A better Google Photos app

When people were having film roll cameras, they took it out during special occasions, clicked a few pictures,  developed them and put them into albums, which were later cherished as memories. With the advent of mobile photography, we click too many photos and sometimes we also miss enjoying the moment. 

We went on a family trip for two days, along with our cousins. In those two days, we took nearly 600 photos. In a dessert shop that had Instagram worthy background, we clicked 37 pictures. For a portrait shot inside a tea estate, we clicked 15 pics of the same person, where I just needed one photo with a good facial expression and great background.

To capture a portrait picture when my friend was best dressed for a marriage, we clicked 25 photos with 3 different backgrounds. To get the best shot, my friend posed for photos with different styles like having free hair or plaited hair, wearing spectacles or without spectacles, smiling widely or without a smile, and with the face looking at the camera or looking sideways. 

Of late, the albums are filled with too many photos, mostly because we click around 3 to 10 pictures in the same spot, so as to get the best shot and also because our cameras do not have film rolls like the old analog cameras, we don’t care how much ever we click. 

A few months down the line, I might not appreciate having too many photos per album. I prefer minimal photos per occasion, somewhere between 10-50 photos per album. So after each occasion like picnics or wedding functions, I sit and diligently delete most duplicate or unwanted photos. Deleting these photos is a very boring task! But I still do it, to keep my albums clean. As I deleted the photos, I made notes of what I deleted, so that I can share with Google requesting them to use their AI prowess, image recognition capabilities and come up with algorithms that would help users declutter the photos.

How did I shrink the size of my albums and retain the good looking photos, the ones in which people are smiling, facial expressions are positive and the background is nice? By deleting the not so good photos. Here is what I did:

  • Toggle between successive shots, look for if all the people in the pic are seeing the camera, are they smiling, decide on which one is better to retain and delete the other one.
  • Between multiple photos of the same frame, I retained the one that looked lively. For me, being lively means smiling. Laughing means it is livelier.
  • Compared between smiles that are wide with the ones that are gentle and retained, the one looked lively.
  • Deleted photos if there are non welcome objects seen in the photo, like scattered clothes, unused chairs in the background…etc.
  • Deleted photos in which people were seen talking and hence the facial expression was not good. 
  • Deleted photos in which people were trying to make children smile or make them look at the camera by uttering some jokes or using some gestures.
  • Deleted photos in which the face was obstructed due to hand movement or some other objects.
  • Deleted photos in which people were seen with eyes fully or partially closed.
  • Deleted photos in which people were not smiling, seen frowning or staring rudely.
  • Deleted photos if someone’s eyes or face is looking elsewhere.
  • Deleted photos in which people were looking downward or the head was too up and faces were not clearly visible.
  • Is the frame of the photo good? Has someone gone out of frame? Delete if someone is only partially covered in the frame than the one in which they are visible fully. 
  • Deleted photos with too much or too low lightning. 
  • Deleted photos if there is a glare on the face
  • Deleted photos with poor shadow disturbing the frame.
  • Deleted photos with hand or lip movements or if a part of the body part is blurred due to movement while taking the photo.
  • Deleted if the person was giving some instructions or talking while taking the shot and the lip movements were not looking good.
  • Deleted photos in which someone has photobombed.
  • Deleted photo in which the baby was seen crying.
  • Deleted photos if they were holding some props which are not fully visible. Ex. My daughter picked some strawberries from a farm and wanted those to be visible in the photo.
  • Had multiple pics of the baby eating strawberries. Retained the one that had a lively expression.
  • Deleted pictures where the costumes might have misaligned.
  • If I have to cover a background with some name on the board or letters, deleted the ones where the names were partially cut
  • Deleted photos that were taken from behind and were not looking great. 
  • For photos taken in front of monuments, compared with poses where the person was sitting, with the ones where they were standing and deleted the one that was not looking good.
  • Took photos of a strawberry farm with family members and without family members in the frame. Retained the pic with family members. Might be it were a monument, I would have retained a pic that doesn’t have anyone else other than the monument in the frame.
  • If everyone is asked to pose in a certain way, are all doing the same? Ex. Pouting, thumbs up, laughing, smiling. Does the pose look natural?
  • I was choosing between photos with half frame and full frame, photos with feet visible and if they are looking good or ugly.

A few patterns I noticed:

  • For pictures of people with good natural landscapes in the background, landscape mode looked better than portrait mode. 
  • Portrait picture with half frame, full frame and longshot. Full frame looked good. Long shots in portrait mode did not look good.
  • Portrait shots with people standing far behind don’t look good.
  • When there are more than 3 people in the frame, a photo in landscape mode looks good.
  • In a spot, compared to a selfie, a photo taken by someone else looked good.
  • When a pic was taken on hills with the photographer standing on highland and the person being photographed standing slightly below, then a photo with faceup looked better than a photo with face down. Similarly, when a pic was taken on hills with the photographer standing on lowland and the person being photographed standing slightly higher, then a photo with chin down looked better than a photo with chin up.

Let there be a Nudge: At the end of the day, if the photos app can show suggestions and provide tools to compare and delete duplicate and not so good looking photos, it would be great. The tool can prompt the reasons as to why a photo can be deleted. Ex. Someone looking away, blurred hand, foreign particles in the background, someone photobombed …etc. 

Nudges can also be applied to delete not so useful videos, forwarded memes, good morning messages…etc.

Medical Archives: I regularly take photos of medical prescriptions and test report sheets, so that I can refer to them later. It would be great if there is a separate medical archives folder. When the labs send me the reports as pdf, in email, I can save it to Google Drive. However, if I get a physical copy of the reports, I click pictures of it, which would be in Google Photos. It would be helpful if there is an integration between Google Photos and Google Drive and I can have a common medical archives folder that can be accessed from both these apps seamlessly. 

Casual Pics: When my wife had a new haircut, we took multiple pics to see if it looks good for her. I don’t intend to keep these photos for long. Also, there are lots of photos we take casually, while on a car ride or in a local train, but will not be a special long term memory and these photos can be classified as casual photos and have some option like delete these casual photos after 6 months or 2 years …etc.

Apart from albums, it would also be nice to have categories for photos, like family, friends, vacations, sports, work, medical documents, professional mode photos, other documents …etc.

Let the process of organizing and managing photos be simple and delightful and the memories cherishable. Also, clearing the clutter contributes to a sustainable earth, in a small way.

PS: Professional photographers will be able to add more ideas, to shortlist the best photos.

Thanks to Ravi for reviewing the draft of this post 🙂

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