Almost everyone I talk with has a similar problem. While my primary focus is on old photos and videos and helping people get those into a digital form and into their lives, in almost every conversation with my clients I'm asked for guidance on managing their digital photos. "My iPhone keeps running out of storage!", "Are my photos automatically syncing with my computer?", "How do I deal with my spouse's photos?", "How should I back up my photos?" — sound familiar?
People are scared about their digital photo collections. And this problem is getting bigger every day. Collectively we took an estimated 1 trillion photos in 2015! There are a number of options out there for organizing your digital photos. Over the last six months I've looked at quite a few of them. My criteria for choosing one started with this wishlist:
• Allow me to view collections of photos without navigating through folders. I want to see a visual thumbnail, not just the date of a photo and I don't want to rely on the title of a photo. Going in and out of folders to find something doesn't work well for me.
• Pull from multiple devices and locations where my photos are stored. Ideally, avoid putting all the photos on my desktop computer as that will take up so much space. If possible, leave the majority of the photos on an external hard drive.
• Allow me to edit and organize photos from my laptop, even though the originals are elsewhere.
• Allow my husband to access the photo collection from his Windows laptop.
• Give me access to at least some of my photos and albums from my iPhone.
• Manage videos too! We take just as many short videos as we do photos these days.
• Include at least basic editing tools.
• Provide tools for tagging people and locations, and for making albums.
• Deal with duplicate photos.
I considered a number of solutions including Apple's Photos and DropBox's Carousel. Apple's solution is Mac-centric, and I have found the whole Photos to iCloud/PhotoStream connection to be very confusing. DropBox's Carousel app had potential, but they discontinued it last year. My search was by no means exhaustive, though I was getting exhausted researching the pros and cons of each system! What I really wanted was a trusted smart friend to tell me what to do.
Then it occurred to me: it's the business of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers to figure out this kind of thing. They, if anyone, would have a system to recommend, right? And they did: Mylio.
I was shocked and delighted to discover that Mylio meets all but one of my wishlist items! It provides a single visual interface to photos and videos that live on many different devices, both Mac and Windows, handheld and desktop. It has an import tool that pulls both photos and albums out of iPhoto. You can point it to an external hard drive with photos in folders — it will "watch" those without moving them onto your computer. Or, you can choose to have Mylio copy or move your photos into Mylio and onto your main computer. It's automatically importing my iPhone photos. It will pull images from my husband's laptop. As long as all the devices are on the same Wifi network, syncing will happen. I'll be able to see, through one interface, all of my 220,000 photos and videos — and tag them with faces, locations and more.
Mylio allows you to to choose the size of the photo it pulls on to each device. For my iPhone, I chose thumbnail size, for my Laptop a medium size, and my desktop computer will have the full size photos. No more "out of storage" issues on my iPhone and I'll still be able to see all the photos. I can edit and tag and move photos around from any of these devices, and those changes will be reflected and sync'd across all of them.
The only item on my wishlist that Mylio does not handle is dealing with duplicates, at least not after importing. It seems you can have it spot duplicates on some imports. I emailed their customer support folks, and was pleased to get a response within 16 hours — and that was on the weekend. They pointed me to a third-party tool called PhotoSweeper from OverMacs. PhotoSweeper appears to be Mac-only; I don't know if there is Windows solution. Once my collection of photos is fully imported, I'll give PhotoSweeper a try.
Mylio isn't cheap. They have a basic plan for $50/year, but I'd blow past the 50,000 photo limit on my first imports. With my insanely large collection, I can't go with the Standard plan either for $100/year — it allows up to 5 devices and up to 100,000 photos. I had no choice but to choose the Advanced plan for $250/year, with its 500,000 photo allowance and up to 12 devices. Not cheap, but for me worth it for the peace of mind and the tools to finally get my collection in order. And after eliminating duplicates, it's possible my collection will be back down under 100,000 photos and I'll be able to downgrade my account.
I'm in the honeymoon phase with Mylio. Is the promise of Mylio too good to be true? Everything is importing as I type this, so I have yet to really put Mylio to the test. Over the next few days I'll be doing just that and will report back. I'm hopeful that I'll have good news to share!
Links mentioned in this post:
The Association of Personal Photo Organizers
Anyone else grappling with their massive confusing unorganized digital photo collections? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.
Laura Clark Murray
I help people capture and expand the knowledge of their family history, and guide them on using online research to find the stories of their ancestors.
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