within one of them. That’s why I hadn’t deleted them. It was a project for an exceedingly rainy day. I just told the Picturelife uploader to read them all and upload everything. Boom!
And speaking of Picasa. I could never, ever work out how the Google Mac version worked. Or, to rephrase, I couldn’t be bothered. I really didn’t know whether some galleries/albums had uploaded or not. So I told it to upload everything from there.
Needlessly to say that my machine(s) took about a week to process and upload the photos. Gradually across the days as I logged into the (very funky) mobile apps (iPhone, iPad — more on that) I saw the total GB counter climb.
I purposefully didn’t bother doing much to Picturelife (on the web or the apps) whilst I let things upload.
At the weekend I then unleashed my iPhones and Androids on the service. I’ve hundreds (my wife has thousands) of photos on my phones that, although they’re backed up via iCloud, we have yet to upload to anywhere. I installed the Picturelife apps on all and let them get busy. I was delighted to see the devices working through both photos and video, getting them up into their new home.
After about two weeks I finally confirmed everything was uploaded. And then I set to work on www.picturelife.com. It’s a glorious experience on the web. All your photos and video are sorted by timestamp. If you had loads of galleries (I had hundreds in Picasa), they’ll be replicated there. Everything is organised into a timeline by event/day. And they’ve got a really smart user interface team, clearly. Because if you want to change the name of an event, just click and start typing. It’s super simple. Deleting photos is easy, too. That’s important when I’ve spent years taking thousands of product shots that also appear randomly in my timelines.
Sharing is very, very easy. Indeed Picturelife prompts you regularly to consider sharing the latest uploads with friends and family. Select the photo(s), event, gallery or whatever and choose your sharing weapon. You can opt to just send them an email with the media or get them using Picturelife (we’ve done the latter with most people).
I am particularly impressed at the feature that allows you to input your own Amazon S3 details and opt to have Picturelife use a bucket on your own account to store your photos. I decided against this. I wanted a professional managing my media. From what I’ve seen of the service and from what I read from the team and their CEO (on their blog, for example), these Picturelife’s team is passionate and of the first order. So I thought I’d pay them to do the job for me.
Right now I have 413GB of media on the service. That exceeds their current 300GB price plan (which I’m currently paying for). I had to email to ask them to increase my limit — and to charge me extra. I’ve only just noticed that they’ve now launched a 500GB ($25/month) and a 1TB ($40/month) option. I’ll probably go for the 500GB option later tonight but I doubt it’ll be long until I’m exceeding that.
I’d also like double piece of mind. Yes, Picturelife is hosted on super-secure Amazon, but I would very much appreciate a hyper-premium option on Picturelife — that is, the ability to have my media backed up to a third party service. I dunno… Backupify? Rackspace? Just to be sure.
I think it’d be worth the Picturelife team giving some thought to how they’d handle someone hacking my account and deleting everything — I can’t recall a ‘delete my account’ button but someone could easily just select whole albums and press delete. Or worse, my young children could mistakenly end up pressing the wrong buttons. I’d like an undo or backup function. I’d pay more for that. And if you’ve already managed to convert me to $25 or $40/month, I clearly am in the ball park for spending more for ‘assurance’.
I really enjoy logging into the iPhone and iPad apps (as well as the web version) because the system surfaces all sorts of interesting photos that have memories firing off everywhere. For instance, just scrolling down the home section at the moment, there are about 8 photos shown from the last 30 days, 10 years ago (shocking — look at my hair!), a random event 8 years ago (shot in a McDonalds in Liverpool Street), a vacation in San Francisco 5 years ago, photos from the “fall” of 2012 — plus, there are two sets of “interesting photos” shown (based on a proprietary algorithm developed by the Picturelife team). And they are very interesting indeed.
My wife is particularly impressed that there’s no messing around with devices now. We used to religiously use one camera for family photos. Or one phone for photos. To try and get around all the usual syncing and duplication issues. If you’ve got a family I’m sure you’ve experienced a similar amount of frustration. Your wife takes a series of good shots that don’t get uploaded to Picasa/Flickr/Wherever because she doesn’t know how, or is too busy looking at Rightmove all the time.
That concern all goes out the door now. In fact it’s rather cool seeing all the pictures arrive into the one system.
Android is a slight challenge. The Picturelife team have released a very limited version for Android that basically supports uploading. This is acceptable in the short term — at least there’s a solution — but it’s something I think they do need to address, especially when so many Android phones are producing so many gorgeous images.
And obviously, I’d like them to shine some love on BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Despite the current viewpoint that many other platforms “can’t justify” the development resources, I think a lot of companies (including Picturelife) could be surprised at the benefits of being a big fish in a small pond versus the opposite on the likes of iOS. It can’t be that mentally taxing to knock out an uploader for Windows and BlackBerry 10, surely?
Picturelife is free to check out — I strongly recommend you have a look: www.picturelife.com.
Update: David over at Beginnerstech.co.uk has some further perspective (and news about a Picturelife Android update).