When it comes to all the photos and videos on my iPhone camera roll (uh, all 5,373 of them), my usual tagline is I should do something with those. That’s the party line year after year, and in the meantime, that camera roll just keeps getting bigger. But with the introduction of a new service from Shutterfly called ThisLife, doing something–or lots and lots of things–with those photos becomes so much easier.
I raved about the Shutterfly mobile app last year, but ThisLife goes above and beyond, which means I’ve now gone from fan to superfan. What I have always appreciated about Shutterfly, both the mobile app and website, is its ease of use. And ThisLife is no different. You can use your existing Shutterfly log-in to create a ThisLife account (it’s a separate service) and be well on your way to photo storage freedom.
There are so many features that are exciting and make it the only photo storage management solution I need. Here are my tops:
Automatic Photo Syncing
I love auto anything and really appreciate the fact that once you upload photos to your ThisLife library, it updates across all platforms automatically, so no more uploading to your phone and then having to do the same on your computer. The mobile app is available for iOS, Android and Kindle and your photo collections are always updated everywhere you access your library, regardless of where you did the updating. ThisLife also recognizes and deletes duplicates, keeping only that one copy of your dog in a Halloween costume.
You can sync your photos to your ThisLife library from the camera roll, Shutterfly, Facebook, Picasa, Instagram, Flickr, or your PC. However I will say that uploading my camera roll took a loooong time; basically five consecutive nights of my phone plugged in, left on all night with the app open and running. A ThisLife icon appears on the photo when it has been synced, but otherwise, I must mention it’s hard to tell how many photos are left in the queue. And even after several nights of uploading, I still have about 200 that are not registering. I’m hoping that the next version streamlines the process and fixes these bugs.
Storage for Photos and Videos
The biggest selling point for me is that ThisLife stores photos and videos (under the Standard plan, see pricing below), which is a huge bonus and improvement from the older Shutterfly mobile app which only supported still photos. Before, I was uploading photos to Shutterfly, videos to Dropbox, forgetting my Dropbox password and then cursing at myself for forgetting that Dropbox password. Hassles all around. Now I can upload everything to one place and not have to go back and forth between services.
When you access your library, you see a really well-organized timeline of all your photos and videos. It reminded me of Lifecake in a way because everything is laid out by date. You can search by day, month or year, or scroll through the timeline which is helpful when you’re trying to pull that specific photo of your daughter blowing out her 5th birthday candles or your son’s reaction on Christmas morning circa 2009. You can even pull up a map of places where photos were taken using GPS information from your smartphone, and pull out photos from your family trip to Florida or your girls’ weekend in San Francisco.
Tagging and Facial Recognition
Speaking of pulling out photos, another notable feature of ThisLife is the ability to tag photos to make them more searchable (Gracie’s Swim Lessons, Summer 2014, Skiing in Colorado) or anything that will make it easier to categorize. On the super high-tech front, ThisLife comes with facial recognition software, so you can also tag those adorable kids’ faces and categorize folders for each of the people the library recognizes consistently.
Tagging photos and videos as part of an overall story makes it a perfect way to share with loved ones. A series of photos from a birthday party, that piano recital, the soccer game, whatever occasion you’d like. You designate whatever you want to include in a particular story and it’s a nice way to keep events documented in their own right. The stories show up as a scrolling and beautiful timeline of images that you can email to the grandparents who will be delighted to see shots of their grandson scoring that game-winning goal.
And Then…Three Things That are Missing from ThisLife
While I am clearly a fan of this new service, there are several things I’m really hoping they’ll incorporate in the next version. First, I mentioned that the upload process is kind of a bear, especially when you have thousands of items in your camera roll like me. And while Shutterfly is known for its photo products, it doesn’t make sense that you can’t create photo products directly from the app itself. You can select the pictures you want from your online library, but then it diverts you to Shutterfly.com on your mobile browser. I can only hope that future versions will skip that step.
Finally, the only kind of photo editing you can do on ThisLife is cropping. It would be great to see more comprehensive editing options in the near future. Until then, you need to do your prettying up with mobile apps like Snapseed and VSCOcam or work directly through your existing PC editing tools like iPhoto. Then be sure everything is as you want it before it gets uploaded to ThisLife.
ThisLife offers a free version which stores up to 2,500 photos and offers all the benefits–except storing videos. Kind of a bummer because it’s really awesome having that option. The next level is the Standard plan which lets you store up to 25,000 photos and videos (100GB) a year for $59, along with a free 8×8″ photo book for a limited time. For you photo hoarders out there who have amassed even more shots than that, the Premium plan is $139 and this includes storage for a whopping 100,000 photos and videos. I’m guessing most people will stick with the Standard plan, which comes out to $5 a month for completely secure storage of all those precious shots. Totally worth it for me. Even if I now realize I have a lot of work to do.