Cloud sync of photos – what I REALLY want…


Just got done taking a quick look at today’s announcement of Adobe Carousel – their new cloud-based photo-syncing/sharing/editing app. Not sure I totally get the utility of it for me, personally – Dropbox gives me easy sync between all my devices already and I can’t imagine I’ll be doing a lot of image-editing on the fly. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

But it got me to thinking about a piece of the storage/cloud issue that hasn’t really been well-addressed yet: The ability to sync some things locally but still have access to more things on an on-demand basis. In other words, I want to be able to have all my ‘favorite’ photos synched between all my devices – phones and laptops – and kept available as a local copy. (i.e. I want to be able to see them even if I have no network connection). But if I do have a network connection then everything else should be easily accessible as well.

Dropbox sort-of does this – they allow you to specify certain folders that aren’t synched to specific devices, but if you want to get to those non-synched folders you have to go into the clunky web interface. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just see those other filenames as if they were local files and if you clicked on them then Dropbox would transparently run out and grab them as requested? Maybe even have a local cache where the most recent ones are kept around until something newer flushes them? In other words, it would seem as if I have all of my files local, but some of them would just take a little bit longer to access.

And going beyond this sort of ‘dumb’ file synching (where all files are treated the same way), what I’d really love to see is a storage/sync tool that understands that photos are different from other file-types, and that often-times it’s perfectly acceptable to have a lower-resolution (or lower quality) version of the photo available instead.  A 1 megapixel medium-quality jpeg version of an image is wayyyy smaller (like 99% smaller!) than a 16 megapixel original.

In other words, my ideal system would intelligently manage my photos so that everything is available at low resolution even if I have no network connection but if I am connected to the magical ‘cloud’ then it (transparently) will serve me the full-resolution image instead.

(The same thing conceivably applies to music as well of course. Let me keep a few GB of my favorite songs on my iPhone at full quality, but if I really want to listen to something obscure from the other 20GB of music I own then I can at least play a slightly degraded version of it.)

The key to all of this (and why it would ideally be something built into the operating system) is to make it as transparent as possible. Image viewing or sharing shouldn’t require me to keep track of whether I’m offline or not – they should just figure it out and do the best job they can at showing me the best quality version possible.  Simple :-)

I’m seeing a lot of ‘cloud’ services pop up – and they’re all great if you’ve got a 100% reliable network connection behind them. But people, I’ve got AT&T – a 100% reliable network is, unfortunately, not something I’m familiar with…


5 thoughts on “Cloud sync of photos – what I REALLY want…

  1. Thought provoking stuff!

    I share your opinion and just think Apple and Adobe are sort of missing the big picture. We would all love “all our stuff everywhere” but I am not sure I would be able to afford a 4Tb iPhone and I am too old and feeble to carry it anyway.

    What we really need is metadata synched to the Cloud. Both Apple and Adobe are doing this to an extent but they are not taking it to its logical conclusion. I am connected to a rural Welsh telephone exchange. BT aren’t even promising a date yet when that will get to fibre so my upload speed is about 350Kbps. So complete synching of things like photo, video and music content is a non-starter. The metadata would be small enough to sync and to could be combined with a preview generation from the source client like you are suggesting.

    I also want the metadata to be the metadata I already have. The only duller thing than entering metadata is having to do it twice! I was disappointed how little integration there was between Aperture and FCPX metadata and it sounds like Adobe is reinventing the wheel in Carousel.

  2. Surprisingly I see no mention from Adobe of integration with Lightroom. This would be a lot more valuable if it not only synced the photos with your iOS camera rolls, but also into a folder in your Lightroom library. I would never have to import again.

  3. Jungle Disk does the first bit. The desktop version has two modes of operation: Dropbox-style, every-file-on-every-computer syncing; or you can define a cache size on each computer and it’ll store that amount of your most recently accessed files. With the latter all of your files will be visible, and any file you access that’s not locally cached will be fetched transparently from The Cloud. If you don’t have network connectivity you still have access to what’s cached. They also have an iPhone app (don’t know about Android) for file access, but I haven’t tried it.

    I think it’s a great tool, but this functionality doesn’t seem to be very well advertised.

  4. I’m with you, Ron. I’ve often wished for an “Aperture Touch” app for my iPad that I could use for sorting/keywording/ rating my entire library. Don’t need to edit. Just need to see. And of course that organization would sync back to my Mac over iCloud… Right?

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