Keeping a central repository of my photos and videos is a top priority, and a fairly major challenge. I currently have 40,000+ photos and 2,000+ videos. These are all personal/family photos and not something I’d want to lose.
Over the years I’ve switched from having all my media on my PC, to syncing it to various cloud services. Currently my main, authoritative repository is in iCloud Photo Library, where the full size/quality versions of all these photos and videos live. I also have partial libraries or lower resolution copies out in Google Photos, Amazon Photos, Dropbox, and Box, as well as keep anything on my PC backed up by CrashPlan.
Things are spread out so many places because I often test out services to see which will work best for me. As services come out with new features I’ve also jumped from one to another to use them. I’ve tried more beyond that list above, for example until recently I was using Adobe Creative Cloud and Lightroom as my main approach before moving to iCloud.
I’ve landed on iCloud for now as most of my device are Apple, and iCloud’s seamless syncing and access from Apple devices works great. Now that I am looking at moving from Apple for a device, iCloud’s syncing benefits won’t be there and it complicates that choice. Google Photos may be a better alternative for platform independence, however since I use the Apple Photos app as my primary tool to access and edit photos, doing that with a Google Photos back-end isn’t possible. I have also been syncing to Google Photos “just in case”, but to-date I’ve been using the free version of the service which does not sync full quality versions, which I would need to address if I were to move there as my main repository.
Seeing as I’m not quite willing to give up Photos on my laptop as my main approach to manage, view, and edit photos, I need a solution that will let me keep iCloud as the primary, authoritative location for my photos.
To solve this, for now I am taking this approach:
- Keep iCloud Photo Library as my authoritative, main repository for photos
- Any photos I take, other than on the Android phone, will be added via my laptop and the Photos app as always
- I already have my iCloud library syncing to Google Photos on my iOS devices and Mac. Since this sync is already running, it means I can use the Google Photos app on the Pixel to view my older photos. As mentioned above, these may be lower quality versions than the iCloud versions, however for viewing from the phone that isn’t a problem. I will keep my current iCloud to Google Photos sync from my other Apple devices activate, making it easy to access them from the Pixel’s native client.
- On the Google Pixel XL, any new photos will automatically sync to Google Photos, which is not a problem as I would want a copy there anyway.
- To make sure new photos from the Pixel gets to iCloud Photo Library so that I have all my full resolution photos in videos in one place I will automate syncing new photos and videos from the Pixel to iCloud as described below.
One goal of solving this problem is to make sure a full quality, original resolution copy of the photo or video makes it to iCloud. A lot of of options would sync lower quality copies or may not support videos.
I looked into using IFTTT, which I’ve used to solve other migration challenges and which would allow syncing a photo from Android to an iCloud photo album. I did not pursue this however as I do not trust that the quality would be there, nor that videos would sync.
The solution which I found that would best for me is:
- Configure Dropbox on the GooglePixel XL to upload any new photos or videos to Dropbox
- Configure Dropbox on my laptop to pull a copy of the Camera Uploads folder in Dropbox
- Setup the Automator application on my laptop to monitor that folder and import any new photos or videos to the Photos app
As Dropbox syncs full size, original copies, there is no risk of losing quality or missing photos or videos with this approach. If I have any other devices that do not support iCloud, but support Dropbox’s Camera Upload, I just need to enable that and those will also sync to iCloud.
This article highlights the key steps to configure Automator to do this. It is slightly dated, however it is directionally correct and is easy enough to follow to get the connection set up. When you set up the action on the latest macOS version you can select to import to Photos without adding to an album. It will also default to avoiding importing duplicates so there is no need to clear out the Dropbox folder unless you need to for space reasons. If you don’t delete them after import, you will have a copy in Google Photos, Dropbox, and iCloud. For backup purposes, I’m good with multiple copies.
After creating and saving the action I took a test photo and a test video on my Pixel. Both were in iCloud Photo Library via my PC at full resolution within a minute. They made it to my iPad a few minutes later.
One thing to keep in mind with this is that you need the PC that you run the Automator action from on in order to do this. If it is powered down or does not have network connectivity it won’t work until you are connected so that it can pull down the files from Dropbox and process them.
While this is a macOS only solution, it works for me. Hopefully it is helpful.