Jul 022015

Photos on your computer, or photos on your Cloud account? In my world, those two concepts are swapping places. I am transitioning from being computer-centric to being cloud-centric. There are 2 reasons for this transition. First, the sheer volume of pictures we take with our smartphones is overwhelming – we need an automatic way of dealing with them or they will simply get lost. There are not enough hours in the day to get those photos to the computer and organize them! Secondly, Google is redesigning their photo tools. They’re giving us free online storage for an unlimited number of pictures so let’s take advantage of it. Google sees the future more clearly than most of us, and the future of photo storage is all online.

Old Procedure – Computer is Most Important

I used to keep all my photos on my computer – I call that my Master Library. I captioned, edited and organized them, using Picasa, all on my computer. Then I uploaded only those best photos that I wanted to share with friends and family.

  1. My computer (and external hard drive) held thousands of photos – all my originals.
  2. My online (cloud) account held hundreds – just the best ones.

New Procedure – Computer is not necessary at all

Now I take most of my pictures with my phone and those pictures can automatically be uploaded (aka backed up) to my online account in the cloud. Using Google Photos, I can edit and organize them all in the cloud – no computer necessary at all! I can pick my best pictures and make online albums with just those pictures that I want to share. My private, cloud-based (online), account now holds the thousands of pictures I take and separate shared albums hold my best. If I want pictures on my computer, I can download just those best ones in the shared albums.

  1. My online (cloud) account holds thousands of photos – all my originals
  2. My computer holds hundreds – just the best ones

Pros and Cons of New Procedure

Change is hard. I’ve had a workflow procedure for the last 5 years that works great, I collected all pictures on my computer where I used Picasa to pick and edit the best ones and then upload. The only difficult part was getting the pictures from my phone to the computer and that was handled pretty nicely with Dropbox. The new procedure is easy. Photos automatically go to your account in the cloud, using Google’s high resolution setting you have unlimited storage space for free. All your photos – I call it my Master Library – are available for viewing from any device and Google gives you many wonderful ways to just see what you want. The problem is that there a few pieces missing. And, some of those pieces are very important to me.


  • It’s automatic – no work involved to collect pictures from multiple mobile devices. They all go to your Google account, a private photo-warehouse in the cloud.
  • Google tools for viewing your photos are amazing. Search for anything you want to see and Google instantly finds them from your thousands of pictures.
  • Your pictures are instantly shareable because they’re already online.
  • Basic editing tools actually do a better job than Picasa, and there are even better tools in the companion Snapseed app.


  • Picasa capabilities missing in Google Photos: captions, watermark, visual indicator for best pictures, text on picture. Captions is the most critical to me.
  • Offline backup is still manual
  • Pictures from digital cameras (not phones) are not included in process
  • Snapseed not available from computer/web interface, when used on phones it creates a separate copy of the edited photo – not included in the process

Changing my workflow is a work in process while I get used to Google Photos. The new features of Google Photos are just SO good, I must use it, so I need to find work-arounds for the things I am missing. Please use the comments below to let me know what you think.

  29 Responses to “Photo Management: Online or On Computer?”

  1. i just bought a personal cloud.. can i have my pictures loaded on picasa directly from my cloud drive, so i can edit and create albums?

    • Yes, as long as the cloud drive is accessible with a drive letter, use Picasa’s Tools->Folder manager, find the folder on the cloud drive with your photos and “Scan Always”
      hmmmm … if you’re using the drive over the Internet, this probably won’t work. No, Picasa can’t work with pictures that are not locally attached.

  2. Hi, thanks for the great site. I wanted to get photos from my wife’s iPhone into Picasa. I set up iCloud on our computer and all her iPhone pictures — 672 of them — landed in Picasa in a single folder, called “My Photo Stream.” I would prefer to have these pictures put in the appropriate date folders. Is there an automated way to take this big batch of photos and direct each of them into the right folders by date?

    • hmmm – not easily. But, I can think of a work around that may do the trick.
      Use the import command and import from folder. Use the option to create a dated folder for each date in the pictures, and Import. I would leave the original folder alone in case it doesn’t work out, you still have the My Photo Stream set in tact.

  3. CON: Cost if reliant on phone data. Otherwise we would love to be ready for online storage and distribution when the time arrives.

  4. Usually I’ll set my picasa albums public and others can visit my picasa page to see all public albums. And friends will get notification if my picasa albums updated. Google photo need to share every album manually. Need the same function!

  5. My process is almost identical to yours, except I’ve been using flickr instead of google photos, and I’ve been coming to the realization that online is the way of the future. We take about 3,000 pictures a year as a family (and another couple hundred videos) using multiple cameras/phones/tablets, and I’m the one who gets to centralize them, review them, share them, and back them all up. One of the big advantages of going all online is not needing to even own a home computer anymore, but… I have 3 hurdles I’m struggling with with regards to changing my workflow..

    1.) Speed of processing – reviewing this many pictures seem slower online, especially using a tablet. I can flip through them pretty quickly using picasa on my desktop computer – cropping, editing, etc.

    2.) Naming convention – I have 15 years worth of pictures named Family-YYYY-####. Will I lose organization when they’re all named whatever the device chooses to name them?

    3.) Downloading and backing up – If I don’t trust “the cloud” to keep my pictures safe (ie: account is deleted, site shuts down, etc.), then I need to download them back to my external hard drive anyway. At that point, where’s the benefit of being cloud based?

    I do believe being cloud-based is the way of the future, but I’m not yet sold that today is the time for it. (although I am open minded about it…)

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

    • I couldn’t agree more! Cloud is definitely the way of the future, but the future isn’t quite here yet! Still experimenting.

  6. Good points. Captions have always been a gotcha in photo workflows.

    Here’s another issue for me: sharing with my wife and making albums using the best from our two sets of images. How do you do that with separate online accounts? In Picasa, you can merge across different directories and file locations.

    • Hmmm, with two separate accounts, you would need for one account to share with the other and then get saved. So, 1: your wife selects all the online pictures she wants to be included and sends you a link. 2. When you open that link, you can save them all to your account. Now you have both to make albums out of.

  7. Thank you for the well-written, informative article. Google Photos like any photo management, storage, display option is far from perfect. Photos is polished and has lots of nice features that may or may not be of use to the user.

    Photos is clearly designed for the smartphone photographer, i.e. the future of photography for my guess the vast majority of users. It is designed to control the problem of out of control photo collections.

    I don’t fit the profile of being a smartphone out of control photo taker. I use a prosumer/bridge point and shoot type camera; and rarely use my phone to take a photo.

    The biggest problems/drawbacks for me are; the biggest being NO Captions, inability to make an album/collection public, no slideshow option other than Android version which again no captions, and the lack of captions. No captions, then it would be nice to make a story of say a holiday and be able to edit what the algorithm creates. I’d love to see a Photos update to fix these issues, combined with an improvement to Picasa so we can upload directly at higher resolution to Photos.

    No perfect system. Flickr has been recently updated perhaps it will deserve a look see.

    Again, thanks Chris for the article.

  8. I have a new Apple computer and if I go to my pictures folder it doesn’t have the edits that I created in Picasa. if I remember correctly on my windows Computer the edits were there when I opened up the picture file but the originals were stored somewhere else in a Picasa file. What concerns me is if Google doesn’t keep updating the Picasa eventually it may not Run if Apple continues to make updates for their program. I have thousands of photos in Picasa that have been edited.

    • To make the edits permanent, and not just a function of viewing thru Picasa, you just need to do a File Save after editing.

  9. Great article, almost the same as my experiences and migration to storing all my Photos in the cloud.

    My Cons:-

    Cannot search tags in Google Photos
    Organising in albums is clumsy and difficult to maintain if adding photos over a period of time.

    it would be good to see any tags or which album(s) a photo belongs to in Photo information.

  10. How about things like facial recognition.
    and what do you mean by searching. what can you serarch for?

    • Google photos automatically groups faces together. They’re not identified but they are together. I can search for things like “Trains” “Mt Rushmore” “kayak” It’s surprising how well it finds them.

  11. Even tho the cloud is great I still like to have my pictures on my computer.

    I also put them on to archival CDs & DVDs, as I don’t want to risk losing them

    I like to add the date & time on my pix with timetophoto, fantastic software.:)

    I also like to add captions under my pix.

    I’m a very private person & don’t really like to share my pictures with others, in-fact I have set mine to only me.

    So, even tho the cloud is great, I’m still going to stick with pix on my PC & on CDs/DVDs.

    Great tips tho, thank you.:)

  12. Didn’t I read that Google does not store full resolution copies of your images? If you rely only on the cloud you will never have your original version?

    • Google Photos will store up to 16megapixel pictures in a slightly compressed file format. That’s more than enough for me. I really don’t need my original resolution anymore.

  13. I’ve always been a fan of having my data/pictures in two or three places. Keeping it only in the cloud (with exception of a small fraction of photos downloaded) makes me nervous. What if my Google account is hacked and tens of thousands of photos lost? I hear you about storing stuff in the cloud, but not exclusively for me.

    • Agreed. If it’s ONLY in the cloud then it’s not backed up. But, I’m getting to the point that I have too many pictures. I’m considering only having a computer copy of my ‘keepers.’

  14. Perhaps captioned photos produced on Picasa could be loaded to Google photos?

    • Yes, you can caption with Picasa then upload to your google account, but that requires your computer. We should be able to add captions with the mobile app as well.

  15. Most of our photos are now on Google Photo and the rest are not far behind. I love the fact fact that all our pictures are available everywhere. Unless of course, you have crappy internet.

  16. How about this to handle your camera uploads which I assume would include the camera in your drone? http://www.cnet.com/how-to/auto-upload-photos-from-your-computer-to-google-photos/

    • Yes, that is how I get pictures from my computer to my google account, but you still need a computer.

  17. When we Inherited my in-laws photographs none of them were marked and we didn’t know who half the people were. When my grandchildren were born I wrote their name and date on each photogragh using Picasa. This is important for pictures of children because with time people don’t remember which child it was.

    When I purchased an Apple computer I wouldn’t use the Apple photo program because it did not have the capability of writing text on the photograph. This will also be a dealbreaker for me with the new Google.

    • Agreed. Text on pictures is so easy with Picasa, and impossible with Google PHotos.

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