26 Comments

3 Reasons Aperture and Picasa are a Great Photo Combo

Jan 2013 Note: I have moved on to using Lightroom since writing this article. More details in my article: Managing A Large Photo Library With Lightroom, Dropbox, and Crashplan

I spent the evening hours of many days in October looking for a photo management and sharing solution.  I tried a lot of software, workflows, web applications, mobile apps, etc.  It was tedious and a little frustrating.  I was surprised at how incomplete most of the options were.  I had hoped for a one-app-does-it-all solution, but after a great deal of exploring, I’m quite happy with the Aperture + Picasa combination to meet my photo storing and sharing needs.

My Needs

Before I get into why I picked Aperture and Picasa, let me explain my specific needs:

  • I Need to Manage Professional Grade Photos – By no measure am I a pro photographer, but I have a nice camera (Canon T2i w/ 18-55mm and 55-250mm lenses).  I bought it in January and I’ve really enjoyed taking high quality photos.  I’m currently shopping around for nicer lenses and possibly a camera upgrade.  The bottom line is I have good equipment and it’s getting better.  I take between 100-1000 photos a month with each photo over 10 MB.  I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to my photos.  Aside from the obvious terrible pictures, I tend to keep them all.  I need a management application capable of handling thousands of large photos.
  • I Want to Share Some Photos with Lots of People – I’d like to have a workflow where I put the photos on my computer, review them, pick the ones I want to share, and share them.  The faster this process the better.  Also, after I post them, I’d like to be able to make tweaks/edits, add meta data, etc., locally (i.e., without needing an Internet connection) and then at some point have them sync up with little/no effort.  I don’t want the sync to override what others have done online, e.g., tagging, comments, etc., i.e., it should be a true sync rather than a re-upload.
  • I Have an Existing Backup Solution – I use Crashplan to backup my computer.  It’s awesome and I highly recommend it.  As such, I don’t need either my management or sharing applications to worry too much about backup.  What I do care about is the ability to quickly make local copies, e.g., copy everything to a separate drive.  I don’t consider this backup as it wouldn’t do me any good if my house burned down, but it’s good if a library gets corrupted, deleted, etc., simply because it’s faster.  Ultimately, I don’t need to have 100% of my photos backed up at full quality using the same service with which I share photos (but if it does that, then great!).

The Reasons

There are many attributes of the software and web applications listed below.  Each has a strength.  I am trying to highlight what I think is the best solution for my needs (above).  Yours may vary.  By no means am I saying this is the only solution.

Aperture is Cheaper and Better than the Competition

Apple’s Aperture is
powerful, easy to use,
and cheap!

Let me make one point crystal clear: I don’t do a lot of post-processing on my images.  As stated above, I’m not a pro.  I don’t care if there was a speck in photo 317 of 485.  I’m not worried if the color isn’t worthy of the cover of the National Geographic magazine.  The raw output of my camera is awesome and generally meets my needs as is.  As long as I can crop, adjust the brightness, and do some other very minor edits, I don’t need much power in this area.

What I do a lot though, is organize.  I’m an organizing fiend.  The two applications I considered in great detail to aid with organization were Adobe’s Lightroom ($299) and Apple’s Aperture ($79).  Aperture was notably better for my needs for a few key reasons:

  1. It’s $220 cheaper.  I’d rather invest that cash in a camera or lens.
  2. Projects, folders, albums, and smart albums in Aperture.  These 4 items give you a great deal of organizing power.  For my workflow, I do this:
    1. Put a group of photos in a project
    2. Go through the photos adding meta data.  Of note, I mark photos “green” that I’m willing to share with the world. (Along with other colors/flags for other meanings.)
    3. I create a subordinate smart album called “Public” and have it only show green photos.
    4. I export that album for use with Picasa (see below).
  3. Using Aperture is a pleasant xperience.  When trying to flip through thousands of photos in Lightroom you’re forced to use a fairly inflexible view.  Photos have giant margins, don’t resize well, and in general it’s hard to view things.  Aperture on the other hand is dead simple.  Looking at your whole library or individual projects is easy and the interface is minimal.  This translates to more looking at photos and less looking at Aperture.  Perfect!  Lightroom in general felt clunky.
  4. Lightroom doesn’t do geotagging.
  5. Lightroom doesn’t do faces.

There was one point the both were terrible at: syncing with a web service.  In my dream world, these apps would allow their organizational features to act as analogs to the organizational features offered by web services.  Maybe a project is a “collection” in Flickr and a “web album” in Picasa.  I would be able to tell Aperture, “always sync my changes” and the web service would just get updated as I edited.   Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist.  What does exist are a handful of clunky and frustrating publishing plugins that seemed really good at not meeting my needs.  Aperture’s built-in Flickr plugin did sync, but in a weird way, e.g., if you decide to stop syncing, you’re forced to delete objects at Flickr.  No good.  To be fair, they can only be good as the API of the web service they interface with, but regardless, they don’t do what I need.

Despite the lack of sync, I now have a highly organized, easy to view and navigate photo management solution with Aperture.  Now I just need to get these great photos on the web!

For Sharing, Picasa’s Desktop Interface Offers the Most Control

If you haven’t looked at all the web solutions out there, let me simplify it for you.  The major features are:

  • storage – $ per GB
  • transport – how to get photos to the service
  • interface – how users see your photos
  • manipulation – what you can do to the photos online
  • social – how you share
  • privacy/ownership – who sees and your copyrights
  • community – how many people are using the service

Storage winner: Flickr.  For $24/yr, it’s unlimited storage.  So, if you are a pro and are pushing out thousands of pictures a month, it’d be tough to beat.  For $20/yr Google’s Photo service offers 80 GB.  So it’s close if you’re not pushing everything.

Transport winner: Google.  With their Picasa app, you just tell the app where to look for photos and how you want them to be treated once on Google.  Then you just say sync.  Changed your mind?  Didn’t tag someone?  Want to add a geo location?  Just do it in Picasa and it immediately shows up online.  You can stop syncing at any time too.  It’s awesome.  The only drawback is that you’ll probably want to export your photos from Aperture to a separate location for Picasa.  I just export at a much smaller size (largest dimension 1024px) and don’t worry about the redundant storage.  If you’re dead set on a single file structure, then Lightroom might be your tool.  It will let you manage the file system, which means you can have Picasa and Lightroom accessing the same folders.

Interface winner: They’re all pretty good, though Flickr is oddly clunky for being such a highly used site.

Manipulation winner: Google.  Edit photos in Picasa or on-line.  The available editing feature are well beyond my needs.

Social winner: Google.  Like manipulation above, how you share photos is super easy: picasa, the web, your phone, etc.  The key difference though is Picasa.  It makes the sharing process super easy.

Privacy/Ownership winner: Google.  You have a great deal of access control.  With Flickr you can share with two groups: friends or family (yet another bizarre lack of control from such a big site).  Flickr has more copyright choices, but unless you’re a pro, I don’t think this really matters too much.

Community winner: They have different niches.  Friends: Google, Facebook, Snapjoy.  Pros: Flickr, 500px.

Google’s Picasa offers
a nice way to interact
with a web service
straight from your desktop.
And it’s free!

When I initially started my process for finding an on-line service, I just assumed Flickr would be the best.  I had an account that I hadn’t used much and I decided to bump it up to a pro account.  It was disappointing.  Aside from the massive storage and established community, there’s really no good reason to use Flickr from a tool/service standpoint.  From what I read Yahoo! doesn’t see it as all that important to their core business either, so it’s hard to say if they’ll ever catch up.

Google was the last service I considered.  Once I used Picasa, I was sold.  If you’ve not tried it, check it out.  (For reference, I also considered Facebook, Smugmug, Photobucket, Snapjoy, and 500px.)

As a side note, 500px is a pretty awesome place to browse.  It didn’t meet my needs, but is certainly notable. Check them out.

Google Offers the Best Integrated Services

The center of my online universe.

At some point not too long ago, I started signing up for services on the web.  Gmail, Flickr, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook … ugh.  I find lately I just can’t deal with it.  As much as possible, I want everything in one place.  There is simply no company doing this better than Google, which is becoming the center of my online universe:

  • my photos: Google Photos + Picasa
  • my email: Gmail
  • my docs: Google Docs
  • my status: Google+ / Twitter
  • my contacts: Google contacts
  • my calendar: Google calendar

The list goes on with Analytics, Adsense, web admin tools, etc.

It’s funny that I tried Google last for photos.  For some reason I had it in my head that Picasa was a toy.  I was wrong.  I was delighted when I liked both their tool and service as it meant I could pile one more thing into my Google account.  If one of your criteria is consolidation then Google is by far the leader.

Final Thoughts

Aperture + Picasa is a solid solution.  As noted earlier though, it meets my needs.  I don’t want to imply that tools like Lightroom aren’t good.  They most certainly are for different tasks.  To use my own integration argument, if you’re a heavy Adobe Creative Suite user, you’ll probably love Lightroom.  The same goes for the other services mentioned.

I’m particularly interested in optimal workflows, i.e., the fastest path for getting from the camera to the web while also collecting/organizing things nicely on my system, applying meta data, etc.  I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have found ways that work well for you.

26 Comments

  1. Interesting post, thanks. I’m curious as to what your actual workflow is between Aperture and Picasa, however… I don’t see any obvious ways that would allow the two to easily integrate beyond manually importing photos from Aperture into external folders managed by Picasa and then uploading them to PicasaWeb/Google+ from there.

    However, this seems like a more cumbersome process and lacks the nice clean integration that Aperture has with services like Flickr, Facebook and the (soon-to-be-defunct) MobileMe Gallery.

    1. @Jesse, my workflow is simply this: 1) plug in my SD card, 2) import photos into a new/existing Aperture library, 3) go through the photos and mark the ones I want to be public as green, 4) create a smart album of the green photo, 5) command-A (select all), command-shift-E (export) to a folder called “For Sharing” with Year/Project as the export path, 6) switch to Picasa, which has already been set up to watch that folder and toggle on “Sync to Web”, 7) at any point, make edits I want shared in Picasa

      Steps 6 & 7 are the big ones for me. At step 5 you could use a publish plugin, but I would definitely disagree with you that they are “nice” or “clean.” The Flickr plugin is oh-so-close, but it has some major issues in my opinion (like when you want to disconnect project with Flickr, the plugin wants to delete everything on Flickr). Not all issues are with the plugins. For example, the Flickr API doesn’t allow collection management. It makes it hard for any plugin to do much more than simply “push.” If sync if needed, I didn’t see anything that came close to Picasa.

      1. Thanks for the response. Actually, your’e right that 6 & 7 are key, and I think the watched folder is a great idea — much simpler than I was contemplating. My workflow is otherwise similar to yours — although I use ratings instead of colours on the basis that anything with three stars or more is suitable for publication, and anything with four or more is a “best of.” Using a label is interesting, however and in some ways I like it better since it’s a clearer indication, even if I simply label all the four- and five-starred items :)

        Pushing the photos *to* Picasa with a watched folder though definitely seems easier than trying to track them down in Picasa and then import them *from* Aperture, and I think the main point I missed was the ability to setup a watched folder that automatically syncs to the web. Nice touch.

        As for the Aperture integration with Flickr, Facebook and MobileMe, I generally used it primarily as a “push” feature anyway (particularly for the latter two), as I rarely need to manage albums once they’re published. I may add or occasionally remove content (or the entire albums), for which the built-in functionality more or less meets my needs. Sadly, I have a feeling it will be an arctic day in Cupertino before Apple adds Google Photo / Picasa integration to either iPhoto or Aperture, so using Picasa as my “sharing” tool is probably the only option (I did something similar with iPhoto back in the days before Aperture directly supported sharing features).

  2. Great to find someone who mirrors exactly how I handle my workflow. (ie Aperture & Picasa). Of course like yourself I am frustrated by the lack of sync between Aperture & picasaweb. Its unlikely we’ll see this any time soon. I too used Flickr (Pro) for a while and whilst it has some ‘gloss’, it fails in the social/sharing arena. Google + and the circles it introduces walks all over sets, and guest passes etc.

  3. Great post, I am curious about local storage of your photos. Do you use a NAS? If yes, could you explain how you have that setup?

    Thanks in advance

    1. I do have Linux box on my network that acts as a NAS amongst other things. I just create additional libraries in Aperture and store them on the local network to free up space on my laptop. I generally only keep the most recent year or so of photos on my laptop.

      1. thanks for the quick reply

        I use iphoto today and my library is close to 140gb on my MB with a 250gb drive. I very seriously considering moving to Aperture/Picasa combo.

        Read about your NAS setup and its quite neat. I am currently using an HTPC/NAS solution with W7K and it wirelessly connects to my home network.

        I need to move to Aperture on my MB but a little unsure about storing libraries on the NAS (HFS+ partition on the W7K machine), from speed and reliability/compatibility perspective.

        What are you thoughts on that?

        1. Ultimately it comes down to how fast your connection is to your data. Given that it’s all local, I’m assuming it’s very fast. I’d just do a rough speed test. Maybe see how long it takes your computer to move 1 GB locally and then do the same to/from your NAS. Unless you notice a really big difference between the two, you should have no problems. (And if you do notice a big lag, you’ve probably got a network or config issue somewhere.)

          I don’t notice any performance issues when using my local network. Also, I don’t really access the older images that I put in the other libraries much either. I think that’s a big thing to consider. If you only occasionally need them, any performance issues you have might not be a big deal.

          The big tradeoff isn’t speed so much as it is when you’re away and suddenly realize you want that image that’s only on your server. I’ve never really ran into this scenario as I can always wait until I’m home and can plug back in, but it’s the main thing I’d consider.

  4. Nice article, but I think maybe the title should have read “3 Reasons Aperture and Picasa are a Great Photo Combo, and 1 deal-breaker!”

    The deal breaker is the lack of support in Picasa web albums for nested albums. I had hoped Picasa would be a suitable replacement for iWeb/MobileMe, but without even a single layer of nesting I’m going to have to find an alternative, which is a shame because otherwise I like Picasa web albums and the desktop Mac app is not bad.

    1. Hi Neil,
      I agree with the deal breaker. My organizational structure is key to how I access my photos and I want the same structure online. Have you found any solutions to this “deal breaker” yet? If so, would you share how your organizing your photos now?
      Thanks in advance.

  5. Thanks for all the GREAT tips. I feel the same as you and decided to use all the great features that Google has provided. I’m currently using Aperture and was looking for a method of moving photos (completed) to Picasa and your workflow makes good sense. I’ve been an Apple fanboy for years but have decided to look at other options, I’m also into Linux and have recently purchased a XOOM tablet (not an iPad at this time) Android and Google fit like a glove!

  6. I am a new user of Aperture, and is trying to get my workflow in order. When googling i am able to find a picasaweb export plugin, but now it seems that ubermind has discontinued that plugin, do you have any other alternatives to do the exporting, i like the idea of using a color-label to mark all pictures to be a exported, but i would like more of a sync-tool than just exporting pictures in an album.

    1. I tried that plugin too and wasn’t too happy with it. I just export from Aperture locally (as mentioned above). I command-shift-E and send my pictures marked as “public” (i.e., green) to a folder that Picasa is watching. I let Picasa handle the syncing with picasaweb and Google+

      1. You are saying that you move the stuff to a folder that picasa is watching? I have no idea how to set up such a local folder that is watched by picasa. I am using a Mac, and i have the picasa album updater.

  7. Does this workflow create duplicates?
    1) does “For Sharing” folder have duplicates or does a ‘smart folder’ work like a playlist in itunes?

    2) does your local Picasa on your hard drive have copies (duplicates) of the shared photos?

    Also, with “Year/Project as the export path” does that mean that the Picasa will create a similar album?

    Sorry for newbie questions but I am waiting for Aperture4 to come before I make the move from my PC to my MacBook.

    1. 1. No dupes there. It’s just like a smart playlist.
      2. Yes. They are duplicates. Not ideal, I know.
      3. Yes, Picasa will reflect the folder hierarchy.

      I’m hoping Aperture 4 takes a step forward on the sharing side of things (and hopefully we’ll see it sooner than later).

      1. I downloaded Picasa to my MacBookPro. When I opened it all my pictures were split into 2 duplicates and a bunch of numbers and letters identifying each of them. took hours to put pictures in Picasa and everything was disorganized. Finally had to “Force Quit” and moved Picasa to trash.
        Had to download Picasa once before and the same thing happened.

  8. Hi Mark,
    When you export the photo to picasa does all EXIF info goes with it?
    Thanks,
    Ricardo

    1. Yep. Whatever I do in Aperture flows through to Picasa. The downside is that if I realize I forgot something after I’ve sent the photos to Picasa I then have to re-send them, or update the photo in both places.

  9. Hi Mark,
    How big is your aperture library? Does it take a “little” long time to open and close the applicaton? Do you got any trouble to transfer movies imported from iphone 4s (hd) to aperture library and then to an ipad? All my movies (around 2 min long) got a lot of freezing during reproduction. Any clue why this is hapening?
    Thanks
    Ricardo

    1. I usually try to keep it under 200 GB. I haven’t noticed any performance issues, but I don’t import video into Aperture either so maybe that’s the source of your issues.

  10. this is one of the better threads i’ve seen ina while on storage/workflow – thanks guys. my process has been long – i thought it might be of interest to the list.
    i keep all my non-active Aperture work as referenced masters on NAS drives. I have a dedicated 12T RAID that is also backed up through Chronosynch across the network to a remote location. So, back-up not an issue.
    The disadvantage of Picasa ( or limitation, more accurately ) is that it cant see the Aperture file structure, only my OS. It also interprets the masters and duplicates them if there are changes or adjustments. This is pretty huge, because you have to wind up making duplicate file structures.
    MobileMe screwed me. Not only did I have a few DIY sites up but I had many albums that I would share through Aperture. Very clean and simple. I could use it professionally or just for family.
    I had no idea Picasa was so beefy – digging into it right now to see how I can use it to share with all my circles and integrate into Aperture.
    I’ll post more later

    1. I’m interested to learn what your findings are as to your last paragraph: how to use it in al your circles ….
      Thanks in advance

Comments are closed.