Featured Columns

Written by Mark Evilsizor
From his column Church Tech


Something has been lost in the transition from film and print snapshots to digital. I have fond memories of being at my aunt’s apartment, dumping the picture drawer, and sorting through memories of times gone by. Viewing shots on a computer screen just doesn’t have the same feel. Recently, however, I found a tool that may bring some order and accessibility to the mountain of digital snapshots we accumulate but rarely revisit.

I was at the hospital celebrating the birth of a friend’s third child when he offered to take a look at how we had changed since last time we were passing out cigars (bubblegum, of course). He pulled out his phone and brought up the photos. Seeing myself in sideburns was a shock (okay, it wasn’t that long ago), but an even bigger surprise was how quickly he was able to access the images from several years prior. I inquired as to his method (humbly, since I work in IT and could not replicate his feat) and learned that he used Facebook as his digital memory keeper. I thought I had my act together with a cataloged family digital photo album and daily backups into the cloud, but I was missing a piece—a way to easily peruse the past from the palm of my hand.

Facebook works well for my friend, but I was imagining the mountain of images and short video clips we have and could not imagine uploading them all to Facebook. I was also leery of their privacy policies that seem to change faster than a politician’s promises in an election year. Fortunately, after more exploration, I found a vendor with a solution that provides just what I was missing—Google Photos.

First the bad news, as famously said, if you’re not paying for it, you become the product. No doubt, at some point Google may use its amazing search capabilities to divine your interests by the photos you post and respond with relevant ads. Secondly, Google offers unlimited storage at no cost if you accept their image and video compression. This means the images uploaded are not as high resolution as those you snapped. So for high quality SLR images you may want to pay for space for full uploads or use a different repository. But if these tradeoffs are acceptable to you, then many benefits await!

The first is that you can download the app to your phone and set it so all of your images are automatically uploaded. You can also continue to sync with your computer and retain full size copies, but if your phone memory gets too full, the Google Photos Assistant will suggest deleting the images from your phone that have already been uploaded. If you choose this option, you no longer need to worry about filling up phone memory or not backing up photos in a timely manner.

Secondly, all devices (PC, tablet, phone) can access photos taken by any of them. So you can take shots with your phone, and spontaneously pass around a tablet at family gatherings to share memories or missed experiences. No syncing or manual file transfers required.

You also get the benefit of the great search and indexing capabilities of Google. You can quickly scroll through the years to view your college graduation as easily as shots from this summer’s vacation. You can even tap the search icon and select a picture of your daughter and take a tear-inducing trip along memory lane to witness how quickly she has gone from learning to crawl to getting engaged (which my daughter did this past weekend, sniff, sniff). Or you can click on a picture from a vacation spot and instantly see all the images you have taken there across the years. Or you can type in the name of an object and compare how many pictures you have with your golf clubs as opposed to, say, your Bible. (I’m not kidding!)

There are other benefits as well, such as an assistant that automatically weaves together images from an outing and adds a soundtrack to it. Who could ask for more?

Google Photos won’t provide quite the sensory experience of browsing through Aunt Edna’s photo drawer and shuffling through old Polaroids and Brownie shots, but it sure beats digging through dusty boxes or spending time moving tons of files from a phone to PC to tablet. Give it a try and take your infinite photo album with you wherever you go!

Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.

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