Cloud Photography Part 4: Conclusions

Finally, the epic conclusion to my cloud photography experiment.  In part 1 I laid out the details of the experiment in which I would pretend I was a photographer who had to live entirely in the cloud.  Part 2 described the particular challenges of using a cloud based operating system for handling RAW files.  In part 3 I discussed the various web-based photo editing software available today.

The world of cloud computing is moving fast.  After I wrote part 1, Apple announced iCloud and Google began selling ChromeOS laptops.  The argument could be made that cloud storage is pointless since hard drives have become so cheap, but cheap digital storage goes both ways.  If it’s cheap for you to buy one 1TB hard drive, how cheap do you think it is (per hard drive) for Google to buy 10,000 of them?  The biggest argument against cloud computing is the requirement that we hand over our trust to external entities (Google, Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, etc).  The risks of remote storage are real and Dropbox users like myself were recently given a strong reminder of that fact.  Dropbox had a small coding bug with the unfortunate effect that any password would work to log onto any account.  Whoops.  As always, the forces of security and convenience are battling each other.  Do I really need access to my entire digital life from anywhere?  Maybe not.

The cloud, it turns out, is best in moderation.  Placing all of your data in the cloud and relying on web-based tools to process that data can be just as restrictive as working 100% locally.  I ran into one difficulty after another trying to remain cloud-only.  For now, I’d say I’m fully committed to working on my desktop computer with Lightroom.  If you do want to try living in the cloud, here are some things I’d recommend to make things as painless as possible:

  • Work with JPEGs.  Work out what camera settings you like and learn to live with them.  Set the contrast and sharpening low to give you more latitude when editing the JPEGs later.
  • Do as much editing, deleting, and processing as you can before uploading your photos to the cloud.  Google+ has the best photo gallery I’ve seen yet, but it still sucks at quickly going through a lot of photos and deleting the uglies.
  • Watch the terms of service.  This depends on how Serious with a capital “S” you are about your photos, but be careful not to give your rights away as soon as you upload photos to the cloud.
Next, I’ll go through just how much cloud is in my photographic life now.
  • Editing, processing, and exporting is done on my desktop using Lightroom with RAW files.
  • RAW files and full-size JPEGs are backed up locally and to an online backup service not optimized for photos or sharing
  • Large web-sized JPEGs are uploaded to Picasa for personal use, to flickr for sharing, or to this blog for whatever it is I do here.
  • This gives me access to the backups from anywhere and a nice collection of shareable photos that can be embedded in forums, blogs, or wherever with ease.
Ok, how’d the photos turn out?  Below are my favorite 10.  The results were acceptable, but as I said I’m not a convert.  Maybe in 5 years I’ll try again.  Or maybe I won’t have a choice…
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2 thoughts on “Cloud Photography Part 4: Conclusions

  1. First, thank you for this study. I think you should submit it to someone. Think we could use it for the Photoblog Alliance?

    Second, all of this thinking about where people are trying to take digital imaging just makes me want to throw out the digital camera and go back to analog. No one is creating standards and the technology changes constantly, which doesn’t give enough time for a standard to be established. This is a huge problem.

    I know the standards for film. They’re relatively unchanged for the past few decades. And for making prints I just assume use film anyway because they seem richer.

    Lastly, if most images are going to be displayed on a screen, isn’t shooting in RAW overkill? How many people shooting today actually need to shoot in RAW? Aren’t the majority of amateurs and semi-amateurs displaying online only? Anything more than 72 ppi is wasted on a monitor. So maybe as less need arises for RAW processing the limitations of cloud processing will be more acceptable for more photographers.

    Thanks again. Great series of posts.

  2. Thanks, Brian. You can absolutely use this on the Photoblog Alliance site. Even though it’s only 6 months old, it’s probably already wildly out of date :).

    The divide I see isn’t so much film vs digital anymore, but print vs screen. Cell phone cameras are becoming incredibly optimized for screen sharing with apps for processing and sharing photos directly from the phone. Prints are obviously falling out of favor in general, but from personal experience people get a lot more excited if you share a print (in an album, on a wall, or in a book) than if you show them photos on a screen. However, viewing photos on an large HDTV is pretty impressive and may see more use once our TV’s become more integrated.

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