Adobe’s cross-platform photo management service, Carousel, which the company demoed in September at Photoshop World, is now available on iOS devices and the Mac. New apps for both platforms, released on Thursday, let you manage, sync, share and even edit your photo collection on any of your Apple devices.
Of course, all of that comes with a price, and a recurring one at that. Carousel is a subscription service that ordinarily costs $99 per year (or $9.99 per month) but that is available at an introductory price of $59.99 (or $5.99 per month) annually. Luckily, Carousel also comes with a 30-day free trial subscription so you can see if you’re into what the service is selling.
Isn’t this just Photo Stream?
It’s understandable to assume that Carousel and Photo Stream are basically the same. Both advertise the ability to sync your photos across devices. But Carousel is actually quite a bit more sophisticated. It offers impressive yet easy-to-use editing tools (which use the same tech found in Adobe’s Lightroom program) on any device you happen to be using, as well as ample sharing options.
Carousel’s editing choices are impressive. There are a number of quick-hit filters you can apply with a single click (17 in total), which act like Instragram filters to give your pictures a stylish and distinctive look. You can also quickly adjust white balance, exposure and contrast (including using auto settings for the first two), and you can crop and rotate your photos on any platform (iPhone, iPad and Mac all have similar but specifically tailored interfaces).
All editing is nondestructive, too, so you can peel back effects at any time and restore your original image. This also allows you to compare various effects with others when applying filters. It’s remarkably powerful and very easy to use.
Photo Stream is great for automatically keeping all of your photo libraries the same, but it doesn’t offer you much in the way of sharing photos beyond the service, outside letting you email, tweet or message images. Carousel also lets you share individual photos directly via email and Twitter and also via Facebook and Tumblr.
Also, you can share an entire Carousel (you can create up to five on one account) with a person or up to five people. Users will be notified via email that they’ve received access, and they can then check out the full gallery by downloading and installing one of the Carousel apps on any platform. It’s a huge advantage over Photo Stream in my opinion, and one many MobileMe Gallery users are likely missing from Apple’s iCloud offering. You and people you share Carousels with can also tag images as favorites, so that you can see which they like most and vice versa.
Photo Stream has taken a lot of flak for the absence of a delete option for single photos (you have to reset your stream completely to erase them), and Carousel doesn’t make the same mistake. You can individually delete any photo you add; just hit the share button and a big red delete button also appears.
You also don’t automatically add every photo you take to Carousel, as you do when Photo Stream is turned on for iOS devices. Instead, you select them from your phone’s image gallery and camera roll. Imported photos are then grouped by date (something I do wish could be tweaked). For some who appreciate the automatism of Photo Stream, this will be a drawback, but for people who want control over what does and doesn’t go to the cloud, it’s a plus.
Great service, but is it worth it?
For a just-launched service, I was amazed that Carousel was so easy to pick and jump into, and that it worked out of the box exactly as advertised. There were no launch-day hiccups or syncing issues, and inviting others to check out my shared galleries worked smoothly, too. There’s no doubt, for me, that Adobe has produced something better than Photo Stream (it feels like what Photo Stream should have been), but the only question that remains is, Is it something I’d be willing to pay for long term?
There are lots of free options for sharing and storing photos, and even basic services like Flickr can accomplish a lot of what I want to do with Carousel’s sharing features. But Carousel really impressed with how slick it is and how much control it provides a user over what gets posted and who can see it. Adobe also did a great job of taking the most important Lightroom features and packaging them in a simple, accessible way for the average consumer.
In the end, I’m leaning toward signing up because I can already tell this will be the perfect tool for sharing photos with my far-flung family members in a more private way than other alternatives, and because in addition to the existing iOS and Mac apps, Adobe has promised that Android and Windows versions are in the pipeline, too. True cross-platform photo management, editing and sharing that lives in the cloud and works well is definitely something I can get on board with.