Google+, A Bold Step Forward in the World of Social Photo Sharing

Note: If you are a photographer and on Google+, leave a link to your Google+ url in the comments.

I’ve spent the past two days playing around in Google’s new social network Google+. Thanks to Brian Rose who works in Google photos for the invite!

A lot of people have asked me if I have invites to send out. I don’t right now, but I suspect that I will in the near future. They turned invites on last night (when I wasn’t paying attention) but then turned them back off because the demand was so high.

Most of my initial observations about Google+ will have to do with how it impacts photo sharing, and here I think Google has pushed the envelope to create a compelling photo sharing experience to accompany this new social network. Photo sharing in Google+ is very slick and very polished and works very well.

Adding People to Circles on Google+
Circles on Google+ are very easy to create and drag people into.

Observation #1, Circles.

Everybody and their brother/mother/sister is talking about Circles in the new Google+. Today on Flickr you can only categorize and filter your contacts in two ways, contacts or friends/family. This blows. It feels so 2004.

Unlike Yahoo/Flickr who seemingly hates innovation, Google+ allows you to categorize and filter your contacts in as many ways as you want. I have a friends circle, a family circle, an acquaintances circle — but I also have a photographers circle, a San Francisco photographers circle… you get the idea.

The ideas on ways to categorize your contacts are limitless. You can have a bucket for graffiti photographers, and neon photographers, wedding photographers, nature photographers, professional photographers, bloggers, you name it.

Once you have these circles made you can filter recent activity by that circle. When you add somebody to a circle they don’t know what circle you are adding them to (by design), they just know that you’ve added them. So when I add someone to my “Haters Gonna Hate” circle, they only know that I’ve added them as a contact generically.

This function is very useful for filtering down photography and photo oriented people on Google+ that you want to follow. I haven’t seen a directory of photographers on Google+ yet, but if you are a photographer and on Google+, leave a link to your Google Profile Page in the comments and I and others can add you and follow your stuff.

Thumbnail View on Google+ in Your Stream Looks Awesome!
What a photo shared on Google+ looks like in an activity stream.

Lightbox View on Google+ Looks Awesome!
What a photo in lightbox view looks like in Google+

Peopletagging on Google+
“Tagging” = Peopletagging in Google+

Observation #2, Photos shared on Google+ look *awesome*.

When you upload a photo to Google+ it looks stunning. Your contacts see a nice big oversized thumbnail. It’s not too big and not too small. People can comment or +1 (Google’s version of a “like” or “fave”) the photo from the thumbnail post.

But the magic happens when you click on the big oversized thumbnail. A huge giant version of the photo comes up and it comes up fast, instantly, no delay at all. This looks better than Facebook’s lightbox view, better than Flickr’s lightbox view, it fills the whole page and is the biggest lightbox view I’ve seen online yet. It’s on a black background and looks *very* elegant. All of the comments are on the right side of the photo and you can click on details to get basic camera EXIF data.

There is also a button to “tag” the photo, but I think this needs a little more work. Right now when you tag a photo in Google+ it’s more like peopletagging in Flickr or tagging in Facebook. It’s a tool to say who is in the photo. There is no way to add more generic text descriptor tags though or keywords. Also keyword metadata does not seem to be imported anywhere with the photo when you publish it to Google+.

When you post a photo to Google+ it also puts a copy of the photo into a Google+ album for you in your Picasa account. From what I’ve heard there is no limit (at least yet) to the number of photos you can share on Google+. I’m not sure what Google does if the number of photos posted to Google+ go over your storage limits at Picasa. I haven’t run into that problem yet and I’m pretty close to my cap on a free Picasa account. I suspect that for now at least, Google will let people go over their Picasa storage limits with photos posted to Google+.

Album Thumbnail View on Google+
Under the photos tab you can see Picasa Albums on Google+

Album Detail View on Google+
When you click on an a Picasa album you get a nice mosiac layout on Google+

Observation #3, Picasa sets shared on Google+ look awesome.

I love the way Google+ shows your Picasa albums under the “your albums” tab in the photos section. Albums are given bright big thumbnails and if you click through the photos are all resized and sort of fit together on one page in a mosaic like display. This is a very nice, quick way to show an album. If you click through on any of the photos in the album, it takes you back to that big huge lightbox view on black.

What a Picasa Album Looks Like When Shared on Google+
What a shared Picasa album looks like in your activity stream in Google+

What a Flickr Set Looks Like When Shared on Google+
What a shared Flickr set looks like in your activity stream in Google+

Observation #4, A total lack of Flickr integration.

I suspect that this is by design, but there seems to be no way to automatically pipe your flickrstream or account into Google+ — not just Flickr, but Twitter, or Facebook, or really any other site. In this way Google+ is very different than from aggregator’s like Friendfeed and Google Buzz. The most you can do to share Flickr data is to manually enter a url. When you manually enter a Flickr url there is no real integration with that set or photo like there is with Twitter. When you share a Flickr set url on Twitter (for example) you get a bunch of thumbnails and even a slideshow of that set, right on Twitter. Not with Google+ though.

By contrast the Picasa albums shared look very nice, are more interactive with more thumbnails, and also then get shared in your photos section on Google+ as well.

This seems to me to be a very concerted effort by Google to incent you to host your photos at Picasa instead of Flickr, at least to the extent that you want to promote them on Google+.

Directly Sharing a Photo from My Android Phone on Google+
A photo shared from my Android phone to Google+

Observation #5. A compelling mobile experience.

I haven’t tried the iPhone app yet, but the Android Google+ app is *slick*.

Under the photos tab it has photos from your circles, photos of you, your albums, and from your phone.

It also has an “instant upload” option where all photos taken on your phone are instantly uploaded to Google+ when you take them. Don’t worry Anthony Weiner, the photos are put into a “private” album where you can later select which ones you want to share and with whom. So if you want to, later you can send some of them just to the “hot chicks who dig me” circle and not to the whole entire world or your “conservative bloggers who hate me” circle.

Overall I’ve found Google+ to be a compelling way to share photos in an exciting new social network. Google+ is like Google Buzz, Friendfeed and Facebook, except all grown up. The offering is slick and the design is elegant.

If you want to follow me on Google+ you can do that here. I suspect that I’ll be spending more and more time playing around with photos on Google+ and that it will take away some of my Flickr time going forward.

101 Replies to “Google+, A Bold Step Forward in the World of Social Photo Sharing”

  1. Excellent observations. I always wondered why you were using Flickr instead of Picasa, considering all these observations you mentioned, and that Google has been improving a lot of features, demonstrating a true compromise with photography.

  2. I can be found here:

    The thing I disliked most about FriendFeed and Google Buzz appears to be present on Google+. When an old post receives a comment, it gets bumped to the top of my stream, instead of staying in chronological order. Facebook’s news feed deals with this in a much more unobtrusive way. I don’t see any option to turn this off yet.

  3. @Chris This doesn’t solve the problem entirely but if a particular item keeps getting comments and you want to never see it again, click the little circle w/ the down arrow that’s to the right of the item, and choose Mute this item. It’ll then be hidden.

  4. I love the circles concept! I have had this problem with twitter and Facebook where I only say certain things on twitter that I wouldnt say on Facebook. Now that I can decide who the update IRS to, that’s solves a big problem… Love the photo sharing capabilities and I’m sure its only goin to get better!

  5. Awaiting invite from google at this point. I wish I could trade in my login for the google + to test this baby :).

    Good points Thomas. Thanks for sharing.

  6. G+:

    Though, I’m not yet sure I’ll be sharing my work on G+. I am seriously concerned about the ToS for content you post, which includes photos and applies to both Plus and Picasa (they have the same terms).

    In more legally friendly sites you can revoke the license granted. Not on Google. Even Facebook lets you revoke the license simply by removing your image. The rights granted are essentially whatever google wants to do. Then they go on to point out the rights to redistribute for the purpose of the site, but that’s ambiguous. They could use your images in ads, for example, and never pay you a cent.

    It’s important to be aware of these things, as it largely subverts your copyright rights despite not subverting your copyright itself, from the perspective of Google. It’s the reason I choose not to share images on most modern social sharing sites, they simply assert too many unpaid rights on your works.

    I would be interested to hear from higher profile, commercial photographers about how they feel about google’s terms vs. flickr’s, especially if they have lawyer’s to weigh in on the true ramifications.

  7. TH, excellent observations and insight. If anyone has an extra invite, I would sure like one. I missed out on the first go around of invites.

  8. Oh Sorry I hit submit too soon. Thanks Thomas for a very useful survey of google+ and the ways its useful to photographers. The lightbox is definitely superior to flickr or anyone else.

  9. A major gap is the lack of per-photo permissions. Many people who use Picasa Web use it for automatically backing up photos by syncing it with the desktop Picasa application. But not all photos that one may want to back up are of adequate quality to publicly share in the same album.
    This means that instead of just being able to select which photos in a folder are public and which are private, Picasa users will still have to create new albums and reupload all the photos they explicitly want to share. This makes photo sharing on Google+ no less tedious than on Facebook — when it had the potential to be much, much easier.


    Thanks for diving in there and giving it a good test drive, Thomas. You’ve done as all a great favor!

    Whilst I’d love to integrate my iPhoneography collection from Flickr, however the way that traffic has gone off over there makes me think that reviving an interest in Picassa is a good ‘new broom’ opportunity.

  11. I agree somewhat with Zachery Jensen. The lack of copyright control has me a little timid. I just started posting some of my Flickr stream photos to Google+ to try the features out. I agree with your blog entry, there are some very compelling reasons to use Google+ to promote and share photography. But that lack of setting a creative commons vs all rights reserved…I’m not so sure

  12. “From what I’ve heard there is no limit (at least yet) to the number of photos you can share on Google+.”

    The limits are stated as 1000 photos per album and 10,000 albums. There is a slight catch there as sharing photos automatically creates a new albums so I expect I’ll end up with a lot more smaller albums than I used to have. Even so 10,000 should last me a good while.

    “I’m not sure what Google does if the number of photos posted to Google+ go over your storage limits at Picasa. I haven’t run into that problem yet and I’m pretty close to my cap on a free Picasa account.”

    Google+ changes how they calculate your free storage limit: previously photos less than 800px in each direction didn’t count towards the limit but now for Google+ users any photos up to 2048px in either direction don’t count towards the limit. So if you were uploading full size shots you’ll still be near your limit but if you previously only uploaded low resolution pictures you might find you’ve suddenly got a load more space.

    When you upload with Google+ all pictures are automatically scaled to fit within the 2048 pixel limit. So Google+ uploads are always unlimited. If you upload with Picasa and hit your storage limit then all subsequent uploads are scaled to be within the free limit.

  13. Nice review! G+ looks very promising. I hope I got my invitation soon, so I’ll be able to test G+ by myself.
    If anyone could invite me to G+, I’ll be grateful! Thanks in advance!
    my mail:

  14. I’ve been fairly impressed with the google+ photo sharing implementation thus far, but after having been on and in flickr for so long, it’s clear that +, at least for the time being, will remain a place where I share an occasional shot or two.

    Thanks for the writeup.


    (I just added you to my “Photographers” circle.)

  15. I really love the interface and how responsive it is

    Here is my account, please add me!

  16. Would about a follow up about Google respecting the copyright of uploaded image. I have read that Google is reserving itself all rights of uploaded images.

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