by Wren McMains
(Updated 10/6/2011)

Google+ is what you make of it. For example, you can use it fashion the most amazing photography club in the world; one that matches your tastes, yet provides inspiration and insight. Unlike Facebook where (until recently) sharing was just with your friends, you can see and comment on images posted by world class photographers and they'll discuss them with you. Others will comment on images you post, and if you want critique, join the critique circle.

To see a photographer's images in your stream just add them to one of your circles. When I started, I circled photographers one at a time when someone shared a post by someone whose work I liked. Alternatively you could go to www.Group.As and find people with a common interest in almost ANYTHING, not just photography, and start adding them from there. Recently G+ added a feature which allows people to "share" a circle, so you can now add the whole circle in one click. If you're a photographer, here's a circle you might want to start with Jarek Klimek's List of G+ Users Photographers Need to Follow. It may be more people (over 150) than you want to follow, but you just remove anyone whose posts don't interest you.

Because Google+ made an big effort to involve photographers when Beta testing by invitation started, the photography community is amazing.

Jump to:  Why do I like Google+? (but don't forget to come back and read my Tips)

Google+ is just like Facebook with Circles.

Friends:  Everything in Google+ (G+) is basically the same as Facebook (FB). Instead of Friending people, you add them to one or more of your circles ... once they add you back to one of their circles it's equivalent to accepting you as a friend.
If you get a notice that someone has added you to their circle and you don't want to share with them, don't worry about it, just ignore them. They can't see anything you post other than things you make Public.
If you add someone to a circle and they don't add you back to one of their circles you still see anything they post as Public in your "stream", not because they're your friend, but because it's Public. Personally if I have any idea who the person is and/or how they found me I add them back to one of my circles. For example, many photographers have added me to one of their circles, so I've added them back to a Photographers circle I have.

News Feed:  What Facebook calls a News Feed, Google+ calls a stream. You can get to it by clicking on +YourName in the black Google Nav Bar at the very top:

Screen Capture

In Facebook the "Most Recent" sort of your News Feed shows posts ordered by the time originally posted. G+ also orders the stream that way, but occasionally it puts a post you comment on in the stream based on the time of the most recent comment, not the time of original post (if I can ever figure out exactly when this happens, I'll explain it). Facebook also has a Top News view, but no one has ever been able to explain what posts appear in that view or their order :)

The Like button in Facebook is replaced by a +1 button in Google+. It's basically the same, but there's more to +1 ... if I ever actually figure it out I'll explain it. Treat it the same as the Like button (but realize there may be some instance where it is more public).

The Wall  in Facebook is called your Profile in G+. You get to it by clicking on your name, almost anywhere it appears. For example, next to your profile picture:

Screen Capture

When you write on someone's wall in Facebook they and all your common friends see it in their News Feed (and any of their friends can see it by going to their wall). The equivalent in Google+ is to just post something in your stream ... who can see it depends who YOU share it with (allow to see it). If you just name a person, ONLY that person can see it. So the equivalent of writing on someone's wall is to share a post with the circle the friend is in, or several of your circles, or "Your Circles" (all of them). As far as I can tell none of the other person's friends can see it unless you give them access through one of your circles or by naming them individually, that's either good or bad depending ...

Notifications are basically the same in Facebook and Google+, the number of notifications you haven't looked at appears in a red box in the upper right next to your name:

Screen Capture

I think the way you see the details of each is much nicer in Google+, when you click a notification in the list, the notification pane expands to show you everything worth seeing. In this case the original post, new comments which you haven't seen yet (if you click on "17 comments" it would also show the the ones you've already read), and if you click on Older it takes you to the next notification. Note that this post had been +1'ed by 29 people and shared by 13 with their circles:

Screen Capture

Just like in Facebook you can control which notifications send you e-mails ... if you use Facebook and/or Google+ EVERY day I recommend turning off the e-mail notifications ... if you're an infrequent user leave them on.

Photos in Google+ are much like they are in Facebook. When you click on an individual photo in G+ it takes you to a "Lightbox" view, much like the new (well it was new at one point) photo viewer in FB. In this view you can comment, tag individuals and edit the caption. I highly recommend having your browser in full-screen mode before entering the Lightbox so that images are displayed at the maximum resolution possible on you display. You can even press the F11 key first to allot even more of the screen to the image display.

Facebook has a (private) Message area. Personally I would much rather get an e-mail (and FB shows your e-mail address to friends, by default G+ doesn't). Using FB Messages to send a note to someone who is not yet your friend does make sense. In Google+, the equivalent is to just post something and share with the one (or several) individual(s). And like FB messages, they need not be in one of your circles to name them in the share.

I thought a limitation of Google+ was that you couldn't send non-G+ users links to posts or anything else you want to share with them. But I've discovered that if you share a post, an album, etc. as "Public" a "link to the post" choice appears in the drop-down next to it. Once you click, you can then copy the URL and send to it anyone, including non-G+ users. Even though it is a secure link, they can view it.

There are Games on G+, but I don't play them so have no idea if they are as bad about posting junk in streams as the Facebook games and other Facebook Apps which I avoid.

There is a Google+ App for your smart phone which is much like the Facebook App. If you have a smart phone, I recommend getting it.

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  1. When editing your profile, be sure to fill in least one of these three things: your employer, your school, and/or your current location (places where you've lived and make sure your current location has a BLUE marker next to it, not the default green one). The reason for doing this is so when someone searches for you they will see text (from one of these fields) and will know it's you ... the profile picture displayed next to your name in the search results is so small it's almost impossible to recognize.
  2. I recommend uploading several Profile pictures, once you do watch what happens when someone clicks on it. You can try it by clicking on my name to go to my home page (or profile, the equivalent of my wall in Facebook) and then clicking on the large version of my profile picture (upper left). Notice how the picture keeps changing; very nice.
  3. When uploading profile pictures be sure to share with "Public". Note, if you don't want the message that you changed your profile picture broadcast, go through all the steps of uploading and sharing publicly and then cancel. Your profile picture will change even though you cancel, but nothing will be posted about the change. To pick which of many Profile pictures you actually want people to see associated with your posts: edit your profile, click on Change Photo (under your profile picture), choose Your Photos / Profile Pictures, and the select the one you really want.
  4. Another sharing option is "Extended Circles" ... this is basically the equivalent of "Friends of Friends" in Facebook.
  5. Public Sharing:  To encourage other people to include you in their circles, I recommend you share some of your photos and some of your posts with "Public" ... this allows potential friends to get a sense of what you're all about before they put you in one of their circles.
  6. I've made the mistake of thinking I was on Facebook and sharing most things with Extended Circles. Now I see that many people don't bother to put you in one of their circles when you put them in one of yours. Instead they share posts they want everyone to see with Public and only use their circles to communicate with selected friends.
  7. Image sizes:  Before uploading images, for the particular images you're uploading, ask yourself the size (in pixels) you're willing to share. Here's the trade-off: Larger images look stunning when viewed almost full-screen on a large monitor, but that's also the size image someone can "borrow" using "Save As". You still retain the rights, but in most cases it's not worth the cost of pursuing someone who "borrows". My recommendations: Never upload images wider than 1600, or higher than 1000 pixels; put your signature or copyright and a date on the image (I like to make mine somewhat transparent so they don't detract from the image. (I use FastStone to resize and more highly compress the images before uploading ... the smaller size and higher compression limits the size image someone who "borrows" can print. Other photographers like it if you leave the EXIF information in the image when you upload; it's not stored in the image but can be viewed using the Actions pull-down.)
  8. G+ actually stores your images in a Picasa Web Albums (you don't need to install Picasa on your computer, and I don't even like Picasa, but a Picasa Web account is created automatically for you when you create a Google Profile or G+ account). The only way to change the display order of a G+ album is using Picasa Web. Click on Photos in the BLACK Google Nav Bar at the very top:
    Screen Capture

    This takes you to Picasa Web where G+ stores your albums. Click on the album (or My Photos first if necessary) and then click on the Organize button.
    Screen Capture

    At that point you can drag and drop images (or groups of selected images) to put them in the desired order. Click Done. While you're in Picasa Web you can also specify which image G+ uses as the album cover by choosing "Set as Album Cover" under the Actions pull-down and then selecting the image:
    Screen Capture
  9. Also review your Picasa Web Settings. While you're still in Picasa Web click on the Gear in the top right (this button is the settings for whatever Google App your are current using), in Picasa Web you should see:
    Screen Capture

    Choose Photos Settings, then the Privacy and Permissions tab. Un-check Order Prints and Download my Photos:
    Screen Capture

    You might also want to turn off the automatic mapping of photos if you're uploading from a smart phone and don't want people to know where you are. Be sure to click on the Save Changes button when you're finished. Note: There is another place in your Google+ Settings where you also need to turn off mapping if you feel it is a security issue for you. Review all you Google+ settings as well as the Picasa Web settings shown here.
  10. Public Albums have other advantages. In Picasa Web while viewing an Album you'll see a info on the right that looks something like this:
    Screen Capture

    Click where it says Link to the Album and you'll see choices like this:
    Screen Capture

    Select and Copy the indicated link (longer arrow, just above); you can then paste it into an e-mail and someone without a Google account can view your images. (2011.09.20 Update: This link displays the album in Picasa format, I like the G+ veiw better. While viewing the Album in G+ copy the URL from your browser's address bar.) If you have a website or a blog you can also create a slideshow from the images. After choosing options for the slideshow, it will give you HTML to imbed into a web page or blog.
    2011.09.22 Update: Today they added a new feature which allows you to share an individual image in an album (the share button will be below the image in the lightbox view, I don't see it yet but expect to later today). You no longer have to get a link to image in Picasa Web, or find a post to share.
  11. If you're a photographer using Google+ I recommend this Guide to Google+ written by Colby Brown.
  12. Clicking the Google Nav Bar (black bar at the top) automatically scrolls you to the top of the page.
  13. Once you add lots of people to some of the circles you want to follow, you might miss posts by friends and family. When viewing your stream, click on the name of one of your circles, for example Family, in the left hand column under the word Stream and you'll only see posts from people in that circle.
    2011.09.20 Updates:
  14. You can "mute" posts by clicking on the "options menu" (little circle with down arrow at top right of the post). What that means, is if a post keeps showing up at the top of your stream because people are commenting on it, you can make it disappear so you'll never see it again.
  15. For my photographer friends, after you've read Colby Brown's Guide I recommend you check out the work of the friendly G+ photographers listed here (click on their name, then click on Photos in their profile header (be sure also click on "View all of ___'s Albums"). If you like their work add them to your Photographers circle (or whatever you named it). Once you do you'll see more great images in your stream every day than you'll ever see at any camera club meeting. There are a lot of fun, interesting people on G+ who like to share their knowledge with you through comments. (I have yet to go through this list myself, but need to. By the time I found this list many were already in my circle.)
  16. There are LOTS of lists like that of G+ users with particular interests. One source is Group.As (that link shows you only some of the groups, be sure to type your interest in the Find Groups box at the top to find MANY more lists).
    2011.10.06 Updates:
  17. Here's a collection of G+ Tips, Guides, & Resources, and another guide from Mashable.
  18. I think I'm wrong about G+ translating pages, I think it's probably Google's Chrome Browser that does the translation.
  19. Although Firefox is still my favorite browser, I've been using Chrome to view G+. Here are some extensions to Chrome that make the experience even better: "Replies and more for G+", "Plus Minus" (allows you specify which circles appear in your stream), and "+Photo Zoom".
  20. Another place I recommend looking for photographers to follow is a list of over 1500 that Jeff Smith from Toronto has compiled. His criteria: Love of and for photography and a desire to share not only their images and creativity but also their ideas and feedback to others in this network. I have viewed peoples profile, looked at their images, read their posts and comments and have added them to the list based on this. You can find his lists here: Jeff Smith's Lists The lists are numbered based on when he discovered the person on G+, think you'll find me in list 3.5 :)
  21. And yet another list of Recommended Users to Circle

Why do I like Google+?

  1. You can edit your posts and comments after making them ... and haven't we all seen typo's we've made and would like to correct? I'm sure FB will add this feature someday.
  2. Pictures are stored at higher resolution, they're only down sized to fit the display of the person viewing them. Personally I like the way the photo comments work in G+, but that's just personal preference. Competition is a good thing, Facebook now has a high-res option when uploading that seems to store the original image (and allows it to be downloaded) but the maximum width FB displays an images seems to be 1280. G+ (actually Picasa Web) allows you to turn off the downloading of the original image.
  3. G+ supports free multi-person video conferencing (which you have to pay for using Skype) and it's easy to control who can become part of the conference. The video feed of everyone in the conference is displayed as thumbnails at the bottom of the window, the feed of anyone (else) talking is enlarged and displayed at the top.
  4. I'm slowly learning that there is an amazing circle of Photographers (my interest) and circles of most anything you have an interest in on G+. Unlike Facebook, G+ seems to do a much better job of connecting these people together. In just three days I've connected with more photographers that I didn't know previously than I did in three years on Facebook.
  5. I think the security is better and you have more control over who sees what you post. You can limit who sees Facebook posts with the Custom Gear (bottom right when you post), but I'm not convinced the security is as good.
    2011.09.20 Updates:
  6. Today G+ went into public beta, you no longer need an invitation. Also today they added an obviously missing feature: the ability to search (for other than people). Type your search string; after getting results you can narrow to People, Posts or Sparks. Personally I would also like an option to narrow to "My Stream". Searching News Feeds and Walls is still a missing feature in FB.
  7. A great feature of G+ that has always been missing from Facebook is translation. If G+ notices a page is in another language, it will automatically offer to translate (and even offer an option to always translate from that language). More often only an individual post or comment is in another language; in that case right click and choose: Translate to ... (this may be a feature of Chrome, not G+, see above).

We sometimes wonder if social networks are a waste of time.

John Lennon had the answer: Time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted.


  1. Google+'s stresses that its big advantage is you can use circles to control what you share with who. However, one of the best things about Facebook is that you get a sense of what casual friends are thinking and doing, I'm afraid that with people sharing only with certain circles this won't happen.
  2. Early on organizations and companies created Facebook ID's so they could share news and friends could provide feedback. FB replaced this with "Pages" which people could "Like" as oppose to "Friend" ... some think this makes Facebook to commercial, but I think was a good thing and is something Google+ is going to have to better deal with in the future. (I just noticed on the Mashable link above that a Google+ for Businesses is already under development.)

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