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CheckMag | Ditch Google Photos and embrace Immich: Here's why there is so much hype around hosting your own photo backup solution

Immich is the benchmark for self hosted photo solutions (Source: Immich)
Immich is the benchmark for self hosted photo solutions (Source: Immich)
Whether its questionable privacy practices, incorrectly categorising images as child pornography, or using your data for its AI training models, storing your photos with Google continues to be a privacy nightmare. Thankfully a self hosted solution is making waves in the community, and for good reason.
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Google is well known as a company that makes a boat load of money by trying to know everything about you. Whether you trust Google to store your photos securely, there is still a good chance that at least some of your images have been used to train AI and in a nightmare scenario you could find yourself being accused of child exploitation.

Thankfully, if you fall on the more paranoid side and are happy to do a bit of tinkering, there is a self hosted equivalent of Google Photos that carries many of the same features, including automatic backups of your camera roll on both iOS and Android, album management, sharing, GPU accelerated facial recognition, GPS tagging and keyword searching, all without a big tech firm in sight.

Immich is a self hosted photo solution that offers features more or less in parallel with Google Photos. You host it yourself and therefore retain control over how your images are used. Immich generally runs in a Docker container, although there is also a snap package that makes installation on debian distributions extremely simple as well. The fact that it runs in a Docker container makes it especially well suited for running on TrueNAS, Unraid or any other NAS that supports them. Once you have it up and running and have imported all your pictures (which thankfully you can do in bulk), you will be greeted with a web interface that bears an uncanny resemblance to Google's offering.

Google Photos? Nope. (Source: Notebookcheck)
Google Photos? Nope. (Source: Notebookcheck)

Everything appears on a handy timeline that lets you easily scrub between years and dates. Immich will also upload videos and arrange them the same way, meaning that if you import from a bunch of folders it’s nice to resurface those little clips that might have been forgotten in your mass of files. The upload button will let you add photos and videos from pretty much any device or location and you can see all your photos that are GPS tagged displayed on a map. You can search by places and faces, create albums, tag favourites and get nice little summaries of things that happened a few years ago.

If you have a large photo library stored on a hard drive or your computer, Immich makes exploring and rediscovering those memories an absolute joy. It’s fast and responsive and loads thumbnails almost instantaneously. You can have everyone upload to the same account, or give all your users an account of their own, giving everyone access to separate libraries.

Immich can be configured to store images in the file structure according to date, so if you have a load of unorganised photos, Immich will not only organise them in the interface, but at the file level as well.

Immich will also organise the file structure of all your photos (Source: Notebookcheck)
Immich will also organise the file structure of all your photos (Source: Notebookcheck)

If the web interface doesn’t impress, there are some of the most polished apps out there for pretty much any device imaginable. iOS, Android, Apple TV and Google TV apps are all accounted for. The best thing about the TV apps is that you can set your device screensaver to an album stored in Immich, turning your TV into an impromptu picture frame when it’s not being used. While the TV apps are probably the most “beta” of everything the Immich team offers, they are still serviceable and literally every aspect of Immich is updated at a rate of knotts, with 3 updates to the web server being published in the last month alone.

The iOS and Android Apps are equally polished and will let you automatically backup your camera roll to your server (Source: Immich)
The iOS and Android Apps are equally polished and will let you automatically backup your camera roll to your server (Source: Immich)

Of course, there are alternatives. You could use a photo manager on your computer, such as Digikam or Shotwell, but neither offer the integration with other devices. You could opt for Apple Photos, but then you are entrusting your life's memories to a tech giant again. Equally, PhotoPrism and Photonix both run in Docker containers and offer similar features, however, there isn’t anything else quite as pleasurable, streamlined, integrated, polished or actively developed as Immich.

If you have a NAS or access to a Docker implementation, Immich is definitely worth the time and effort to set up. Just make sure you have plenty of storage like these 4tb WD Red drives currently seeing a 17% discount on Amazon*.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 05 > Ditch Google Photos and embrace Immich: Here's why there is so much hype around hosting your own photo backup solution
David Devey, 2024-05- 4 (Update: 2024-05- 4)