UPDATE 8/27/15: I’ve rethought using the iCloud Photo Library. Read why HERE.
iPhoto is the most important app on my Mac. I’ve used it since it first debuted over 13 years ago in January, 2002. So many memories are stored in iPhoto! When my iPhoto library grew to over 350 GB I split it into 3 smaller libraries and purchased an external solid state drive for storing these photo libraries. My photos are the most important files on my Mac. I have 2 duplicate backups of this drive as well as a Time Machine backup and a Backblaze offsite backup.
I upload the photos we wish to share with family and friends to the SmugMug photo website. This has worked out well for us because SmugMug can be viewed via a browser on almost any device (except Apple TV). SmugMug offers a beautiful presentation, no ads, customizable privacy, social networking controls, helpful tech support, and unlimited storage. What originally attracted us to SmugMug was that it offered unlimited storage of full-resolution photos at a time when almost every other photo site down-sized the photos to save space.
I’ve learned the ins and outs of iPhoto and I teach a course on how to use iPhoto. I love iPhoto and SmugMug. So it was with much trepidation that I greeted Apple’s announcement last June that iPhoto would be replaced by a new app called Photos, which would store photos in an iCloud Photo Library on iCloud servers.
How is using the new Photos app with iCloud different from using iPhoto with online photo sites like SmugMug?
After researching the iCloud Photo Library I’ve determined there are so many benefits to using iCloud that I’ve decided to move our family online photos from SmugMug to iCloud.
This may seem strange at first since SmugMug has unlimited storage while iCloud has limits. Let’s take a closer look at how they compare.
PRICING — SmugMug offers unlimited storage for $3.34/month. iCloud offers 200 GB of storage for $3.99/month. Currently our family photos occupy 60 GB on SmugMug so 200GB should satisfy our needs for a long time. (iCloud also offers 500 GB for $9.99/month and 1 TB for $19.99/month)
VIEWING ON IPHONE — Viewing iCloud photos on an iOS device is easy… no extra app required. Double-tap, drag, pinch and zoom. It’s difficult to view photos on SmugMug with an iPhone because Safari’s controls get in the way, covering the top and bottom of the photo. SmugMug has an app for viewing photos (the SmugMug iOS app), but I don’t want to ask people to install an app just so they can access my SmugMug photos.
VIEWING ON APPLE TV — You have friends over and would like to show some photos. Easy… turn on the Apple TV. Viewing SmugMug photos on AppleTV is a challenge since there is no SmugMug app on AppleTV and no browser. We’ve done it using a device that is equipped with AirPlay, but this is a clunky workaround compared to iCloud.
ORGANIZING — Snap a pic with an iPhone and it’s automatically uploaded to iCloud Photo Library and automatically categorized by Moment, by Collection, and by Year. With online photo sites like SmugMug you must manually upload your photos and spend time organizing them.
EDITING — Photos stored in iCloud Photo Library are easily edited on all your devices using the filters and tools available in the Photos app. The tools enable advanced image adjustments that incorporate image analysis algorithms for optimum results. In-depth editing on SmugMug is awkward. With Photos you can revert back to your original unedited image at any time.
SHARING PHOTOS — To share SmugMug photos you must send a URL or download the photo, then send it. Sharing iCloud photos is much easier using the built-in Share menu that accommodates iCloud Photo Sharing, Mail, Messages, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and compatible sites that offer sharing extensions.
SHARING ALBUMS — SmugMug’s options for sharing galleries offer many options but the controls aren’t simple to use. With Photos it’s as easy as clicking on your friend’s name in the Contacts app.
SUPPORT — iCloud support is available from AppleCare, toll-free. SmugMug offers only email and chat support.
The iCloud Photo Library appears to offer a more pleasing experience than online photo sharing sites like SmugMug. We’ll find out for sure this spring when Photos is finally released.
For details and an interactive preview of Photos visit Apple’s website.