Google’s G Suite: A Professional Photographer’s Dream


 

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Photographers all face the same set of issues in their profession. If you are a photographer and have any of the following questions, keep reading this post, as I’m sure you’ll love the answers that follow.

  • What’s the best way to store my photos?
  • What’s the most secure way to share photos with a client?
  • How can I make sure there are backups of my photos in case of a disaster?
  • Where can I store RAW photos and exported JPEGs as well without losing the original quality?
  • What if I want to store videos or documents as well?
  • I don’t just want storage, I want a gallery that shows my photos off to my clients!
Professional Photography - Google Drive

What is G Suite?

Before we dig in to the various features that a photographer might need from G Suite, we thought it would be best to briefly educate the reader on what it has to offer. G Suite (formerly Google Apps) is an online business management suite complete with:

  • Docs, a complete word processor
  • Sheets, a powerful spreadsheet application
  • Slides, a presentation maker
  • Google Drive, a cloud storage solution
  • Gmail, a powerful email management platform
  • Google Calendar, a powerful calendar solution
  • Hangouts, a complete video conferencing platform
  • and a lot more…

The merits of G Suite for photographers

Before I answer the above questions, it’s important to lay a bit of groundwork. First, this post is written to encourage the reader to try G Suite for their business. There are other strong options but we feel that they all pale in comparison to Google’s offerings. If you’re just looking for a good comparison of G Suite’s features to other services click here. We’re just wanting to extol the merits of G Suite in this article.

What’s the best way to store my photos?

The first step is to decide on the best backup option for your business. Do you keep printed copies of each photo someplace? Do you want to keep multiple portable storage devices (i.e. memory cards, hard drives, usb drives, etc.) around? Do you want to put them up in the cloud and remove all hard storage from your location? For a lot of photographers, we’ve found the answer is a mixture of these options.

Printed Photos: Honestly, I don’t know of any photographers that store printed photos. I just threw this option in to be thorough. Printed photos fade and can start to fall apart with time. If you need any example of this, just look at the photograph of your grandparents. There is a reason, after all, that photo restoration exists.

Physical Storage Devices: Many photographers subscribe to the theory that physical storage is the best way to go. Often photographers are afraid of losing data in the cloud. There is also an issue of privacy to be addressed, and, due to a lack of understanding, they choose the “safe route.” This is a common, and sometimes disasterous misunderstanding.

  • First, all storage devices are able to fail and have a finite life span. This is true of all digital methods of storage (including cloud storage but we’ll address that in the next section). The longer the life-span of the device the more expensive it generally is. Spinning hard drives are amongst the worst as they have a short life-span expectation as well as moveable parts. Of course “life-span” is an expected number that doesn’t account for errors, malfunction, or other complications.
  • Next is the issue of disaster recovery. To truly beat out disasters, you’ll want to have a minimum of 3 copies of each drive. Keep one for easy access in your location and a second that you could get within a few hours at another location nearby. The third should be in a remote location for ultimate safety. Why should you keep all of these backups? Fires, Hurricanes, Tornados, Earthquakes, Burglary, and more threaten a poor backup plan.

Cloud Storage: The largest disadvantage to cloud storage is the lack of access to any files that are not synced locally if you lose internet. Of course in these modern times, cellular service, home wi-fi, and the ease of access to public wi-fi mitigate this negative when it becomes an issue. I honestly can’t think of any other disadvantages that I feel are real worries. Some don’t like the idea of another company holding their files for a few reasons. Some worry about catastrophic events that would cause the internet to be inaccessible. Honestly, there are truth and valid points to those thoughts – I just don’t prescribe to them being a make-or-break to this decision. They are worth noting, however.

On the positive side, using G Suite as your cloud storage has many advantages. A few of those are:

  • Automatic backup of files across multiple data centers worldwide.
  • Google automatically replaces hardware failures so you won’t have to worry about accidentally losing files.
  • Robust sharing controls that allow you to securely or insecurely share files (depending on your needs).
  • Multiple ways to view your files – a couple of which are photo friendly.
Store Photos on Hard Drive
So Susceptible to Failures…

Why Choose G Suite Over the Competition

With G Suite Unlimited, each account gets 1TB of Google Drive’s online storage as part of the deal. $10/mo. for 1TB of storage is a pretty amazing deal but not much more than competition. Dropbox offers a comparable plan at $16.58/mo. as of this writing and if you have a team of 3 or more, you can drop it down to about $12/mo. per user. Dropbox, however, is just storage. As mentioned in the first section, Google’s G Suite is SO much more than just online storage. The best part of a G Suite Unlimited account is, with 5 user accounts, Google opens up that 1TB and gives all users unlimited online storage. UNLIMITED.

So, for $50 a month, your entire photo library could be in the cloud – secure, backed up, and ready for sharing if necessary. Even if you only need an account or two, purchasing 5 accounts is a smart move and blows away other services. If you’re really shooting photographs on a regular basis, a external hard drive a month will cost you more than that for a single local backup.

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Google Drive’s sharing capabilities and how much better they are than most of the competition as well. I’ll get more into the depth of sharing in the next section. It’s important to note, however, that the ability to control many aspects of sharing in Drive is more fine-grained and more complete than any competitor I’ve used.

Using G Suite to Share Photos with a Client

This is one of the most awesome features of G Suite. The ability to share files with anyone in various ways is one of Drive’s biggest strengths. You can share a file with anyone that wants to see it or you can lock it down so they can only access the file with a Google Account that you specify. There are multiple options in between as well.

If you’re reading this far, you’re probably a photographer. The photographers that we’ve worked with in the past have taught us a lot about their workflow. Imagine having a client that you wanted to send photos to. Their photos need to be private but they may want to select people to share them with. Using Google’s sharing built into Google Drive, you can allow them to add other viewers by email address. If it’s less important for security, you can create a sharable link that keeps the link random and unpublicized but allows anyone that has the link instant access to the photos.

Google Drive’s advantages over PASS, Pixieset, and others

As a photographer, you may wonder why it would be worthwhile to choose a non-photo specific option over the more mainstream photo options such as PASS, Pixieset, SmugMug, etc. While my argument is built around the extra features of Google Drive versus these other options, I’m going to ignore that fact here.

While Google Drive offers unlimited storage, the other options don’t – even if they say they do. Why is that? The ones that offer unlimited storage often have restrictions on what you can do with that storage. Here are some examples of the competition:

  • Pixieset charges $40/mo. for 1000 GB (vs. 1 Google Account at $10/mo. for unlimited storage).
  • PASS charges $25/mo. for unlimited storage. You will lose your galleries after 10 years and you are unable to store RAW photos on PASS.
  • SmugMug is in the same boat as PASS.

Drive’s biggest drawback for photographers and how to fix it

Google drive’s biggest drawback for a photographer is the lack of a polished external interface – and that can be a deal breaker for some photographers. While recognizing that drawback, I want to be up front about an opinion I have on the competition as well. I don’t believe it’s in any business’s best interest to use a third party solution that, not only adds their branding to the solution, but also redirects a web visitor from your business to a sub-site of their business. Yes, you may be getting customers and business – but so are they.

If you didn’t know already, you’re on a professional marketing website reading this article. We specialize in web design and web applications. We’ve been working on a solution that integrates Google Drive into any website creating a beautiful front-end gallery and it looks great. As of this post, our solution is still in final testing but we hope to bring it to market soon and it will change the game in this one area for good. Please contact us if you would like to know more.

Bonus: Features you never knew you needed!

Google G Suite for Photographers

Online Office Suite: G Suite is incredibly feature-packed. At Brand Shouter, we are heavy users of Google Drive for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other files. We use Google’s office suite (appropriately named Docs, Sheets, and Slides) rather than Microsoft’s Office 365 most of the time. We love the real-time collaboration and the ability to share files with anyone in only a couple clicks. Mostly, we live on the cloud with everything we do. We use all of the features mentioned in this article to run our business.

Company Email: If you’re familiar with Gmail, you’ll love having your organization’s email run through Google. This feature comes with your G Suite membership as well and is another of our favorite features. Each user at your organization gets an “account.” Each account can have many email addresses and the Gmail interface can help you keep it all separated and organized. It’s a very powerful email system yet is simple and easy to use and organize. It does lack some of the corporate power features of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering but we’ve found that many of those features aren’t used. It speaks volumes at the size of some of the companies that do use it.

6 Comments

  • Hello and thanks for the informative article. I have a question regarding the post-processing of the saved photos: How do you do this if you want to retouch an already uploaded photo, for example? Do you have your Lightroom library in the cloud too? How do you solve this?
  • Dan Ericson
    Manuel, Great question!

    There are two potential workflows that you can use. I use the Google Drive File Stream app (available to all G Suite users). This app adds your Google Drive to your Finder/Explorer so you can access all of your files as though they are local. The files are not stored locally, however, so there is a delay sometimes in accessing files. Of course if you're working on a folder for say... a wedding, you are able to specify that File stream syncs that folder locally. Then your edits will be smooth and fast since you're working on your computer. Once you've finished with your editing session, you can turn off the sync. You'll still be able to see the files as though they are local, but they will be stored int the cloud only and not using precious hard drive space.

    The other option is to use the Google Drive Backup and Sync app which is available to anyone. One of our clients uses this method because he hasn't moved into the File Stream app and it works for his needs. He selects folders of his projects to sync and leaves them synced until he is done and then un-syncs them. It's similar to File Stream except he is unable to browse his entire Google Drive as though it was local. He syncs and un-syncs at will depending on what project he is working on.

    Both of these methods won't mess up your Lightroom setup unless you try to access un-synced photos. It's an easy fix if you do, however. You just sync them and then tell Lightroom to locate them and you're back in business.

    Hope this helps!
  • TJ Rahn
    I found your article very interesting and I'd like to know more. I'm going to be starting a new photography business in the next four to six months and I'm interested in the interface product that you say you can deliver. I'd like to know more about it.
  • Dan Ericson
    TJ, thanks for the inquiry.

    The photography add on we were working on has been shelved for the time being. I should have updated this post, my apologies. We do intend to finish it up but have been waiting for our client to finish up some prior commitments before getting back on the project. I'd be happy to talk with you about your needs and see if we can help tailor that final product to work well for your purposes. Feel free to reach out to me via email (hello@brandshouter.com) for more information when you're ready.
  • I'm currently starting up a photography business. I'm using Sprout Studio (trial mode) to organize my workflow. They also offer a gallery / sales option. I still require a website, currently using a Facebook page. I'm considering WIX. I am familiar with Google Drive, love Google sites for when I was taking classes. Would love to know how G Suite could streamline my business.
  • Dan Ericson
    Diane,

    Glad you found a solution you're enjoying! We're currently looking at reviving our photo plugin project and have had a lot of inquiries as to when it might be done - hopefully it might be an option for you once we're finished.

    As for the website builder, while Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc. all offer very easy and intuitive drag-and-drop builders, there are quite a few drawbacks to using one of those services. First and foremost, you don't own your website. You can't make a move to another option without having to start completely over. You're also limited to the options/plugins/etc that are provided by those services including search optimizations that are often stripped down to just the basics - amongst other things.

    WordPress, which we highly recommend, is super easy to use out of the box and offers a lot of the drag-and-drop functionality that you would ever want (especially with builders such as WPBakery's page builder). It also allows for near unlimited expandability through existing plugins or through custom code since it isn't built in a closed environment.

    Of course, it ultimately comes down to what is important to you and your business. Remember, no matter how small you are now, there will come a time that making the right decisions in the beginning will play a large part in the streamlining of your future. :)

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