What is the best photo organization and sharing tool currently? (replacement for Google Picasa)

A neighbor recently asked for a camera recommendation for a 12-year-old and also a way to organize and share photos.

A few years ago I would have recommended Google Picasa, which was a great mixture of the best of desktop (responsive and powerful) and the Web (good for sharing). Google decided to throw away everyone’s years of work, though, by de-supporting the application, then causing uploads to fail as of March 26, 2018 (so if you spent years with Picasa adding to a collection (“Album”) that was synced to the web you can’t add a recently-taken photo to the collection). They didn’t release the software as open-source. As far as I know they didn’t make a real migration tool that preserves all of the database information on the high-res photos that remain on one’s desktop, e.g., that Photo X belongs to Album Y. (It looks as though there is an independent project called P2Lr that will migrate Picasa to Adobe Lightroom.) I think that they also managed to break a lot of old links from web content into Picasa uploads. Maybe in software the flip side of “woken” is “broken”? (See USA Today for what folks at Google are doing instead of taking care of loyal Picasa customers. WIRED shows that the male/female ratio at Google has remained constant for at least four years, so Picasa customers can virtuously blame white males for their suffering.)

Adobe Lightroom is sort of an obvious choice in the sense that Adobe has paying customers and presumably cares enough about them to preserve their work. However, it is $120/month including 1 TB of cloud storage. That seems like a fair price, but a 12-year-old might need/want something free?

What do readers think?

[Separately, the family of the 12-year-old is considering “Nikon D3400 dSLR (18-55mm)” for the kid. I’m not sure what she wants to take pictures of so maybe the kit zoom actually is a good starter lens? Certainly they are a lot better quality than kit zooms from 20 years ago.]

18 thoughts on “What is the best photo organization and sharing tool currently? (replacement for Google Picasa)

  1. For organization, I liked the method that Windows 7 used, where it would sync the latest files into a folder you could name. You didn’t have to wipe the SD card and it figured out what was the latest batch you had done. I don’t think Win10 acts the same.

    Thus for organization, I would do a folder structure of years, then inside, months. If the number of pictures taken is more than 250 per month, then subdivide with folders inside each month.

    For photo display, is the sharing “people on the web” or just “this limited group of family and friends”?

  2. I’m confused. When Picasa was deprecated, I think Google automatically migrated all of my photos and albums to Google Photos, so nothing was lost? Maybe you were only running Picasa on desktop at the time, and not syncing with the online version? I agree, however, that GP does not have the desktop editing capabilities of Picasa. Also, if I wanted hard copies of images (e.g., for holiday cards), Picasa automatically linked with photo providers such as Walgreens, Snapfish, etc. As for your friend, I think Adobe make some “lite” versions of their editing software.

  3. That’s a great question! I look forward to some good suggestions from your readers.

    I have a couple thoughts in the meantime.

    I’d like a system that isn’t subject to the whims of our software overlords, and that’s difficult given the requirement to organize and share in one solution.

    Both Windows and Mac offer free organization and sharing tools centered around OneDrive and iCloud. Free runs out very quickly (these days at 5GB), but with some savvy, that 5GB can go a long way for just decent-res shares, while keeping the originals local. Also highly recommend starting to train in the use of a USB drive or other offline storage. Backups aren’t just for pros, and the cloud can get expensive or just go away someday.

    As for Adobe, my favorite organization tool is Bridge. It’s barely mentioned, but metadata is stored right in the JPG (or DNG in my case) files, so it’s not library/software dependent. It’s free with an Adobe account, with the limitation that you don’t get Adobe Camera Raw unless you have a license for one of their suite. It has wonderful organizational tools, and I believe Adobe also has a free 5GB space for storing (not sure about sharing) media.

    I’m sure there are boatloads of other software and cloud solutions, but I think these have really good chances of surviving well into a 12-year-old’s lifespan.

  4. Jimmy: They did migrate some stuff to Google Photos, but not the full-res files. So if your goal is to make a print-resolution collection I don’t think it works (you can organize the low-res files on the Web, but then have to hunt around on your desktop computer for the print-resolution originals?). Picasa enabled you to deal with each photo only once, for both Web and print.

    At least some of the migration broke old links to Picasa-synced albums and folders.

    (I had everything starred in Picasa synced, pretty much, as well as some complete folders.)

  5. I’ve heard people rave about Mylio in terms of speed and ease of use.

    On the plus side, photo sync is all they do, so they won’t shutter the service if it becomes inconvenient like Adobe did with Revel, not to mention Adobe’s track record of shocking incompetence at security.

    That said, Mylio is still a proprietary service with subscription forever. I’d much prefer an open-source self-hosted solution myself.

  6. @philg
    I think Google Photos gives you the option to store images at their “original” resolution. But you have to pay for a yearly storage plan (or possibly get free unlimited storage if you buy a Google Pixel phone). On the other hand, you get free unlimited storage if you agree to the lower-resolution images, as you mentioned.

  7. Jimmy: https://www.technobuffalo.com/2017/10/04/pixel-2-unlimited-google-photos-storage-expiration-date/ and https://www.cnet.com/news/pixel-2-unlimited-google-photo-storage-promo/ say that the free unlimited storage is through 2020 for Pixel customers.

    It looks like serious users will have to pay $1,200 per year to Google (1-10 TB of space) to do what they previously could do with Picasa for free on their desktop. See https://www.google.com/drive/pricing/

    (I don’t go crazy with photos since I am not a sports or action photographer and yet I have 1.3 TB on my desktop computer. My video efforts are mostly family. Yet I have another 1 TB of video. Given that video and photo resolution seem to grow at roughly the same rate as disk size I am not sure that a pure cloud-based system makes sense. An 8 TB drive is $200 and it should last 5 years, right? Buying that much storage from Google will cost $6,000. Admittedly the Google storage is backed up, but cloud backup via Crashplan will be $120/year, $600 over 5 years.)

    Given Google’s casual discard of Picasa users’ work, I wonder if it makes sense to trust them with decades of family memories. What if they decide that they don’t want to be in the photo storage business anymore? Or that they don’t want deplorable users and suspect a photo-storing customer of having voted for Trump (based on a Gmail scan)? Hasn’t Google, at least through its YouTube subsidiary, discarded a lot of content from people whose politics Google doesn’t like? (e.g., gun enthusiastics, a thought-criminal in Canada: http://dailycaller.com/2017/08/01/google-and-youtube-ban-prof-who-refused-to-use-gender-neutral-pronouns/?utm_source=site-share (locked out of Gmail and YouTube))

  8. It used to be people worried about formats becoming outdated and not being able to convert (especially losslessly) from an older format to a newer one.

    Now we have to worry that Google will deprecate a functional app for a much less functional app with chat capabilities.

  9. Still soldiering on with Picasa (which is still available at https://web.archive.org/web/20150402225216/http://dl.google.com/picasa/picasa39-setup.exe )

    I make an album, click on the album title and go CTRL+SHIFT+S. This allows me to export the album to a folder on my SSD. Then I go to Google Photos, make an album and drag all of the pics in the new folder on my SSD to the online album.

    Still video is a problem. Even though I pay Google through the nose for storage, they will not accept >1GB files. So these I have to scale down and/or recompress using Avidemux or VLC. Then drag those to the Google Photos album.

    It was all so much faster an easier when working desktop software was allowed.

    I’ll probably continue using Picasa until a stronger/faster piece of software shows up (that may never happen).

    The 12yo could start out using https://www.digikam.org/ (free, not as broken as Picasa) and Flickr/Smugmug (free until some hard to guess point, better than Google Photos integration – https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=376913)

    And, as usual, have Crashplan running in the background at the new, hight price.

  10. For my purposes, uploading all photos in low resolution to Google Photos via automated processes (Google application from my laptop and the app from the iPhone). Then I create the albums online.

    I download the hi resolution photos via Apple “Image Capture” to the hard drive, which is backed up online via Backblaze plus manual backups to an external hard drive.

    I used to use Picasa for downloading the high res photos, but it’s been failing a lot lately, so giving it up.

    Looking forward to hearing some other replacements for Picasa.

  11. Been using Smugmug for many years and have a few terabytes of photos there.

    Highlands recommended.

  12. I used to use stand-alone Lightroom (which you can still buy without Creative Cloud, btw), but realistically ended up just using Apple Photos.

    If this is an Apple family (which it most likely is) I recommend Apple Photos to start with – you still need to pay for storage, of course, but most serious Apple users are already paying it for iPhone backup, photos, etc anyway (and Apple has family plans).

    For camera I would strongly recommend starting with mirrorless, Fuji X line would be my personal preference, Sony, Olympus are reasonable choices as well.

  13. For lenses: the 18-55 kit lens takes bland pictures. For $100 you can get a 35 f/1.8 and learn to walk around to frame a shot. That will also be possible to get some nice bokeh which is one of those things that make it obvious the photo wasn’t done with a camera phone.

    I have a similar model Nikon and the lens that lives on it most of the time is the Sigma 18-250. It’s huge and the aperture is not great but the focal range covers almost every use case so you are never fumbling to switch lenses. Maybe not important for a 12 year old but I’m mostly trying to take kid pics and they are only photogenic for brief instants.

  14. Full frame Nikkor, but mine is very, very sharp. Also very lightweight.
    Works great on my DX format D90.
    Note: most Nikon or Canon zooms are pretty good these days, and fast lenses aren’t as critical with a modern digital camera, which is quite happy shooting at 400 ASA or higher.

  15. Yandex disk? They added a special photo function recently. It has albums, easy sharing, desktop and mobile apps. You get 10Gb for free (and an extra 32Gb if you use the app), but a Tb would only cost $10 a month. It’s Russian obviously, but they have an English version.


  16. My main storage location for all my photos is my computer (now have an SDD and my old disk as external backup), so the full-res versions I have at home, barring a disaster. I have always edited in Picasa and still do. I used to make albums to share of a subset of my desktop collection. No one wants to see all my pictures from my latest Paris trip and I see no need to keep all those in the cloud. I used to upload the albums to webpicasa and was totally pleased. They were migrated to google photos, and that is less good, but it is tolerable and I will leave all my albums there, and any new albums I also put there, but now I have to upload (after editing on Picasa) from the computer and therefore select the ones I want and then put them in the order I like, which is for me my biggest loss in comparison to how it used to be. I used to order and caption everything on my desktop and then upload what I wanted to share straight from Picasa. But uploading from the desktop does not preserve the order without Picasa. I would love to see someone build a Picasa clone that uploads to google photos (or a choice of storage options), preserving the order, and I’d pay for such a software product.

  17. Somebody briefly mentioned it, but Digikam is surprisingly good for both editing and organization. Plus your image library can be stored in MySQL / MariaDB if you want to share it on a local network. I’ve found it a little slow for huge collections but it does the trick.

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