Choosing a service to save and share your precious smartphone photos is an important decision. Carousel, a new photo-sharing service made by the cloud-storage company Dropbox, offers a sleek, fuss-free medium to store, organize, display, and share all your images that is a real competitor to mainstays like Flickr, Google Drive, and iCloud.
The key to this iOS and Android app’s appeal is its image-rich gallery, which you can scroll through with a casual drag of a finger, or use to jump to a particular year or month. It’s a shame that this app wasn’t released for iPad; its visually striking photo stream would be a natural fit for a larger screen.
Nevertheless, its messaging capabilities do make it a fit for a mobile device. The app allows you to quickly share image bundles — what it calls “events” — from a specific day on your photo timeline to any person in your contact book. You can also use that space as your own personal chatroom with a person. So anytime you share photos, the conversation doesn’t have to stop after an image is transferred.
Services like this do exist already. Apple wants you to back up your photo stream on iCloud. Flickr (which, like Yahoo Tech, is owned by Yahoo) wants you to take photos and upload them to your 1 TB of online storage space. Dropbox’s hope is that you’ll eventually come to rely on the Carousel app so that when you’ve reached peak backup memory (after the free 2 GB you get when opening a Dropbox account), you’ll be inclined to upgrade to a premium storage plan along with it.
Whether you’ll need to do that depends on your own due diligence as a photographer or editor. But if Carousel keeps improving upon its first stab at image sharing, you could very well be inclined to go all in.
Here’s how it works:
You’ll be greeted by Carousel’s cutesy home screen.
After a brief intro, you’ll be asked to either create a new account or sign in to Carousel using your existing Dropbox account. If you’re a Dropbox person, I’d definitely suggest the latter, since the app can automatically access and sync your photos from that account.
Whether you’re signing in with your Dropbox account or creating a new one, make sure to check the box that says Allow Carousel to back up my photos. This way you won’t have to worry about losing them if your phone goes missing or breaks.
Once you’ve signed in, Carousel will run you through a few navigation lessons. They’re pretty intuitive, but here are the basics:
You have two options for scrolling through your photo stream: You can either swipe up and down or you can navigate horizontally by dragging your finger right and left on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. In both search options, photos are organized in chronological order and grouped by date. Carousel calls these groups events.
You can choose to share an entire event with a friend by tapping the little icon in the upper-right corner of each grouping.
When you touch the icon, each photo will display a checkmark. This means it’s selected to be shared with someone.
If you’d like to edit which photos are included in the bundle, simply tap those you don’t want included, and the blue checkmark icon will become transparent.
When you’re all done, tap Share in the upper-right corner.
From there, you’ll need to choose who you’d like to send your photos to. You can search for other friends who have the app by name, phone number, or email. Keep in mind that you’ll have to give the app permission to access your contacts in order to make this process work.
If you’d prefer to text message, email, or tweet the bundle, just tap the three dots on the right of the recipient box.
When you send your message within the Carousel app, it’ll show up in a continuously updated conversation between you and your recipient(s). You’ll know it has been successfully transmitted when the image is no longer grayed out on your screen. (It’s actually sort of amazing how quickly you can send event bundles.) If you want to save a photo that someone sent you, tap the Keep Photo tab underneath an image.
When you decide to keep a photo or an event, Carousel will automatically save the image to Dropbox, and you’ll be able to view it in your carousel immediately.
Note that Carousel will analyze the metadata of the image and place it in your feed according to the year it was taken (in this case, 2005).
If you’d like to share a single photo, tap it. It’ll enlarge, and then all you need to do is swipe up.
Hiding and deleting photos from your stream
Carousel’s beautiful display is easily sullied by a blurry or private photo. Especially if you’re using it to show off to friends.
You can choose to “hide” any photo from your stream with one quick downward swipe. Hiding a photo is like sentencing it to a limbo between being featured on the main Carousel and deleting it altogether. It’s out of sight, but still using up your storage memory.
To access your hidden photos, make sure you’re on the main Carousel page and tap your user icon in the upper-left corner.
From there, tap Hidden Photos & Videos.
You’ll be shown everything you’ve hidden up to that point. Tap the icon in the upper-right corner to delete or restore your hidden photos.
If you’re constantly taking photos throughout the day, backing up your images to Dropbox could suck your data plan dry. So while you’re in the Settings section, be sure to select Backup Options.
From there, choose Wi-Fi Only. Your phone bill will thank you later.
And there you have it. You’re now a master of Carousel. Go send a photo of your adorable pet to your friends. Just try not to overdo it.