Google goes unlimited* with Photos6/17/2015
Thus far, 2015 has been a photographer’s dream. Quality equipment is cheap and abundant, picture taking — once restricted to the number of exposures on a reel of film — is practically limitless thanks to electronic media. And, thanks to online social networks, photos can be shared around the world within seconds of being uploaded. Of course, if you’ve taken 10,000 photos at 50 megapixels a pop, you have a new problem: a mountain of digital media. Thankfully, just as film negatives have become a trinket of days gone by, a digital storage option has replaced it — the cloud.
Think of all the electronics you own. How many of those gadgets have cameras embedded in them? Now how many devices are web-enabled? It’s no coincidence if both numbers are the same. See, the Internet has become the primary place to store, display and showcase photography. In fact, Facebook’s true innovation isn’t the online social network but providing the first boundless repository of still images.
Time and again, online media storage has paved the way to climbing user numbers. Facebook climbed to web prominence from it, YouTube ushered in the proliferation of web video, and Flickr became the premier online photo site. But beyond simply offering media storage, these sites have historically done it for free. Even better, Flickr and YouTube allow you to make money from your media through print sales and placing advertisements, respectively.
Other sites see what media storage has done for gaining users and becoming household names and have jumped into the fray. The difference is, they don’t want to give away their photo locker services. Amazon, Apple, Google, Dropbox and countless others are more than happy to hold onto your digital images, but at a cost. Sure, they all offer free options, but unlike Facebook and YouTube, these companies don’t want to wait a dozen years to turn a profit.
Last month, much was made of the announcement of Google Photos at Google’s annual developer conference. The unveiling was buzzworthy because of one word: unlimited. Users can upload an infinite number of images and videos to Photos. However, “unlimited” came with a big asterisk. The fine print reads that users can store unlimited photos as long as the image fidelity is below 16 megapixels and the videos are 1080p or smaller. Plus, all images stored on Google Photos via a free account will be compressed to maximize storage space. To retain image quality and exceed the bounds of the free account, users can pay either $2 a month for 100GB or $10 a month for 1TB of uncompressed space.
For amateur photographers, image compression means nothing if they can house a lifetime of photos for free. If you’re just snapping pics for fun and photo collages, why jump from Facebook’s limitless photo storage to Google? And if you’re going to pay a price, shouldn’t you be looking for unlimited, uncompressed photos? Google Photos may be making a splash, but it isn’t the holy grail of media storage. Amazon offers unlimited, uncompressed photos as part of its Amazon Prime service, and Prime comes with access to streaming movies, free shipping on Amazon purchases and other great consumer tools.
Maybe you’ve taken the bait and are preparing to upload all your media to Google Photos. First consider what Facebook’s counter move will be. Google steals the free, unlimited game from them, Facebook’s revenge is likely to pump its service up to allow free, unlimited, uncompressed photo storage within the year. So unless you’re a Google fanboy, I’d say sit tight and see what happens next. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.