ThisLife wants to store and manage all your photos

ThisLife is an intriguing and capable photo system from the folks at Shutterfly. It's been in beta for a long time, and we last took a look 2 years ago when the service was by invitation only.

ThisLife is an end-to-end photo manager. It gathers photos from your local computer, cell phones, tablets, and any social services you are a part of. It uploads them in full resolution and then provides a web based portal and dedicated apps for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches.

ThisLife automatically uploads in the background on iOS, and you can tell it to only upload when you are on Wi-Fi if you are watching your data use. On a Mac, there is an auto uploader that watches what is going into iPhoto and uploads images in the background, or you can do it all manually. You can also point the uploader to folders on your Mac and upload those.

Families can have sharing, so all photos from all devices can be uploaded into a large pool -- or not -- as the user wants.

Like iPhoto, you can tag the photos with locations and people names, and you can rotate, crop or delete individual photos or groups of photos. There are no other editing tools, so don't expect filters and some of the other tools iPhoto provides.

On the web, or using the iOS app you get views of your library, people, places, stories, and a find function. Stories are photos grouped by theme.

I tried the app on my iPad, and also uploaded about 2,000 photos from my laptop. Everything went smoothly. When I uploaded duplicates, the ThisLife software figured that out and only uploaded the highest resolution photo. Getting photos back is a breeze: any photo in the collection can be downloaded in full resolution to your desktop, laptop, or to your iOS device.

The ThisLife system is not alone in the consumer space, but it does provide a more end-to-end solution. iPhoto limits you to Apple devices. Flickr and Google+ do photo editing and syncing, but they don't aggregate from other social networks.

Once your photos are in the cloud, you can forward them to others, either singly or as a group. ThisLife supports adding annotations to photos, and you can even record a short voice clip. You can also order photo books, with the design and layout nicely automated by ThisLife.

The automation and level of control with This Life is commendable. I never saw any bugs, and uploading was quite fast over my not-so-speedy DSL connection.

Improvements? I can think of a few. There are small differences in the GUI between the Mac and iOS versions, so if you learn on one platform everything is not in the same place on another platform. While help is available using the web based portal, there is no help in the iOS apps. I'd also like to see the ability to change the size of the thumbnails in the web version. ThisLife only supports jpeg images, and a wide variety of video formats. Some people might be happier with TIF format storage or even RAW file uploads.

Pricing is quite reasonable for the features offered. A free plan provides space for 2,500 photos. A $59.00 annual plan offers storage for 25,000 photos and video up to 100 GB. To sweeten the deal, you can get a photo book printed for free. A Premium service is $139.00 annually, providing storage for 100,000 photos and videos up to 400 GB. There is also a free photo book offered at the Premium level. Prices are quite fluid, but for a rough comparison SmugMug charges begin at $40.00 per year for unlimited storage, Flickr offers a terabyte for free, and Google+ is $120.00 annually for a terabyte. While all the services overlap, not all have all the features you may want, while ThisLife pretty much does everything.

ThisLife is a powerful service for getting all your photos in one place. Vice President Erik Weitzman told me he was hoping to offer a reliable and easy to use service for families that have photos scattered over many computers and mobile devices. That goal is accomplished with ThisLife, and I think families and individuals will see this as a worthwhile solution. You can certainly try the free limited services to get a taste of how it all works, and of course the company is hoping you will find it attractive and sign up. I think many people will appreciate another option in the increasingly crowded field of photography management and storage.