Some friends and other people have been asking me how we store and share our photos. You probably can guess that I take hundreds of photos a month on multiple devices and share them in a variety of places (like Instagram and Facebook). I am also working to scan a 50 year backlog of family photos from 4 families in a way that can be shared and printed by family members.
When Molly was a newborn I started testing out various photo sorting softwares and how they interfaced with various online photo sharing options. This was SO FRUSTRATING. What I wanted was a comprehensive desktop application that would auto sort and tag faces and places and then seamlessly upload that info with captions and tags to a photo site. So ideally all I would have to do would be to approve the facial recognition tags, type some captions if I felt like it and hit "upload". What actually happened is that I tried Picasa (Google) and Photos (Apple) and Lightroom (Adobe) and tagged and approved THOUSANDS of photos from my hard drive on each one (days and days of work), only to find that no matter which photo sharing website I chose, there was some kind of flaw. Some websites wouldn't take my tags or captions, making all my work futile, some had so many ads that it was frustrating to look through the pictures.
Jay spent a while searching the internet and found Piwigo (I should add that this post is not sponsored, I legitimately love Piwigo and am recommending it to all of you because it's awesome). At first I was skeptical based purely on the premise that I had never heard of it. So we got a free trial and I explored some of the features.
The Best Parts of Piwigo:
- Unlimited amount of photos and unlimited file sizes. This meets my storage needs (it functions as a backup of my photo files in addition to my computer and Jay's server.)
- People can download the full sized file if they want to save it or print it.
- It lets me tag whatever I want and has comprehensive sorting features - so I can easily say I want to see every picture of me and my dad at the cottage and have it only return those results.
- You can sort by date posted or date created or by map. You can sort into albums and sub-albums and sub-sub-albums. My favourite is sorting into a calendar year and then picking to see all photos from one year of my childhood, in order.
- You can password protect everything (which we did) and make accounts for people to have access to view (the option we chose) or to view and upload.
- You can upload plugins to do fun things like embed videos (more on this later), add birth dates to your tags so that after the tag on each picture it lists the tagged persons age at the time the picture was taken, and track statistics (so I can see that my mom has logged in this week and watched 30 videos, or whatever).
- You can set privacy levels for each person, so I can choose to have my baby bathtub shots kept to family only, or I can choose to limit my friends accounts to only have access to the things they will care about (pictures of them and our family) and not things they don't need or want to see (like shots of my extended family or friends they might not know).
The Downsides of Piwigo:
- It costs money. We ended up deciding that the benefits outweigh the cost, and especially having no ads, no upload limits, and such great search features. We also consider this a backup of our files (instead of paying for something like Cloud Storage as a backup solution)
- It doesn't support video. We ended up buying a Vimeo subscription as well to host our video, and we embed the vimeo links into Piwigo where they look seamlessly like everything else, with tags and dates and so on. We also set our Vimeo account to only show the video on Piwigo, which is a few steps extra work and a bit of a pain. I would happily pay more to Piwigo if they could host video too.
- It doesn't connect to any of the programs I tried for sorting photos and video on my computer. I ended up continuing my initial file storage system (very high tech - sorted into months and years in folders on my hard drive) and just tagging and captioning everything once I upload it. The downside to this is that there is no facial recognition software helping me tag everything - time consuming!
- Most people don't remember to check it. Both of our moms and some of my relatives use it regularly but generally people seem to assume that I would have posted anything new on facebook and don't check (not true guys! I post about 10 things to Piwigo for every 1 on Facebook or Instagram).
This is truly a labour of love for me and I often sit and scroll through the photos and smile at the memories. To me it's worth the many hours of scanning and labelling and captioning and uploading and photoshopping and trying to decide when photos were taken and which of my great aunts is which. Admittedly, I blog less because I spend so much time with our family photographs but it's worth it.
So that's it! I would love to hear what you guys do to archive and share your family photos? (Or if you want a login to our site and I know you in real life, just email me!) Or if you have any questions, or suggestions for improvement on what we do, let me know!