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Swear by your computer, not at it.

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TekBasics Topics

TekBasics Topics

TekBasics Topics is a blog that is updated occasionally with tips, news, and advice of interest to TekBasics clients.

Rethinking moving to iCloud Photo Library

Back in February I wrote about the reasons why I was going to use the new iCloud Photo Library when the new Photos app became available. I got sucked in to the concept of having access to all of my photos from all of my devices.

I thought that sharing photos from the iCloud Photo Library could replace the need for the SmugMug photo site that my wife and I use. She and I often shoot photos of the same events and we post our best shots to a shared SmugMug gallery. Attempting to do this with iCloud Photo Library would be awkward - she would have to share photos from her iCloud Photo Library and I would have to share photos from my iCloud Photo Library. We would need two locations instead of one to share family photos. It would be confusing and needlessly complicated.

Also, our SmugMug photo and video storage is unlimited for $40/year while iCloud storage is limited to 1TB at a cost of $240/year. Double that to $480/year for two iCloud subscriptions, one each for my wife and me. Going the iCloud Photo Library route would cost me more than I pay now.

I currently have 3 iPhoto libraries, one for photos shot from 1992-2010, one for 2011-2012, and one for 2013-2015. With iCloud Photo Library there can be only one library that syncs with all devices so it would be huge. It is possible to manage separate libraries but it’s more complicated and involves designating different libraries as the current System Photos Library that syncs across devices. There is, however, a useful utility app for managing multiple Photos libraries stored on a Mac: PowerPhotos from Fat Cat Software (www.fatcatsoftware.com), the company that makes the popular iPhoto Library Manager.

I contacted the developer of PowerPhotos who told me that when OS X 10.11 El Capitan becomes available there is a good chance that PowerPhotos may be able to merge Photos libraries. This feature would address some of the photo organization issues in the Photos app. With iPhoto it was easy to create separate libraries and merge libraries, as well as to merge and split events and move photos from one event to another. However, the new Photos app organizes photos automatically depending on the date of the photo and the geotag info. It’s (not yet) possible to organize photos in the library manually. Also, some photos are missing the date and geotag information so sometimes the photos in a Photos library are not sorted as expected.

While storing all photos in an iCloud Photo Library makes it possible to edit any photo on any device, I prefer editing photos at my desk on my Mac’s 27-inch screen. Editing photos on an iOS device is more difficult. So editing photos on any of my devices is a feature I wouldn’t use.

At this point in time I’ve tried the Photos app and have learned most of its ins and outs. I am sticking with iPhoto and am holding off on switching to Photos until the new version is available when Apple releases OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The new version will have the ability to assign locations to photos that don’t have geotag data, so Photos libraries should sort more accuately.

Another new feature coming in the new version of Photos will enable plugins so that Photos can easily access features of third party apps.

If you have multiple iPhoto libraries and decide to migrate to the Photos app please be aware that each Photos library will remain separate with its own content, so each library will have its own photo books, calendars, slideshows, etc. Currently there is no way to copy those items from one Photos library to another. Projects also do not sync with iCloud Photo Library. More info about these limitations is available here: click link.

Several books are available about the new Photos app and the iCloud Photo Library:

Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course by Jason Snell

Photos for Mac and iOS: The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider

My Photos for Mac by Michael Grothaus

Photos for OS X and iOS: Take, edit, and share photos in the Apple photography ecosystem by Jeff Carlson

UPDATE 9/9/15: Today Apple announced reduced pricing for iCloud storage. The 1TB tier is now $120/year, reduced from $240. The new price is still three times the cost of a SmugMug subscription, and SmugMug offers unlimited storage.

UPDATE 9/11/15: PowerPhotos can now merge Photos photo libraries on OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

Why I'm moving to iCloud Photo Library

UPDATE 8/27/15: I’ve rethought using the iCloud Photo Library. Read why HERE.

iPhoto is the most important app on my Mac. I’ve used it since it first debuted over 13 years ago in January, 2002. So many memories are stored in iPhoto! When my iPhoto library grew to over 350 GB I split it into 3 smaller libraries and purchased an external solid state drive for storing these photo libraries. My photos are the most important files on my Mac. I have 2 duplicate backups of this drive as well as a Time Machine backup and a Backblaze offsite backup.

I upload the photos we wish to share with family and friends to the SmugMug photo website. This has worked out well for us because SmugMug can be viewed via a browser on almost any device (except Apple TV). SmugMug offers a beautiful presentation, no ads, customizable privacy, social networking controls, helpful tech support, and unlimited storage. What originally attracted us to SmugMug was that it offered unlimited storage of full-resolution photos at a time when almost every other photo site down-sized the photos to save space.

I’ve learned the ins and outs of iPhoto and I teach a course on how to use iPhoto. I love iPhoto and SmugMug. So it was with much trepidation that I greeted Apple’s announcement last June that iPhoto would be replaced by a new app called Photos, which would store photos in an iCloud Photo Library on iCloud servers.

How is using the new Photos app with iCloud different from using iPhoto with online photo sites like SmugMug?

After researching the iCloud Photo Library I’ve determined there are so many benefits to using iCloud that I’ve decided to move our family online photos from SmugMug to iCloud.

This may seem strange at first since SmugMug has unlimited storage while iCloud has limits. Let’s take a closer look at how they compare.

PRICING — SmugMug offers unlimited storage for $3.34/month. iCloud offers 200 GB of storage for $3.99/month. Currently our family photos occupy 60 GB on SmugMug so 200GB should satisfy our needs for a long time. (iCloud also offers 500 GB for $9.99/month and 1 TB for $19.99/month)

VIEWING ON IPHONE — Viewing iCloud photos on an iOS device is easy… no extra app required. Double-tap, drag, pinch and zoom. It’s difficult to view photos on SmugMug with an iPhone because Safari’s controls get in the way, covering the top and bottom of the photo. SmugMug has an app for viewing photos (the SmugMug iOS app), but I don’t want to ask people to install an app just so they can access my SmugMug photos.

VIEWING ON APPLE TV — You have friends over and would like to show some photos. Easy… turn on the Apple TV. Viewing SmugMug photos on AppleTV is a challenge since there is no SmugMug app on AppleTV and no browser. We’ve done it using a device that is equipped with AirPlay, but this is a clunky workaround compared to iCloud.

ORGANIZING — Snap a pic with an iPhone and it’s automatically uploaded to iCloud Photo Library and automatically categorized by Moment, by Collection, and by Year. With online photo sites like SmugMug you must manually upload your photos and spend time organizing them.

EDITING — Photos stored in iCloud Photo Library are easily edited on all your devices using the filters and tools available in the Photos app. The tools enable advanced image adjustments that incorporate image analysis algorithms for optimum results. In-depth editing on SmugMug is awkward. With Photos you can revert back to your original unedited image at any time.

SHARING PHOTOS — To share SmugMug photos you must send a URL or download the photo, then send it. Sharing iCloud photos is much easier using the built-in Share menu that accommodates iCloud Photo Sharing, Mail, Messages, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and compatible sites that offer sharing extensions.

SHARING ALBUMS — SmugMug’s options for sharing galleries offer many options but the controls aren’t simple to use. With Photos it’s as easy as clicking on your friend’s name in the Contacts app.

SUPPORT — iCloud support is available from AppleCare, toll-free. SmugMug offers only email and chat support.

The iCloud Photo Library appears to offer a more pleasing experience than online photo sharing sites like SmugMug. We’ll find out for sure this spring when Photos is finally released.

For details and an interactive preview of Photos visit Apple’s website.

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TekBasics Topics is a blog that is updated occasionally with tips, news and advice of interest to TekBasics clients. TekBasics provides consulting and support for Apple product users near Nashua, NH.

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I’m Dave Price and I've used Macintosh since it launched in 1984. I've always been the go-to Mac guy during my teaching years and high-tech career. I started TekBasics in 2010 because of the need for an Apple resource in the Nashua area. I look forward to working with you, whether it's troubleshooting or learning more about Apple technology.

When I'm not on my Mac I enjoy spending time with my family. I'm a husband and father to three grown kids and I'm blessed that my two grandkids live nearby.

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