Thoughts on Photography Tools

The tool I'm looking for doesn't seem to exist

Published 15 July 2022 - by Alvar Lagerlöf

I've taken photos ever since I was a kid. I love framing up something I find beautiful, and freezing that moment in time. Over the years, I have taken photos with a few compact cameras, a DSLR, and lately my phone, due to my negative experience with Instagram.

When I started, phone cameras were terrible. But they have gradually gotten really good. My Pixel 6 takes nice photos. Previously, I stored photos in Google Drive, but recently set up a file server for myself. Google Drive worked well for photos from cameras, but has never been a good experience for uploading from a phone.

So, I use Google Photos. Very convenient, but with one big issue. Editing. In the app, it's quick, but the tools are lacking. Using other apps/programs is possible, but you need to manually download each photo, edit, and then upload again. It gets messy. Where Google Photos shines in quickly browsing through photos. With that you lose a lot of flexibility and freedom. It's perfect if you only want to take pictures with your phone, and only want to make simple edits.

There are of course other tools, like Adobe Lightroom, which seem nice at the surface, but have a monthly cost that can get quite high. All data is also cloud-based, in a structure not exposed in the file system. And lastly, they have no Linux clients at all.

There are numerous other tools, some being file-system-based, but they usually fail on some points, like having an interface that is clunky, or no mobile upload. This leaves me in a place where I don't have one source for all photos, and therefore multiple places to edit and view. Not convenient at all.

So, with that context in mind, I've been enticed to make my own thing. Here are the goals of what I want to create:

  • Open-source
  • Apps for all platforms on desktop/laptop and mobile
  • Operates on your own data store (disk, nas, service) and you can always see the data folder.
  • Keeps a folder structure that makes sense out of the box even if you stop using the app.
  • Keeps edits as separate files next to the originals, even multiple ones. So you know everything is there, but the app can show you only the most recent edit by default.
  • The main view is an endless scrolling grid automatically sectioned off by dates. Smaller versions of images are cached, so scrolling is always fast.
  • You can create collections for events/trips/etc. If you move a file to a collection, that is clearly represented in the data structure. No hidden databases or indexes. The app does the magic based on files in folders.
  • A map view based on GPS coordinates.
  • The app can create its own data as long as it can be destroyed. Saving caches or thumbnails is okay, for example.
  • Each platform can upload/import.
  • It should be possible to silo data at the root level. Google Photos has Archive, which is useful for receipts, memes and screenshots. Let that be folders at the top of the tree, with custom names but the same file structure as the main view.

As far as I know, this app does not exist. I've been thinking about making it for a while. I don't have experience coding photo editors or viewers, other than knowing what I want. If any of this sounds interesting, contact me and let's discuss.