Cable TV is So Broken, Can Apple and Google Save Us All?

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Allen & Company, 2015
Billionaire Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

Last night I spent a frustrating hour trying to cancel Showtime with Comcast, my current cable TV provider. I could not find (nor is there) any way to cancel any Comcast service online and their customer service department was closed.

Finally I was able to get chatty with one of those chatbots online who confirmed to me that there is simply no way to cancel Showtime on Comcast without speaking with a human representative. Even though the chatbot convinced me they were a human, they were not allowed to cancel it for me and I would need to try again tomorrow on the phone only. Interestingly enough I had no problem signing up for Showtime online originally, it’s just when you want to cancel that Comcast gives you such a hard time.

This morning after navigating the Comcast phone voice response menu I was finally able to talk to a human being, who tried to talk me out of cancelling my Showtime. I was committed though and I did finally get it cancelled.

I actually love Showtime and don’t mind paying for it. Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan are two of my favorite shows on right now. I also like the series Homeland. I had several reasons for cancelling it with *Comcast* though.

1. Why am I paying Comcast $19.99/month for Showtime when I can just buy it direct from Showtime on my AppleTV for a free 30 day trial and then $10.99/month after that?

2. Watching Showtime using the AppleTV app through Comcast is a royal pain in the ass. I’ve had to re-authenticate and prove I’m a paying cable customer at least 20 times with the app.

I go to watch one of my shows and am interrupted with a message and code on the AppleTV telling me that I have to go to Showtime online on my phone or computer and authenticate. Next I have to log into my Comcast account enter in the code from my television set and then after that I finally get my access.

I wouldn’t mind it if I did this one time, the first time I signed up for the app, but having to re-authenticate over and over and over again, especially late at night when I’m in bed and just want to watch my favorite show is a drag.

3. Last night I wanted to watch episode 2 of the current season of Master’s of Sex on the app but it wasn’t available. I could only watch episode 3. I have no idea why Comcast customers were not allowed to watch episode 1 or 2, but I didn’t want to watch episode 3, before episode 2, so I just gave up and didn’t get to watch a show that I’m paying $20/month for. No wonder so many people just say screw it and go to bitTorrent.

4. I hate the way Comcast abuses the AppleTV ecosystem. If I pay for CNN with Comcast, why do they not allow me to watch it on my AppleTV. Comcast’s decisions here feel entirely arbitrary. They will let me watch CNBC if I subscribe, but not CNN. I can watch HBO (although I have the same re-authentication problem there over and over again) but when my wife wants to watch Lifetime she has to figure out some weird hack to try to authenticate the app through some hard to find link in a forum on the internet.

It is clear to me that Comcast is purposely trying to make your AppleTV experience an ugly and difficult one and so any chance I can get to bypass Comcast and purchase premium content elsewhere, I’d rather do that — by contrast Netflix has always been an absolute breeze to use with my AppleTV.

According to Buzzfeed today, Apple is rolling out a new version of AppleTV in September which will be setting AppleTV up to offer their own subscription service in 2016. This is such welcome news. I love my AppleTVs and if I could get my content directly through Apple I’d love to cancel my Comcast cable TV subscription entirely.

I’m much more optimistic about an AppleTV service working on my AppleTV than Comcast’s current service. Also with AppleTV I can just buy a device one time and don’t need to have a cable box for every single TV in my house at a price of $10/month each. Will Apple finally be the one that saves us from Comcast?

My other beef with Comcast is their highspeed internet service. At present I’m paying for the maximum speeds I’m allowed which give me 120MBps down and 10MBps up. Frankly, in today’s world these just feel too slow to me — especially the 10MBps upload speeds. I use the internet a lot for uploading high res photos and I wish I could get faster upload speeds.

I was excited about Comcast’s new residential gigabit service announcement the other day until I saw the pricing for it: $1,000 to set it up and $320/month with a two year commitment. PC World lists the service at $300/month, but when I called to ask about it they told me that there would also be a $20/month equipment rental fee on top of that fee. That’s just too expensive for high speed internet.

By contrast Google sells their gigabit internet service for $70/month with no installation fee — which is even less than I’m paying Comcast today for my crappy 10MB/second upload speeds — for less money Google Fiber users can upload 100x faster than I can.

I was reluctantly willing to pay Comcast’s highway robbery fees for gigabit internet and was hopeful when a Comcast rep told me I could get it. They told me though that they would need to do a survey of my house in person to confirm and would call me for an appointment. I never heard back from them on this appointment so after a week I called them back only to be told that they did in fact do the survey and that I did not qualify at present.

Unfortunately AppleTV’s subscription television is not here…. yet. Unfortunately Google Fiber is not here… yet. Hopefully both of these services will eventually get to my neighborhood though. It would be so nice to just be able to cut Comcast out of my life entirely.

While I realize I could just go ahead and cut the cord right now, with a family of six, the rest of my household is just not ready to cut the cord yet and I’d have a mutiny on my hands if I cancelled our Comcast — so for now I continue to pay my $233/month. However, I’m looking optimistically towards the future, to a day when Apple and Google will let me cut Comcast out of my life for good.

Flickr Brings Back Pro

Thomas Hawk, Pure Pro

“It’s about time we started to take photography seriously and treat it as a hobby.” Elliott Erwitt

“Hell hath no fury like that of a ‘professional’ photographer scorned.” Thomas Hawk

A few years ago, shortly after Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo, Flickr did away with their paid pro account. Existing pros could keep this distinction (and pay for it) and were grandfathered, but new pro accounts could not be opened.

Announcing that decision Mayer took a bunch of heat for suggesting that there really wasn’t much of a distinction between professional and amatuer photographers anymore — a statement which she later clarified. As Bart Simpson might say, aye caramba senora Mayer!

Nothing pisses off so called professional photographers more than to minimize their self-important “pro” moniker and lump them in with every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or these days Jane, Jill and Mary as just another shutterbug with an iPhone 6+ or a Canon 5D Mark 3. The truth of the matter is though that the economics of photography have been changing for years now and much to the chagrin of the “professional,” the economics of photography have never been more disbursed. Between microstock, macrostock, laughingstock, micro four thirds and Getty Images, about 10 million more people are in the game than were a few decades ago — and yes even those iPhone shooters on EyeEm.

All of which has nothing to do with Flickr and their pro accounts, which was just a title given for paid vs. free accounts.

In the early days, Flickr offered two levels of service, pro or free. Free accounts were limited to sharing only their last 200 images, while pro accounts got unlimited photos on the site. It was a way for people to try Flickr before committing to paying for it, or as Michael Arrington put it back in 2011, a way for Flickr to hold your photos hostage. Most people didn’t pay, but the most serious users did and were recognized with a special little badge labeling them as a cut above the rest. They also didn’t have to look at ads or have ads appear on their photos for others.

Mayer did away with the pro account at Flickr in 2013 and granted every free user a full terabyte of storage on the site with no 200 photo limitation. Flickr opened up and become free and unlimited for 99.999% of potential users (1 terabyte is a lot). This was a *huge* move on Flickr’s part. Replicated enterprise storage is not cheap and I suspect today has become one of the most significant costs for Yahoo in running Flickr.

Well all that changes today with the return of the pro account at Flickr. The new pro is a little different than the old pro, but I think it’s great that Flickr is bringing back pro and think it still represents terrific value for the serious pro or amateur photographer.

Before we get into the new pro, it’s important to point out that for those of us lucky birds who have been grandfathered into the old pro account nothing changes. We still keep our unlimited photo storage, ad free status for both our photos and our browsing, and heck, what a deal, $24.99/year! We will also even get a brand new pro account badge back on our accounts like the new pros.

So what about this new pro account, how does the new pro account work?

Well for starters it’s more expensive than the old pro. The new Flickr pro account will cost you $49.99/year. If you want to you can choose more of a pay as you go model at $5.99/month, but if you do the math that will be considerably more expensive than committing for a year.

For that money you get a few things.

First you get the distinction of a pro icon on your Flickr account. This may sound dumb but really it’s not. Especially on a social network where anonymous trolls can easily create throwaway accounts and blocking tools are really bad, when you see a pro icon on Flickr you will be taken more seriously. You are invested.

More significantly, in my opinion, you get the same ad free status for your own photos and for your own browsing. If you are pro you can rest assured that Aunt Millie will not have to see ads when she looks at your photos of this year’s 4th of July barbecue. Likewise, as you browse Flickr yourself you’ll be completely exempt from having to view any advertising. This alone is worth the price of pro. Any path out of having to view ads is worth it in my opinion. If only Facebook could see the light.

Another interesting deal is that by signing up for pro you can get a 20% discount off of Adobe’s Creative Cloud offer (for the annual subscription only). That’s actually a pretty good bargain. Most serious photographers use Lightroom and Photoshop. At $120/year for Adobe’s Creative Cloud software this pays for about half of your pro account if you use Lightroom and Photoshop.

And then there are stats. I love my pro stats on Flickr. I look at them every day. Maybe it’s just pure vanity or maybe it’s just curiosity about where my Creative Common Non-Commercial licensed Flickr photos are appearing elsewhere online, but I love stats. Not only do pros get access to a sophisticated stats panel, it’s now been improved to give you even more information about your photos.

Finally, you get free shipping on any Flickr merchandise ordered domestically or 50% off shipping for international orders — and just in time for that special Labor Day photo book you were going to make up for your sister-in-law this year — just kidding, but, you know, Yom Kippur will be here before you know it.

Of course the biggest missing feature of the new pro over the old grandfathered pro (lucky me), is the promise of unlimited photo storage. New pro accounts are still limited to the 1 terabyte (which in fairness is more than 99.999% of photographers will ever need, but as someone who has used up 970GB of my 1,000GB by only age 47, I’m glad I still get unlimited). I’m planning on publishing 1,000,000 high res photos to Flickr before I die.

By the way, if you really, really, really want pro but don’t want to pay for it, I suggest you strike up a friendship with Pacdog. I swear that guy has probably bought and given out like 50 pro accounts for his friends over the years. He’s the most humble Donald Trump type character on Flickr pro and very generous with his paid upgrades for his best friends on Flickr.

If you want more info on how to upgrade to pro on Flickr you can find that here.

Thomas Hawk = PURE PRO! You can find me on Flickr here.

Allen & Company Media Conference, 2015 — Sun Valley, ID

Tesla and SpaceX CEO, and Solar City Chairman, Elon Musk, Sun Valley Idaho, Allen & Company Conference, July 2015

I published I set of 247 billionaires and media moguls from last week’s Allen & Company Media Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. You can see the entire set here.

ANKR $25 for Piece of Mind

ANKR

I just installed an ANKR in my camera bag. Over the past 10 years I’ve had this reoccurring dream about my camera gear and my backpack being stolen. I’ve actually had two cameras stolen over the years unfortunately.

When you use your camera every day like I do, it’s a hazard to have to deal with. My friend Trey Ratcliff was jacked of his camera bag earlier this year. So I was very pleased to learn about ANKR. ANKR is a new product that alerts you when you become separated from your gear. The ANKR itself is super small, not much thicker than a quarter. I hid mine in a hidden area of my backpack and now if my backpack and I become separated I’ll get an immediate alert. It boggles my mind why somebody did not come out with such a helpful and useful tool 5 years ago.

Although I’m sure an ANKR is not foolproof, it’s at least a first line of defense against your gear being taken or stolen. I frequently walk around with over $10,000 worth of gear in my backpack and I would just be crushed if I lost it. $25 seems like a very small price to pay for piece of mind.

Setting up ANKR was super easy. I turned the ANKR on, downloaded the ANKR app and it found it right away. It created a “safe zone” so that I will never get an alert if my camera bag is at home (you can set up more safe zones as well), but if I’m out and about and become separated from my bag I’ll get an alert. I can also see on a map exactly where my bag was when we were separated which might be helpful for me to recover it.

ANKR is a wonderful new tool to help combat theft. I have a feeling I’m going to be purchasing a few more of these. I think I’d like to attach one to my camera strap itself, in case my camera is out of the bag and stolen. I can see lots of other applications for this tech as well (kids, car keys, car, wallet, luggage, etc.). Hopefully the more tech like this is used, the less successful thieves will be with stealing stuff.

Ads on Social Networks Suck. ello.co — San Francisco, CA

Ads on Social Networks Suck

Are you on Ello yet? If not you are missing out on the best photography community on the web right now. It’s a wonderful ad-free social network where your photos are published *BIG* like they are meant to be seen. Some truly amazing photographers are publishing some truly amazing work there right now.

This is some Ello street art I photographed out on 7th street earlier today.

Come check it out and let’s be friends there too. You can find me at Ello here: http://ello.co/thomashawk

:)

10 Reasons You Should be on Ello

10 Reasons You Should be on Ello

1. Because you are a leader not a follower. Because you pave the way. You are a trailblazer. You are like Lewis and Clark, like Henry Ford, like Jackie Robinson. Ride Sally Ride. You skate where the puck is going, not where it’s been. You do not stick around Europe for the Bubonic Plague. You hop on a boat and sail away. Far away. You’re like a pirate, or better yet, a pilgrim, albeit a very thirsty pilgrim who likes whiskey and is also much nicer to your American Indian friends.

Who cares that your mother and your aunt and that guy from 2nd grade or the mailroom guy at work are not on Ello. You are, and when they finally get there you will be able to brag about being there first.

2. Because ads suck. Are you tired of seeing those creepy ads that follow you around the internet? Yeah, you know the ones. You weren’t even going to buy the bikini you were just checking out the site for “artistic inspiration” and the next thing you know there it sticks for six months on your Facebook page, popping up each time you visit unless you uninstall and reinstall your browser. I don’t want to buy a BMW. I don’t want to go to Arby’s. I don’t want 40% off at Banana Republic. I don’t want to accidently click on a photo only to discover it’s a “sponsored post” from Dos Equis. Ads suck. Not only does Ello not have ads today, as a public benefit corporation they never will.

Earlier this week what were top Facebook and Twitter execs pushing at Cannes Lions? Yep, you guessed it, how to advertise at you even more.

Oh and that includes Instagram too. Things are about to get much, much worse there.

What was Paul Budnitz, co-founder of Ello talking about during Cannes Lions? How to be a good husband and father.

3. Because your life is not an algorithm. Are you tired of Facebook burying your posts and hiding them from your friends? You shouldn’t have to pay to sponsor your own posts to your own friends. Tired of missing important updates from the people that you care about or having to navigate complex settings just to try to see what you want to see?

You are not a machine or a robot so why should your social network treat you like one — even though robots are super cool and you might like them, or movies or dreams about them, it doesn’t mean you are one.

Take back control over Facebook’s secret algorithm and maintain your friends in two simple buckets, friends/noise. Oh and don’t be too noisy. :)

4. Because everyone is a photographer and our photos deserve to be seen large. Bottom line, photos look better, bigger. Photos look better when they are the size that you upload them as, not compressed and miniturized and mixed in with a bunch of ads and game invites and dumb memes and other clutter.

Your photos matter. Your art matters. Everyone is an artist and everyone should care about their art. You tell me, which site shows your photos better?

5. Because variety is the spice of life. Tired of seeing the same posts by the same people over and over and over again on the Facebook algorithm? Why not make some new friends? Some of the most creative people in the universe are publishing some truly epic art on Ello right now, while you are reading this post.

Tired of Facebook just recycling content from the same 15 people over and over again in your feed? Come to Ello and discover something fresh, something new, something inspiring. Do you like to travel? Check out Ello Travel. Do you like photography? Check out Ello Photography. Do you like food? Check out Ello cooking. Truly fine community curated content.

Integrate yourself in some new verticals and open up your world a little bit.

6. Because life should not have to be SFW. Humans are amazing creatures and the human body is a beautiful thing. Breastfeeding is natural. There’s nothing wrong with boobs. Ello will never censor or remove fine art celebrating the human body. In fact, Ello itself curates a super interesting feed of NSFW content.

Facebook and Google won’t let you host or view the naked human body. Don’t worry though, if you are one of the more modest types there is a very easy setting on Ello to filter out any NSFW content from your Ello experience. The difference is that on Ello *you* choose what you want to see or not see.

7. Because Ello is a super positive community. Tired of seeing hate and abuse on Twitter? Tired of seeing pointless arguments about politics and name calling on Facebook? Ello is one of the friendliest places on the web right now. The community is empowered. You are not a cog in a machine or fuel for the advertising furnace, you are part of a bigger social movement where people are committed and care about making Ello a welcoming place for all.

People on Ello take this responsibility seriously and you will find some beautiful, generous people who want to build you up not tear you down. Abuse and hate has been non-existent on Ello. As Ello gets larger, undoubtedly some of this may creep in, but Ello has a strong blocking tool and a serious commitment to fighting internet harassment and abuse.

8. Because the people who run Ello day in and day out care. One of the things you will find at Ello is that the folks running the show are not just nameless, faceless individuals. The people behind Ello are some of the most passionate, committed, thoughtful people dedicated to personal expression and social empowerment on the web.

Who are the people behind Ello? They are publicly listed and I’d encourage you to check them out and learn a little bit more about who is running the most exciting and growing community on the web right now. The people who run Ello are accessible and care about what you think about your community. They themselves are as big a part of the community as any of us and contribute beautiful art and work every single day.

9. Because the iOS app is awesome! Have you tried the new Ello iPhone app? It rocks (don’t worry Android users, an Android app is in the works too). The new Ello iOS app is elegant and beautiful, just like the web version. More on the Ello iOS app here.

10. Because the web is a new virtual museum and Ello has the best art. You will find some of the best art being produced today on Ello. Not only will you find artists and photographers posting their own work, but you will find thoughtful curators also sharing and properly crediting amazing art all over the world.

You can find me on Ello here. Stop by and say hi and lets be friends. :)

Get it While It’s Hot! Ello Launches iOS App!

Teaser:  Ello's iOS app is Launching Tomorrow :)

A lot of you who follow my photography and blog know that I’ve been super excited about Ello, my favorite new social network on the web. Today Ello gets even a little bit better with the official launch of their iOS app. They just launched the iOS app about 10 minutes ago, but it may take a little bit of time to propagate in the app store before you will be able to download it.

I’ve been testing a beta version of the app for the past few weeks and absolutely love it.

If you are a photographer and are not using Ello, I’d encourage you to give it a spin. Put simply, your photos will look better on Ello than on any other social sharing site on the web today. Looking at my photos on a 5k iMac in extra large, full, high res glory just can’t be compared with any other photo network out there. Ello shows your photos huge, as they are meant to be seen.

I love that Ello was designed for the web first and foremost, but one is not always at one’s computer and so having a mobile app these days is really important. Ello’s initial release is for iOS and the iPhone, but they have plans to ship an Android version later on in the future.

Like the web version of Ello, what I love about the iOS app is the elegance of its design and its simplicity.

Basically the app does six things for you really well.

1. Ello’s iOS app allows you to browse content by the people you follow. You get two buckets for your contacts at Ello, friends and noise. You can browse either stream and easily love and comment on content that you find interesting and engaging directly from your iOS device.

2. Ello’s iOs app allows you to look at your own content stream. You can go to your own stream and expand comments as well as scroll through your entire stream of posts from most recent to oldest.

3. Ello’s iOs app allows you to look at your notifications page. Here you can see when someone adds you, or when someone specifically mentions you in a post by name, or when someone loves or comments on a photo of yours. This is a great tool to stay on top of the interaction on your content.

4. Ello’s iOS app allows you to discover new content on Ello’s discover page. I’m not sure how content is selected for Ello’s discover page, but there is some super cool stuff. If you run out of photos to look at by your friends, check out discover too.

5. Ello’s iOS app allows you to post your own content with or without a photo. Like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other sites, you can post messages, status updates, and photos directly from the app. Unlike Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and others, Ello does not mix advertisements or promoted posts in with your content or sell your data to advertisers.

6. Ello’s iOs app allows you to easily search for other users on Ello. You can search for users and even better you can let Ello search through your contacts on your phone and show you which of your friends are already on Ello and let you invite any who are not.

Overall I’ve found the beta version of Ello’s iOs app to be super smooth. I love the animations that come with the app. When you first load the app up, you get this cool spinning Ello logo while it loads content for you. As content streams in you get a sort of pulsating gray ball letting you know that an individual post is loading. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into how to make Ello’s app simple, elegant and intuitive.

I’ve been using the beta version of the Ello iOS app every single day since I’ve installed it and even though it’s beta it has not crashed or locked up on me once. The app is super stable.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ello, Ello is structured as a public benefit corporation. There will never be any advertisements on Ello and they will never sell your data. Ello takes your privacy very seriously and in my opinion is the most user centered social network on the web/iOS today.

The people that run Ello are very solid. They are community focused and driven. One of the big reasons why I’m so high on Ello is because I’ve spent some time familiarizing myself with the founders and I think they represent some of the most sincere integrity in the social networking space today. They can definitely be trusted with your content and my content and they deserve our support.

In addition to a great team running Ello, the community itself is one of the most creative communities on the web. I’m continuously blown away at the talent and artistic vision of the artists, designers, photographers and thinkers that are part of the early Ello community. Not only will you find some of the most awe inspiring visual work on the web today, you will find that behind that work is one of the most inclusive, friendly and welcoming communities to date. While you can block people on Ello, fortunately there has been very little abuse thus far and people seem to get along really well.

For those of my friends who are already there, I’m really digging your work. For those of my friends who are not there yet, I hope you take a few seconds out today to download Ello’s new iOS app and I’d love to know what you think about it and see more of your work there in the future. If you want to connect on Ello you can find me here.

If you want to learn a little bit more about Ello, check out this great video below by Lucian and Todd where they talk a little more about what Ello is all about.

More from: The Verge, TechCrunch, readwrite, Los Angeles Times, Engadget.

Adobe Updates Photoshop and Lightroom with Creative Cloud 2015 and Launches Adobe Branded Stock Photography Library

Lightroom Dehaze UI

Today Adobe is announcing updates for their Creative Cloud 2015 Photography package as well as the launch of their new stock photography offering Adobe Stock.

I saw a demo last week of the new Creative Cloud enhancements. The enhancement that I liked the most was a new slider in Lightroom for haze and dehaze. With the haze slider you can now reduce unwanted haze in photos or add haze back in if you want more of an ethereal foggy type mood. I think that this tool will be especially dramatic when working with long exposure photography where you have clouds or low fog and want to get the mix of fog to subject just perfect.

Photoshop is also adding in an additive noise function where you can produce more camera like realistic bokeh and blur noise when desired, making the transition in blur more natural. The Photoshop healing brush also now heals in real time and is faster than previous versions.

These feature enhancements and updates will not be available to the current desktop versions of Lightroom and Photoshop, they will only be available for Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers. This is in line with Adobe’s previous stated goal of providing fast and rapid real time updates and upgrades to their subscription customers. I’m assuming that eventually these new enhancements will make their way to desktop upgrades/updates, but at present Adobe seems to be focused on providing the best and most current features available to their subscription customers.

There are also additional features being launched for the mobile versions of Adobe products including better tone and vignette adjustment for Lightroom mobile and an Android version of Photoshop Mix.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography package costs $9.99/month and you can subscribe to it here. They also offer a 30 day trial for you to try out Creative Cloud to see if it is right for you.

Adobe Stock

In addition to the improvements in Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC, Adobe is also announcing the launch of their new stock photography service simply called Adobe Stock.

Because Adobe is so widely used by creatives in general, leveraging their software products to sell an Adobe labeled stock photography library seems to make a lot of sense. Adobe’s stock photography service will be featured as a menu item in Photoshop and will allow stock buyers to use watermarked versions of stock photos to create mockups and test design/layout ideas. Once a stock buyer is ready to license an image they can license it directly from Photoshop and download the unwatermarked version of the image.

Images will cost $9.99 each to license or Creative Cloud subscribers can purchase one of two different subscription plans. The first plan costs $29.99/month and allows a subscriber to license up to 10 images a month and a second plan will cost $199.99 per month and will allow a subscriber up to 750 images per month.

Adobe will pay out 33% of their sales proceeds to photographers — photographers interested in applying can apply here.

Because so many stock photography buyers are connected into Adobe’s ecosystem, I think this stock photography offering will end up being very successful and represents formidable competition to the current stock photography giant Getty Images. Earlier this year Adobe purchased the stock photography agency Fotolia, but this new stock offering appears to be a different offering marketed directly under the Adobe brand and available through Adobe’s flagship Photoshop product.

More: MacRumors, The Verge, Engadget, Techmeme.

More Thoughts on Google Photos

More Thoughts on Google Photos

Last week when Google Photos launched, I quickly tested it out and then wrote a post with my immediate initial reaction to the service. Much of my early disappointment centered around the fact that Google chose to limit the size of photos in the service to 16 megapixels. As a DSLR shooter this meant that a large portion of my library would be downsized with Google Photos. Bummer.

Flickr by contrast offers every user 1TB of free storage for your photos (which is more than 99.999% of photographers need at present) at full original high resolution.

So in my mind this made Flickr’s free offering a vastly superior offering over Google Photo’s free offering. Flickr’s had that offer out for a while now which is why I hoped that Google would respond by offering us a similar 1TB (or more) of full high res original storage. Google Photos will let you have a terabyte of storage for your high res photos as well, it will just cost you $120 per year vs. Flickr’s free deal.

David Pogue (who works for Yahoo) wrote up a thoughtful review today comparing Google Photos and Flickr and made the same observation pointing to the negative of Google downsizing your original photos in Google Photos.

Despite my disappointment about Google’s decision to downsize our photos with the free version of their product, after having spent a week seriously digging into Google Photos, I’m much more optimistic about the service than I was a week ago. There’s a lot to love here.

1. Google Photos will back up your RAW files.

At present I have two Drobo 5D units with 15TB worth of storage in each of them. In addition, I’ve got an 8TB Western Digital MyBook thunderbolt duo.

I don’t actually have 38TB of storage because both the Drobo and the Western Digital (each in their own way) replicate my data. This protects me against hard drive failure. While it doesn’t necessarily protect me against fire or theft, this is a pretty good first line of defense. Most of the storage that I’m using right now is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands (million?) of RAW frames that I’ve fired off over the last 10 years. These are my RAW, unedited, original negative files.

Flickr does not support RAW yet — although Flickr’s former Chief Bernardo Hernandez mentioned in a tweet after he left that RAW was “coming at some point,” at Flickr.

Even though I am losing a lot of data when Google Photos converts my RAW files to JPG photos and also downsizes them, something (for free) is better than nothing.

While it is still my responsibility to come up with a better suitable offsite backup solution for my terabytes of RAW photos, until I do I’d rather have a converted, compressed 16 megapixel version of my photo backed up online than nothing. I’ve been planning for a year or so now to duplicate all of my original RAW files and then store them on drives in a safety deposit box in a bank vault, but until I get around to doing that it’s nice to know that I’ll have at least an inferior version of my original RAW backed up online.

2. Google’s free offering is unlimited.

Flickr currently gives everyone a free terabyte of storage for your high res originals. In his review Pogue said that Flickr told him that less than 50 users out of 100 million are actually using over 1 terabyte.

One terabyte certainly seems more than enough for Flickr’s present offering for most people. I am one of those few prolific photographers who will exceed the 1 terabyte limit though. At present I’ve uploaded about 950 gigabytes to Flickr (which is about 105,769 high res photos) and I should cross the one terabyte limit sometime within the next year.

Fortunately for me, I was one of the original early Flickr users who signed up for their old paid “Pro” service ($24.99 per year). This service has since been discontinued, but old “Pro” accounts have been grandfathered their original unlimited high res storage deal and so I won’t need to worry about exceeding one terabyte when I hit it later this year.

Although I’m an extreme edge case, if we assume that in the future camera makers will continue pushing technology with more and more megapixels (i.e. larger and larger files) and at the same time people begin taking more and more photos, I can see where a lot more people than 50 will end up exceeding their free terabyte at Flickr over the course of their life.

While Yahoo could always extend the offer to two terabytes or raise their limits as people’s storage use increases over their lives, there is no guarantee that they will. It would be a bummer if you spent 10 years uploading all of your photos to Flickr and then ran out of space, which sounds unlikely, but might actually be more likely than we realize, especially given that some of us may actually live to be 150 or more in the future!

Google Photos by contrast is offering unlimited storage if you downsize your photos.

More Thoughts on Google Photos 2

3. Google has interesting facial recognition software.

Google’s facial recognition software is pretty slick. It’s very clever how the software can actually track a face as it ages and include a baby photo in the same batch of photos of someone when they are older. It seems to work best where you have a lot of photos for them to analyze and I found photos of my family members were much more accurately grouped than photos of strangers in crowds or people who I only have one or two photos of.

Flickr doesn’t do facial recognition yet, but I bet it’s something that they are working on. One of the advantages that Google has over Flickr here though is that their service is 100% a private service. 100% of your photos on Google can only be seen by your account unless you manually choose to create a link and share it with others. Facial recognition software can be scary stuff and even though Google doesn’t attach names and faces together, it’s the sort of thing that people get easily freaked out over.

Flickr is a hybrid public/private service. Even though by default you can upload your photos privately to Flickr, you can also upload them publicly by default as well. Sometimes even a simple thing like a public vs. private setting on a photo can be screwed up by your average user. It’s not that Flickr won’t offer facial recognition in the future (they probably will) it’s just that they probably need to think a little bit more about privacy and the implications of people accidently making things public that they might not want to.

4. Google Photos Assistant is fun.

Although we’ve all probably seen way too many gifs in our lifetime already, when your own photos are turned into gifs just for you it can still be delightful. Because my photos are personal to me, I find that I’m enjoying Google Photos gifs much more than I thought I would.

If someone else posted a gif of Jerry Seinfield moving his microphone stand around on stage I’d probably think it was boring, but when I was actually at the comedy show and watched him do it, and the gif was made from my photos, somehow it makes it more interesting to me. Most people could care less about my dog Bucky sitting in my friend Scott Jordan’s Pocketmobile, but it tickles me to see it — and Scott will probably like it too and I can share it with him and I bet he even posts it on Facebook. 😉

I find myself going back to my Google Photos assistant several times a day and hoping that they will have more treats for me.

5. Google Photos is an interesting digital diary.

Although Flickr has Camera Roll, Flickr doesn’t include all of my RAW photos so it is not as complete as Google Photos is turning out to be for me. I’m finding it more enjoyable to just randomly choose times in my life and scroll through my photos on Google Photos. There’s something about all the bad photos, unedited, raw material that feels like a more complete digital diary for me than the finished processed photos I’m posting on Flickr. I’d never want anyone else to see my raw material unedited and bad photos, but just for my eyes only I’m finding it a very interesting experience.

It will be interesting to me to see how I like Google Photos as my digital diary when I’ve finally got everything uploaded into the service. In my case, I have a feeling that this will take a few years. So far I’ve uploaded 39,312 to the site in a little over a week. I’ve had it running pretty much non-stop since Google Photos launched. Sometimes it feels like it’s hanging and I’ll force Google Photos to quit and relaunch it, but still, it’s going to take a long, long time to get all of my photos up there. By the way, Google Photos doesn’t provide you a photo count of your photos, but if you want to see how many you have uploaded you can get that number here (it’s in light gray in the upper right hand corner).

6. Google can give you back all of your photos at once.

One of the things that I like about Google Photos is that they give me an option to get all of my photos back at once. While Flickr will let you get all of your photos back as well, you have to manually drag and select your photos at Flickr (or use an album) to get them put into a zip file that they send you. With tens or even hundreds of thousands of photos online, I like the way that Google can deliver all of my photos back to me better. Although I don’t ever plan on having to get all of my photos back at once, I feel good knowing that Google will let me have them all back with just a few clicks vs. Flickr’s more difficult way.

7. No ads.

It’s nice that Google is giving you Google Photos completely ad-free. Although as a paid Pro Flickr user my Flickr experience is also ad-free, Flickr’s free service does/will have ads. When I’ve browsed Flickr outside of my Pro account I’ve noticed ads every so often. They don’t feel very disruptive, but still, no ads are always better than even just a little.

I did think it was interesting earlier this week when it felt like Apple CEO Tim Cook took a pretty direct swipe at Google’s new photo offering in a speech that he gave highlighting the importance of your digital privacy.

“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is,” said Cook.

Cook’s comment does make you think just a little bit about how much data you may end up giving sites like Google Photos and Flickr with all of these photos. On the other hand, I’m sure a lot of people probably wonder why you’d want to pay for Apple’s iCloud storage when Google or Flickr will give you all you need for free. Google and Flickr are competitors to Apple’s paid storage service and so you have to wonder how much of Cook’s warning is dire vs. how much is just that he’d rather you pay Apple to store your photos for you than let Flickr or Google do it for free.

Anyways, those are my more detailed thoughts on Google Photos thus far. I’m sure I’ll blog more about Google Photos as I use it more, but after a week of use I have a much more optimistic view of it than I thought I would. I find myself using it much more and going back to it several times a day over and over again.

Disclaimer: yeah, yeah, yeah, nothing is forever (except diamonds right?), both Flickr and Google could always renege on whatever deal they currently are marketing out there. Google Photos was made for mobile users, not for more high megapixel storage people like me, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Thoughts on Google Photos

New Collections Page from Google Photos

Google launched Google Photos today.

For months now people have been talking about how Google was going to decouple photos from Google+ and create a standalone photo product and today at I/O they finally unveiled their latest effort to the world.

Last August when rumors about this new service started circulating I wrote a blog post titled 10 things Google should consider in launching a standalone photo sharing service. Here I outlined ways that Google could come up with a very competitive product in the photo sharing space. Google could have given the world something really amazing today and instead we just got something lackluster.

The new offering is fine, but in a lot of ways it is a big disappointment to me.

The biggest part of today’s announcement was that Google was going to give every user unlimited photo storage.

That sounded pretty good until I understood the catch. The catch is that the unlimited photo storage offer only applies to photos 16 megapixel or smaller.

Although it may be tempting to write this off as a “Pro” problem as most modern DSLRs today shoot over 16 megapixel, there are also a lot of new non-pro consumer cameras that shoot over 16 megapixel today too. Heck, there’s even a mobile phone out now (admittedly an outlier) shooting at 41 megapixel. So what this means is that almost every DSLR out today, along with many smaller consumer cameras, will require your Google Photos images to be downsized.

It’s not just Canon and Nikon DSLRs that produce images over 16 megapixel today, but many models of popular mirrorless and consumer cameras by Panasonic Lumix, Sony, Olympus, etc. Here is a list of currently manufactured digital cameras 15 megapixels and above which shows some models and brands this might include.

While I do understand that storing photos is not cheap, I do not understand why Yahoo’s Flickr is able/willing to give every user a full terabyte of full high res original photo storage, and Google, a company almost 10x the size of Yahoo by market cap cannot or will not. Flickr raised the bar when they offered every user a free terabyte of high res photo storage and Google’s response is to offer us unlimited downsized and compressed photos? Come on Google, you can do better than that!

The other problem is that the camera manufacturers (for better or worse) are in a war of who can raise megapixels the most. Earlier this year Canon came out with a mindblowing 50.6 megapixel 5DS. 16 megapixels is going to feel smaller and smaller as new and better camera, and even mobile phone technology is released.

If this was the year 2003 and Canon had just released the 6.3 10D, this might make sense to me — but in 2015? No way.

While you can purchase Google Drive storage for your photos over 16 megapixel at Google, 1TB of high res storage at Google would cost you $120/year — the same thing that Flickr will give you for free.

In my case I have one of the old grandfathered Flickr Pro accounts where for $24.95/year I get even more than 1 terabyte of high res storage on Flickr, I actually get unlimited (I’m currently using about 940 GB of my unlimited storage on Flickr, which is a lot).

The other main thing missing from this new offering by Google is social. While Google has had a tough time with social and I get why they are wary of it, I was hoping that there would be a social element to their new photo service. Instead, every photo you upload to Google Photos is private only for you and you then share out your photos to other platforms. One of the most exciting things about Flickr is that there are a lot of social components to the site. While photos are uploaded as private to Flickr by default (like Google), you have the option of making these photos public and sharing them with other users on the site.

While you can use Google and Flickr both as private shoeboxes for all of your photos, I like that Flickr gives you the option to turn your photos public and share them with the world. 99.99% of the photos that I upload to the web are meant to be shared publicly and so I was disappointed that Google didn’t deliver us anything here today. Google does still have Google+, or course, where you can share your photos too and be social, but that’s an entirely different site that you leave Google Photos to go use. Flickr does a much better job at combining both private and social.

Google did showcase some other features with photos today. They released a sort of timeline camera roll view and some image recognition technology. What I saw today was very similar to what I saw two weeks ago when Yahoo rolled out Flickr 4.0. I’m not saying Google copied Flickr here, but it is odd how Flickr shipped these almost identical features two weeks before Google did. Whatever the case, I’m not terribly excited by camera rolls from Google or Flickr, although I do see where they would be helpful and nice features for the broader mass market audience.

I prefer to organize my photos myself rather than have an algorithm try to do it for me. I carefully keyword each of my photos in Lightroom and when I upload them to Flickr I’m able to create smart albums (like smart playlists in iTunes) where I can organize my photos into albums by keywords. That’s something that I still can’t do at Google Photos today, at least not in the automated way that I do it with SuprSetr.

I am glad that Google is still investing time and development into photos. For a while there when they first launched Google+ it really felt like they were going to do something spectacular with photos, today, unfortunately, not as much. To me, today’s offering feels more like a step back from Google+ to Picasa circa 2004.


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