02134: Getting Into The Google Photos Mindset

With the inevitable end of Picasa looming ahead, I'm trying to make a quick transition to working with Google Photos. As much as I can still go back to the Picasa desktop app for as long as it continues to operate, there's no real point in holding on to the past. There was no saving Google Reader back in the day and there's no saving Picasa now.

Google Photos is really a mobile experience more than anything else. There are more functions available in the mobile app versus the web version of the service and even the overall look and feel is really oriented towards mobile. The thinking behind the service is clearly about automatically sending photos from your phone or your computer into the cloud for Google to index, organize and play with algorithmically. Case in point, Google Photos (like Google's Auto-Awesome before it) automatically turns burst shots into animated GIFs without any intervention on your part. And it's because of these quirks that even my photography style has changed over the years to make the most of these automatic enhancements that happen behind the scenes.

It's only now that I'm allowing Google Photos to back up my raw, unedited photos to the cloud that I'm better understanding some of the other features of Google Photos. They had previously introduced Stories as a creative way to collect photos from a set period to tell a visual narrative. Initially this feature felt a little redundant to me since it would take photos that I had uploaded to Google+ as an album and would cherry pick seemingly random photos as a single Story. So I'd have the original folder/album for the photos and an accompanying Story set with similar yet abridged content.

But when you go full Google Photos, it means that all your photos just get uploaded and generally sorted by date. They ignore which folders contained the images and instead just throw everything up there. And thus you end up going through these images and deciding which ones you want to feature in a Collection, the Google Photos term for an album, and things proceed from there. The photos will always exist in the nebulous "Library" of all your Google Photos images but they can also simultaneously exist in one or more Collections, sort of like labels/tags in Gmail. So it's kind of quirky, but it can be fun.

To be fair, the whole experience isn't necessarily ideal when (1) you take a LOT of photos at an event and (2) you rely on Philippine internet for backing up stuff. When it comes to the random shots you take with your mobile phone, getting notified that Google Photos has created something for you without needing your intervention can be a nice surprise. And yes, you'll end up with a lot of silly auto-generated movies and strange effects applied to some of your images, but other times you get nice stuff. And it's even better when you take the time to curate your photo collection to create things of interest.

It's not all that bad when you dive into things head-first. There's still a good reason why they're shifting away from Picasa.