Google as a photographer’s assistant

Trey Ratcliff, the photographer who’s done more than any other to popularise HDR (or, more accurately tone mapped) photos, put up an interesting post regarding what Google will do for photographers:

So, along comes this exciting new announcement from Google – that they are using their massive server farms to intelligently organize and post-process photos for us. It looks really smart! I can just upload (which is automatic if you turn that on with your mobile phone) dozens or hundreds of photos, and it automatically puts the best photos in the front. It knows which are the best by analyzing human aesthetics in other popular photos! If I don’t agree with its suggestions (or post-processing!) I can undo those bits and make them my own. But it’s like having an assistant that does all the organizing all for me – and an assistant that gets smarter all the time.

Organising photos is certainly an issue.  I have tens of gigabytes of photos dotted around a number of different places including my MacBook Pro’s local disk (backed up to a time capsule), cloud storage, external hard drives and on photo sharing sites.

Each year, and with each camera upgrade, my collection grows.  At the moment I use Lightroom, having switched from Aperture.  It helps (although I actually prefer the way Aperture handles photo organisation) but not much.  And at times, using a tool like Lightroom can add an additional layer of complexity.

Offloading parts of that process to an assistant, be it a real or digital one, is actually quite a scary prospect.  Part of being a photographer is the process of working with the photos after they’ve been taking.  The digital darkroom.  Furthermore, I’d be quite apprehensive that I’d miss some gems that Google’s algorithms decided weren’t attractive enough.

Perhaps a better approach would be for someone like Google to automatically hide my duds.  Overexposed? Hide it from me.  Out of focus? Hide it from me. Motion blur? Hide it from me. Underexposed? Hide it from me.  Let me work and invest my time in the images that have a chance of making it to my keepers list.

I’ve uploaded a couple of thousand photos to Google to see how well it does.