Glass 365 Days Later

(Wintertime Rush by Christopher Parsons)

I’ve been actively using Glass for about a full year now. Glass is a photo sharing site where users must pay either a monthly or yearly fee; it costs to post but viewing is free.

I publish a photo almost every day and I regularly go through the community to view other folks’ photos and comment on them. In this short review I want to identify what’s great about the service, what’s so-so, and where there’s still room to grow. All the images in this blog post were previously posted to Glass.

Let me cut to the chase: I like the service and have resubscribed for another full year.

The Good

The iOS mobile client was great at launch and it remains terrific. It’s fast and easy to use, and beats all the other social platforms’ apps that I’ve used because it is so simple and functional. You can’t edit your images in the Glass app and I’m entirely fine with that.

(Fix, Found by Christopher Parsons)

The community is delightful from my perspective. The comments I get are all thoughtful and the requirement to pay-to-post means that there aren’t (yet) any trolls that I’ve come across. Does this mean the community is smaller? Definitely. But is it a more committed and friendly community? You bet. Give me quality over quantity any day of the week.

All subscribers have the option to have a public facing profile, which anyone can view, or ones that are restricted to just other subscribers. I find the public profiles to be pretty attractive and good at arranging photos, especially when accessing a profile on a wide-screen device (e.g. a laptop, desktop, tablet, or phone in landscape).

The platform launched as iPhone only, to start, though has been expanding since then. The iPad client is a joy to use and the developers have an Android client on their roadmap. A Windows application is available and you can use the service on the web too.

(Birthday Pose by Christopher Parsons)

Other things that I really appreciate: Glass has a terrifically responsive development team. There are about 50 community requests that have been implemented since launch; while some are just for bugs, most are for updates to the platform. Glass is also the opposite of the traditional roach-motel social media platform. You can download your photos from the site at any time; you’re paying for the service, not for surveillance. That’s great!

The So-So

So is Glass perfect then? No. It has only a small handful of developers as compared to competitors like Instagram or Vero which means that some overdue features are still in development.

(‘Til Pandemic Does Us Part by Christopher Parsons)

A core critique is there is no Android application. That’s fair! However, iOS users are more likely to spend money on apps so it made economic sense to prioritize that user base.1 Fortunately an Android application is on its way and a Windows version was recently released.

A more serious issue for existing users is an inability to ‘tag’ photos. While photos can be assigned to categories in the application (and more categories have been added over time) that means it’s hard to have the customization of bigger sites like Flickr. The result is that discovery is more challenging and it’s harder to build up a set of metadata that could be used in the future for presenting photos. Glass, currently, is meant to provide a linear feed of photos—that’s part of its charm!—but more sophisticated methods of even displaying images on users’ portfolios in the future may require the company to adopt a tagging system. Why does it matter that there is or isn’t one, today? Because for heavier users2 re-viewing and tagging all photos will be a royal pain in the butt, if that ever is something that is integrated into the platform.

(Tall and Proud by Christopher Parsons)

If you’re looking to use Glass as a formal portfolio, well, there are almost certainly better services and platforms you should rely upon. Which is to say: the platform does not let you create albums or pin certain photos to the top of your profile. I entirely get that the developers are aiming for a simple service at launch, but would also appreciate the ability to better categorize some of my photos. In particular, I would like to create things such as:

  • Best of a given year
  • Having albums that break up street versus landscape versus cityscape images
  • Being able to create albums for specific events, such as particular vacations or documentary events
  • Photos that I generally think are amongst my ‘best’ overall

This being said, albums and portfolios are in the planning stages. I look forward to seeing what is ultimately released.

(Public Praise by Christopher Parsons)

As much as I like the community as it stands today, I would really like the developers to add some small or basic things. Like threaded comments. They’re coming, at some point, after discovery features are integrated (e.g., search by location, by camera, etc.). Still, as it stands today, the lack of even 2-levels of threaded comments means that active conversations are annoying to follow.

Finally, Glass is really what you make of it. If you’re a photographer who wants to just add photos and never engage with the community then I’d imagine it’s not as good as a platform such as Instagram or Vero. Both of the latter apps have larger user bases and you’re more likely to get the equivalent of a like; I don’t know how large Glass’ user-base is but it’s not huge despite being much larger than at launch. However, if you’re active in the community then I think that you can get more positive, or helpful, feedback than on other platforms. At least for me, as a very enthusiastic amateur photographer, the engagement I get on Glass is remarkably more meaningful than on any other platform on which I’ve shared my photographs.

The Bad

Honestly, the worst part about Glass is still discoverability.3 You can see a semi-random set of photographers using the service which isn’t bad…except that some of them may not have posted anything to the platform for months or even a year. I have no idea why this is the case.

(Stephanie by Christopher Parsons)

The only other way to discover other photographers is to regularly dig through the different photography categories, and ‘appreciate’4 photos you see and follow the photographers who appeal to your tastes. This isn’t terrible, but it’s the ‘best’ way of discovering photos and really isn’t great. While the company ‘highlightsphotographers on the Glass website and through its Twitter feed, the equivalent curation still doesn’t exist in the application itself. That’s non-ideal.

The developers have promised that additional discovery functions will be rolling out. They intend enable search by camera type or location, but thus far nothing’s been released. They’ve been good at slowly and deliberately releasing features, and new features have always been thoughtful when implemented, so I’m hopeful that when discoverability is updated it’ll be pretty good. Until then, however, it’s frankly pretty bad.

(Lonely Traveller by Christopher Parsons)

If I were to find a second thing that’s missing, to date, it would be that there’s no way of embedding Glass images in other CMSes. The platform does support RSS, which I appreciate, but I want the platform to offer full-on embeds so I can easily cross post images to other web spaces (like this blog!). Embeds could, also, have some language/links that ultimately let viewers sign up for the service as a way of growing the subscriber base.

The third thing that I wish Glass would enable a way of assessing if a photo has already been uploaded. At this point I’ve uploaded over 300 photos and I want to ensure that I don’t accidentally upload a duplicate. This is definitely a problem associated with those who use the service more heavily, but will become a more prominent issue as users ‘live’ on the platform for more and more years.

Conclusion

So, at the end of a year, what do I think of Glass?

First, I think that it truly is a photography community for photographers. It isn’t trying to be a broader social network that lets you share what music you’re listening to, or TV shows and movies you’re watching, or books you’ve finished, or temporary stories or images. There is totally a space for a network like that but it’s not Glass and I’m fine with it being a simpler and more direct kind of platform.

(Night Light by Christopher Parsons)

Second, it is a platform with active developers and a friendly community. Both of those things are pretty great. And the developers have a clear and opinionated sense of taste: they’re creating a beautiful application and associated service. There’s real value in the aesthetic for me.

Third, it’s not quite the place to showcase your work, today, if you are trying to semi-professionally market your photography. There are no albums or other ways of highlighting or collecting your images. Glass is much closer to the original version of Instagram in just presenting a feed of historical images instead of a contemporary service like Flickr or even Instagram. And…that’s actually a pretty great thing! That said, the roadmap includes commitments to enabling better highlighting/collecting of images. This will be increasingly important as more people upload more photographs to the service.

(Supervisory Assistance by Christopher Parsons)

Fourth, it’s still relatively cheap as compared to other paid offerings. It is less than half the cost of a Flickr Pro account, as just one example. And there are no ads for subscribers or for individuals who are browsing public profiles and associated portfolios.

(Distressed by Christopher Parsons)

So, in conclusion, I’d strongly suggest trying out Glass if you’re a committed and enthusiastic amateur. It’s not the same as Instagram or Instagram clones. That’s both part of the point and part of the magic of the platform that the Glass team is creating and incubating.


  1. Yes, you might be willing to pay money, dear reader, but you’re statistically deviant. In a good way! ↩︎
  2. Such as myself… ↩︎
  3. The developers are, also, very well aware of this issue. ↩︎
  4. Glass does not have ‘likes’ per se, but lets users click an ‘appreciation’ button. Appreciations are only ever sent to the photographer and are not accumulated numerically to be presented to either the public or the photographer who uploaded the photograph. ↩︎
Link

‘Glass Time’ Shortcut

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Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Like most photographers I edit my images with the brightness on my screen set to its maximum. Outside of specialized activities, however, I and others don’t tend to set the brightness this high so as to conserve battery power.

The result is that when we, as photographers, as well as members of the viewing public tend to look images on photography platforms we often aren’t seeing them as their creator(s) envisioned. The images are, quite starkly, darker on our screens than on those of the photographers who made them.1

For the past few months whenever I’ve opened Glass or looked at photos on other platforms I’m made an effort to ensure that I’ve maximized the brightness on my devices as I’ve opened the app. This said, I still forget sometimes and only realize halfway through a viewing session. So I went about ensuring this ‘mistake’ didn’t happen any more by creating a Shortcut called ‘Glass Time’!

The Shortcut is pretty simple: when I run it, it maximizes the brightness of my iOS device and opens the Glass app. If you download the Shortcut it’s pretty easy to modify it to instead open a different application (e.g., Instagram, 500px, Flickr, etc). It’s definitely improved my experiences using the app and helped me to better appreciate the images that are shared by individuals on the platform.

Download ‘Glass Time’ Shortcut


  1. Of course there are also issues associated with different devices having variable maximum brightness and colour profiles. These kinds of differences are largely intractable in the current technical milieu. ↩︎

Glass and Community

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
(New Heights by Christopher Parsons)

The founders of the photography application, Glass, were recently on Protocol’s Source Code. Part of what they emphasized, time and time again, was the importance of developing a positive community where photographers interacted with one another.

Glass continues to be the place where I’m most comfortable sharing my images. I really don’t care about how many people ‘appreciate’ a photo and I’m never going to be a photographic influencer. But I do like being in a community where I’m surrounded by helpful photographers, and where I’m regularly inspired by the work of other photographers.

Indeed, just today one of the photographers I most respect posted an image that I found really spectacular and we had a brief back and forth about what I saw/emotions it evoked, and his reaction to my experience of it. I routinely have these kinds of positive and meaningful back-and-forths on Glass. That’s not to say that similar experiences don’t, and can’t, occur on other companies’ platforms! But, from my own point of view, Glass is definitely creating the experiences that the developers are aiming for.

I also think that the developers of Glass are serious in their commitment to taking ideas from their community. I’d proposed via their ticketing system that they find a way of showcasing the excellent blog content that they’re producing, and that’s now on their roadmap for the application.

It’s also apparent that the developers, themselves, are involved in the application and watching what people are posting to showcase great work. They’ve routinely had excellent and interesting interviews with photographers on the platform, as well as highlighted photos that they found interesting each month in the categories that they have focused on (in interests of disclosure, one of my photos was included in their Cityscapes collection).

These are, admittedly, the kinds of features and activities that you’d hope developers to roll out and emphasize as they build a photography application and grow its associated community. Even the developers of Instagram, when it was still a sub-10 person shop were pretty involved in their community! I can only hope that Glass never turns into their Meta ‘competitor’!

Improving My Photography In 2021

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(Climbing Gear by Christopher Parsons)

I’ve spent a lot of personal time behind my cameras throughout 2021 and have taken a bunch of shots that I really like. At the same time, I’ve invested a lot of personal time learning more about the history of photography and how to accomplish things with my cameras. Below, in no particular order, is a list of the ways I worked to improve my photography in 2021.

Fuji Recipes

I started looking at different ‘recipes’ that I could use for my Fuji x100f, starting with those at Fuji X Weekly and some YouTube channels. I’ve since started playing around with my own black and white recipes to get a better sense of what works for making my own images. The goal in all of this is to create jpgs that are ‘done’ in body and require an absolute minimum amount of adjustment. It’s very much a work in progress, but I’ve gotten to the point that most of my photos only receive minor crops, as opposed to extensive edits in Darkroom.

Comfort in Street Photography

The first real memory I have of ‘doing’ street photography was being confronted by a bus driver after I took his photo. I was scared off of taking pictures of other people for years as a result.

Over the past year, however, I’ve gotten more comfortable by watching a lot of POV-style YouTube videos of how other street photographers go about making their images. I don’t have anyone else to go an shoot with, and learn from, so these videos have been essential to my learning process. In particular, I’ve learned a lot from watching and listening to Faizal Westcott, the folks over at Framelines, Joe Allan, Mattias Burling, and Samuel Lintaro Hopf.

Moreover, just seeing the photos that other photographers are making and how they move in the street has helped to validate that what I’m doing, when I go out, definitely fits within the broader genre of street photography.

Histories of Photography

In the latter three months of 2021 I spent an enormous amount of time watching videos from the Art of Photography, Tatiana Hopper, and a bit from Sean Tucker. The result is that I’m developing a better sense of what you can do with a camera as well as why certain images are iconic or meaningful.

Pocket Camera Investment

I really love my Fuji x100f and always have my iPhone 12 Pro in my pocket. Both are terrific cameras. However, I wanted something that was smaller than the Fuji and more tactile than the iPhone, and which I could always have in a jacket pocket.

To that end, in late 2021 I purchase a very lightly used Ricoh GR. While I haven’t used it enough to offer a full review of it I have taken a lot of photos with it that I really, really like. More than anything else I’m taking more photos since buying it because I always have a good, very tactile, camera with me wherever I go.

Getting Off Instagram

I’m not a particularly big fan of Instagram these days given Facebook’s unwillingness or inability to moderate its platform, as well as Instagram’s constant addition of advertisements and short video clips. So since October 2021 I’ve been posting my photos almost exclusively to Glass and (admittedly to a lesser extent) to this website.

Not only is the interface for posting to Glass a lot better than the one for Instagram (and Flickr, as well), the comments I get on my photos on Glass are better than anywhere else I’ve ever posted my images. Admittedly Glass still has some growing pains but I’m excited to see how it develops in the coming year.

Glass in 2022

GlassProfile

I’ve been primarily posting my photos to Glass for about three months now. There have been several quality of life improvements1 but, on the whole, the app has been pretty true to its original DNA.

That’s been a bit frustrating for some folks, such as Matt Birchler. He notes that Glass seems to be populated by professional photographers and lacks the life and diversity that you can sometimes find on Instagram or other photography sites. I was particularly struck by his comment that, “I used to enjoy the feed because it was high quality stuff, but now I scroll and everyone is making photos that look like every else’s.”

I don’t discount that Matt’s experience has been seeing a lot of professionals making photos but have to admit that his experiences don’t really parallel my own. To be clear, the photographers that I follow are doing neat work and some are definitely serious amateurs or professionals. But perhaps because I’m more focused on street photography it’s rarely self-apparent to me that I’m following professionals versus amateurs, nor that everyone’s work looks the same.

That being said, I definitely do follow a lot fewer people on Glass. If I have a problem with the app it’s that discovering active photographers on the platform is difficult; a lot of people signed up for the trial period but aren’t regularly posting. The result is that it’s hard to develop an active stream of photos and a photographic community. At the same time, however, I don’t browse the Glass app like I would Instagram: I pop in once or twice a day, and try to set aside some time every day or three (or four…) to leave comments on others photographers’ work. I treat Glass more seriously than free photography applications, if only because I have (thus far) only has positive experiences with the other active photographers posting their work there.

The only other problem I have with Glass—annoyance really!—is that I think that you actually can see/display photographers’ profiles in a much more beautiful way on non-phone devices. The image for this post was a screen capture from my iPad which attractively lays out photos. In contrast, you just get a flat waterfall of images if you visit my profile in the Glass app itself. That’s a shame and hopefully something that is improved upon in 2022.

To date I’m happy with Glass and incredibly pleased to no longer posting my photos to a Facebook platform. I really hope that Glass’s developers are able to maintain the app going forward, which will almost certainly depend in part on building the community and enhancing discoverability.

I’m currently planning to continue posting my work to Glass regularly. Even if the service doesn’t explode (which would be fine for me, though probably not great for its long term survival!) I find that the comments that I receive are far more valuable than anything I tended to receive on Instagram or other social sites, and the actual process of posting is also a comparative breeze and joy. If you’re looking for a neat photography site to try out, I heartily recommend that you give Glass a shot!


  1. Specifically, the developers have added some photography categories and public profiles, as well as the ability to ‘appreciate’ photos and comments ↩︎

My Glass Public Profile

I’ve recently written about the concerns that I have about Instagram, and my assessment of whether I wanted to port my online photo sharing to either Flickr or Glass. As of October 27, Glass has enabled public profiles so non-members can view the work that photographers have published on the service. You can check mine out!

I…really like how the profiles look on Glass at the moment. I’ve been posting with some frequency (all black and whites, with a focus on street photography) and the flow model to capture and then post photographs has been simple and seamless.

I also really like the experience of having to comment on other photographs instead of ‘liking’ them. This engagement strategy means that when I interact with other photographers’ pieces I need to leave at least some kind of meaningful comment. As a result, I need to slow down and think a bit more about a photograph and I think that’s a good thing for me–the viewer–and the photographer who hopefully gets more meaningful (if less frequent) engagement.

I like Glass enough that I’ve ponied up for a one year subscription. The developers are pushing out significant quality of life updates to the application and, on the whole, it’s currently pretty fun to use and is clearly intended to be used by photographers, as well as other individuals who are interested in photography and just don’t want to deal with the grossness of Instagram and want something a little fresher than Flickr.

Based on my experiences thus far I’d heartily recommend that you check out the service, as well as my public profile!

Photography and Social Media

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(Passer By by Christopher Parsons)

Why do we want to share our photos online? What platforms are better or worse to use in sharing images? These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering for the past few weeks.

Backstory

About a month ago a colleague stated that she would be leaving Instagram given the nature of Facebook’s activities and the company’s seeming lack of remorse. Her decision has stuck with me and left me wondering whether I want to follow her lead.

I deleted my Facebook accounts some time ago, and have almost entirely migrated my community away from WhatsApp. But as an amateur photographer I’ve hesitated to leave an app that was, at least initially, designed with photographers in mind. I’ve used the application over the years to develop and improve my photographic abilities and so there’s an element of ‘sunk cost’ that has historically factored into my decision to stay or leave.

But Instagram isn’t really for photographers anymore. The app is increasingly stuffed with either videos or ads, and is meant to create a soft landing point for when/if Facebook truly pivots away from its main Facebook app.1 The company’s pivot makes it a lot easier to justify leaving the application though, at the same time, leaves me wondering what application or platform, if any, I want to move my photos over to.

The Competition(?)

Over the past week or two I’ve tried Flickr.2 While it’s the OG of photo sharing sites its mobile apps are just broken. I can’t create albums unless I use the web app. The sharing straight from the Apple Photos app is janky. I worry (for no good reason, really) about the cost for the professional version (do I even need that as an amateur?) as well as the annoyance of tagging photos in order to ‘find my tribe.’

It’s also not apparent to me how much community truly exists on Flickr: the whole platform seems a bit like a graveyard with only a small handful of active photographers still inhabiting the space.

I’m also trying Glass at the moment. It’s not perfect: search is non-existent, you can’t share your gallery of photos with non-Glass users at the moment, discovery is a bit rough, there’s no Web version, and it’s currently iPhone only. However, I do like that the app (and its creators) is focused on sharing images and that it has a clear monetization schema in the form of a yearly subscription. The company’s formal roadmap also indicates that some of these rough edges may be filed away in the coming months.

I also like that Glass doesn’t require me to develop a tagging system (that’s all done in the app using presets), let’s me share quickly and easily from the Photos app, looks modern, and has a relatively low yearly subscription cost. And, at least so far, most of the comments are better than on the other platforms, which I think is important to developing my own photography.

Finally, there’s my blog here! And while I like to host photo series here this site isn’t really designed as a photo blog first and foremost. Part of the problem is that WordPress continues to suck for posting media in my experience but, more substantively, this blog hosts a lot more text than images. I don’t foresee changing this focus anytime in the near or even distant future.

The Necessity of Photo Sharing?

It’s an entirely fair question to ask why even bother sharing photos with strangers. Why not just keep my images on my devices and engage in my own self-critique?

I do engage in such critique but I’ve personally learned more from putting my images into the public eye than I would just by keeping them on my own devices.3 Some of that is from comments but, also, it’s been based on what people have ‘liked’ or left emoji comments on. These kinds of signals have helped me better understand what is a better or less good photograph.

However, at this point I don’t think that likes and emojis are the source of my future photography development: I want actual feedback, even if it’s limited to just a sentence or so. I’m hoping that Glass might provide that kind of feedback though I guess only time will tell.


  1. For a good take on Facebook and why its functionally ‘over’ as a positive brand check out M.G. Siegler’s article, “Facebook is Too Big, Fail.” ↩︎
  2. This is my second time with Flickr, as I closed a very old account several years ago given that I just wasn’t using it. ↩︎
  3. If I’m entirely honest, I bet I’ve learned as much or more from reading photography teaching/course books, but that’s a different kind of learning entirely. ↩︎