Microsoft Photosynth

August 31, 2008

[Sorry if you’re reading this in an Apex RSS stream, as I occasionally talk about other tech stuff here]

Microsoft Labs opened up their Photosynth site to allow people to create their own super-panorama-on-steroids photo collage.  If you’re into digital photography, you should definitely check it out.

What it does

You feed it a whole bunch of photos about a location, from different perspectives, zooms, angles and their software stitches them together on their website.  You can view the synth using either Internet Explorer or Firefox.  (Hey, what do you know?  Browser independance from Microsoft!  Who woulda thunk it???  🙂

Viewing it is like a cool panorama where you can zoom in or out, up, down, side to side, depending on the images you fed it.  Not all the images will get stitched together, and that’s okay.  When you view it, just use the button that looks like 3 dots to move to the next group.  Oh, and make sure you click the full-screen button at the bottom-right of the window, for a truly panoramic effect!

How to make your own

You’ll need a Microsoft Passport account and also sign up with Photosynth.  Then you download a small application that lets you define the images for your synth and uploads them to their site.

They also give you suggestions on how to make your own Photosynth.  One tip I’d add to theirs is limit your images to a max of about 1024 pixels per side (but don’t crop).  Shoot at different zoom levels, up, down, in a sweeping motion and be sure to overlap your shots by about 50%.

My attempts

Here’s a Photosynth I created that came out pretty well.  It’s 69 images of Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah, USA, mostly taken from Sunset Point.  Not all stitched together, but I’m pretty pleased with those that did.  I may try again from different perspectives.



October 4, 2006 is an offsite backup software/service that’s marketed especially to digital photographers, but it will back up your documents and other files as well (if you tell it to). You install the software on your PC (no Mac version yet) and then you can just tell it to scan your machine and back up all your photos.

Or you can point it at specific folders (like My Pictures) and it will backup any photos it finds anywhere in there. Then it will watch for any new files or changes to the files, and back them up to their servers.

If your PC’s hard drive crashes, you can start the recovery process with just a few clicks (after you get the machine back up!) . Then ProtectMyPhotos will restore everything you backed up to where it originally came from.

Special Features:

  • One feature that similar services don’t offer is the ability to view your files from any PC via a web browser. I use Carbonite, which doesn’t offer that a feature, and I miss it at least once a week.
  • Another is that they save multiple versions of your files. So if you make a major edit to a photo, save it over the original shot (bad idea!), and then a week later decide you want the original back, you can restore that version. No word on whether the multiple versions count against your storage limits (see below).

This c|net review in August said ProtectMyPhotos is even simpler than Carbonite, which is pretty darn simple.

The price is excellent too, $39.95 per year for up to 25Gb 40Gb of files.

That wouldn’t hold everything a professional photographer would shoot, but it’s pretty darn good. By comparison, Carbonite charges $50 per year, but says they offer unlimited storage. I have 22Gb with Carbonite now (including My Music files), so I’m pretty unlikely to switch since my storage needs are just going to keep growing (and growing and growing).  Also, Carbonite supports all file types, not just photos, so my taxes, business correspondence, etc. are backed up with them, which ProtectMyPhotos wouldn’t support.

Sharpcast – archives your photos offsite AND share them with friends via photo albums.


  • Looks very easy to use.
  • Solve the photo sharing AND backup solutions at once.
  • Drag your photos from your PC desktop (no Mac) onto their desktop application into an album. They upload the photo to their website and then you can share the albums via your contact list.
  • Changes you make to your photo files on your PC are automatically synchronized with the online albums.
  • Easily sync your photos from your albums to another PC.
  • Even share photos with your camera phone (if you care).
  • Can do rudimentary editing of your photos on Sharpcast’s site and the changes are downloaded to your PC, for true bi-directional editing.


  • Still in beta,
  • no price estimates yet,
  • beta storage limited to 2Gb.

c|net did a good review and comparison with competing product Phanfare (which I’ve looked at briefly before). They actually preferred Phanfare, primarily because it also supports video.

Updated 3/6/07

I just checked out SharpCast again and it looks like they’re out of beta and it’s still free?! Don’t know how, but I’m going to give it a look when I get home!

Updated 3/7/07

I just joined SharpCast and added some photos to an album. All pretty easy (except that sometimes I only keep the RAW files. But SharpCast only supports JPEG files. And it turns out the automatic backup of your original photos is not free, but $65 per year! Oh well!

But it’s pretty easy, lets you make minor photo edits, add captions, share albums, etc. And your friends do not have to register with SharpCast in order to view your albums, unlike some other sites. Your friends can see your photos in a nice slide show format.

They have a “widget” that supposedly will show your SharpCast album on your blog, but I can’t seem to get it to work here.