The camera systems in the Google Pixel phones are excellent, but Google makes it way too hard for the serious photographer to get a decent workflow going. Does someone out there know a better way? If not, let’s get together and yell at Google. [Update: I found a good way to do this.]

Vancouver’s old Post Office under renovation


It’s like this: Pictures you take with your Pixel migrate into Google cloud and may be found at You don’t have to do anything to arrange this, it just happens. There are slideshow and sharing tools and they’re very decent. It’s a great service, I might even pay for it if Google asked.

But I — like most serious photographers — want to pull the photos, in their highest-resolution form, into a processing workflow. Mine is Lightroom-based, a popular (perhaps even majority) choice. In a real camera, when I say “highest-resolution” I mean a “RAW” format, which tend to come in proprietary flavors such as RAF for Fujifilm and CRW for Canon. It’s OK because Lightroom can handle all of them, and then there’s sort of a standard, developed by Adobe, called “DNG”. A few enlightened camera builders like Pentax generate DNG natively and hey, it turns out the Pixel can too. You go into the camera app Settings’ “Advanced” tab and enable a RAW control on the camera screen.

I’ve just started doing this and at the moment, my feeling is that the Googlecam software does a damn fine job of JPG generation and I’m not sure the DNG will help me that much. But the central problem remains the same: How do I get these files, be they DNG or JPG, into Lightroom?

Wet poppy


AFT · That stands for Android File Transfer, a tired old (32-bit, so my Mac whines at me) program that gives you a Finder-like interface to the Android Linux filesystem once you’ve USB-connected it to your Mac, pulled down the Android notifications, and told it to allow AFT. The JPG files are in /DCIM/Camera and the DNGs are in /Pictures/Raw. I guess what they want you to do is sort the files by date, remember where you last left off with the copying, and then select-and-drag to a staging folder in the nearest Finder window, from which you can do Lightroom input. After which you can take out your stone axe and join in the tribe’s mammoth hunt.

BTW, the Pixel will connect to the Mac in PTP mode and Lightroom can even see it, but then can’t see the pictures.

Dropbox · Using the Android file-sharing dialog, you can pick the pictures from the Photos app and send ’em to DropBox, and then after they’ve traveled from the phone on your armchair off to Dropbox’s home on the Internet and back down to your Dropbox Mac folder — this is not fast — you can go get ’em with Lightroom.

Color study


Dropbox is what I actually do. It’s klunky and slow, but gets the job done and has never to date actually failed to work. But we hear troubling things about Dropbox’s direction.

Google Cloud · You can get a Backup and Sync app from Google that should make some of your Google cloud files sync to your Mac. I’ve had just no end of pain with this one. You have to go mousing around in the preferences for Docs or Drive or something, a real maze of twisty little passages there, and tell it to sync photos as well as other stuff, and then last time I tried it, the process had busted the EXIF so the pictures didn’t know what time they’d been taken. Feaugh.

The other night, I was chatting with Stephen Shankland on Twitter and he seemed to have found a path through the Gcloud maze; hey Stephen, wanna blog that?

Plan D? · Anyone reading this know a better way?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Christian Winkler (Jul 24 2019, at 00:39)

Maybe adb? This is part of the Android Software Development Kit and should be available on all operating systems.

Moreover, you can script it. Works nicely for me.


From: Michael Warkentin (Jul 24 2019, at 03:19)

Are you using Lightroom CC or Classic? CC has an iOS app that can automatically import photos into the adobe cloud storage for editing wherever. Not sure about Android.


From: Tomasz (Jul 24 2019, at 03:45)

AirDroid. You connect via WiFi to your phone and download files directly. No messing with USB cables.


From: skippy (Jul 24 2019, at 04:14)

Your employer had a cloud based photos and file service. Does the Amazon offering provide any opportunities for an improved workflow?


From: Andrew Reilly (Jul 24 2019, at 05:03)

I didn't find the Google Drive thing too complicated: there was a Photos folder, and in that "years" folders, and in that were the photos. Tell Lightroom to import from there, rejecting already-seen photos. Easy. Only they've just turned it off.

You _can_ select whole days' of photos in the Photos web interface and then download them, and I assume import them, but I just turned off the "full detail" option on photo storage because I was bumping into the storage limit, and re-encoded is unlimited, and unhelpful.

So at the moment I'm also leaning on Dropbox: from the app you can set it to automatically upload new photos from the phone to a "Camera Uploads" folder, and that works much like the folder on Google Drive, but the synch is laggier.

Nextcloud's app has a similar photo synch feature, and a colleague uses that. We'll see.


From: Jarek (Jul 24 2019, at 05:39)

Plan D: Ditch the slow, unreliable MTP/"AFT" and go back to direct mounting. Suddenly everything is as easy as importing from an SD card.


From: Dan Turner (Jul 24 2019, at 15:25)

Plan D: Use an SD card, a reader, and copious holy water.

Disclaimer: I think I remember doing this for JPGs, but I've never used my Android for 'serious' photography.


From: David W (Jul 24 2019, at 23:22)

As a heavy Dropbox user (not for photography) do you care to expand on "But we hear troubling things about Dropbox’s direction."?


From: Trung Duc Tran (Jul 25 2019, at 01:55)

You can use one of my "Autosync for ..." apps to sync the DCIM/Camera folder to a folder of your choice in Dropbox/Google Drive/OneDrive/... That folder is synced with your laptop using their official sync client.

Those Android apps sync files as files and they do it bidirectionally (if you delete bad photos in your computer, they will be gone in the phone automatically)


From: Grurp (Jul 26 2019, at 05:00)

You might try "syncthing" ( ( )) for shuffling files over from your phone to your computer. It will sync between clients on the local network not just through the internet and back. I am using it currently to send files (vids of our cats being cute and such) to my girlfriend who is living and working in yellowstone. The internets are slow and flakey up there so something that will cope with that was needed. Syncthing does that with the only restrictions on size being the size of the disks on both ends.


From: Karl Voit (Aug 13 2019, at 07:38)

If you would not use Apple, I'd also suggest to start using Syncthing right away. It solved *all* of my sync-requirements between all hosts: server, workstation, mobile, friends, ...

It respects your privacy (does not seem to be any issue for you personally, YMMV) and works like charm avoiding any vendor lock-in: unobtrusive, FOSS, E2E-encrypted, decentralized (yes, you can run your own discovery infrastructure) and offers any advanced feature I could think of so far (and I'm good in thinking of additional features).

However, Apple seems to want to maintain their golden cage and therefore adds yet another non-tech-related ban for Syncthing on iOS. macOS seems to be safe at the moment. Could change any time - just as the gods of Apple may change minds.


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