Simple shared photo management

How I tamed my photo collection.

For a long time I struggled to find a way to manage my photos and let my friends see them with a minimum of work on my part. I’ve tried emailing them, placing them on social networking sites, using online photo sharing services, and using photo organizing software. Each approach has its strengths, but none really fit the way I worked or minimized the time I had to spend babysitting it, which invariably meant that I stopped maintaining it.

But enough of what doesn’t work for me. Here’s what does.

Most desktop environments have a dedicated directory for images, usually named “Pictures” or “My Photos” or the like. Inside that on my home computer I create a new directory, Shared. Within that go all the photos I want to share. Don’t sweat the internal structure and organization; it can be changed at any time.

I use SpiderOak, an online backup, synchronization, and sharing solution. As I set up my backup set, I naturally include the Pictures directory. Once backed up, I synchronize Shared with the other computers in my family. This way everyone can add, edit, rearrange, and (if need be) delete photos from the collection. This latter point is very important to keeping the peace when there’s a teen girl in the family.

On each computer I choose a screensaver appropriate for displaying photos (xscreensaver‘s Carousel, GLSlideshow, and Photopile are hits in my house) and point it to the Shared directory. Now our computers become digital photo frames when not in use.

Then I create a share room in SpiderOak for the Shared directory. This creates a URL where the contents of Shared can be browsed online. I give family and friends the URL of the share room, calling it my online photo gallery. To the geeks I also point out that there’s an RSS feed so they can be informed of changes.

All this is very little work to set up, and essentially no work to maintain. Once set up, I move photos from the camera to the Shared directory on any computer, and my work is done. The photos are automatically synchronized across all the computers in the house, automatically added to the online gallery, and friends are automatically informed of the new photos by RSS. It doesn’t get any easier.

There are disadvantages to this method, so while it’s a great fit for me, it isn’t for everyone. Because your online gallery isn’t part of a larger social networking platform, there aren’t any like or share buttons, and anyone who wants to comment on an image is going to have to do it like your grandfather did, by email. Nor does the gallery accommodate metadata, so any tagging or commenting you do in photo organizing software isn’t going to be publicly visible. But the ease of setup and maintenance can’t be beat.

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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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