Holiday gatherings mean lots of snapshots; and when the party’s over, the good feelings continue though shared photos. Here’s how to create a collaborative album made up of everyone’s favorites.
There are dozens on online sites that let you post images for others to view. But they often lack good collaboration options — or your friends and family simply don’t want to sign up for them. On the other hand, almost everyone you know probably has a Facebook or Google account. And cloud-storage services such as Dropbox and OneDrive are also in widespread use.
In this article, I’ll tell you how to create a quick and simple photo album in Dropbox, Facebook, Google Photos, and OneDrive. Then I’ll explain how to allow selected collaborators to add their own photos to the mix.
But before you start uploading, use a bit of discretion. Don’t kill those good feelings by posting all 258 pictures you snapped after the fourth cup of eggnog. Pick just the best ones — and encourage your collaborators to do the same!
Note: The following instructions assume that you’re creating and sharing your album on a Windows PC, via a desktop browser.
Facebook: The universal social network
Facebook is the obvious choice for this sort of project. Sometimes, it seems as if most of the human race shares photos — as well as political views and too much personal information — on the king of social networks.
But Facebook’s very openness and ubiquity brings considerable privacy issues. So before you and your friends start building shared photo albums, check out “How to keep your Facebook privacy private.” Among other things, it’ll tell you how to limit who sees your albums.
If you and your collaborators decide to use Facebook, be sure to create the album on your Home page, which is not the same as your News Feed page that comes up when you launch Facebook. To get there, click your name on the blue bar at the top of the page to return to Home.
Start your new album by clicking Photos and Create Album. This brings up a standard Windows/File Explorer “Open” dialog box. Go to the appropriate folder and select the photos you want to share. (For better organization, you might want to put those photos in a separate folder beforehand.)
Click Open; Facebook will pop up its Create Album screen and upload your photos. While that’s taking place, enter information such as an album name in the panel on the left (see Figure 1). Next, check the Make Shared Album option under “Let Friends Add Photos.” Now enter the names of your collaborators.
Figure 1. Facebook’s Create Album includes the Make Shared Album option for collaboration.
Click the Post button to make the album live.
Facebook will notify your collaborators of the new album the same way it notifies you that someone has commented on a post. They can simply click the notification to go directly to the album (assuming they’re already signed in to Facebook). Once on Facebook, collaborators click Add Photos and select their contributions to the new album. When they’re done, they click Post Photos.
Facebook includes several contributor privacy options. From the album, click Edit/Privacy; you can then select Contributors Only, Friends of Contributors, or Public (Figure 2). See the Facebook Help system for more information.
Figure 2. Facebook gives some privacy control over album contributors.
Dropbox: Sharing is easy; collaboration, less so
Dropbox is excellent for storing images, and it has strong collaboration tools. But it doesn’t have a formal system for creating collaborative albums.
To create a basic album in Dropbox, all you need do is create a new folder inside your main Dropbox folder, give it an appropriate name (e.g., “Holiday party”), and move or copy the desired photos into that folder. (Simply moving photos might cause other related apps to lose track of the images’ location.)
You don’t even have to upload the collection; Dropbox does that automatically as part of its standard synching process.
If you want to share the album but not allow collaboration, right-click the folder and select Copy Dropbox Link. Your clipboard now contains the URL to the online version of the folder. You can then paste the URL into an email or a Facebook post — your recipients don’t even have to have a Dropbox account.
Allowing others to contribute to an album gets more complicated. Your collaborators must have Dropbox accounts, and each account must have enough room for the final album. A free Dropbox account has only 2GB of storage, making it all the more important that everyone be selective in what they put into the album.
To create a collaborative folder/album, right-click the folder on your PC and select the Share option (the one with the Dropbox icon on the left; see Figure 3).
In the Share dialog box, type in your collaborators’ email addresses — or better yet, copy and paste them from your email client or address book so you won’t get stuck with a typo.
Make sure the Can edit option is selected and then click the Invite button.
Your collaborators will receive an email inviting them to Go to folder. That brings them to the online folder, where they’ll have to click the Add to Dropbox button (Figure 4). The folder and its contents will then download to their local Dropbox folder.
Figure 4. Collaborators must have a Dropbox account to add photos to an album.
Once that’s done, all they need do is move or copy some of their photos into that folder to become part of your album.
That’s a good way to build a shared collection of images, but there’s another way to create a more formal Dropbox Album (see Figure 5) — but not collaboratively. Any images that are shown in your online Dropbox Photos section can be added to a Dropbox Album. On the Dropbox website, click Photos and then Album in the left column. Next, click New Album. Give it a name. Next, go back to Photos and select (big blue checkmark) any you want in the new album. When you’re done, go to the top of the page and click the three-dot menu icon. Click the Add [number] to album option and select the album name.
Figure 5. Dropbox’s online Albums feature doesn’t support collaboration.
The catch: Unless you’re using the Dropbox Camera Uploads feature, it can take some time for new images to show up in Photos — if they do at all. Also, others can view your Dropbox albums but not edit them.
Google Photos: Easy and quick albums
Google has its own Dropbox-like cloud-storage service (Google Drive), but it also has another service intended specifically for photos.
To use Google Photos, you and your collaborators must have Google accounts — Gmail or YouTube accounts will do.
When you first set up Photos, you’ll get two options for “Upload size:” High quality and Original (Figure 6). The former option gives you unlimited free storage, but your images will be compressed. They’re good enough for a typical PC, but I probably wouldn’t want to view them on 50-inch HDTV or print them. The Original option keeps the full size of the uploaded photos, but it counts against your storage allotment. That’s 15GB for a free account — minus what you’re using for Gmail and other Google services.
Figure 6. Photo’s High quality option compresses uploaded photos, potentially reducing image quality.
To create an album, go to the Photos website, click Upload, and pick your images from the dialog box. Once they’re uploaded, select Shared Album from the next dialog box (see Figure 7).
Figure 7. Click the Shared Album option to allow collaboration.
Next, in the Add to shared dialog box, click New shared album and give the album a name; then, click the Share button in the upper-right corner.
In the next dialog box, enter names or email addresses, or select from the list provided by Google. Add a message. (You can also get a link post/email or connect to a social-networking service.)
Your collaborators will receive an email with a View album button. This will bring them to a message box where all they need do is click Continue. They can then click the tiny Add to album icon (along the row of icons in the upper-right corner), click Select From Computer in the upper-right corner, and select their photos.
OneDrive: Easy collaboration for Win8/10 users
If your collaborators are Windows users who like their software up-to-date, they probably all have subscriptions to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud-storage solution — even if they don’t know it.
When you set up a PC for Windows 8 or 10, the installation process all but insists that you create a Microsoft account — and a Microsoft account always includes OneDrive. (There’s a OneDrive for Mac app, but most Apple users don’t have it on their systems.)
Microsoft gives you 5GB of storage for free. But if you have Office 365, you get a full terabyte. But please, don’t try to fill even one percent of that terabyte with a single photo album — you might lose some friends.
As with Dropbox, you can easily share a photo album with anyone. But you can only collaborate with other OneDrive users. Start your collaboration by creating a folder inside the local OneDrive folder. Name it as you like and move/copy your best holiday photos into the new folder.
To create a quick online slideshow of your photos, simply right-click the local OneDrive folder and select Share a OneDrive link. Then paste the given URL into an email.
Creating a OneDrive Album requires a bit more work. Right-click the local folder and select View online. Now, in your browser, right-click the folder and select “Create album from folder,” as shown in Figure 8. (The album name will be the same as the folder.) While still in your browser, click the Photos heading on the left side of the screen; then click the Albums tab at the top.
Figure 8. OneDrive makes it easy to create an album from a folder of photos.
To collaborate, right-click the album and select Share. In the resulting dialog box, click “Anyone with this link can view [or “edit”] this item” and make sure that Allow editing is checked (Figure 9).
Figure 9. OneDrive’s Share feature includes the Allow editing option for collaboration.
Click either Get a link or Email, depending on how you want to notify your collaborators. I prefer getting a link and pasting it into an email I create myself.
When your collaborators receive the email, they can click the link to go directly to the album’s webpage. Once there, they can click Upload/Files to put their photos into the album. If you want to lock the album, simply go back to the Share dialog box and uncheck Allow editing.
Using the common format: You might want to discuss these four services with your collaborators before you start. The one that all or most of them have will likely be the one they’re most willing to use.
Inevitably, you’ll have one would-be collaborator who has trouble using email. Find a way to acquire their photos and upload them to the album yourself.
Spector, Lincoln. “Collaborate on a Holiday Photo Album with Ease”. Windows Secrets. December 2016