3 apps to help your parents share photos


Adam Cecil

Adam Cecil

Former Staff Writer

Adam Cecil is a former staff writer for Policygenius, a digital insurance brokerage trying to make sense of insurance for consumers. He is a podcast producer, writer, and video maker based in Brooklyn, NY.

Published December 17, 2015|6 min read

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Everyone loves taking photos. It’s why you see smartphones with giant camera lenses. It’s why Apple plasters billboards with photos "Shot on an iPhone X." It’s why selfie sticks were invented.

Parents especially love taking photos. They take photos with their phones. They take photos with iPads in the middle of Times Square. They have to stop taking photos with iPads in the middle of Times Square.

But where the older generation runs into problems is sharing photos. It’s no longer as easy as taking your film to be developed and turned into slides, which you then show through a projector while your neighbors pretend to be interested. It’s also no longer as easy as taking your film to be developed and turned into prints, which you then place inside large books with special plastic covering and show to your neighbors while you’re huddled on the couch.

Instead of sharing photos the easy way, your parents and grandparents have to deal with email, texting, and, God forbid, apps.

How can you help? Show your parents one of these apps. We promise that if you take five minutes to explain one of these apps to your parents, the amount of tech support you have to do will get cut in half.

(Added bonus to these apps and services? Some of them automagically back up your parents’ photos. Check out our article on how to help your parents back up all of their data for more info.)

Facebook Moments

Ever been to a party where everyone is taking photos, but you never see most of the photos that are taken? Facebook wants to solve that problem with their Moments app. With Moments, your photos are automatically uploaded to the app (privately!) and organized by date and location. The app also scans faces for known Facebook friends, and, if you want, you can share all of those photos with those friends. Your friends can do the same, and at the end of the day, you all have all of the photos taken at the event.

If your parents are a little more technologically "with it" and already love Facebook (and let’s face it – people above the age of forty LOVE Facebook), this may be the perfect app for them. It not only helps them share photos with their friends, but also share family events like reunions, recitals, and reenactments. If a lot of your parents’ family members are on Facebook, Moments can turn into a sort of super powered family photo album.From the Moments app, it’s easy to share photos to Instagram, save them to their camera rolls, and, of course, share them on real Facebook.

Moments does have a few big downsides. The concept itself can be a little hard to explain, and if your parents don’t share photos from a lot of "events," it may seem pointless. It’s also useless if your parents don’t use Facebook or trust Zuckerberg with their photos. There’s also no desktop version.

Oh, and the biggest downside? The other person needs to have Moments installed in order to see the photos.

iCloud Photo Sharing

(iOS, Mac, Web)If your parents own iPhones or iPads and Macs and Apple Watches and Apple TVs and iPod Hi-Fis or whatever else that fruit company from Cupertino is selling these days, iCloud Photo Sharing is the obvious solution to their digital photo album woes.

iCloud Photo Sharing is super simple: after you turn it on in settings (this Apple FAQ can help you find it on all of your parents' devices), a new tab named "Sharing" will show in the Photos app on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. From there, you can make a new shared photo album and choose the people you want to share it with. You can even give them permission to upload their own photos to the album, making it a true collaborative experience.

Adding photos is super easy. You can add photos from your camera roll or iCloud Photo Library from inside the album; you can also add a photo to the album as you’re scrolling through your library, the same way you share via Messages, email, or to social networks. The shared album has some social features as well. Anyone with access to the album can "like" photos and comment on them. Shared albums also support videos, so you can easily share those as well.

Another added bonus? If your parents have a point and shoot camera or a DSLR, they can use Photos on Mac to both share photos via iCloud Photo Sharing and sync them across their Apple devices with iCloud Photo Library. They don’t even need an iPhone to do this – so if your dad is obsessed with his DSLR and uses an old iMac, iCloud Photo Sharing is still a viable solution for him.

The major downside: if your parents have friends or family members that don’t use an iPhone, iCloud Photo Sharing loses a big part of its appeal. Windows and Android users can still see shared albums if they create an Apple ID and sign in to iCloud using the web interface, but it’s a massive inconvenience.

Another, smaller downside? Your parents could end up having to pay a monthly fee for more photo storage.

Google Photos

(Android, iOS, Web)If your parents use Android phones and tablets or are just more comfortable in the Google ecosystem, Google Photos is the obvious choice. (It also works well on iOS devices and is web-native, so it’s great for Apple fans looking for a cross-platform solution.)

On both Android and iPhone, the Google Photos app can automatically upload all of the photos you take. From there, you can make photo albums and share them via email and social media. If you choose, you make the album totally public, which means anyone with the link will be able to look at your album. Like iCloud Photo Sharing, you can make collaborative albums with other Google users.

Unlike iCloud Photo Sharing, you can’t use Google Photo’s sharing options without using their photo storage / backup solution. Some users may be skeptical of this, and for good reason – Google mines photo information for all sorts of things, which they can use to sell targeted ads. On other hand, that allows them to offer unlimited storage (as long as you’re okay with storing optimized versions of your photos; you’ll have to pay for storage if you want to store RAW photos).

Plus, they have a cool feature where if you search for "dog," it’ll show you pictures you’ve taken of dogs, even if you haven’t done anything to tell Google that there is a dog in those photos. I put that in italics because it is simultaneously cool and terrifying and I wanted it to seem like I was leaning in and making intense eye contact with you.

If your parents aren’t freaked out by that and love their Gmail accounts (having somehow graduated from AOL and Hotmail and Yahoo), Google Photos may be the optimal choice for sharing photos with friends and relatives, no matter what smartphone platform they’ve chosen.