Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tip: Integrating Lightroom with Google Photos

My teammate & fellow Photoshop veteran Aravind Krishnaswamy has shared a few notes on his setup:

Most of my photos are in Lightroom but I also take the occasional picture with a phone and I like having a unified view of everything. I also like stuff like search & explore and the creations made from both my LR photos as well as my mobile ones.  I don’t really have an interest in doing major editing on a phone and having sync back to Lightroom or anything like that, I just really like the idea of having access to all my photos on my phone as long as I have an internet connection.

For this I use Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Publisher to auto publish to a Drive folder which then syncs to Photos.  The folder names get indexed in search and come up in auto complete.  And if for some reason I want the folder structure they are still Drive (haven’t wanted it in the few months I’ve been doing this). The only downside is that it requires storage on Drive: my 100k photos take up about 460GB. But I shoot with high megapixel bodies (36, 80) and the plugin is configured to export full size, high quality JPG. If I resized them to something more sane, that number would be smaller.

Note that that amount of storage would cost you a princely ten bucks a month & still leave you with more than half your Drive space free.

Update: A couple of readers have asked why Aravind exports from LR instead of just uploading the raw originals. You can certainly do the latter (as I do), but only Lightroom & Camera Raw can interpret the edits that LR applies & stores as XMP metadata. (Google Photos & other raw rendering engines just ignore one another’s parameters.) If you want to see the results of those edits, you need to render out JPEGs.

The fastest ways to get your images & videos into Google Photos

Grab Google Photos Backup for Mac & Windows, and enable Auto Backup when you install the app on on iOS and Android. You can also manually upload stuff via, but it’s tough to beat the simplicity of letting the robot do the work.

You can also flip a switch to make your Google Drive images show up in Photos: open the Photos settings page, then flip on the Google Drive switch. Everything you store in Drive counts against your Drive quota, regardless of its size.

PS—If you’ve previously installed the backup on Mac, please download a new copy (updated yesterday) as it plays much nicer with the latest networking changes in OS X.

How *exactly* does storage work on Google Photos?

Mat Honan gives a nice summary:

It gives you free unlimited storage for what Google calls “high-quality” photos and videos. At the free tier, the service compresses images, maintaining resolution up to 16 megapixels. Google claims these maintain near-identical visual quality.

It’s true: check out these comparisons. Honestly, if we never said anything about compression, I don’t think a single human (myself included) would ever notice, but it’s important to be transparent so that people can make informed choices.

Mat continues:

Videos are maintained at 1080p. If you want to keep your original photos, Google offers 15 GB of storage for free and an additional terabyte for $10 per month. [Also, 100GB = $2/mo.] To keep your photos current, Google Photos has automatic backups for iOS, Android, and the desktop. You don’t have to actually do anything to make them happen.

If you shoot raw images with a DSLR (as I do), you can choose “Original” from the desktop app and “High Quality” from your phone so that your phone pics don’t count against quota. (Every iPhone image besides panos will fit comfortably under the 16 megapixel cap.)

“Gmail for photos”

Bradley Horowitz led Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr & now runs our group. He had a really interesting conversation with Steven Levy, and I’ve pulled out some of my favorite bits here.

On what problems Google Photos addresses:

To give you enough storage so you can relax and not worry about how much photo bandwidth you’re consuming, and enough organizing power so you don’t have to think about the tedium of managing your digital gallery. It will happen for you transparently, in the background. I don’t think there’s another company on earth that can make that claim.

You almost need a second vacation to go through the pictures of the safari on your first vacation. That’s the problem we’re trying to fix — to automate the process so that users can be in the moment.

On why it was important to separate Google Photos from Google+:

We heard from our Google Plus photo users that we had great technology, but they didn’t want their life’s archive brought into a social product, any social product. It’s more akin to Gmail — there’s no button on Gmail that says “publish on the Internet.” “Broadcast” and “archive” are really different.

I’m really happy about this separation. It’s something I oh-so-gingerly suggested during my interview back in 2013, and happily it was already under consideration. Separating things thoughtfully took time & care.

On search & computer vision:

The key to getting that last percentage [of accuracy] which tips it over will come now, when we deploy it at scale. Getting all that data will create a virtuous cycle of getting better and better. […]

We also want to bring all of the power of computer vision and machine learning to improve those photos, create derivative works, to make suggestions…to really be your assistant.

This last bit has been my jam: If you Tron-ified the best Photoshop artists, animators, and illustrators in the world, kept them in your pocket, and had them just try to please you by creating amazing things from your photos & videos, what would you have them create, and from what? We’re already doing a lot in that regard (making movies, stories, collages, etc.) and have a lot more ideas, but we’d of course love to hear yours.

Want to send feedback on Google Photos?

Per the help center:

  • Open the Google Photos app on a mobile device or go to using a computer .
  • At the top left, touch or click the menu icon > Help & Feedback.
  • Touch or click Feedback. You can tell us things like:
    1. What you like or dislike about the app
    2. Things that are confusing or don’t work

If you check the box to include screenshots and logs, it helps us understand your feedback.

Thanks in advance!

Google Photos is here! Free unlimited backup & more

Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” A huge amount of that information is photographic (a trillion+ photos per year), and a huge amount of that is private.

Today Google Photos brings amazing search power to your pocket, letting you back up a lifetime of photos & videos—for free*—and have a virtual assistant organize them, then create amazing movies, stories, animations, and more. Check it out now on iOS, Android, and Web.

The search stuff is amazing. As my teammate Vincent Mo writes, “Can’t remember the name of that beer you had while on vacation? Search for ‘beer in Los Angeles.’ Ya, it actually works.” (I just tried it & dang, he’s right!)

My part of the team has been working hard on an ultra-streamlined yet powerful image editor, and I’ll post more details about that (and about how it relates to Snapseed) soon. I’ve also been responsible for the Movies feature that automatically creates movies from your moments (or lets you make them on the fly), plus collages, animations, and more (we’re just getting warmed up). From the team blog post:

The app can also help you quickly enhance photos and combine them in new ways to help you relive your life’s moments. In one tap, get instant adjustments tuned to the photo’s color, lighting, and subject to make each photo look its best. Press the “+” button to create your own collages, animations, movies with soundtracks, and more.

If you swipe to the left, you’ll open the Assistant view, where we’ll suggest new things made with your photos and videos, such as a collage or a story based on a recent trip you took. After previewing the creation, you can choose to keep, edit, or discard it.

As I say, I’ll share more details soon. In the meantime, we’d love to know what you think! If you have questions, ask ‘em here or check out the new help community.

Happy shooting,

*Seriously? Yes, seriously. We maintain the original resolution up to 16MP for photos, and 1080p high-definition for videos. If you want to store really high-res stuff, uncompressed raw images, etc., you still get an additional 15GB of free storage, and after that storage is super cheap (two bucks a month for 100GB, ten for 1000).


Snapseed updated: Grunge is back & more

iOS should be available soon; Android is available now. My teammate Sven Tiffe writes,

After releasing Snapseed 2, we’ve heard a lot of excited voices, but also listened to your constructive feedback. You told us and we heard you, Grunge is back!

We’ve started rolling out the Android update today, and the iOS update will follow shortly. This update includes:

  • The return of the Grunge filter
  • The ability to copy, paste and hide Control Points in Selective
  • Improved styles in HDR
  • An option to export flat copies on iOS 8 for compatibility with apps like Lightroom & Dropbox

And of course, stability and performance improvements. We’re continuously working on improving Snapseed and you can expect more in the future, so stay tuned!

Photography: Inside an abandoned asylum

It’s a bit heavy on Ye Olde Scary Music & camera moves, but this piece captures some eerie, occasionally beautiful looks into modern ruins:

Project Senium is an effort to preserve the experience of some of the most beautifully disturbing places in the world in a cinematic short film. By bringing tools and experience from the realm of filmmaking, we show the decaying walls of abandoned mental hospitals, expose their dark history, and preserve forever the beauty that few get to witness.

[Vimeo] [Via Alex Powell]

“Women Photoshop Their Own Bodies On An App”

Here’s a three-minute tour of why beautification features are a touchy subject—desired & disturbing at the same time.

A few sample quotes:

  • “I feel really gross hitting this checkmark because it’s like I’m validating everything I’ve just done.”
  • “It automatically gets rid of all these freckles like it’s something that’s a bad thing.”
  • “I was more affected by it than I thought I would be.”
  • “If you start seeing your friends doing something like this, and you don’t know that they’re doing it, then you start to think that real people look like this.”
  • “You would be disappointed that you’re not a Photoshop.”

Of course there was an entire South Park episode on just this subject—biting & hilarious. Too bad it’s apparently not online at the moment.

[Update: FWIW on the list of top 50 free apps in Korea, 5 are for beautification. The list in China features three. The list in the US features zero. —Via Eunyoung Kim]


[YouTube 1 & 2]

“I backed up 24,280 photos to Google Drive. What happened next blew my mind”

I love Dylan Tweney’s reaction to what Google can create from photos:

In short, Google had reached into the depths of an overwhelmingly large photo library, identified some highlights, and put them together in a way that surprised and delighted me.

And animation is great for

conveying the spirit of the event more concisely than I could have done in any number of words.

I’ve had similar experiences, including the time that our deceased beloved wiener dog came back to life (or at least to motion) when a burst of photos became a looping GIF.

Dropbox buys Pixelapse; Stone ages to end?

Interesting—I missed this news back in January, but it’s promising: Pixelapse, purveyors of “Version control for designers,” have joined Dropbox.

As a designer working in NY back in 1999, I asked Adobe for something just like this. In 2003 the company delivered Version Cue (did I just make a bit of dust fall off your brain?), meant to automate & streamline versioning & notification, but despite years of investment, it went nowhere. Design workflows largely remain just as rudimentary as they were decades ago.

Designer Khoi Vinh recently surveyed fellow designers about their workflows & writes,

It’s inarguable that Dropbox has made this aspect of workflows much easier than it used to be, but it also illustrates how primitive it remains. Team members traffic files amongst themselves via manual hacks like modifying file names (e.g., “layout-final-emily.psd”), moving files into select folders, or notifying one another via email or other messaging services. No version control software like Pixelapse or the late, lamented LayerVault has taken hold.

I always saw tools like Pixelapse & even Adobe’s own Project Parfait as features of, not alternatives to, Dropbox. I strongly argued that in this department Adobe should channel the spirit of old BASF ads: “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.” That is, embrace & extend users’ workflows, rather than making them swim upstream to change a whole ecosystem. We’ll see what happens.

Paper app introduces Think Kit for wireframing

Ooh, this looks promising:

Think Kit’s Diagram, Fill, and Cut tools make it fast and easy to draw charts, diagrams, graphs, flows, wireframes, and models. Use them to sketch perfect shapes and connectors, and create presentation -ready visual model. […]

Smart Shapes. Founded on years of scientific research, Intention Engine™ is our trademark drawing recognition and rendering system. It detects and corrects dozens of shapes sketched in real- time – all while preserving the uniqueness and feel of hand-drawn lines.

The update is free via the App Store.


Photographing your food? That’s this restaurant’s whole jam.

This is either rather brilliant or a very elaborate prank/troll—or both. PetaPixel writes,

The Tel Aviv restaurant Catit and Carmel Winery have teamed up for a new project called Foodography. It’s a new meal experience that features newly designed plates that help you shoot quality food photos with your smartphone…The Foodography experience costs $155 an hour and will be offered at Catit through June 2015.



Welcome to the age of aerial vandalism

I blog about drones. I blog about illustration. Seems I should blog about drones doing illustration, albeit of an illegal nature. Wired writes,

IN THE EARLY hours of Wednesday morning, the age of robotic graffiti was born. KATSU, a well-known graffiti artist and vandal, used a hacked Phantom drone to paint a giant red scribble across Kendall Jenner’s face on one of New York City’s largest and most viewed billboards. By all accounts, it is the first time that a drone has been deployed for a major act of public vandalism.


Gorgeous aerial footage from Antarctica

I cannot get over the visual storytelling possibilities now afforded to regular people. Teton writes,

This past December and January, Stockholm-based filmmaker Kalle Ljung shot this short while touring Antarctica with his 73-year-old-father. Using a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter, Kalle captured stunning aerial footage of the surrounding landscape.

These are the days of miracles & wonder…

[Vimeo] [Via Russell Brown]

New Android phones shoot DNG

Progress! PetaPixel writes,

The latest version of the HTC Camera app on Google Play allows the One M9 to capture DNG files with a new Raw Camera mode. These image files can then be loaded into programs like Lightroom or Photoshop and edited with much more flexibility than JPEG images.

Two major flagship smartphones offer RAW support now: the HTC One M9 and the new LG G4.

In a related vein, here’s a demo of the G4’s low-light capabilities…

…and a demo of its color handling.

[YouTube 1 & 2] [Via]