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At Picturelife, we try to make the way you look at your photos as natural and enjoyable as possible. One feature we offer is “similar sets,” where we group and collapse similar images in the UI so that you’re not stuck repetitively scrolling through what are ostensibly the same photo. You can expand the sets, or turn them off completely when you’re hunting for something specific; but for appreciating your photos on the whole, we think similar sets make for a better experience.
A collapsed (top) and expanded (bottom) similar set.
In addition to some challenging technical requirements, deciding whether two images are “similar enough” is an extremely subjective product question, which made the whole thing a very interesting problem to tackle.
This is a quasi-technical post, so the rest will be a high-level introduction to our solution. If you want to go deeper, here’s an overly academic review of the model and process, including detailed descriptions of several discarded approaches.
Images contain enormous amounts of information. The iPhone 5s takes photos with 8 million pixels—comparing two images at that scale requires too much computational power to be feasible. So the first step is to compress the image as much as possible while retaining the important information about what makes photos similar. Given two compressed image representations, we compute a “distance” between them; the lower the value, the more similar the images. If the images are within a certain threshold, which is determined empirically, then we say those two images are “similar.”
In order to quickly find matches, it’s important that we can search over all of a user’s photos without comparing the distance between each pair (some users have more than 200,000 photos!). This makes the design of the compressed representation and the distance measurement a fairly creative process. Fortunately, there’s a decent amount of literature on this topic, so we didn’t start from scratch, though we did end up with a (marginally) novel solution.
To compress the image, we first resize it to 8x8 pixels and then compute a 64-bit “signature” with 1 bit per pixel (see the paper for details). The distance between 2 images is the number of different bits in their respective signatures. This is called the Hamming distance.
An image of delicious chewing tobacco-style bubble gum and its corresponding (unscaled) signature.
Although we could search over these signatures as-is in sublinear time, it’s pretty easy to get much better performance by running a coarse culling pass, where we only end up comparing a few signatures at the cost of a bit of extra storage. Altogether we require 88 bits per image to compute similar sets.
There are some laughably bad matches that pop up from time to time, but for the most part it’s very effective (and efficient!) and makes Picturelife just a little bit more enjoyable.
An All New Picturelife
Today, we’ve launched a brand new version of our namesake app, and I think you’re going to love it.
There are way too many new features to list individually, but here are the highlights:
It just works – Picturelife has always been amazing when all your photos are in the Picturelife Cloud, but now Picturelife just works right when you download it on your phone – no account required. The new app brings incredible new ways to sort, view and share photos on your phone for people who are life-long Picturelife customers as well as people who just downloaded the app – no account required.
Places – Dive into your photo collection the way you took them: at that bar downtown, that weekend upstate last summer, or the big Japan trip. See your photos from where you are, or scroll off to distant places. It’s a great way to find photos when you remember where you were but not necessarily when.
Faces – Your photos with people in them are the photos you love most. Picturelife detects faces right in the app so you can find the people you love, instantly. Browsing through images face by face is an interesting (and sometimes funny) way of enjoying your favorite memories.
Faves – A first step. A first date. Your dog, being adorable. Favorites helps you keep your most important photos only one tap away.
Quick Actions – It should only take two taps to edit, share, or favorite. Our new app makes this all easier, and remembers what you do most.
I hope you’ll love the new Picturelife as much we do. For more information about the new app, go download it now!
New Plans & New Pricing!
One of the most interesting aspects of providing a service like Picturelife is pricing. How do you find a nice fit for so many different types of customers and so many different needs?
We spent some time looking at the types of customers we have, interviewed a lot of people, and devised an exciting and simple new structure that offers a lot of flexibility.
Today, we’re introducing 3 pricing plans: Unlimited, Family and Solo. Unlimited, Family and Solo give you infinite, 100GB and 25GB cloud storage, respectively. With the Unlimited and Family plans, we also introducing Shared Plans, which now lets you share your account’s storage with up to 3 immediate family members.
In the future, we think you shouldn’t have to worry about how much cloud storage you’re using. Well, that future is here. For $15/month, you can get the full power of Picturelife – Unlimited. By the way, if you were already paying $15 or more for Picturelife, we’ve taken care of you, too: You’re getting upgraded to this brand-new plan for free.
Some folks just need a big place to store photos, but they also want to save money. Our new Family Plan gets you 100GB for just $10 a month. And, just like our Unlimited plan, the Family plan comes with Shared Plans built right in. Now you can share your storage with up to three immediate family members – because after all, just like with phone plans, one family shouldn’t get multiple bills. Plan Sharing works with our new Family and Unlimited plans, meaning you can get your whole family on Picturelife for as little as $10/month.
The Solo Plan
Now you can get started with Picturelife and see how much storage you need as you go. Our new Solo plan gets you 25GB/month for just $5/month.
And that’s it: Simple, affordable and flexible. I think our Family plans are going to encourage sharing with the people who matter most, all while making the actual experience simpler. We can’t wait to hear what you think, so don’t be shy!
Did you know Picturelife has a Status Blog?
Well, you do now! Our Status Blog is where you can find info about minor feature releases, bug fixes, and even scheduled maintenance – like we’re going to have tonight!
If you’re subscribing to this blog for Picturelife’s news and fun, subscribe to the Status Blog to be in the know about important issues!
Have a great weekend, everyone. Hope the weather is nice and you take fantastic photos.
Picturelife for Lightroom
For a long time, we’ve heard from from hobbyist and professional Picturelife customers alike: “We want a Lightroom Plugin!”
We’ve been listening, and today we’re excited to release the first version of Picturelife for Lightroom!
Picturelife for Lightroom has some fantastic features:
First and foremost, Picturelife for Lightroom uses the awesome power of Lightroom Albums and Smart Albums to select which photos to save to Picturelife. Only want your 4 and 5 star photos uploaded? Only photos tagged #picturelife? Your Smart Album is our command.
Sharing your best Lightroom work with your family is also super easy in Picturelife for Lightroom. Any time you re-push an album, just click the “Share New Uploads” box and any photos in that push will go directly into your family’s Family Feed on Picturelife.
And lastly, you get everything else you’ve come to love about Picturelife’s family of Smartloaders: Both your RAW and edited photos get uploaded, but they stay connected and you never see dupes. And of course, all your tagging and rating in Lightroom becomes instantly searchable in Picturelife on your phone and on the web.
We can’t wait to see what you do with Picturelife for Lightroom, and we can’t wait to hear your feedback on it. If you have Lightroom, go download it now!
Picturelife introduces a new advanced editor to help make your photos picture perfect.
Sometimes, you take that perfect photo. The light fills the room, their eyes connect with the camera, and it seems like the frame was just waiting to be found. And other times, well, things just don’t quite all come together. The moment was there, but your camera didn’t produce the image you wanted. What to do? Time for a bit of editing!
Digital photography has its limits, and our photos don’t always have the punch or polish that we saw in our mind’s eye. Picturelife has always had some editing tools available, but today we’re taking a big leap forward. We’ve teamed up with our friends at Aviary to bring you a full-featured editing suite on iPhone, iPad, and the web.
Rotate all those shots that your iPhone mistakenly thought were vertical. Make the colors of a sunset really pop by bumping up the saturation. Add a classic filter effect or frame to make an image timeless. Crop a photo or add a blur to make viewers really focus in on your subject. Get rid of redeye on the scans of your old family snapshots. You can do it all in Picturelife!
We wanted you to be able to find the moments you love, make them as beautiful as they ought to be, and share the best version of your images with friends and family - all without ever having to leave Picturelife. Our new editing features make that process a whole lot easier.
Dan & Bows
Celebrating the release of Picturelife Gifting, the team breaks down their favorite photo gadgets and gifts this year
'Tis the season to be gifting! Today, Picturelife launched Picturelife Gifts, an easy way to make the holidays awesome for that photography lover in the family. To celebrate the launch, the team compiled their favorite photo related gifts and gadgets. Enjoy!
Sharing pictures digitally is great, but getting a photo printed is something special. Paper prints, mattes, and frames all seem so yesterday, so why not print your photos on wood blocks and coat them with beautiful glossy resin?! That’s what our friends at Shiner can do for you. You can send anything from your Instagram account straight to them to be printed - it couldn’t be easier. I recently did this with 24 of my favorite travel photos, and I was blown away with the quality.
There are many iPhone lens products on the market but most are either model specific or require sticking an adhesive magnetic ring to your phone. Easy-Macro Cell Phone Lens Band for iPhone & Android solves this by using a space age material called “rubber” to create a “band” to secure the lens, thus eliminating the need for adhesives and making it compatible with all iPhones and Android models. Get it from our friends at Photojojo!
The best gifts are hand crafted with love. This is a great way to create a beautiful piece of wall art from a treasured picture.
The Bigshot DIY camera kit will provide endless fun and curiousity about photography. Put together your own camera from easy to use parts, then modify and enhance your new camera with fun features like 3D lenses and an LED flash! Buy it from our friends over at GrandSt!
Most people who buy cameras buy zoom lenses or use the ones that came with their camera. There’s a reason for this: zoom lenses are versatile and it’s easy to always get your subject in frame. The problem is they let you be lazy. Using a fixed length lens (‘prime lens’) forces you to think about how your subject is placed within your photo and makes you move your body to the zooming. It’s more challenging but makes for better shots. An added benefit is that fixed length lenses usually let in a lot more light and give you great background blur because they have wider apertures. For most people, the general purpose fixed length lens is the 50mm on full frame cameras and 35mm and smaller cameras. For portraits you want 85mm on a full frame camera and 50mm on a typical DSLR. Since most people primarily take pictures of other people, a portrait lens is a great choice and can be bought pretty cheaply ($200-$400 for something basic). A new lens like this is a much more effective way to improve your pictures than spending that amount on a better camera.
I shot with an early version Canon Rebel for years - I pushed that camera to its limits, and it has a lot of limitations, the biggest being horrible low light capability. The sensor on my Rebel finally died (I was not sad - it meant I could finally justify upgrading) and, (nearly) buying into the hype, I went straight to the Canon 6D - entry level full frame sensor, high ISO, great low light, video. My father, the wisest man on the planet (and a sensor designer), convinced me to check out Canon’s newest DSLR, the 70D EOS. I was glad he did. The 6D is great, but it has a number of limitations that the sensor doesn’t make up for (11 AF points, slow autofocus, pretty pricey). So, my dream gift this Christmas is the Canon 70D EOS lens kit - 18 AF points, up to 12800 ISO (expandable to H:25600), a 20.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor, and a solid (and quiet) 18-135mm f/3.5 kit lens. I tested the video autofocus- it moves so smoothly from one subject to the next using “dual pixel AF” - makes video better for amateurs and pros alike. Live live mode, and a swivel screen to make shooting video even easier (shoot from the hip!). The low light capability is such a vast improvement on my Rebel that it really isn’t even worth mentioning. With a price point around $1,2000 for the lens kit, it’s a solid investment and a great gift for a photographer of any level.
Every time I’m trying to switch lenses and it’s like wtf do I do with this lens cap and I get all frazzled and my subject is growing weary and it’d be nice to just let that shizz dangle. This IS dangle.
Picturelife makes saving your Everpix Archive easy, and free.
Last week, our friends at Everpix announced they would be shutting their doors.
Since then, thousands of Everpix customers have found their way to Picturelife and began the process of manually moving their archives to our service.
Last night, Everpix started giving some of their customers an even easier way to move their archives off Everpix and onto another service by releasing their “Archive" feature.
Today, the Picturelife team worked tirelessly into the night to give those customers a seamless way to directly transfer their Everpix Archive, metadata included, over to Picturelife.
Because this has been a tough week for Everpix customers, Picturelife is allowing people using the tool to try our service for free, taking off our usual 5GB trial limit until Everpix customers get a chance to test out our platform with all their photos in it.
To sign up for Picturelife and/or start using this tool, simply head on over to picturelife.com/everpix .
Picturelife makes it fun and easy to explore photos and videos from your past.
Do you remember what you were doing one year ago today? How about two years ago? Three? Do you have any clue what you were up to ten years ago today? Picturelife does - with its new Memories.
It’s always been easy to go back in time with Picturelife. You could use Timeline to view photos from the day you moved into your first apartment. The Discover section might show you interesting photos from a few years ago, or some of the best shots from your family’s favorite vacation spot. You could use Search to find those hilarious videos from the night of your best friend’s wedding.
I’m happy to introduce a brand new way to look at your past - called Memories. Today’s date is September 30, 2013. What were you doing September 30, 2012? Where were you on September 30, 2011? Who did you see on September 30, 2010? What camera were you using on September 30, 2009? Memories can tell you at a glance what you were doing on this day in history, every year, as far back as you’ve had a digital camera.
Not only that, you can use Memories to focus on any day of the calendar year! Check out all the videos of you blowing out your birthday candles over the years. View photos of all your most ingenious (or not so much) halloween costumes. See who you were with on every New Year’s Eve. Remember how you celebrated each wedding anniversary!
That all sounds like a pretty neat trick, and indeed it is! But I’ve personally found it to be an eye-opening experience. I tend to travel and move around a lot, and I can never keep straight when I was in one part of the world or another. With Memories, I can see that last year I had just completed the move to Chicago. Two years ago I was embedded in the hipsterdom of Brooklyn. Three years ago I was walking the old streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. Four years ago my girlfriend was giving me a haircut in Bangladesh. Seven years ago I was photographing a Red Bulls soccer game in New York. Eight years ago I was studying abroad in Tasmania. Nine years ago I had just gotten settled in my sophomore year dorm room!
It’s fun for me to see all those times gone by together on one screen, and it’s something that I could never even begin to accomplish by my own brainpower. Seeing those jumps from year to year is also rather inspiring though. I can start to remember everything that happened in between, and how one part of my life led to another. It makes me quite excited to imagine where I’ll end up one year from now! It also makes me want to take even more photos.
That’s the best part about Memories, and indeed about Picturelife as a whole. It only gets better the more photos and videos you take. You never have to worry about our software slowing down, or running out of hard drive space, or about not being able to find your way around a growing library. You just focus on capturing the beautiful moments in your life, and we make sure that you never lose track of them.
Picturelife helps you manage even the largest of libraries by grouping together sequences of similar photos.
Photography brings us a great deal of joy, but sometimes it can be a challenge. Beautiful moments are fleeting, and it’s always tricky to snap a photo in that one instant when all the elements come together - the perfect light, a bright smile, and super sharp focus.
Thankfully, in the age of digital photography we can take as many photos as we like - just hold down that camera shutter button for a second or two! The perfect photo will be in there somewhere, but it gets buried amongst the others. You could give the best one a high rating to make it stand out, but you’ll still have a bunch of other photos cluttering up your library. You could delete them, but what if you change your mind later, or your friend thinks a different photo is best? (We don’t like deleting photos, ever.)
This is why we built similar sets into the core of Picturelife. When you upload a sequence of photos, Picturelife will automatically group them together for you. Not only that, Picturelife will also find the best photo and make it visible above the others. Suddenly, instead of ten or twenty photos cluttering up your library, you’ve got just one beautiful moment.
Don’t worry - those other photos haven’t gone anywhere. They’re still safe and sound, backed up on Picturelife and available to you wherever you go. You can always expand a similar set and view or edit any of the photos that were grouped together.
Picturelife chooses the best photo based on its sharpness and exposure. (We’re working on detecting that perfect smile!) Picturelife also pays attention to which photos you share, caption, or comment on. Of course, you can always set the best photo of a similar set yourself by highly rating one photo or another.
Similar sets are available now on both iOS and the web. Picturelife already went back and grouped together similar photos throughout your library. You can recognize similar sets by the small number in the corner of an image thumbnail. Simply click or touch that number to expand and collapse the set. You can find more information on similar sets in our knowledge base.
We think that similar sets will make navigating your growing photo library much easier. Shoot as many photos as you need to capture a moment, and let Picturelife do the rest.