Sunday, August 10, 2014

What is the Future of an unbundled Google+ Photos?

There has been a lot written in the past few days about an announcement that google intends to “unbundle” their google+ photos from google+ social network, Which I assume just means you will no longer need a google+ account to use google+ photos. I have no idea what the following quote really means.

"Over here in our darkroom, we're always developing new ways for people to snap, share and say cheese," … Google spokeman

However the articles (there isn’t very much different in any of them but I wont mention the plagiarism word, opps I did) also pretty well all go on to say that google+ photos is very popular with photographers. I really find this hard to believe becauseWhere you turen off autoenhance and autoawsmes I have formed the distinct opinion that most serious photographers, whether professional or keen armatures, soon choose to turn off auto enhancements and very probably autoawesomes as well.. [To do this if you haven’t already found out how, it is a setting right down towards the bottom of the settings options on the google+ drop down menu on the right hand side of most google+ pages.  Alternatively you can individually edit photos and deselect the autoenhance options individually.]

A brief history from my view

I believe why so many photographers are on google+ is for the community and more specifically because it is a way to post a photo or two that is not on facebook! Also the fact that some very good photographers were early adopters and started posting very good work made the stream visually appealing. Sure much the same photo streams exited at the same time on flickr, smugmug and 500pix etc but google+ photo seemed new and trendy (in reality google+ photo was just a rebranding of its picasa web album, so it started with a number of mature features). The google+ stream allowed you to add a few lines of description with each photo (giving photographers a lot more scope than for example twitter) and was very simple to do from a desktop or a smart phone. Also at this time instagram was just an infant and very much an iPhone centric thing.What happened next in the rush to prompt all things google+ was an avalanche of photos that looked pretty much all the same (I did complain at the time about the lack of originality) and google worked hard on adding “features” to photos, as incentive to bring more people into the google+ environment. The edits that came from their purchase of snap seed are good but it will be a pity if that’s all they do with the software. The arrival of “auto” everything is where I started to question the value of google+ photos because it means surrendering creative control, and just letting google’s algorithms do what they can. Autobackup has simply missed the mark. I joined several photo centric communities but the limits and controls about participation are to say at the least simplistic but in reality tedious and frustrating. Selective sharing, a good feature in picasa web albums has been so compromised that sharing outside the google plus circles is only possible but making things fully public and there are often duplicate posts and/or posts that intermittently disappear particularly with invites via email. Also the “facebook problem” of becoming visiable to your friend’s friends is now an issue as well because of tagging.

Where are we at?

I actually think google+ photos is at a cross roads, Its has drifted away from what was its initial appeal to the creative and talented photographers (a twitter like feed with good photo displays and mature album and metadata management structure behind it), Instead google+ photos has become a grab bag of everything photographic, with few tools a photographer wants to manage a collection and most probably a loathing of autoenhance etc. I see the current features, a large on-line storage space, simpl-ish one click style filters (they do have sliders underneath) for editing and all the auto awesomeness gimmicks being oriented to smaller devices and screen with limited storage, like phones and tablets.

Whilst I can see that there would not be a lot of work in revamping and rebanding of what was picasa (again in two flavours a desktop and a web version). I think google has dropped the ball here long enough, and I’m sure the people involve have left the googleplex, not to be able to find a way to bring it back into the game. I suspect their unbundled photo package is going to be on-line only and pretty much focussed on the smartphone as the photo source and phones or tablets as the display. Some photographers are (proudly) smartphone only and/or use wifi enable cameras and have tablets BUT … a lot don’t.

I do have a few suggestions of my own but they can wait for a different post.

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