Life Hacks, Photography

A Practical Guide to Uploading An External Hard Drive of Photos to iCloud

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photo by flickr.com/photos/lisbokt

 

In The Old Days, We Only Printed the Good Ones

Photos used to be easy to manage in the pre-digital era. You bought some film, took some shots that you hoped would turn out well, and then printed all of the pictures. Or if you were more picky you decided to print only the good ones. It was expensive to print, time-consuming, and difficult to store.

Fast forward to 2017 and things are very different (duh.) Storage is almost free, it’s trivial to store tens of thousands of photos so that you can print them on demand, and relatively easy to store if you have an access device like a phone or a computer. Scrolling through a photo album looks much different than it used to, but also opens up many more opportunities for creativity and organization than ever.

What Happens if You Have A Lot Of Photos?

If you have a lot of photos (let’s call this 10,000+) that you want to load and maintain accessibility using a cloud service of your choice, managing these photos can be challenging. Here’s the Job To Be Done: determine how to synchronize 10+ years of photos made pre-cloud services so that they update with all of the handy-dandy cloud services without breaking the bank and while maintaining the discoverability we like from cloud services.

I’m choosing to optimize in this example for a consumer or pro-sumer set up where the main goal is viewing the image or movie on lots of different devices. I’m also viewing this from an Apple-biased point of view, so a spoiler here is that the recommendation will not end with the option to use Google Photos and Just Forget About it. (Though this is a perfectly fine answer).

What and How Do You Back Up?

There are a few obvious options when considering a backup procedure for your photos (or for your whole computer).

Here they are, in order of “solves everything” to “solves a point solution like photos”:

  • back up the whole computer to a shared location (Carbonite, Crashplan, or similar)
  • create a local backup NAS using RAID and AWS
  • continue with lame local back up to a single hard drive
  • upload photos to a cloud service like Google Photos or iCloud

Option 1: Whole Computer Backup

Backing up the whole computer to a shared location in some cloud somewhere seems like a great option if you have an unlimited symmetrical internet connection. For people with a fiber connection, this one would work great. For those of us with a typical cable modem connection for internet, have you thought about how long it takes to upload data?

If you haven’t thought about it, here’s a handy table from that article:

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Most of us are looking at the 10Mbps link speed and somewhere between 100GB and 1000GB to upload. Once you start talking about hundreds of gigabytes or more of data this might take days (or almost a week) to complete unless you want to take the radical step of using an Amazon Snowball and putting your data in deep storage.

More practical services like Carbonite or Crashplan will still take days to run a full backup.

So what’s a way that you could back up everything yet still keep a copy locally?

Option 2: Network Attached Storage

Being geeky as I am, I love the idea of purchasing new hardware to back up files on the computer seamlessly to a local storage server on the network and then seamlessly upload the files as needed to a cloud service that maximized the savings.

This is a fun idea, but it’s not cheap either. If you were going to set up a home NAS you might investigate a Synology NAS (2 or 4 or 8 bay) which will set you back a minimum of $600-800 including the right number of hard drives for the storage you need. There are other, cheaper solutions available from Western Digital but frankly I’d be worried about uploading to someone else’s cloud not named Apple, Amazon, or Google.

The goal here was not to optimize for local storage but to find a place to upload about 175GB of photos and videos that have accumulated over a decade.

Maybe there is a simple, practical solution – a local USB drive is fast, easy, and cheap (I have a 2TB Western Digital Passport, and that’s good for the Sneakernet at my place).

Option 3: Local Back Up to a Single Drive

This is the least bad option (given that I’m using it today) but it doesn’t protect against the inevitable hard drive failure that will happen at some point. Local back up also doesn’t protect against loss from theft or fire and fails to solve the basic problem of “how can I use these images more effectively instead of looking at them in a file tree once every 6 months?”

As a backup (not the only backup), I think this solution actually works quite well. The primary benefit of being able to put a 2TB drive in your pocket is that you can easily move a large number of files between computers even when you have a relatively fast wireless internet.

So we’ve got a solution for local backup, and haven’t yet landed on the right solution for cloud backup.

Option 4: Upload photos to a cloud service

There are lots of cloud services you might choose to solve this problem, though I lean toward the paid version to gain a little bit of leverage around getting the data out should one of the services go away in the future.

So which one should you choose? The free one (Google Photos), the paid one (Dropbox), or the more expensive and integrated one (Apple iCloud)? Perhaps you like to solve your own problems and would like to buy raw storage using AWS. For this solution I’m optimizing for ease of use and a turnkey system.

Google Photos gives you instant upload and permanent storage, and a decent photo editing and management service. It is also optimized for the Android ecosystem – it works for iOS, but doesn’t show up natively within Apple Products unless you are super clever about how you set things up.

Dropbox offers plenty of storage (1TB for $99/year) but is more of a file synching service than a photo synching service. It is extremely handy for sharing large files and less easy to find that photo you were looking for (the Carousel photo app notwithstanding).

So, Apple has trapped me again into making a choice based on the discoverability of files and lock-in to the ecosystem I use most.

Getting the files to the service takes a little work

You’re not quite done. If you pick iCloud like I did there is some work you need to do first to ensure that you don’t fill up your hard drive.

  1. Open Photos while holding down the option key – this will give you the option to create a new System Photo Library in the place of your choosing.
  2. Make a new System Photo Library on an External Hard Drive
    This gives you the ability to let OSX’s magic “Optimize space setting” expand to whatever amount it needs to without taking up space on your primary hard drive. If you don’t care or have a gigantic hard drive, have at it. But until Apple changes this setting this is the only way to separate your iCloudified photos and videos from your hard drive space.
  3. Next, enable this new Photo Library to use iCloud
  4. If you don’t want to create an ever-growing photo library, deselect photo > settings > general > copy items to the Photos library
  5. Next, select photo > settings > iCloud > optimize mac storage or set to download originals if you’d like to make a backup at the same time. You’ll need to have enough iCloud storage to store your originals (but you knew that anyway).

Now, you’re ready to import photos from your external hard drive.

Use the Import option in Photos (file > import) to import the photos you’d like to add to your iCloud library.

When this is done select the Import New Items option to add these to your Photos Library.

There’s one more thing you’ll need to do – create a smart folder of “referenced” photos – before you can add these external photos to iCloud. Now, use the File > Consolidate… option to add the photos to iCloud.

Great! You are on your way to seeing all of your photos and videos more often. There’s one final thing to consider, which is that iCloud imposes a daily, weekly, and monthly limit on uploading.

Food, Media Mind, Photography, Product Thoughts

I’m keeping my Instagram account: here’s why.

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If you opened a web browser and saw the news today, you’d see outrage at the proposed changes to the Instagram Terms of Service, a response from the Instagram team, many people on many social networks vowing to move, archive, or otherwise change their photos in response.

I’m not sure what your assumption was all along when you started using this free service. My assumption was that when I posted the information to Instagram’s servers that I was trading utility (hey, isn’t it fun to post cool pictures that can be seen and shared by other people) for control (because I pay nothing for this service, I expect that it could go away at any moment.) The basic idea is that “If You’re Not Paying For It, You Become The Product” (you can read the original discussion here.)

“Move to Flickr!” some say – cool, I’m there too, and I’ve paid for a subscription to Flickr since 2006 because I understand that if I pay for a service, I have better contractual rights and have the opportunity to have my voice heard. I also know that Flickr is not the only place that I can post my photographs (some of which are whimsically styled food pictures) and that the vast distribution universe of Instagram gives me a much better way to share content with a large potential user base than does the combination of marketing my own Flickr site. (Let’s shelve for a moment the question of whether Flickr should’ve or could’ve created Instagram, because it’s now a laggard or fast follower, depending upon which view you take.)

I’m keeping my Instagram account because I like the combination of fast image cropping, imaginative filtering, and the dopamine “ping” of getting a photo liked. I get some of those things from Flickr, and I’ll definitely be using their new iOS app more (note to Instagram: the focus and zoom on the Flickr camera app is outstanding). Ultimately, I’ll continue to use a mix of free and paid services because it’s always fun to try new stuff. Some of the paid services (and some of the free ones, too) will fall by the way side, and nothing has come along yet that’s 10x better than Instagram. So, find me on Flickr and on Instagram, and I hope to share great images in both places.

Innovation, Photography

Go to the River


Quick – stop what you’re doing and go to the river. (Yes, you might need to make plans, but make sure they’re not too complicated. You should just go.)

Yep, you’re busy – you probably need a pause, and if you don’t have a river nearby then you should find the equivalent quiet place away from your electronic devices to take a pause. (Really, it’ll be fine. If a recovering electronic device addict like me can put down the phone for a few hours or a whole day so can you.)

Once you do that, cannonball into a high-bank deep river and just enjoy. (Especially the feeling of sand squishing between your toes.)

Ok, you can go back now. But wait a few minutes and think about the space that was created and the feeling and calm that existed while you weren’t finding out what else was going on in the world.

Generous, Photography, Productivity

It doesn’t take much to give back

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A newly painted foursquare court at Bryant Elementary in San Francisco

Who wouldn’t like to have fun in a playground game where the playground looks like this?

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a community event courtesy of the folks at the Salesforce.com foundation and my team at Desk.com. In the span of half a day (and with the help of the folks at Playworks, we transformed a dull-looking outdoor playground into a vibrant place where kids can have fun.

Yep, you say – kids can have fun anywhere – and that’s true. Yet there’s something different about an environment where school kids see grownups kneeling on the blacktop, taking the time to make their playground cool, and having fun doing it. For us, this was just a day in the sun having a good time where we learned more about our teammates and did some painting.

And it was a bit more too, because when the staff of the school walked by and said “Thank you – this looks great” and the kids ran by, stopped, and said “Thank you!” we realized we were doing something more than just painting. We were giving a little bit of ourselves to this school, and the people who work and go to school there every day noticed and appreciated our effort.

So thank you to the team, the foundation, and to the facilitators. I feel grateful for being able to make this playground a bit more colorful. It’s a great reminder to all of us to spend more of our time engaging offline with real people in person as well as sharing our thoughts, photos, and ideas online.

Innovation, Marketing Strategy, Media Mind, Photography, Productivity, Social Networking

Pinterest is brilliant because it solves the tagging problem and makes it mainstream

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Source: flickr.com via Greg on Pinterest

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been hearing about Pinterest. The references have run the gamut from fawning tech portrayals of the service (“Fastest to 10 million users in history”) to shares from Facebook friends about how they start Pinning and just can’t stop until hours later. Clearly, Pinterest has become an important site to many people, but why? And what does it mean for the larger trend of how we characterize, organized, and build information?

Pinterest is brilliant because it turns a geeky process – arranging like things by using “tags”, “word clouds”, “memes” and word names – into a visual process that anyone can do easily. Pinterest allows you to visually tag well, anything. This is cool both because many people (and mostly, so far, women) are clearly interested in sharing chocolate hacks, cute DIY pillows, and new fashion looks, and not as interested as categorizing for a system that these might be posts about food recipes, home crafts, and fashion trends. All of these represent a gold mine for retailers and interest graph mappers of all kinds.

Pinterest also is very cool because it’s taken a social process (I have an interest and want to share it) and combined with social distribution (it’s easy to share through Facebook, Twitter, and of course, through Pinterest) and made it very very very easy to use. This means that UX designers in particular should consider using a visual matching process in favor of a “pick this item from a list” display in the future to get better user adoption.

Retailers (especially those who sell products that you can see and touch) should be especially excited about Pinterest because it gives them a way to access a community starved for mix-and-match looks. In the same way that companies and brands have started to build communities on Instagram with photos of their ideas and products, I think it’s likely that “community ambassadors” and brand champions will emerge as design superstars from the Pinterest community (if it hasn’t happened already.) Does this mean that Pinterest replaces existing brand outlets on Twitter, Facebook, etc? I don’t think so – I think it’s just another way for the customer to own and shape the brand experience.

And this leads me to the inevitable “what’s next” question: will people get tired of Pinterest? (who knows – I don’t think it’s super-important at the moment.) The real “a-ha” here is that people like to categorize information visually. Call it “micro-scrapbooking,” “pinning”, or just arranging the things you like together – the people at Pinterest have come up with a dynamite model for gathering, organizing, and sharing like visual information. It will be particularly interesting to see if Pinboards emerge as a model for organizing metaconcepts like “Customer Service” or “Branding” – and turn into de facto micro-blogs or distribution networks for other content -or whether they stay individually focused on the interests of the Pinners.

Career, Generous, Innovation, Photography

The Power of a Pause

At first glance, it seems like any other beach scene you’ve ever noticed. And then – right when you’re not expecting it – there is a strange and wonderful pattern in the water right in front of you. You only see it when you’ve unfocused a bit, and it’s only there for a minute – and then it’s gone.

What do you get when you breathe?

Alex Bard, one of the founders of Assistly, talks about the importance of taking time off from work as key to his success at finding the parts of his business that provide the most value, and of his success in maintaining his family. Whether your definition of success is building a successful company or simply finding marvelous, unexpected images like the one above, what are you doing to pause, wait, and see what happens?

It’s Ok, Work Will Be There When You Return

It’s easy to think that the world will fall down if you’re not there to do your job. And it’s true that if that happens when people are expecting you to excel, you might not succeed. But you can’t succeed without also taking more than a few moments (on a regular basis) to unplug, look around you, and see what you’ve got.

This photo is a good metaphor for that ability that Alex describes to identify and capture great moments – the current was the result of a number of forces coming together (only for a moment) and I happened to be lucky enough to be there at that moment and skilled and practiced enough to take a shot that turned out like I wanted it to resolve. There’s one in a row.

 

 

Photography, Product Thoughts, Social Networking

Does sharing pictures make you a better photographer?

Regular portraits become windows on a world

Chris Brogan asked the question “Does Instagram Make You a Better Photographer?” today which got me thinking about the underlying question of practice. No, I don’t believe Instagram makes you a better photographer. Yes, I do believe that the practice of making and sharing photographs does make you a better photographer. And the internet makes it easier than ever.

Sharing pictures makes you a better photographer because the act of sharing forces you to think about composition, about the “sharability” of the image or idea, and about how you’re going to share it.

Forced Composition is Good.

The neat thing about Instagram and other photo applications on smartphones in particular is that they remove many of the choices that you need to make if you were talking photographs in a manual setting. (Professional and “pro-sumer” photographer friends – bear with me for a moment – I know you like to twiddle with the settings and dials.) For the 80% (or more) of photographs most people will typically take without ever thinking about the light, the aperture, or the shutter speed, having a compositional tool like a square or a filter makes it so that the image itself is the focus.

And because you’re not looking through the lens itself, there is an interesting warping of the scene that happens with the simultaneous changing and cropping of the scene. Add in a filter or an image process and you can get an extraordinary, surprising shot from an everyday walk.

Hidden Bog

Should I share it, or not?

We all take pictures that are purely for ourselves or for our families. Yet the immediate “shareability” of social photo-sharing services makes it such that once we share it, we’re actually publishing these photos to the world at large (or at least to the world at large that cares to view our photos.) Thinking about to whom and how you might share an image helps you to think about whether the image is good, appropriate, or “shareable” in general. In effect, it’s like preparing work for a critique or a mini-show every time you publish or click the “Share to Facebook” or “Share to Instagram” button.

Where should I publish it?

There are a myriad of services to which you can publish your photographs – some intended to be public, some intended to be private, and some a weird hybrid. The truth is that once your photograph is out there in the public eye it’s extremely difficult to control where it goes, who sees it, and when it will disappear. So treat this as a freeing event: decide what you’d like to share with the world, put it out there, and find more people who like and appreciate your photos. When you get great feedback from your photos, you’ll know you’re sharing them in a place that works for you.