There are a handful of photo-sharing sites on the web that promise to help you organize, edit, and share your photos with others. Some sites are well established, such as Flickr, while others are brand-new with the hopes of being the go-to solution you’ll ever need.
The unfortunate part is that if the service in question is relatively new to the scene, there’s a good chance that it might not last too long, much like the infamous Everpix story that came to light last month. Others, if they’re lucky, will be acquired and integrated with a well-known company.
That’s exactly what happened in the case of ThisLife, which was acquired early last year by Shutterfly. According to the press release provided on January 7, 2013:
In the coming months, Shutterfly will layer ThisLife’s technology onto the Shutterfly platform to enable richer storytelling and easier product creation. Consumers will be able to safely and easily preserve, organize and share their memories, regardless of where photos are stored — from Facebook to Picasa to mobile phones. ThisLife’s intelligent organization platform offers features like facial recognition and presents photos and albums in an elegant timeline for convenient sharing and product creation. ThisLife’s employees, including founders Andrea and Matt Johnson, will join Shutterfly.
Fast-forward almost 10 months, to October 30, 2013:
Introducing ThisLife® by Shutterfly. ThisLife is a new Shutterfly service that makes it easy for you to gather, find, and enjoy all your photos and videos
ThisLife puts all your photos and videos at your fingertips—in a single place that you can access on any device. It’s 100% private and secure.
To get started, just import your photos from anywhere (social sites, smartphones, tablets and Mac and PC computers). ThisLife instantly arranges all of your photos and videos into a simple timeline you can view by day, month and year. You’ll see the people you love, places you’ve been and memories you’ve made.
We’ll pull your tags from Facebook and iPhoto, remove all duplicates and only keep the highest resolution photos. If you’ve taken pictures with a smart phone, we also note the location. People are of course the most important part of your pictures. We make face tagging quick and easy with our facial recognition that even works with kids and babies.
After reading this announcement, I decided to give ThisLife another try. I have thousands of photos of my kids that I need to organize, and this was the final push to do just that.
A few things to note: For this review, I did a select test of images to upload and edit, so the library may seem scarce compared to what I actually have. Keep in mind, I use a Mac at home and iOS on the go, but there are Windows and Android versions of the desktop and mobile apps.
The desktop uploader is pretty straight-forward: there are 3 tabs at the top of the window: iPhoto, Computer, and Devices.
iPhoto – As this implies, the desktop uploader will automatically detect your iPhoto library and present you with the option to import all media found (at this time, you can’t select individual photos from this area). As you can see in the image above, any duplicate photos will be automatically detected and therefore, won’t be uploaded.
Computer – This gives you a little more control over the photos that are imported, as you’re able to select individual photos versus your entire iPhoto library. Simply drag photos into the window once you’ve selected Computer, and the app will do the rest for you.
I use this option the most, because a lot of photos in iPhoto aren’t worthy of being uploaded or saved (bad focus, lighting, etc), and I simply don’t want them added and using up my quota.
Devices – Any device you have connected to your computer; such as iPad, iPhone, or a digital camera will be recognized in this tab,allowing you to upload any photos and videos found on them.
The desktop uploader is a simple, no-frills application that gets the job done without any fuss, and it has plenty of options from which to choose.
(The iPad and web interface are similar in appearance and functionality, and so I will be showing images from my iPhone)
The main window of the iOS app, showing your photo library. There is basic editing within the app: adding items such as tags and a location on the go. The iOS app of ThisLife is universal, working on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
The side panel of the iOS app, with shortcuts to stories, people, tags, etc. From here, you can also add photos from your camera roll, or web services such as Flickr, Picasa, and SmugMug. You can even directly import from Shutterfly.
Last of all, you can always use your web browser to add, edit, view, and share images if you prefer. In fact, if you use the iOS app on an iPad, you’ll notice how similar both interfaces are. There are some small differences, such as the ability to quickly filter images by people and places tags, as well as searching within your library.
Editing is a bit lacking on any device, as you can only tag faces, add locations, share, and comment on the pictures. For any color enhancements or other in-depth editing, you’ll have to process the image in another app first before uploading it. Since ThisLife is in beta, I hope to see this added in the future.
One of my favorite parts of using the browser is the ability to order products created from my pictures. Considering Shutterfly owns ThisLife, I expected nothing less from them in this area.
One last item I didn’t cover but I’ll briefly mention is Stories. Whether you’re using the mobile app or web interface, you can create “stories”; that is, a group of pictures grouped together that tell a story. It’s a great way to organize pictures from events such as a wedding, graduation ceremony, and other events that you wish to remember.
I’m a Flickr member and I’ll admit, I don’t really upload or share much, if at all. I think the user interface itself has a lot to do with it. I’m not worried about the social aspect, as I don’t really worry if someone comments or likes what I share.
The iOS app feels out of place since it’s not iOS 7-native, but it works well and for now, that’s what matters. I don’t spend all day in the app so that minor detail doesn’t bother me too much.
At the very least, the free plan is more than enough to get you started with organizing, sharing, and backing up important pictures.
ThisLife is available in 2 plans: Free (1000 photos only, no video), and Paid ($7.99/month or $79/year, 25,000 photos and videos up to 100GB). Check out the pricing page for more information.
- Native iOS and Mac apps
- Shutterfly integration
- Sort via Day, Month, and Year
- Search via tags, places, and people
- Simple to use
- Elegant interface
- Easily imports pictures from various web services
- Editing (touching up photos) takes a few extra steps
- Free plan is limited to just 1000 pictures
- No videos in free plan
- Can be costly if you’re on a budget
- Can only order prints via web browser