Photographers become photographers for, well, the part of the process that actually involves taking photos. Backing up photos is a necessary but mundane part of the art. But what if tasks like backing up photos to the cloud were automatic? What if you could work on a creative team and get feedback from across the world just a few minutes after actually taking the images? Those are just some of the things that could be possible with camera-to-cloud technology. And at the forefront of that technology is frame.io.
Frame.io started as a video collaboration tool—and is still heavily invested in Premiere Pro and After Effects. But, recently, the software has also opened up to still photographers. But the software’s biggest perk for photographers isn’t the ability to comment and share with a team. No, the biggest perk is the ability to do all of that with automatic camera-to-cloud uploads.
Is camera to cloud the next big thing in photography technology? I took Frame.io for a spin to answer precisely that question. The software solves a few pain points for photographers and has big potential. But, early on in the game, the types of photographers that will benefit most are limited, and there are some glitches to contend with.
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What is Frame.io?
Frame.io is an Adobe software that’s designed for media collaboration. The software allows photographers to share and review images in a team-based environment. But, the software’s biggest draw is camera to cloud, where supported cameras will automatically upload images to the cloud using Wi-Fi or a smartphone network. This allows photographers to quickly send images to team members—not to mention the potential for automatic cloud backups. Only a few cameras support the feature so far, including Fujifilm’s latest flagships, the XH2, XH2s, and GFX100 II. A Frame.io plan that includes camera-to-cloud starts at $15 a month per team member and includes 2 TB of storage.
The Big Picture
For photographers working in a studio and sending work to a team, camera to cloud on Frame.io shortens the to-do list by automating the upload process. And for busy photographers, anything that saves time is a game changer. Frame.io allows photographers to automatically upload images straight from the camera to cloud storage, either for safekeeping or to collaborate with editors and other team members.
Frame.io and camera-to-cloud have the potential to change a big part of how future cameras work. But, this early in the concept’s young life, Frame.io has limited appeal. Someday, perhaps journalists and event photographers will automatically back up to the cloud. But, the need for the camera to be close to a Wi-Fi router and a buggy smartphone connection process is not the case today. I can see studio photographers really loving frame.io, but as a wedding and on-site portrait photographer, the young technology just isn’t where I would need it to be to make a big impact on my workflow. I can see big potential, but the infrastructure — as well as camera battery life and integration with Lightroom and Capture One— will have to grow along with Frame.io in order for such tech to become the norm.
I’m giving Frame.io three out of five stars.
- Camera to cloud capability
- Automatic uploads whenever the network is within reach
- Easy team collaboration
- Multiple ways to share, including options for non-paying team members
- Option to upload with the camera off
- Needs to be closer to the Wi-Fi router than other tech like laptops
- As a new technology, it’s a bit more glitchy
- I had difficulty connecting via smartphone
- Integration with image editors not available yet
I tested Frame.io with the Fujifilm X-H2 and X-H2s, both on loan from Fujifilm for review purposes. Adobe also provided a complimentary Frame.io subscription for review. I accessed Frame.io from Safari on an iPhone and MacBook.
Camera to cloud is a relatively new concept — which means there is a lot of innovation in the background to make that possible. But, outside of the camera-to-cloud possibilities, users will find some Frame.io features feel a bit like sharing from a fancier version of Google Drive, which is a plus because it makes the software a bit more user-friendly.
Ease of Use
The two main components of frame.io are uploading and sharing. Both concepts are quite simple, though there is a bit of a learning curve to frame.io’s terminology and troubleshoot the camera connection. Once you figure out how to connect the camera and what the different sharing options are, the interface is fairly intuitive.
Frame.io: Connecting a camera
While I can often connect a new camera to a Wi-Fi app without instructions, setting up a Frame.io camera connection requires a more detailed list of instructions and some troubleshooting. Both the Fujifilm XH2 and XH2s need the FT-XH File Transmitter battery grip accessory, as well as updated firmware, while the GFX100 II supports the camera to cloud without the grip accessory. Photographers will also need internet access and a Frame.io subscription. (The free version of Frame.io doesn’t support camera to cloud and has a limited 2 GB of storage).
The camera-to-cloud process starts in the camera. For Fujifilm cameras, the Frame.io settings are inside the network settings menu. On-screen prompts walk through connecting via Wi-Fi by typing in the network and password. From there, photographers will also want to use the menu to select which file type to transfer, RAW, or JPEGs, the latter being a bit friendlier for slower internet speeds. Auto image transfer then needs to be turned on in the upload settings. Images can still be transferred with the camera powered off under the upload settings as well.
The second half of setting up camera-to-cloud is within Frame.io itself. Navigate to an existing Frame.io project or create a new one. Once inside the desired project, head to the C2C Connections tab and follow the instructions there. Back inside the camera, you’ll generate a pairing code in the Frame.io Camera to Cloud menu to type into Frame.io and finish the connection.
The compatible cameras also offer an option to connect and upload without a Wi-Fi network using a USB-C cord and a smartphone, relying on the smartphone network instead. However, I couldn’t connect the XH2 or the XH2s this way, even trying multiple smartphones. Despite repeated attempts, I have not yet figured out what the error is.
Frame.io originally started as a video collaboration tool — and the expansion into photography is quite young. But, ideally, the software would connect to image editors the way it talks to Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. Automatic uploads are great but worth little if they don’t sync up to my culls and edits. Compatibility with Lightroom will be critical for really falling in love with the feature, but it’s currently not integrated unless using a third party like Zapier.
Here’s the odd part: Capture One has already announced an upcoming Frame.io integration, though the “first half of 2023” prediction has long passed. Frame.io is now owned by Adobe, so arriving first in a competing image editor is definitely odd.
Frame.io: Sharing and collaborating
Once auto transfer is set up, images are sent directly to the Frame.io album, accessible from the Frame.io website or the app. While uploading to a shared album requires a Frame.io subscription, the images can be shared for collaboration with clients or team members who don’t have a Frame.io subscription.
There are two ways to share the images with someone without a Frame.io subscription. A review link displays the images and allows for features like comments. This is designed to work with a team and receive feedback through those comments.
A presentation is meant more as a method of sharing final files with a client — there are no comment options, but there are different layout choices and custom branding options, such as colors. Settings include allowing or preventing downloads so presentations can be used as a display or to deliver digital downloads. Password protection, link expiration, and watermarks are also presentation options.
Project members, however, will need a Frame.io account for further collaboration beyond comments. Project members with a subscription can contribute to the album by adding images as well.
Sharing options felt similar to existing software and wasn’t difficult to use. The only real learning curve to the sharing was figuring out the difference between members, reviews, and presentations. The first time I attempted to share, I used the person plus icon, which requires a Frame.io membership for the recipient — the share button is the one to use for non-Frame.io users.
Speed and Reliability
The speed of automatic Frame.io transfers is primarily determined by the internet connection speed. Automatically uploading JPEGs from the XH2 and XH2s on my Wi-Fi network performed at a speed similar to uploading images to Google Drive from my laptop.
The camera-to-cloud uploads will work best in smaller spaces close to the Wi-Fi source.
But uploading directly from the camera means everything is uploaded pre-cull. That means photographers will want fast internet speeds to work with the automatic frame.io uploads. Using my own rural internet speed was a challenge but an expected one based on the speeds of my network. The camera-to-cloud feature will be a more significant feature for photographers with access to fast internet and can be more frustrating for users with slower speeds.
The bigger issue that I had is that the camera needs to be relatively close to the Wi-Fi router to maintain a strong wireless connection. On the opposite side of my house—where my Wi-Fi still reaches my TV and laptop just fine—the XH2 and XH2s dropped connection. The uploads worked just fine when the camera was close to the router. The camera-to-cloud uploads will work best in smaller spaces close to the Wi-Fi source. Otherwise, I can also see photographers setting up a charging station near the router and automatically creating a cloud backup after returning home from a shoot.
Who Should Buy It?
If you have fast internet and need to send every photo to a team as fast as possible, Frame.io really has no competition. The ability to wirelessly upload as you shoot is an advantage for creative teams, particularly when communication is necessary before even leaving the shoot. If you work in a studio or want to create a charging station with automatic uploads, camera-to-cloud is a nice advantage as well.
However, camera to cloud is a young technology — and, as such, has a steeper learning curve and a higher likelihood of glitches. Setting up frame.io, I was immediately reminded of the very first camera apps that communicated between smartphone and camera. The technology will likely soon be a huge advantage, but this early on, there’s a lot of frustration in getting set up.
Using camera-to-cloud on Frame.io is more of a collaboration tool than a backup solution. I know many event photographers like myself are intrigued at the possibility of being able to automatically backup photos in the cloud so damaged SD cards aren’t a crisis. But, at least this early in the game, the technology has to be too close to the router, and I couldn’t get the mobile hotspot option set up. Integration with Lightroom would also be a huge advantage. For now, the technology remains more of a studio tool for collaboration — but that could change very quickly. If the kinks get ironed out, Frame.io could be used by commercial studio photographers and journalists in the field. But, for now, the photographers likely to get the best experience are team members doing most of their work in-studio.
Frame.io Tech Specs and System Requirements
- Browser: The latest two versions of Google Chrome (desktop and Android), Safari (MacOS and iOS), Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Android Browser. Chrome and Safari are recommended.
- Operating system: Windows, MacOS, Chrome OS
- RAM: 4 GM required, 8 GB or more recommended
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