Carousel, a new gallery app released today by Dropbox, aims at providing an integrated solution for all photos and videos stored in a Dropbox account, unifying them in a single interface that automatically sorts files by time and location. As someone who relies on Dropbox and a custom workflow for photo backup, management, and viewing, I followed today’s announcements with curiosity and anticipation – the company’s previous photo products weren’t the most advanced or versatile ones on the App Store, but they showed an interest for turning Dropbox into a cloud-based Camera Roll, which is where Apple is struggling with its confusing Photo Stream.
I’m still exploring various possibilities for my photo management workflow (I played around with Everpix, Loom, Picturelife, Unbound, and many other services and clients) and Carousel offers an interesting take on the problem: it’s photo and video archival based on Dropbox storage, but it’s also a separate iOS app with sharing options that include messaging and public links on the web.
I took Carousel for a spin this afternoon, and I collected some first impressions below. They’re not exhaustive, but I believe they’re fairly indicative of the app’s current state and limitations. Read more
Apple's iOS apps often serve as a foundation of ideas and technologies that third-party developers can build upon to create new and more advanced functionalities – this has been the case for years with email clients, todo apps, and, more recently, Camera Roll alternatives. With iOS 7, Apple revamped its Photos app to integrate the Camera Roll with Photo Stream and organize photos in Collections and Moments, but the effort lacked proper tools to view metadata for individual photos or all photos on a single map view. Since last year, a number of apps aimed at offering different features than Apple's Photos app have come out on the App Store, and I was impressed with Justin Williams' idea of presenting photos as large thumbnails with metadata visualization for locations and timestamps.
I downloaded PhotosPro when it was on sale earlier this month on the App Store, and find the app, available on both the iPhone and iPad, to have the kind of browsing and viewing options I'd like to see in Apple's Photos in the future.
When it works, Photo Stream is convenient. The underlying principle is simple enough: you take a picture on one device, it automatically transfers to all other devices with iCloud.
In practice, it’s a convoluted feature. Apple is using quantity and time-based limitations for Photo Stream, which comprises both your Photo Stream (called “My Photo Stream”) and Shared Photo Streams, which are all part of iCloud, but only your Photo Stream counts against storage. I wouldn’t be surprised to know it took Apple more time to come up with Photo Stream rules than to build the actual technology. It’s difficult to explain, and I suggest listening to this Mac Power Users episode to grasp how Photo Stream works and what it can do.
In my workflow, I have new solutions to quickly transfer photos from iOS to OS X or avoid my Mac entirely, but there are still times when I need/want to leave iPhoto running and drag photos out of it and into the Finder or another app. MyPhotostream is a lightweight Photo Stream client that runs on your Mac and provides read-only access to your personal Photo Stream (not the shared ones). Read more
Manton Reece's new iPhone app, Sunlit, is out today and available for free on the App Store (with an In-App Purchase to unlock the full version). I think it's a nice idea: Sunlit is Manton's take on iPhoto web journals, but built for App.net file storage and sharing.
You choose some photos that “tell a story” – could be a trip, a family gathering, anything you want to remember – and the app pulls in their metadata for date and location. You can add text comments to jot down memories, import photos from Dropbox if you don't keep them in the Camera Roll, and even add check-ins manually, from Foursquare, or from Steve Streza's Ohai app. When you're done, you end up with a story that has full-res photos, text, GPS and time metadata, check-ins, and possibility to invite other App.net users to collaborate (here's my sample story).
I don't think that I'll use Sunlit regularly because I'm not sure I could get my parents (essentially, the only people I share personal photos with) to sign up and use App.net. But I think that Sunlit is a good idea that shows how the App.net API can be used for more than social updates (Broadcasts being another good example). Manton knows the importance of preserving digital memories and I'm looking forward to future updates to Sunlit (there's no iPad version or video support for now). Sunlit is available on the App Store.
I listened to the latest episode of Mac Power Users, where David, Katie, and my friend Bradley discussed their photo management workflows, the limitations of iPhoto and iCloud, and shared some tips on how to get the most of modern third-party photo services and Apple's Photo Stream. It's a great episode and a solid complement to our photo management episode on The Prompt, always with Bradley (he's the photo management guru these days, having written a book on the topic). For both follow-up reasons and because it's the new year and hence a good moment to re-evaluate how technology is supposed to be working for us, I thought I'd give an update on my photo management workflow.
You’ve captured your image, tuned and processed it, added some additional flare using some specialized apps like BigLens and Piction, and finally shared it on Instagram. But, unfortunately, you’re left with an absolute mess of a camera roll. This is a place where Android shines, since most iOS photos apps aren’t built to talk directly to each other: the apps are forced to export and then reimport the full-resolution image every time you travel between apps, which leaves a mess of semi-processed images in their wake. Some chase inbox zero. I believe in camera-roll zero.
A good roundup of iPhone camera and photo editing apps by Jordan Oplinger at The Verge. It's funny that he mentions “camera-roll zero” – that's exactly what I do as well. Every day after I've taken a bunch of pictures, I open CameraSync and upload them to Dropbox; my Mac mini then takes care of automatically sorting them in a folder structure, and desktop uploaders for Loom and Picturelife (I'm trying both at the moment) monitor the source folder to upload photos to their respective services. When my photos are uploaded by CameraSync on the iPhone, I delete them and leave an empty camera roll. I can later view photos using Photo Stream (for the latest ones), Unbound (for the full Dropbox folder), or iOS apps by Loom and Picturelife (I prefer Picturelife's app for now).
After The Sweet Setup's recommendation for the best photo editing app for iPhone, I'm also trying VSCO Cam. While I don't share many edited photos and I don't like the custom UI of the app, VSCO does have some great filters and editing tools.
If you take pictures on your iPhone (or iPad) and you've allowed Apple's Camera app to use your location, your photos will contain hidden, uneditable geotag data that are embedded in the files and that you can't remove using system apps. Last week, I covered Photos+ by Second Gear, an alternative Photos app that allows you to view locations attached to photos through inline map views. deGeo, a $0.99 app for the iPhone and iPad, takes the opposite approach: it's a geotag remover that lets you pick photos from your Camera Roll, clean them up to remove metadata, and share them or export them again with no location data attached.
Developed by Second Gear’s Justin Williams, Photos+ is a $2.99 photo browser for iPhone that supports metadata, albums, and animated GIFs. Read more
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. Read more