Multiple questions from a new user considering to use PhotoStructure

Dear PhotoStructure Team,

I am considering PhotoStructure as the definitive solution for organizing my vast collection of videos and photo assets. These include content from Mobile Devices, Scanned Images, Insta360 camera, Drone, and other devices. I am also thinking of offering my family and non-tech-savvy friends the ability to use my server for storage and syncing.

I am trying to have the complete overview of my requirements.

Here are the questions and considerations I’ve put together (sorry for the length).

1 - Platforms: What platforms do you support? I know about the Docker option, but is a stand-alone application for Mac or Windows available? What is the most performing and stable recommendation? I understand that all installation options are fully compatible, right?

2 - Storage & Performance: While I’m aware an old Synology NAS may not be ideal for running the app due to resource intensiveness, can I use the NAS just for storage and run the app from a more powerful PC?

3 - Google Photos Features: How do you handle features similar to Google Photos, like Geotagging, Face detection, and advanced searches (e.g., searching for a specific object or text within a photo)?

4 - Library Size: My collection already contains over 350,000 items and is still growing. Can the system efficiently handle a library when it grows to a million items or more?

5 - Organization: Can I direct the application to multiple source folders to aggregate content into a single, organized destination by copying the content?

6 - Backup & Syncing: Once organized, can I automate syncs to different locations like cloud services or USB drives, optimizing the process to only sync the differences?

7 - Family Sharing & Licensing: Can family members backup and sync their media to my server under the Plus license? If so, how would they sync, and can their libraries / folders be separated from mine?

8 - EXIF Data Augmentation: Can EXIF data be updated with additional details, tags, etc., without altering the capture date? Will manual tags and rankings be stored in the EXIF data to ensure portability?

9 - Google Photos TakeOut: Is it possible to import a Google Photos TakeOut with all its included data and albums? For example I have a lot of faces already identified in Google Photos.

10 - Deduplication: How does the system handle deduplication for both photos and videos? Any restrictions on size of the files?

11 - Sharing & Collaboration: Can I share albums or folders containing multiple albums? Can others add to these albums, and can I set permissions on what they can or cannot do? Can I share access to a folder but then allow other people to create albums and additional folders into it?

12 - Security & Privacy: How secure is the platform, especially when allowing external uploads? Does it feature encryption or two-factor authentication?

13 - Updates & Upgrades: How often do you release updates? Are security patches frequent? How many people are involved behind the project?

14 - User Management: Can I create different user profiles with varied permissions? Are there any restrictions in the sense of how many profiles I can create?

15 - Offline Access: Is there an offline access feature or a method to download content for offline viewing?

16 - Format Support and file size limits: Do you support all major photo and video formats, especially from devices like drones or the Insta360 panoramic videos and photos?

17 - Integration: Are there any integrations with popular photo editing software or other tools?

18 - Metadata & IPTC: Does the platform support IPTC metadata in addition to EXIF?

19 - Recovery: Is there a recovery option for accidentally deleted media?

20 - Mobile Experience: Do you offer a mobile app or a mobile-friendly web version?

21 - Migration: How easy is it to migrate content and metadata if I ever need to switch platforms? Is this saved on the files?

22 - Tutorials & Support: What support resources do you offer, such as tutorials, knowledge bases, or forums?

23 - Subscription Model: Do you offer a lifetime subscription or only the Plus model? Any way we can lock the price to avoid having surprises in the future? Or maybe stack years of service? I am not saying you will do it, but for example when I joined SmugMug they were charging USD 25 per year or so, but when I left I was already paying USD 75. I am looking to have predictability on my costs if possible.

24 - Customization: Can the user interface or workflow processes be customised?

25 - Collaboration Features: Beyond basic sharing, are there features that allow for collaborative organization or editing?

26 - Video Demos on YouTube: I cannot find any PhotoStructure demos or videos on YouTube, any particular reason why this is not the case?

Thank you for taking the time to address these considerations. I appreciate any insights you can offer to help me make an informed decision.


There is no “photostructure team”, Photostructure is developed by a single individual (@mrm ). Most of your questions are addressed in the extensive documentation that is online. But I can help with some of the questions at least, since I have been a user for a while.

  1. Windows and Mac standalone apps, Docker on pretty much every platforms, and node on pretty much every platform PhotoStructure | PhotoStructure User Guide
  2. Yes, you can. However photostructure runs fine on limited hardware too (even a Rasperry pi)
  3. Photostructure has no metadata edit capabilities yet (other than rotate and favoriting pics) but it’s in the roadmap. Having said that, remember: 1 person does it all.
  4. Should not be a problem. The author indicated he designed for single-digit millions of assets. Multiple users have reported hundreds of thousands of pics.
  5. yes, this is really the core feature of photostructure - the ability to deduplicate multiple sources of pictures. You need a plus subscription for the asset moving, otherwise it’s just “virtually” deduplicated. See this: PhotoStructure | What do you mean by “deduplicate”?
  6. Photostructure has no such capability. You can use other software (like resilio or syncthings) to achieve this.
  7. Photostructure has no ‘upload’ capability, so your family would have to upload manually to a folder on your NAS. Photostructure does not yet support multi-users (or multiple libraries) but it’s in the roadmap.
  8. No metadata edit capability exist yet. @mrm has indicated in the past that he intends to store metadata in sidecars rather than edit the files themselves, but it’s still up in the air.
  9. Yes, to the extend that Google does a good job at exporting metadata (it does not). See PhotoStructure | How to import Google Photos into PhotoStructure
  10. Not sure about video, but photos deduplication is very sophisticated, with many configurations you can tweak to ‘tune it’ to your needs.
  11. No on all of that, not until security / authentication / multi-user is implemented.
  12. See #11.
  13. 1 person. Release frequency has been very slow, but improving.
  14. See #11
  15. no
  16. yes on “most format”. Don’t know anything about insta360 - is that a proprietary format?
  17. no, but photostructure will read metadata created on most DAM sofware.
  18. Yes. Photostructure uses a vendored version of exiftool so it’s as good as it gets.
  19. Two things: Photostructure never deletes or even edit your source images. There is a “delete” in the UI but that is just a flag in the database really, and also there is a “Trash Can” you can recover from.
  20. No native mobile app, but the web app works great on mobile (my opinion)
  21. all metadata (once you can actual edit) would be stored in standard-compliant sidecars, see #8.
  22. Extensive. See the “User Guide” and “FAQ” links above, this very forum, a fairly active discord.
  23. @mrm has indicated that lifetime subscriptions make no sense from a business model. I think many companies that used to offer lifetime subscription are finding that out the hard way and discontinuing that practice. Good suggestion on stacking a few years, but that’s up to @mrm. Considering the modest cost of the the plus subscription, not sure this is a big concern.
  24. minimal UI customization. You can remove delete, archive capabilities, remove some section (like “View by Camera”) through configs. No skinning or change of look and feel, colors, logos, etc if that’s what you had in mind.
  25. no
  26. someone would need to take the time to create and maintain them? When I see videos/demos of software they’re almost always outdated the day they come out as the software evolves. Having said that I did create 1 youtube video on how to install photostructure on docker through Portainer.
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Thank you very much for taking the time to reply each point, really appreciate it.
I love the idea of the platform, I am looking forward to seeing some user management / galleries improvement because this part is also impotant for me.
I understand that improving things when there is only one person behind the whole project can be challenging. It would be awesome if this could grow into a small team so there is redundancy and faster pace of development, maybe if there are enough people paying for Plus this could happen :smiley:
So I understand that the app would run anywhere, would you recommend me to install it on a docker on an old NAS? Or better to run it on a more powerful computer for the first imports of everything and then move it to another more permanent device?

Thanks again! :wink: will be checking all the valuable links you shared!

Wow, @avdp, I owe you a beer and burger for just that one reply! Thanks!

Welcome to PhotoStructure, @fer!

Here are a couple of your questions where I can add a bit more color:

1 - Platforms, Windows, and Linux all support desktop and “server” editions, and all editions are compatible with each other (even across platforms), for a given version. Read more here: PhotoStructure | PhotoStructure for Servers

For a “best supported” platform, though, running with Linux or Docker will avoid a bunch of issues and workarounds I’ve had to implement for Windows and macOS. YMMV, of course–it depends on your hardware, other installed software, storage, and contents of your library.

6 - Backup & Syncing I recommend a handful of applications for doing real-time smartphone backups in this article: PhotoStructure | How do I safely store my files?

7 - Family Sharing & Licensing Note that single PLUS licenses are for a “household,” and support several concurrent libraries. I trust my users to not “overshare.” More subscription details are on the pricing page: PhotoStructure | PhotoStructure pricing

10 - Deduplication for videos are based on comparing captured-at time (whose extraction is the most robust implementation that I’m aware of, a handful of normalized metadata values, including video duration, and, finally, image hashes of extracted screenshots from the video itself.

17 - Integration The node or desktop editions allow you to “Show file in folder” to open the enclosing folder with the current photo or video selected in Finder or Explorer , and then right-click the file to open in any relevant application. Any changes made my external applications are automatically discovered and synchronized. Read more here: PhotoStructure | DAMs, systems of record, and how PhotoStructure plays well with others

18 - Metadata & IPTC PhotoStructure uses ExifTool under the hood, so it supports EXIF, IPTC, XMP, and many, many other standards. I am aware of no other tool (open source or closed source!) that reads and writes metadata better, or more comprehensively. I actually wrote (and open sourced) the module PhotoStructure uses to interact with ExifTool: GitHub - photostructure/exiftool-vendored.js: Fast, cross-platform Node.js access to ExifTool

19 - Recovery There are many ways I’m trying to avoid data loss due to “clicking the wrong button” in PhotoStructure:

  1. Library automatic organization copies, rather than moves your original files, and here’s why: PhotoStructure | Why doesn't PhotoStructure move original files?

  2. Deleting files via PhotoStructure actually just marks the asset for deletion later, so clicking the trash icon on an asset doesn’t actually touch the file on the filesystem.

  3. “Emptying the trash” requires answering an question where reading is involved

  4. When PhotoStructure actually tries to delete the files, it doesn’t simply unlink the file–it asks the OS to put the file into the trash/recycle bin, so it could be restored later. Note that remotely mounted filesystems don’t always support this sort of “trash” feature, though, so it’s only considered “best-effort.”

21 - Migration PhotoStructure stores all metadata in the most “standard” method I know of, and even supports customization of that storage: you can pick .XMP, .MIE, or .XV2 sidecars, skip sidecards for certain metadata fields, or even skip sidecars altogether. The settings are extensive: (622 documented settings in v23.8!)

22 - Tutorials & Support You’re looking at the forum. There’s a ton of documentation as well: the user guide is a good place to start, and Discord is active (links in the footer).

23 - Subscription Model Read details about perpetual/“lifetime” licenses here: PhotoStructure | PhotoStructure pricing.

I’ve made all of my subscription and pricing decisions to match what I, as a consumer, would consider ideal policies for any service I would like to subscribe to:

In that same spirit, it tans my hide when companies raise subscription prices for existing customers, so I will grandfather existing customers’ rates for as long as their subscriptions are current. This isn’t specifically called out for in the pricing page, because I haven’t considered raising the subscription, but I’m the CEO, and I can promise this.

Note also that I freely give discounts for a litany of reasons: read more here: PhotoStructure | PhotoStructure pricing

25 - Collaboration Features This is certainly planned. I’d like to be able to create shared albums for my extended family, and allow for specific people to view, and other specific people to be able to add assets to any given shared album.

26 - Video Demos on YouTube This is on me. Once I get the current build out, I’ll make a stab at it.

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I’ve always run it on docker… First on a QNAP nas, then a homegrown server running UNRAID, and now it’s on an server running Ubuntu Server. I’ve also run it on laptop grade x86 hardware.

That’s my personal recommendation: docker anywhere. Node can require a bit a finesse to get going (with library conflicts and whatnot - based on what I’ve seen others report). The desktop edition are simply of no interest to me - I want photostructure to run unattended on a server that’s up 24/7 of the time, not just when a given PC or Mac is running.

Hi Matt, thanks a lot for jumping in with additional details.

I already love your passion and dedication for the product and the extensive time you took to complement the responses. You ended up having a new FAQ :sweat_smile:

But I am already telling my friends an about Photo Structure as some of them were also looking for a reliable way of handling their media.

I feel anxious to see the stuff you are working on, but on the meantime I will install and make some tests these days and if everything works fine I will definetly subscribe to plus !

Thanks again!