What's your cell phone camera workflow for sorting/archiving family pics
July 23, 2017 7:44 PM   Subscribe

I have a baby. I have a dog. I have a cell phone. Hence, I have a million pictures on my cell phone. How do I get these onto my computer, (mostly)off of my phone, touched up, and keep them organized on an ongoing basis?

When I used a separate digital camera I would download pics to my PC after any picture-taking event, touch them up in lightroom and then export them into a folder picassa would read in. I would like the same outcome (processed and sorted pics in Picassa, everything archived in appropriately named folders, everything on PC where it backs up to cloud), plus a few more things: a few favourite shots on my phone for bragging about my baby and dog (preferably the post-lightroom version), to clear most stuff off my phone because it's eating up storage space.).

What's your system for keeping everything in order? Is there a way I can make my PC send pics to my desktop over wifi into a folder and hten delete them from the phone? I can then import into lightroom from that folder every so often? Is there a way I can either designate some pics as favourites and have them copied back to my phone, or create a folder on my computer that stays synced on my phone?

How do you deal with the fact that many pics aren't event-based anymore now that you can take a pic any moment (and grandma demands daily pics!) What I've done so far is to keep event-based pics in event-based folders and also have folders that are called Baby'sNameMonth for other pictures. The problem with the monthly folder for workflow would seem to be that I'd have to wait for the end of each month to organize them, though.

I'm on android. I have lightroom for android, but it's just not as powerful as desktop and I can't figure ou how the sync is meant to work. Is this going to copy full-res pics to my desktop somehow? Can I automate that? Are there other apps I should be using?
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I put everything in the cloud. I use Google's Photos app which backs up automatically and has an option to delete photos from the phone once they're copied. I bet there's a way to get Google to copy your photos from there back down to your PC if that's what you want.
posted by potrzebie at 8:11 PM on July 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: OMG! I'm not sure Google Photos is what I want, but I just installed it (Actually it was already installed, but I opened it and looked) and I found my graduation pictures which somehow google had uploaded to somewhere! I thought I lost all of these in a hard drive failure long ago!! So pleased!

Not sure how to get them back down on my computer, but I'll figure it out.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:42 PM on July 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

You should be able to see your Google Photos in Google Drive. You can then install Google Drive on your computer, and then tell your computer to sync the local folder with the Drive folder associated with Google Photos. You may wish to experiment with this at first, so that you do not sync your cloud folder with your empty local folder (and erase all your photos).
posted by My Dad at 11:24 PM on July 23, 2017

My workflow from SD card is to save locally from SD, and then Google Photos automatically detects the SD card and saves from the SD card.
posted by My Dad at 11:25 PM on July 23, 2017

Have similarly started using Google Photos in earnest after a good few years of abandoning a Picasa type workflow, and it's all so effortless I now wish I'd bothered to look it at immediately that I got an android phone. I never really looked at the difference between Photos and my moto g's "gallery" app, and if I'd known how well it backs up and gathers stuff I'd have taken a lot more photos in the last few years, even just on the terrible phone camera.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:13 AM on July 24, 2017

Google Photos is the first thing that has made me consider Android since I got the first iPhone in 2008. It is so great.

The literally beanfreaking thing about Google Photos is the search capabilities. I spent so. Many. Hours. manually tagging and sorting and albuming photos in iPhoto only to be able to type "orange cat" into the Google Photos search bar and have it return all the photos I've ever taken of our orange cat. You don't have to organize them any more.

Not sure if it is the same on Android, but be aware that it does compress your photos to save space, but unless you are printing them at poster size, you should not be able to tell the difference.

It also (finally) has great library sharing abilities, so that you can easily see (for example) your spouse's photos, and even automatically add them to your library, if you want a centralized hub for family photos.

I've been using it since it was first released, so let me know if you have specific questions about it.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:53 AM on July 24, 2017

While I too love and use Google Photos, make sure you're happy with the resolution it's archiving. It can be set to do full-res if you want/need, though then you'll need to purchase additional storage soon enough if you're using it for long-term backups. I personally have Amazon's Prime Photos handling that side of things (photos are free; videos count toward storage allotment but can be excluded from auto-upload) in between manual backups to the computer itself.
posted by teremala at 4:57 AM on July 24, 2017

While I too love and use Google Photos, make sure you're happy with the resolution it's archiving.

True. This blog post (or similar, I don't remember exactly) convinced me that, for my purposes, Google compression was a non-issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:29 AM on July 24, 2017

I used to use dropbox for this, since I actually wanted local copies for some reason or other.

I'd basically just wait for dropbox (free tier) to tell me it was running out of space and then go in and organize/dump everything to a NAS. This had the advantage that I was only archiving when I had actually taken a bunch of pictures.

These days I just use Google Photos like apparently everyone else, despite privacy concerns and a general distrust of everything Googly.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:50 AM on July 24, 2017

Response by poster: So I'm getting the message that Google Photos may be what I want but I'm still not clear on how the workflow works.

So I'm seeing a lot about how to get the pictures off the phone, but nothing about the workflow after that. So what are people doing: Pics get on computer and then whenever you get around to it sort into albums import to lightroom, edit, and export touched up? If so, can I get google photos to replace their version with the touched up versions so that's what I see on my phone?

Note: I give the new versions new names and put them in new folders. So right now, I import pictures with their original files names into the album folder say "D:\pictures\2017\CanadaDay\originals". Then I touch them up and export the touched up versions to "D:\pictures\2017\CanadaDay" with the filenames "CanadaDay1" "CanadaDay2" etc. etc. Picasa knows not to import anything in a folder called "Originals" so only touched up version get imported to Picasa.

If I sort of recreate this workflow by importing from the folder Google Photos dumps things in to my sorted album folders, will Google Photos just keep re-adding the pics to that folder because I've deleted them from there and it wants to sync?

I'm getting that Google Photos is my friend, but I'm not understanding the suggested workflow.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:12 AM on July 24, 2017

What sort of touching up are you looking to do? You can edit non-destructively within Google Photos, though Lightroom is decidedly more powerful. If it's all cellphone pictures (no DSLR-type stuff), it would be simpler to cut the Lightroom part out of the loop.

If you do need to edit most photos in Lightroom, you'll probably have to export them from Lightroom somewhere, and then either drag them into a browser window, or download & install the Photos app, which I believe can automatically upload photos found in certain folders. You will have two versions, though: the original photo from the phone, and then the uploaded photo from Lightroom. Which isn't ideal but also not the worst thing in the world.
posted by cybertaur1 at 10:04 AM on July 24, 2017

Response by poster: Mainly I crop, alter exposure/brightness. I realize you can do these things on your phone but A) Then you end up with the annoying thing where it keeps the unaltered and saves a new one and then you have 2 versions of the picture clogging up your phone and B) I like to do it on the big monitor and C) Lightroom is just way better for the exposure settings.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:31 PM on July 24, 2017

So, my recommendation in that case is to play around with Google Photos and see if it meets your needs (skipping Lightroom entirely here). Take photos with the phone, Google Photos will back them up (and if you have a Pixel, you get unlimited full resolution), and you can edit them nondestructively in Google Photos, so you won't see two versions of the same image. One small caveat is that Google Photos is slightly different on iOS (backing up photos is something of a pain), though you mentioned Android earlier so I'll assume you have an Android phone which makes things much easier.

Bonus features -- the app can free up space on your phone by removing local copies of already-backed-up photos. They will still be viewable in the app, but they'll take a second or two to download. This is a totally optional step and you can get prompted if your phone is running low on space. Also, Google Photos is really good about "delight" -- so if you take a bunch of photos in a short period of time, it might create an automatic animation out of them for you to approve/deny. If you take a trip, and the photos have a location on them, Google Photos might automatically create an album out of them and title it "Trip to Louisville" or what have you. You also get cute little "memories" videos from time to time. The face recognition is amazingly powerful and being able to search through your photos by text is magical, though not perfect. Sharing is a breeze; recipients do not need to download the app or even sign in with a Google account to view individual photos or albums, and Shared Albums let them add their own photos as well (they do need an account for this).

Regarding the three issues you outlined above:
  • (A) I believe would not be a problem as edits are applied in-place and non-destructively
  • (B) would be resolved if you edit your photos through the https://photos.google.com desktop interface from a browser on the large monitor
  • (C), about the actual exposure settings, is an open question. Why not upload a couple photos and see if the tools provided will work for you? In particular, make sure that when you edit a photo, you click the "expand" down-arrow to the right of the Light or Color sections to see the full range of tools.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll run through my current photo flow. I have an iMac with Lightroom and Photoshop, a Fujifilm X100F, and a Pixel Android phone. A goal of mine is getting better at taking photos and handling them.

Photos that I take with the phone are almost never "important" ones, they're mostly one-offs for a text or Facebook, although sometimes the HDR on the phone produces incredible results which are way better than I would get with a non-computational camera. These photos are backed up with Google Photos and I don't give them very much thought usually.

I take many photos with the X100F, and after a trip or something will dump the whole memory card into Lightroom on the iMac. I'll make a first pass, getting rid of the 80% of the shots that were blurry, or didn't work out, or there was a better one later. My second pass will remove another few photos, and then I go through the remaining photos and try to touch them all up. Usually this is just applying the Punch preset and tweaking some of the colors, maybe some Dehaze if necessary and at times exposure adjustments (particularly with the Graduated Filter or Radial Filter tools, neither of which are available in Google Photos).

After filtering and editing the photos, I will export them as full-quality JPGs, and upload them to Google Photos with the desktop uploader. At that point, I'll put them in an album for easy sharing and retrieval, and send the link around to whoever might be interested.

The photos remain on the iMac and usually backed up to Flickr as well as an external hard drive. The only exception to the above is sometimes the first step of dumping photos off of my memory card also involves uploading them all to Google Photos to see what it will generate.
posted by cybertaur1 at 4:49 PM on July 24, 2017

I should say that there is more powerful editing software available for your phone, but if you use those then yes you will probably run into issue (A) from your list. I'm suggesting doing all photo touching up with Google Photos, either on your phone through the app or on your desktop/laptop through the webapp.
posted by cybertaur1 at 4:51 PM on July 24, 2017

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