15 October 2013
Update — Since writing this article, Everpix has gone out of business, and I’ve moved to Apple’s iCloud Photo Library ecosystem.
I recently migrated my photo management workflow from one based on Aperture, to one based on a file system and the online service, Everpix. This article describes the whys and hows.
For years, I’ve stored my photos in Aperture, organized in a chronological folder structure: /yyyy/mm/project. Over time, though, I’ve had some growing concerns:
While on vacation this past week I did some reading (here, here, here and here) from others who’ve addressed these concerns by implementing a file-system based photo management workflow, and then I proceeded to build out my own.
The elements of my system include:
What are the benefits?
We’ll now walk through the workflow, step by step.
We need a single bucket into which all our new photos end up, whether taken by a dedicated point-and-shoot camera like our Sony RX100, or mobile devices like the iPhone, and whether they’re taken by myself or my wife.
For this, we’ve chosen a shared Dropbox folder called, “Camera Uploads”.
Before we move our photos from the inbox to their final destination (a folder monitored by Everpix), we need to perform some cleanup, enhancement and organization.
The first step in inbox management is to organize new images into subfolders named like this: “yyyy-mm month”—e.g. “2013-10 October”. I have a Mac mini hosted with a dedicated server provider, on which Dropbox is installed and, hence, has access to my “Camera Uploads” folder. I have Hazel running on that machine and automatically performing this first step.
The second step in inbox management is me manually going into those folders from time to time (on my MacBook Air) and:
For the first task—deleting certain images—I either use preview in the Finder on my MacBook Air, or the Dropbox app on my iPad.
For the second task—cropping and auto-enhancing certain images—I use Acorn, by Flying Meat.
I would love to find a single app that nailed both tasks one and two. Such an app would additionally:
Our photos are enjoyed through the Everpix online service, and so one trade-off of this inbox management workflow is that until I manually move them out of the inbox and into Everpix, nobody can view them.
So that’s one area ripe for re-consideration—i.e. a workflow change such that new images go directly into the Everpix folder.
Why didn’t I just choose to do that from the start? Because I delete probably 20% of the photos I take, and the way Everpix works is that if you delete a file from its source folder, that file is not deleted in Everpix; you have to manually go into Everpix and delete it from there too.
Another inbox modification I’ll consider is performing the photo deletion, cropping and enhancement directly on the iOS devices, before using Image Capture to download them into the “Camera Uploads” folder, now that iOS 7 has some fairly nice image editing featuers (like an auto-enhance button).
Once photos have gone through the inbox-management process, I then manually move them into their final home, an archive folder on my internet-hosted mini called “BTMedia”, preserving a folder hierarchy like: “2013/2013-10 October/Chess Championship”.
Everpix then watches the “BTMedia” folder, and uploads all new incoming images to the Everpix service.
By having Everpix running on the mini, it’s able to upload all those photos much faster than it could from our home, since the mini at the hosting provider has 10MB/s upload bandwidth, compared to about 50kB/s (200 times slower) that I have on my ADSL line at home.
Since I’d also like to have a copy of all my photos at home, I run BitTorrent Sync on both the mini and our home iMac, thereby continually downloading the contents of that “BTMedia” folder to a similarly-named folder on the iMac.
Although we’ve only just started using it, the family is really happy so far with Everpix!
Everpix (as far as I can tell) doesn’t support a notion of “albums”, intending, instead, to organize and display your photos algorithmically. That, combined with some good UI (which I know from experience is hard!), they’ve succeeded in doing a pretty good job.
You can view your photos at their website, or in their iPhone and iPad apps. The photos are mainly organized by chronology, and their software attempts to choose a good key photo to represent each collection (which typically would be all photos taken in a day).
They also have some nice features like “flashback” where they show you (and periodically email you) some photos that were taken on this day, say eight years ago. That’s a feature that definitely promotes stickiness in the service.
Migrating to this new approach involved exporting my existing photos from Aperture. Fortunately, Aperture can be configured to name exported files by the date taken, in a yyyy-mm-dd-hh-mm-ss.jpg format, and organzed into a file hiearchy like yyyy/mm/project.
After exporting tens of thousands of photos dating back to 1998, I noticed that the creation date on all those exported files was today, and so I was concerned that when imported into Everpix, the service might think all those photos were taken today.
Using Hazel, I found a way to process all those photos, setting the file creation date to that matched by the date found in the filename.
This required some research, and turned out to be a little tricky. For the benefit of anyone wanting to do the same, here’s the relevant AppleScript. (Note that it’s an AppleScript intended to be run in a Hazel rule, since Hazel passes the current file to AppleScript in the “theFile” variable.)
(Feel free to download this AppleScript.)
Note that all those character length checks like “mn \< 10” are important, in order to turn minutes like this, “8”, into text like this, “08”, i.e. padding single digits with a leading zero. I have no idea why determining that an integer is a single digit is done by comparing it to “10” (but then again, me and AppleSript have never managed to become friends.) Go figure.
Although I’ve only had this setup and workflow for just a few weeks, I’m already quite happy with it. Just seeing how much the family is enjoying our photos justifies (in my mind) the change. And keeping my photos in a master repository in the file system is future-safe in the sense that should Everpix go away, I could quickly transition to something else.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this overview, and feel free to write if you have any questions. I’ll conclude this article with a list of miscellaneous observations and notes still on my mind: