Earlier last month, Google announced it would discontinue its photo manager, Picasa, in exchange for a heavier focus on its cloud-based Google Photos service. For many people who have used Picasa for organizing and editing their pictures for many years, this represents a big change in the way they will accomplish this task in the future.
For many out there, this change will not be an easy one – often times, people who see the need for a photo manager will have quite a sizable collection stored up, and to migrate to a new service will not be an easy proposition. However, there is hope for a relatively painless transition for some. At the moment, Picasa allows the back up of pictures and videos to its online storage service, “Picasa Web Albums”, which is Google Photos’ predecessor.
One of the good things about the similarity of these two online services is that, as part of its migration, users who log in to Google Photos with the same Google account as their Picasa Web Albums will notice that their new Photos service has all the pictures and videos from their Web Albums account already synchronized. For those that don’t use the service, Google has also provided a small application that uploads image and video files automatically, from sources of your choice, called “Google Photos Backup”. It can even detect when a camera memory card is inserted or an external drive is plugged in, pulling the pictures up as soon as it is connected.
The service also has the benefit of being cloud-based, which we’ve gone over in previous articles, but it’s worth mentioning again that often these files will be kept considerably safer online where failures, accidents, or acts of god are far less likely to occur. As far as how much storage you get for all your pictures and videos, the amount is virtually unlimited.* (More on this below)
Picasa is more than just an organizer of sorts, and this is reflected as well in Google Photos – filtering, recoloring, cropping, and many other functions are still present, albeit in different varieties and configurations from its predecessor. As far as its overall capability goes, it should be relatively similar to Picasa in function, although we did notice certain options were absent or had been replaced by different ones. When it comes down to it though, it’s truly up to you whether the changes made on that front are worthwhile or detrimental.
Unfortunately, not every part of this change has been a rosy one. While a lot of the editing functions are still intact, many of Picasa’s more discrete functions have been lost, and while some of these features, such as collage and poster work or custom screensavers weren’t particularly widely used, it is still a shame to see an objective step back in functionality. Some of the options for sharing photos have also been removed, such as attaching files straight to emails. However, with the files living online now, the option to get a link to specific images which anyone can view has been added, and can be useful for sharing the files via email.
On the subject of sharing, Photos also introduces a handy feature for family and friends to enjoy, which is known as “Shared Albums”. Shared albums allow for multiple people to have access to a specific album of sorts, which can be added to and commented on by people of your choosing.
All in all, this migration will be a difficult one for some, and an easy one for others. There will be some adjustment, but this change is not without its advantages.
*Regarding the unlimited storage of pictures and videos, especially for those photography enthusiasts out there, there are two settings for saving files: “High Quality” and “Original”. Only files saved under the High Quality settings are given unlimited space, and they are restricted to a maximum of 16 MP for photos, and 1080p for videos. What this means is that, for any picture shot at a resolution beyond 16 Megapixels, Google will downsample uploads to that size. Likewise, for videos shot beyond 1080p (Full HD), such as 1440p (Quad HD) and 2160p (Ultra HD), the versions stored online are downsampled to meet the restriction. Storing files using the “Original” setting will save the files at their original qualities, but these files will count against your Google Drive storage. For most people, however, using inexpensive digital cameras or smartphones, qualities will be within the acceptable range.