Everything You Need to Know About Google Plus and Photos
It has been said that the biggest feature of Google Plus is that it’s not Facebook. However, there’s another feature that may be of interest to all you Gadget Lab photo nerds out there: the photo integration. It turns out that G+ is a pretty sweet way to manage and view your shared photos.
If you have ever tried to share your pictures on Facebook, then you’ll know the pain. And if you have tried to track down other people’s photos, it’s even worse. I use a third party app for this to see photos of my nephews because Facebook drives me crazy. Google Plus makes both sharing and viewing a whole lot easier.
Getting the Photos in
You can add photos to your posts, just like you can with Twitter, but this article is about using and sharing galleries of your own snaps. To begin, click on the Photos tab in the group of icons at the top of every page. You’re brought to your main photo page, and shown the latest snaps from anyone in your circles. Click on any of these and you’ll be taken to the album view for that person.
To upload your photos you currently have a few choices. The quickest way to start is to use the browser. Click the big red “upload new photos” button, currently top right, and you gat a big rectangle into which you can drag the photos, one or more at a time.
These upload with a progress meter on each image. Once done, mouse over the thumbnails to add captions, rotate or delete the pictures. Pick a new gallery name, or add to an existing album, and you’re done. Next up, you can add an album description, and pick which of your circles you want to share with.
This step is key to what makes photo-sharing great in Google Plus. By choosing particular circles of friends, you can target snaps to the right people. Thus, all my bike polo photos go only to my Polo circle, to avoid boring everybody else with them. Family photos can go to family only, and a picture of my nephew playing bike polo can go to both. It’s quick, and once you have your circles set up, extremely powerful.
And if people in these circles aren’t yet signed up with Google Plus, no problem. You can choose to have G+ send them an e-mail instead, and they can come look at the pictures without signing up. This means your Google Plus network contains anyone in the world with an e-mail address. Take that, Facebook.
Worried that you shared a photo of you drunkenly dancing a striptease on a table in your local bar with the wrong group? No problem. Click the little white “View profile as…” button and choose who you’d like to be. You can view your stream as it is seen by “anyone on the web”, or enter an e-mail address (of your boss, say) and check what they can see. It’s neat, and makes you a lot more confident in sharing things.
Currently, the only G+ app available is for Android, with iOS “coming soon.” Using the app, you can choose to have photos uploaded automatically to Google Plus. These are stored privately until you decide to share them.
IOS users currently have a few choices. Thanks to Google Plus’ photos ties to Picasa, you can use any app that has Picasa export to get your photos up into your albums. Some, like the excellent Photosync, will push the pictures to a selected folder (I use Picasa’s Drop Box folder, which is private). Others, like Web Albums, let you browse, upload and manage all of your Picasa albums. You can even rename your photos, and browse and edit comments. These changes then sync both ways immediately, and you can also see any of the albums your friends are sharing on Google Plus by adding their e-mail address. It’s actually a pretty great app, and might even replace the photos app for me. It looks like this, and you can grab it for $3:
This shows us that Google Plus photos are already tied deeply into Picasa, which brings us to…
Picasa, which the rumors say will soon be renamed “Google Photos,” is both a photo-sharing site and desktop software. This brings us to a third way to get your pictures into Google Plus. First, download and install Picasa, if you haven’t already (it’s free).
Once it has done importing your photos, sign in to your Google account. Then just create a new album, click on the “Sharing” drop-down and choose “Enable Sync.” You’re done. Any photos in this folder will now be automatically uploaded to Google Plus, and vice versa. In theory at least. While some of my publicly shared folders sync back to the computer, my private Drop Box doesn’t.
If you want to do some heavy editing, you can head over to the Picasa site and take care of things there using the Picnik web app. Any changes made here, from cropping to Lomo-fying to anything else are immediately propagated back to your Google Plus albums.
If you want to make some quick tweaks or just get some extra info, you can do that from inside Google Plus. Just click on a photo to take you into the blacked-out lightbox view and click one of the buttons at the bottom. Add tag lets you tag a face, and this ties into your G+ contacts. Actions, though, is where the meat is.
Here you can rotate the image, delete comments, but more interestingly you can edit and get “Photo details.” The latter will bring up a histogram along with any EXIF metadata (shutter speed, camera model, date taken etc.) Tap the left and right arrows (or scroll with the mouse) to flip between the info pages of all photos in the current album. You can also view the EXIF data for other people’s photos.
Editing lets you choose from six presets, like Instagram. Or rather, five presets and Google’s trademark “I’m feeling lucky”, which picks a random filter from the five. You can also come back later and undo any effects you have applied, reverting to the original. The effects are limited, but I have a feeling we’ll get the full Picnik suite before too long, and they’re just fine for quick fixes.
One thing to note is that there’s no slideshow yet, although you can use you arrow keys to quickly flip between images (way faster than Flickr). Neither is there any easy way to move photos between albums. As you can only publish whole albums and not individual photos, this is an annoying limitation, although I’m sure it will be fixed soon enough.
As mentioned above, you can view the photos of anyone on Google Plus just by clicking on their photos tab. You can choose not to show the photos tab at all, and also choose whether GPS data is shown, and which circles can add tags to your pictures (tags let you say who appears in the photo, remember).
All of this is invisible when you view photos, though. You see what you are authorized to see, and can quickly browse and flip through albums of images and add comments. Oddly, you currently can’t +1 a photo you like, but you can see a number in the corner of thumbnails, indicating how many comments the photo has.
Browsing is fast if your browser window is small. Go full screen and the pictures are scaled to fit, slowing things down while the images load. Photos all have their own URL and can be saved or just dragged to your desktop. It has the slick feel of Flickr, but without all the heavy crap and forced button-clicks to download a photo. In fact, you might want to pull your images out of Flickr and put them into Picasa. It’s not easy, but our sister site Ars Technica explains how to do it here.
Google Plus’ photo sharing is surprisingly robust for such a new product, likely thanks to Picasa running under the hood. Even now it is already my favorite way to share pictures, and it’s pretty likely that the feature-set will grow as soon as Picasa is fully integrated. One thing’s for sure, though. Google Plus makes Facebook look like a complex, bloated piece of junk.