Google + for Photographers: Is it Worth It?

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Take a look at the major stories in tech new these days and you'll see that Google + is all over it. The service, which is currently on an invite only basis, is looking to become the next big thing in the social media world—looking to rival the current king: Facebook! Many photographers already have a presence on Facebook (both personal and business) so is Google Plus really worth your effort?


Intro

First off, Trey Ratcliff has created an area for photographers to gather on Google Plus. In fact, there are two lists at the moment.

Google Plus can be a bit tricky to navigate at first, but once you play around a bit, it can become second nature.

Note that you can import and invite contacts from your Gmail account if you have one already. From there you can put these contacts into circles. Think of these circles as your own little groups: but to be more specific you can think of them as social circles.

By default, you have circles like co-workers, friends, family, acquaintences, etc. You can add different people to different circles.

What's the point of this? More targeted postings. If I want to do a "status update" about how obnoxiously loud the guy next to me is and I only want my friends to see but not my co-workers, I can target the update to my friends, family, and possibly my aquaintences. Other people can also do the same to me.

This can become even more targeted with Huddles: which will allow you to start the near equivalent of giant chat rooms—think back to the AOL days when everyone thought it was the hip thing to do. You can also video conference with your client, lighting technician, grips, assistants, editors, etc all in one place.

Like Facebook's News Feed, Google + has a stream that displays updates from all of my contacts. Think about targeting certain updates to clients. Something like, "So excited to shoot this wedding today, just hope that the rain let's up. The bride looks beautiful." is a small statement that humanizes you as a photographer to your clients.

Beyond this, Google +'s Albums will function much like the albums of your busines's Facebook page. Post photos from a wedding (which you'll still hold the copyright to) and people will look and comment on them: potentially drawing in new clients. Uploading images to albums (and creating them) is much simpler than on Facebook and doesn't require outside services like Twitter does.

Think of it as microblogging in many different ways and on one platform. In fact, the company intends to integrate Blogger and Picasa into Google Plus.

Google + also takes bits and pieces of other major services and combines them into one service:

1. It takes Twitter's status updates (tweets) but removes the hashtags and universal search for certain key terms. However, when you update with images, you can actually seem them live in the Stream.

2. It takes FourSquare's geolocation based service and coorelates with Google Maps' features. Note, this is best used in the mobile version.

3. It takes almost every feature of Facebook, but gets rid of private message (that's what Gmail is for.) The stream looks a lot like the Facebook News Feed, Albums functions similarly but a bit sleeker and better with more information available to users, and making updates visible to only certain people is much simpler than it was before. Counter to Facebook's chat feature is Google Chat, which has been out for quite a while and is popular amongst Gmail users.

Photo Sharing Protection?

Google Plus allows you to browse through your contacts' photo stream in a way that looks similar to a Google Image search. Additionally, you can have your own albums, which look a bit more like 500px's style vs more popular sharing sites like Flickr. Your photos can also be displayed on your profile in the fashion as Facebook—with the last five photos looking like a banner of some sort.

Your photos also have their EXIF kept in tact: which means that you'll always be able to go back and take a look at the information on how it was shot, what camera was used, etc.

But are your photos protected? Indeed, one of the reasons why many photographers didn't join Picasa (now with unlimited storage thanks to Google Plus) was because of their terms of service. According to Google's Terms of Service, you are protected the best you can be on the internet:

11. Content license from you


11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

David Cardinal talks a bit more about this in his comparison posting of many different photo sharing services.

Further Customization?

Want a customized Google Plus link? You can check out Google Plus Nick: which can give you your own customized url. Beyond this, there doesn't seem to be much more customization that differentiates the service from others out there.

So why is it so important? Because they're Google. Google has their fingers in everything and when they aggressively launch a product, they're usually very committed to it. Android was one example. Google Plus integrates not only with Gmail, but Google +1 (for ranking and sharing content) Google Images (Picasa) and in the mobile version it integrates with Google Maps for a FourSquare-like functionality.

Indeed, it's the next killer app, or at least it will be. Google Plus seems like it needs to mature a bit more. There seems to be something missing from it that really makes it reach out and grab you.

In fact, Google may be embracing and listening to photographers.