Nov
26
2013

Unbound

I’ve been keeping my photos in Dropbox for over a year now. I’ve remained loyal to a folder structure that organizes photos in years and months (Bradley would be proud of me) and I still use Hazel and CameraSync to upload my photos. While I’ve been happy with the uploading/organizing process of this photo backup workflow, the experience of browsing photos was never great. And I’d rather not talk about my brief, emotionally intense, and ultimately sad affair with Everpix.

Unbound by Pixite is a photo viewer for people who keep their photos in Dropbox. Unlike recent App Store trends, it comes as separate purchases for the iPhone and iPad priced at $2.99. The app is built for iOS 7, and it comes with viewing and sharing features that, right now, make it my best option to browse photos I’m storing on Dropbox. (more…)

On the same day, we got two good posts highlighting how Photo Stream works and why Shared Photo Streams can be used without the sharing part for photo backup purposes.

Ben David Walker:

Shared Photo Streams, however, can be used as both storage and backup for your photos. Yesterday, my friend Tom Klaver opened my eyes to this possibility by highlighting that, in spite of the name, Shared Photo Streams don't actually have to be shared with anyone. And unlike the standard Photo Stream, photos in Shared Photo Streams are never removed from iCloud. They are eternal. Apple offers a great cloud photo service with many benefits over other services, and it's hidden in plain sight.

And David Chartier:

You must manually create Shared Photo Streams and manually add photos and videos to them whether they are already in My Photo Stream, your Camera Roll, or, if you’re on a Mac using iPhoto or Aperture, from other sources like apps or the web. Like My Photo Stream, photos added to Shared Photo Streams do not count against your total iCloud storage (however, it sounds like videos do; Apple needs to clear this up too). However, the great thing about Shared Photo Streams is they do not disappear and never automatically dump older photos to make room for new ones.

I am going to try a shared photo stream, but the truth is that Apple needs to simplify a lot of things here. Photo Stream was bolted onto iPhoto on the Mac, there is no web app, and albums can be local on an iOS device and they don't sync but there are streams and, actually, you have two kinds of photo streams but only one is automatic and has limitations.

It's seriously confusing, and people don't have time for this. Cue Everpix.

Thomas Verschoren came up with a nice solution that uses Automator and Dropbox to replicate the Everpix Flashback feature without Everpix:

Now that Everpix is gone, I’m missing its daily flashback feature. I loved going into the app each morning and seeing images from the past year. Since there’s no alternative available, I decided to build my own Flashback feature based on my existing Dropbox photo-storage.

While there is no algorithm that can pick the “best” photos from any given day, it’s better than nothing and it relies on Automator, which is a built-in OS X tool. To replicate the daily reminders, I would suggest setting up a recurring item in the Reminders app with a link to the shared Dropbox folder, so that you’ll always be taken to a day’s flashback photos when clicking it.

After last week’s challenge on The Prompt, we have received some interesting scripts and ideas for workflows that recreate the Everpix Flashback. We’ll discuss the results on Wednesday, so, if you haven’t yet, you still have time to enter our “contest”.

iPhoto 2.0

I’m playing around with the new iPhoto for iOS 7, and I’ve noticed an interesting change from last year: edits that you make in iPhoto are now synced back to the original photo in the iOS Camera Roll. To my knowledge, no other iOS app can overwrite the original file – apps like Instagram, Facebook, and even the original iPhoto (if you still have it installed) can only save edited photos as new files in the Camera Roll.

As I noted today on Twitter, this is a big change from last year’s iPhoto workflow. Here’s what I wrote in March 2012:

After a few minutes, which I spent playing around with the app’s UI and various editing functionalities, I stopped editing and went back to the main page, thinking that all my edits would automatically carry over to the system Camera Roll. My reasoning was: if iPhoto for iOS, unlike the Mac, can pick from a central location (the Camera Roll), then maybe edits will sync automatically as well. Not so fast. It turns out, the Camera Roll isn’t centralized at all, as every modification you’ll make in iPhoto will have to be exported to the Camera Roll as a new file. Even better, if you edit something in iPhoto in the Camera Roll “album”, then edit the same file in the system Camera Roll from Photos.app, iOS will fail at communicating changes between the two, and you’ll end up with two different files in the same Camera Roll like I did.

In the new iPhoto, Apple has changed the communication layer between the system Camera Roll and iPhoto to allow for a more direct integration between the two: once you choose a photo in iPhoto and make some edits to it (such as an effect), the edits are automatically saved to the original photo in the Camera Roll without having to manually export the edited photo or create duplicates like the original iPhoto did. This makes for a more streamlined workflow and experience, but it raises some questions, so I wanted to dig deeper. (more…)

Oct
17
2013

CameraSync

In my Boxie review yesterday, I mentioned the role of the official Dropbox app on my devices:

Boxie is so feature-rich, I want more from it: there’s no iPad app at this point, and I would love for Tapwings to consider an automatic upload feature for photos that would allow me to completely eschew the official Dropbox app. Right now, the only reason I keep Dropbox on my devices is for the iPad client and automatic background uploads, but, for everything else, I’m doing just fine with Boxie and I enjoy the increased efficiency made possible by the app’s feature set.

I should clarify two points: the Dropbox app is also the easiest way to authenticate with your credentials for third-party Dropbox-enabled apps; and, in a sweet coincidence, CameraSync has been updated today with a new design and bug fixes for iOS 7, which means I have turned off Camera Uploads from the Dropbox app again. (more…)

This iPhone 5S beats out the 5 in every camera test and in many ways I prefer it to my DSLR. Sure it has its pros & cons… but for the first time ever, I didn’t bring my Canon 1DX and I didn’t regret it one bit. That’s saying a lot.

Austin Mann (via Shawn Blanc) went to Patagonia to properly test the new iPhone 5s camera, and he came back with some amazing photos and videos. Even better, he provides explanations and comparison shots between the iPhone 5 and 5s, showing how the 5s takes better pictures better suited for processing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to take pictures as good as Austin’s, but the fact that Apple is hiding complex technology behind the software gives me hope that, when I’ll get my 5s, I’ll enjoy features like SloMo and better Panoramas without having to care about their settings.

This stuff isn’t for everyone. Catastrophes like this probably won’t happen to most people. But the thing is, you don’t have a problem until you have a problem. It’s the same cringe-worthy talk we’ve had a million times with our parents about backing up data. I’d argue that this is more dire. Databases can be very stable, but I’m no longer willing to keep life’s memories in something that can seemingly turn on me in an instant. I still don’t know what actually happened; it could even have been my own fault.

You need a good photo backup workflow, and you need it now. Especially if you’re a parent with thousands of photos of your kids. I’m still relying on the Hazel + Dropbox workflow that I originally shared here (and then here), but I wish CameraSync would get an update for iOS 7. In the meantime, following Bradley’s advice, I’ve started using Everpix too. I’m liking the Flashback feature a lot.

Sep
30
2013

I’ve never been into the idea of sharing my photos as “collages”, especially because all the iPhone and iPad apps that promised to make it easy to assemble collages looked overly social, filter-oriented, or just badly designed. However, I recently wanted to send a photo collage of my dog to my parents, and I conveniently came across Diptic PDQ on the App Store thanks to Apple’s feature for iOS 7-ready apps. Apparently, PDQ (a Universal app) is the “lighter” version of Peak Systems’ more advanced Diptic app, which comes with all sorts of settings, textures, and In-App Purchases. I just needed to create simple collages with thin borders, so I bought PDQ and have been using it for the past week with nice results. (more…)

Apple’s Photos app is often criticized for its lack of organizational features that go beyond a list of photos and screenshots, and the company will bring some improvements in this area with iOS 7 and a Photos app capable of organizing items in Moments and Collections. Photowerks, free on the App Store, enhances Apple’s default solution with sorting options and smart albums available today to iOS 6 users.

Photowerks comes with two main features: sorting, which is included in the free download, and Smart Albums, which can be unlocked with a $0.99 In-App Purchase. Once you’ve granted Photowerks permission to access your photos, the free version will allow you to load photos from your Camera Roll, show them as thumbnails on a grid or a list, and sort them (in ascending or descending order) by:

  • Date Taken
  • Location > City
  • Location > State
  • Location > Country
  • Camera > Make
  • Camera > Model

Even without unlocking the IAP, these features prove already handy as, in my opinion, they provide a better view of a stream of photos than what Apple has (or, more appropriately, hasn’t) done with the Photos app. Photos can be viewed in full-screen (where the app will display available information at the bottom), shared to Mail, Facebook, and Twitter, and grouped together to create a new album. Alas, there is no Open In support to send photos to other installed apps, like Evernote and Droplr in my case.

The Smart Albums feature is what really sells Photowerks. As the name suggests, they’re similar to iTunes’ smart playlists in that they let you automatically group photos based on pre-defined criteria that work with the sorting options mentioned above. By using a familiar any/all system for matching rules, Photowerks lets you specify attributes such as “date is after/is not/is/is before” or “model is/is not”; these attributes can be combined to create albums that will be populated with items that match your criteria and that you’ll be able to sort using the same sidebar that you’d use in the IAP-free version of Photowerks. On my iPhone, I have created an album that fetches screenshots taken after June 30 (“date is after June 30, model is not iPhone 5″) and photos taken at the beach (“city is Tarquinia” or “city is Montalto” with Match: Any).

I believe that iOS 7 will reduce the need for Photos.app replacements such as Photowerks, which is why I think the developers should focus on improving the feature that Apple won’t replicate in the short term — smart albums. It would be nice to be able to keep albums in sync across devices (Photowerks is a Universal app) and have access to more attributes for dates (like “past two months” or “this week”), image size, source (like Photo Stream) as well as nested conditions for even smarter filtering. I’m a big fan of the idea of having smart albums based on user-defined criteria, and I hope that the developers will keep on supporting and enhancing Photowerks for iOS 7.

Photowerks is free on the App Store.