For a photographer in India nothing could be more biblical than an interaction with legendary photographers like Raghu Rai and Prashant Panjiar. The Delhi Photo Festival offers this opportunity to many budding shutterbugs, but the stark reality is that not everyone can reach the capital city. Google is doing its bit and will conduct Google Hangout sessions so that budding photographers in the country can interact with the likes of Prashant Panjiar and it will also showcase some off the best pictures on the official Google+ Delhi Photo Festival page. It wants Google+ Photos to be the ‘go to’ online product that people use in India for showcasing, editing and sharing photos, if not the world over.
“One of the beautiful aspects of having a photography week like this is that aspiring photographers can meet the ‘Gurus’ and learn from them, but again India is a big country, like I am from Kerala, you can’t expect a photographer from Kochi to come all the way for the Delhi Photo week. So, that is what we are trying to solve with the Google+ Hangout.” Sandeep Menon, Google India’s Director for Marketing told BGR India.
Conducting Hangouts around topical events is nothing new for Google. It hosts Hangouts for everything under the sun – from Shah Rukh Khan promoting his upcoming movie to Finance Minister P Chidambhram hosting hangouts. But this time around the focus is around a singular feature of Google+ – establishing itself as the leader when it comes to photo editing tools and the social element of sharing.
Menon himself calls it the social thread that binds all of Google’s online services. And mind you there are a LOT of them. From a technology point of view, all evidence suggests that Google+ Photos is a better product for photographers especially when compared to Facebook. It allows its users to upload unlimited images ranging up to 2048 pixels,and if a user wants to upload pictures at original resolution it offers 15GB of free storage when one accounts for the storage in Gmail and Google Drive. It also has a ton of automated features that enhance photographs and organize them, removing duplicate or blurry photos that come in handy to the layman.
But this advantage is visceral, because people upload their content where it is viewed the most. Google+ Photos may be superior to Facebook for editing and storing photos in the cloud, but people want to upload their content where their friends, family and audience are. And Google+ is not that place.
When asked about the user adoption of Google+ in India, Menon claims that Google has seen a massive uptake, but then refuses to share any numbers that would provide credence to that theory. And that remains a problem for the company because it may technically have more users who use other Google services like Gmail, the active usage of the service is lacking and is way behind a social network like Facebook, which has the users, and users who are addicted to it.
Google+ Photos certainly has the potential to be the go-to place for photographers. One just needs to take a look at Sumit Sen, a bird and nature photographer who has transitioned to being a completely digital photographer. He sees eye to eye with Google’s vision,and a look at his Google+ profile shows why Google+ is better canvas for photographers to showcase their content.
Brian Truono, the owner of the Brian Truono Photography page on the HDR photography community on Google+ explains, “Facebook limits who sees your posts unless you fork over a lot of money for each post. Flickr lost a lot of its viewership over the years but seems to be making a small comeback. 500px’s algorithms are a little more challenging to get your photos seen by anyone, but it does filter to show beautiful imagery (also a paid service). But with Google, sharing is easy, can be seen immediately, it’s free, and results can appear in Google searches.”
Flickr has been long loved by photographers and it also allows the upload their original resolution pictures for free by providing 1TB of storage. Google believes that by offering a more mass market product like Google+, which does the difficult things like photo editing and organization in a simpler form will be more appreciated. It also talks about offering choice and believes that at the end of the day the best product would win the battle.
“The primary principle that Google works under is about democratizing the Internet. The thing that differentiates us is that we are all about choice. I honestly believe that the choice resides with the consumer. The consumer will come and choose the product which delivers maximum value for him and offers maximum features,” said Menon. “If you look are the growth of Google+ Photos as a platform for photographers compared to some of the products you named, the reason why we have gained such rapid adoption both in India, but specifically globally, is because it has brought technology to the end users benefit that many of these services did not provide,” he explained.
History has repeatedly proven that the best product does not always win the battle. At the same time small steps are incredibly important and Google has shown that it is willing to be patient with Google+ as a service and it is in for the long haul. Capturing the imagination of Indian photographers is only the first step, in the long run it will need to woo regular users and prove Google+ is the go-to social network if it wants to make Google+ Photos to be a successful product. More importantly for it to succeed with photographers in the interim, it has to create more awareness amongst artists that Google+ with the power of Google search can make their work more visible than say the world’s most popular social network – Facebook.
Google for its part is doing everything for Google+ in terms of innovation. It’s iterating on photography features, the UI of the apps and the website, and creating Hangouts into an alternative to Skype as a video communication platform. But success has only come in spades, though there is no denying the work Google is pouring into Google+ and Google+ Photos is the optimum example of its innovative roots.
Disclaimer: Google paid for my travel and stay to cover the Google world photography day event in Mumbai.