Cloud Photography

I’ve recently developed an interest in cloud computing.  As this is a photography blog, I’ve decided to perform an experiment to see whether it’s worth our time for photographers to move to The Cloud.  First, what is cloud computing?  The goal of cloud computing is to provide users with constant access to their software and data from anywhere using any device.  You’re probably already a part of the cloud just by using web-based email.  Your emails sit on a server “in the cloud” and you can get access to them from anywhere with a browser.  Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are the big players in the cloud computing arena, offering lots of free or cheap storage.  Microsoft and Google both offer an entire suite of free office software that runs entirely in your browser.  It’s up to the user to decide whether it’s worth trusting one of these companies with their data in exchange for a lot of convenience.  Convenience that lasts only as long as a constant internet connection is maintained.  Trade-offs abound.

What does this have to do with photography?
Just as there are office apps that run in the browser, there are also photo-editing apps.  Are these apps as good as their desktop counterparts?  That’s what I aim to find out.

What are the benefits of cloud computing to photographers?

  • Persistent backups
  • Instant sharing with clients, friends and family
  • No need for 5 TB hard drives and supercomputers
  • Access to photos and software from anywhere – edit photos from the computer in the hotel lobby or at grandma’s house

And the drawbacks?

  • Software choice
  • Cost – large storage plans can get pricey while good hardware keeps getting cheaper
  • RAW processing – see software choice
  • Trust – forced to trust that Microoglesoftazon will keep your data safe and private
  • Internet connection is mandatory
  • Calibration – colors on different devices vary wildly

Using Windows or Linux or OSX will make it too easy to cheat and use familiar desktop tools.  Therefore, I will be using Joli OS, the installed version of Jolicloud.  Jolicloud is a free operating system based on Ubuntu Linux that can run entirely in a browser.  When installed on a computer, Joli OS is essentially just a big browser window.  There are some apps that run locally such as GIMP, but for the most part everything it runs must be a webapp.  Joli OS provides some local storage space, but I am going to treat it as a temporary place to store my data before flinging it up into the cloud.

The Experiment
I want to see what it takes to get a batch of RAW files from my camera processed and stored in the cloud using only Joli OS running on a laptop.  The only rule is that I must do the entire process from either Joli OS or a browser.  I’ll document my frustrations and my successes on this blog.  Whatever my conclusion turns out to be, I know I’ll learn a lot along the way.


9 thoughts on “Cloud Photography

  1. Good luck with this. I’m looking forward to seeing what you find out. I’m happy using the cloud for storage and for syncing but for processing I think the software out there, while decent and improving, is still nowhere near good enough. To me most of the software packages I’ve seen are at the Picasa level at best.

    I also wonder what kind of lighting fast internet connection would be required to enable serious photo editing to be feasible.

    1. So far, I’d say that you’re completely right about the software. None of them even hold up to Picasa, let alone Lightroom, which is my personal favorite. I’ll be writing more about this, but what’s missing is the integration of browsing your photos and editing them. Both Picasa (desktop version) and Lightroom are great at this, but I’ve yet to find a viable alternative online. Still looking though, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

      As for the fast internet connection, I don’t think it would be required for a good photo-editing web-app. The internet connection speed would affect the uploading of files, but you can do other things while that goes on. As for the editing itself, the only data that needs to be sent back and forth are your commands and the resulting preview image. The heavy lifting would all be done on the app provider’s servers. When the software catches up, this can open the doors to using a cheap tablet or a 10-year old computer. Keeping the displays calibrated and consistent is where the wrinkle comes in.

  2. Interesting, looking forward to future posts about this. Until now, I have never thought about online editing (I’ve loaded my lappy and desktop w/CS5 as it “allows” two (ha) installations).

    1. It all comes down to what’s important to the user. Desktop software such as Photoshop runs great on certain machines and is far more powerful than any web app. However, desktop software (especially expensive commercial desktop software) is restrictive when it comes to hardware requirements and licensing. These are trade offs that every computer user faces and it will be interesting to see where we’re at 5 years from now.

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