I woke up this morning to a lovely little gallery of pictures of our children that my wife had sent me via WhatsApp.

This has become the most common way we interact with family photos. We regularly send and receive photos to and from our families via WhatsApp, which re-compresses them for transit and temporary storage across their network.

The original photos, wherever they are, will be in a very high quality (as you get on most modern cameras) and will be backed up in perfect fidelity to either Apple or Google‘s photo storage solutions. But all of that seems moot, when the most frequent way we engage with the pictures is via a method which compresses so aggressively that you can clearly see the artefacts, even thumbnailed on a phone screen.

I still don’t feel particularly happy with the solution in place for backing up the photos (or even: getting them off the phone). Both Apple and Google make it less than convenient to get them out of their respective walled gardens. I’ve been evaluating the nextCloud app and a Nextcloud instance on my home NAS as a possible alternative.


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I can relate to your train of thought, this also was a nuisance to me.

The first part of the solution was that I could convince the whole family to switch to Signal as messenger, so pictures are not compressed anymore when they are shared in a group.

The second part (at least on the devices of my wife and me) was to use a Nextcloud instance we already had combined with the app "FolderSync" to copy photos and videos to it periodically when we are connected to Wi-Fi. This app seemed a better fit for this purpose than the original Nextcloud app because you can link single folders to remote folders - the Nextcloud app only supports syncing the whole account (or at least this used to be the case, maybe it's better now). This way we get all the media in one place.

Hot to help!

Comment by Mathis Dirksen-Thedens,
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I like having my family's best photos in print, so I got a HP inkjet printer capable of doing a decent job at it... And either I am blind (and so is my wife), or the quality of the output (usually printed at 5"x7") is not much diminished when printing from WhatsApp... So, that has become our main mean of communicating photos within the family as well.
Comment by Gunnar Wolf,
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One word: syncthing. While I still share photos via messenger (no not whatsapp any more) I know that the photo will be archived on my storage system.
Comment by Matthias Urlichs,
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At least with Apple, it's trivial to download the originals (which means HEIC nowadays) from iCloud. So the backup (of the backup) can be done, manually at least, once in a while.

+1 on how atrocious Whatsapp compresses the pictures.

Comment by Iustin Pop,
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Nextcloud is the best. Self hosting is ok.. But there are some nice hosting services out there that offer nextcloud instances with a lot of space for little money.

Comment by Knusper,
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Not only does WA re-compress pictures, they also remove all metadata (e.g. EXIF) from the pictures, so you basically cannot assign dates to the pictures anymore.
Comment by Bastian Venthur,
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At least with Apple, it's trivial to download the originals (which means HEIC nowadays) from iCloud. So the backup (of the backup) can be done, manually at least, once in a while.

I'd quibble over trivial, but yes that is possible. There's a hard limit on the number of photos you can download in one go, and having to bracket it into non-overlapping, contiguous sets by hand in the web UI is a real pain, so as long as you do it frequently enough that you do not exceed the limit (I forget exactly what it is; 1000 photos perhaps?), then yes that's one way to do it.

Similarly pulling stuff out of Google Takeout is possible.

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(This is a plug) I, too, solve this problem with Nextcloud. If you are willing to use the version that you'd download from nextcloud.com, the whole setup and configuration process can (on Debian with systemd) be automated ( Here's the plug: https://gitlab.com/aerusso/nextcloud-server-deb/ ).

I'm not thrilled with it as a solution, but it solves this exact problem for my family (and myself). I would prefer something smaller, single-function. Syncthing doesn't have an ios client, and I'm a little allergic to the bittorrent side of things (but less so to the PHP and bloat of Nextcloud, which I do tolerate). Photoprism/et. al often don't have a native app, nor do they do photo synchronization. NFS/sftp (over wireguard) aren't going to do the "magic" synchronization step in a pallatable way (for non-technical users). (They're not willing to run rsync, or some platform-specific equivalent. I didn't even bother to look into this seriously.)

P.S. If you think there's a reasonable chance of getting my packaging into Debian contrib, I'm willing to try a harder to get this into upload-able shape. I just got relatively negative feedback on my ITP (see Debian BTS 835086), and then kind of got discouraged targeting a Debian upload.

Comment by Antonio Russo,