All we know for now is that Google+ has been open to a chosen few for just over a week and generated a lot of excitement – or frustration, if you haven’t been able to join it yet.
Let’s agree about one thing. The service is impressive, but predicting the death of Flickr and Facebook at this stage might be a bit premature. This is the very beginning – Google+ has barely left its starting blocks. Let the service grow and gain critical mass first.
So I won’t tell you whether this is the next big thing for photographers, whether it’s going to revolutionise the way we share images or any other crystal-ball crap. Instead, let me list the things I do like about Google+ (from a photographer’s perspective) after a week of playing with the service.
1. Picasa integration. I never thought I would go back to Picasa, but here I am. I used it ages ago as a desktop application well before it was bought by Google. Then, when it became a part of the Google app package, I used it occassionally, mostly to share some private photos with friends and family.
But now Picasa – soon to be known as “Google Photos, formerly known as Picasa” – has become a very attractive proposition for G+ users. Here is why:
- Unlimited storage. If you are Google+ user, you can store an unlimited number of images up to 2048x2048px in size. Anything larger than that will count towards your standard 1Gb storage. Also videos up to 15 minutes long will enjoy unlimited storage. Anything longer than that will again dent your 1Gb limit. There are no guarantees of course that this won’t change in the future, but for now this is pretty awesome.
- Editing. If you have been using Picasa, you’ve probably seen or used Picnik for basic image adjustments. Google+’s adjustments are even more basic and are limited to rotating the image and applying six basic filters. So you’re probably better off working on your images before uploading them to your albums. But still, compared to Facebook, your editing options are slightly more robust.
- Tagging people. You can tag people, who will then be notified and will have the ability to remove the tag. If someone else tags you in a photo, you can reject or approve the tag, but if you do approve, the image will be associated with your profile, i.e. visible to people in your circles.
- Comments. A simple but smart solution – comments display not underneath the image, but in a column to the right of it, which means you don’t have to scroll down to read them.
- Lightbox. When you go to an album, Picasa smartly redistrubutes the images within it on the page so that they form a nice mosaic. Like it or not, it’s neat. Clicking on a single image opens it in the lightbox (“on black”, in Flickr-speak) and offers a nice clutter-free experience. Frome here you can navigate to other images in the same album and perform all the actions described above.
- Data. Each G+ photo comes with some basic EXIF data (if available), the date the image was taken and a clickable histogram.
2. Mini-portfolio. That’s my name for it. Not sure what the technical term is, but when you create or update your profile, you have the ability to upload 5 images that will be displayed underneath your name every time someone reads your profile info.
Quite powerful if you want to highlight your best work or, say, define your photographic style in five thumbnails.
3. InstaGram. If you’re using InstaGram and wish you could display your images on a larger screen, why not transfer all IG images to Picasa/Google+?
So far I’ve come across two different IG solutions, one which allows you to import your InstaGram archive into Picasa and another one, which updates your existing InstaGram Picasa album with every new IG image you take.
Both solutions are a bit clumsy at this stage, but remember the service is brand new and we’ll probably have to rely on many hacks before a more seamless integration of external services becomes a reality.
I realise that this post will probably feel dated a few months from now. Google+ is very likely to evolve and become very powerful very quickly. It may even become a threat to other photo-sharing services, but it’s much too early to predict to what degree, if at all.
So instead of playing with your crystal ball, spend some time discovering how you can use Google+ to your advantage now.