Use the cloud to share your album

Use the cloud to share your album

Molly Wood reviews a few online services that help you create collaborative photo albums

Use the cloud to share your album

Modern-day vacation scenes unfolded this summer on a trip to Tuscany. Parents whipped out their phones to snap photos of their children. Other vacationers pulled out large DSLR cameras, the sort that have big lenses, to capture artistic images of thousand-year-old walled cities, sunsets and thin-crust pizza.

And then one person said: “We’re all taking such great pictures. I wish there were a way for us all to put pictures into one online album so we can look at them later.”

There is a way - more than one, actually - to create collaborative photo albums online.

Even if you came home with hundreds of photos, there are probably nice pictures you missed. Collaborative online albums, which allow multiple people to submit photos, help fill in the holes. And in most cases, they can be shared easily with only the people you want to share them with - maybe only those who were actually there.

A good place to start with one of these albums is with some of the cloud or social media services you probably already use.

Google, Apple and Facebook all offer collaborative album options, of varying degrees of difficulty. (Flickr does not offer collaborative albums, oddly enough, even though it is one of the more popular online photo services.)

For events that involved a lot of people taking pictures on their iPhones, iCloud Photo Sharing is probably the service for you.

With this option, you can create shared albums on an Apple mobile device, directly from the photo gallery - which is great if all your photos are on your phone. Just choose multiple photos, tap the sharing button, and select iCloud. Or, in the photo gallery, tap the shared cloud icon at the bottom of the screen, and create a new shared stream.

You can invite iPhone users with a phone number. Others can be invited with an email address.
If you start the album, you can decide whether subscribers to the album can post to it, and you can “like” and comment on photos posted by your friends. Shared albums can hold up to 5,000 photos, and they don’t count against your personal storage limit on iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage system.

The service is delightfully simple to use - once you make it through setup on multiple devices. If you’re not already using iCloud, you’ll have to enable it on your Apple mobile device, under Settings, and on your Mac, under System Preferences, and make sure photo sharing is also enabled.

Windows users must download a free program called the iCloud Control Panel, and they must also set up an iCloud account.

By default, people can view shared albums only on iOS devices or iPhoto, or in an iCloud albums folder on Windows. But you can also choose to turn the album into a website, which generates a link to share with your collaborators. The website has limited functionality, though: You can’t upload pictures, “like” photos or post comments.

That’s too bad, since I find the iPhoto app slow and bulky, and Web uploading would make life easier for people on Windows or Chromebooks. Obviously, users of Android and other phones cannot upload their pictures directly from their phones to an iCloud shared album.

On the positive side, having a shared album in iPhoto makes it easy to order prints or make a book out of them.

Facebook’s shared albums is a better option for people using different types of devices. Any photo album you create on Facebook, or even albums you have already created, can be turned into a shared album.

On the Web, just open an album and click “change to shared album.” In the Facebook app on iPhone, navigate to the album, tap Edit and choose “allow contributors.” You can also create a new album on your iPhone and then choose the option to allow contributors.

Neither option is available on the Android version of the app, although Facebook says it is coming soon. However, anyone can upload photos to the shared album from any mobile device or computer.
In a nice nod to privacy, you can actually share albums only with contributors, or just with your Facebook friends. You can also share with the public at large (which you do at your peril).

If this all sounds somewhat simpler than iCloud sharing, that is because it is. But everyone sharing photos will need to be a member of Facebook, and the service requires a few extra steps on mobile devices. Photo sharing is more seamless with iCloud on an iPhone, and it’s fun to watch friends upload pictures to an iCloud stream in real time.

The options from Apple and Facebook are better than Google’s, which lets you share using Picasa Web Albums. Picasa is the photo upload and storage site that is owned, and often seems neglected, by Google.

Picasa’s collaborative sharing is far too complicated for most people to bother with. For example, it’s not the same thing as Google Plus, Google’s social media network, although if you are logged into a Google Plus account, you’ll be redirected to your photos there when you type in
Google Plus doesn’t feature collaborative photo albums. So if you get redirected to Google Plus, you must choose the option that says “Click here to go back to Picasa Web Albums.”

When in Picasa, click the Share button at the top of the page of an album. To add contributors, scroll down past all the Google Plus sharing options and click the link that says “Share via email only.” On the next screen, you can add people by email address and check the box that allows those you share with to contribute photos.

This method of collaborating is limited, however. There is no stand-alone Picasa mobile app, just third-party album viewers. And you can’t upload photos to a shared Picasa album using the Google Plus app. In addition, any photos uploaded by your friends count against your overall Google Drive storage.
There are other options for making collaborative photo albums, but most have even bigger drawbacks. The bare-bones Yogile lets groups upload a paltry 100 megabytes free - or about 50 to 100 iPhone photos - and costs $45 (Rs 2719) a year after that.

PastBook is an attractive app that lets you create collaborative photo books for printing, but it is available only for iPhone at the moment.

My friends and I used a site called Eversnap, which lets you set up an account with just a username and password, and lets groups with fewer than 20 collaborators upload unlimited photos and video. There are paid options for big events like weddings.

Eversnap was easy to use, although it has some issues: It does not work properly in some browsers, like Chrome and Firefox, for example, which is a pretty major downside.

There are many options for creating collaborative photo albums, but none are ideal. Startups like Yogile suffered when Facebook introduced collaborative albums, because it’s such an easy cross-platform option. But in some ways, a totally separate service like Eversnap or Yogile is the most accessible, because it doesn’t require your friends to use an iPhone, sign up for a Google account or be on Facebook.

Still, I find that it’s easiest to get people to embrace a service they already use, instead of asking them to sign up for something new.

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