I was listening to the latest episode of ATP and they talked a bit about photo solutions they are using and wether or not it’s a good idea to switch to Photos for Mac. None of them mentioned Synology Photo Station, even though they all own Synology NAS products.

Because I couldn’t find a clear list like this anywhere else, I want to list out, here, the features of Synology’s Photo Station software.

Photo management is the topic that just won’t die. It’s just not easy and simple yet, there are so many little worries and concerns that the knowledgable geeks have with every solution out there. I believe Synology offers a photo solution that has more on the positive side of the balance than anyone else.

Mobile Apps

Having good apps is both the minimum bar of functionality, and the most amazing aspect of the Synology software ecosystem. So many consumer electronics companies try to provide a mobile app to interface, and so many of them do it badly. But, the DS Photo+ app is really quite good.

DS Photo +

Unfortunately, it has the same problem that every photo backup app on iOS has, namely it only backs up your photos if you have opened the app recently. This is where Apple’s iCloud Photos solutions really take the wind out of everyone else’s sails.

Web Albums

Web albums are the primary purpose of the Photo Station software running on your Synology. The whole thing is a web application that indexes and presents a nice album view of all the folders of images you have. I think the fact that it uses folders as it’s default organization structure is a really good choice. I don’t like having everything in one massive opaque library file. Storing photos as files and folders is a metaphor I understand and has passed the test of time. I have my photos broken down by year and month folders. So all the most recent pictures are in the 2015/04 folder.

Folder Structure


If you have multiple people in your household with different collections of photos and all want access to it, you have lots of control with the Synology. Creating users and assigning them permissions is a straightforward task for the knowledgable home geeks.

You can have different users have different permissions (like viewing and uploading) per folder. You can also short-cut the whole thing and have everyone in your house use one primary user account for logging in just to simplify things.


Sharing is where Photo Station sets itself apart. From the web interface it’s easy to choose photos for shared albums. These shared albums can be protected with a simple password that you give to friends and family, or can be unprotected but hidden behind a long URL (this is the default option in the latest version). You can also just create plain old public albums listed for everyone in the public interface of your diskstation website if you are using your diskstation to host a public website.


The photostation software also has features that allow you to post photos or links to photos to sites including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Picasa.

They also allow you to set up a built-in public ‘Photo Blog’ a feature I haven’t used because I prefer to post photos to my WordPress blog.

Synology has to make the web interface available to the internet in order to make this sharing funcationlity really work. The Disk Station software tries to walk you through setting up Dynamic DNS and firewall rules during initial installation. Exposing your NAS to the internet has some inherent risks.

Indexing and Conversion

When Photo Station analyzes all the photos in you photo/ directory, it will auto-rotate and generate a few thumbnails as well as indexing all the EXIF metadata. This makes searching by map and timeline and various tags possible from within the web interface.

Detail View

In the Disk Station control panel you can have the software automatically convert all video files to mobile friendly formats.


I wouldn’t say these are great ways to edit, but they have integrated the web-based Pixlr and Aviary photo editing services. These are actually quite powerful and don’t require you to have special software installed on your personal computer. But, they do have some limitations in speed and funcationality compared to programs like photoshop or lightroom.

Tagging and Face Recognition

You can assign tags to photos one at a time or to a selection of multiple photos. There is no concept of stars or favorites in Photo Station, but you can add a tag you call “Favorite” or “5 Stars” in the interface if you wish to be that organized.

You can manually select faces in a photo and assign a name. The Disk Station will do it’s best to identify faces based on the data you give it. This feature is still listed as experimental.


Web based software is unlikely to be as fast and easy as a natively built desktop app, but I think PhotoStation comes close. I like the fact that I have all my family photos on a cloud service that I control and own. And I love the fact that it’s still integrated with a good Mobile App, even if the integration isn’t as smooth as Apple’s iCloud Photos. Uploading files to a NAS inside of your home network is going to be a lot quicker than getting photos up to iCloud. And the NAS should be set to back up it’s files weekly to an offsite cloud location anyway. I set mine to go to Amazon Glacier on Sunday nights. Overall, I think the benefits outweight the problems.

I still have to finish my detailed description of how I get all my photos into the Synology disks from our two iPhones and our Sony Digital Camera. Look for that soon.

I try to make choices for simplicity in my technology. But, when it comes to cameras I’ve decided some factors outweight the simplicity and convenience of using an iPhone for my primary photography instrument. I believed the iPhone was the best way to go for most people. The photos are crisp and clean and getting better every year. The apps and always-connected nature of the device means your photos actually make it out onto social networks and blogs so much more easily. It’s even easy to have fun and be creative using the iPhone camera.

The problem is that too many of my iPhone photos were not turning out. Mainly because most of our family photo moments happen in poor lighting. Our apartment is situated so that not much natural light comes in, especially during the afternoon and evening hours. Exacerbating the issue, the artificial light in our living room is all provided by table and floor lamps, which just don’t do enough for smart-phone cameras.

Also, I know enough about photography to know what I’m missing out on. I understand the concepts of aperture and shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, auto-focus speeds and optical image stabilization. I also have the desire to express my creativity through photography and videography to a further extent. So, I started looking for better tools.

I had been looking for a long time, but we have a new baby arriving this week!

I’ve had various cameras in my Amazon wish lists over the years, but my requirements broke down like this:

  1. Low-light performance: primarily from image stabilization and buying a faster lens.
  2. Video performace: full HD video at 60FPS allowing for buttery smooth 1/2 speed shots.
  3. Cost: Camera, kit lens, fast prime lens, tripod and a few basic accessories for less than $1,000. Which is expensive, but cheaper than some consumer electronics investments for the family.
  4. Image quality: clarity, color, and megapixels.

I read a lot of reviews, for the cameras in the middle pro-sumer range. I think The Wirecutter Camera Guides are very well written and thoughtful. I also love the depth of detail available at dpReview. I also enjoy reading the reviews at Tools & Toys, though I often come to different conclusions than they do.


I eventually decided I wanted a Sony. The new Sony a6000 with kit lenses can be found refurbished on places like Newegg for decent prices, but I was a little nervous about investing in a refurbished unit. I decided to drop down to the NEX-5T which is about 2 years old at this point, but is still available new in retail packaging from Amazon.

NEX-5T and accessories Here’s the whole kit.

I then picked up a fast 35mm Prime Lens which allows me to take photos in extremely low light and get really shallow depth of field, creating the bokeh look.

Example of Shallow Depth of Field

I still had enough Christmas money for an affordable tripod, camera bag, and a few filters, as well as a new EyeFi SD card and a copy of Adobe Lightroom.

In my mind the ability to get all of this under my budget number was the biggest deciding factor. I got as much camera as I could afford and still get the lenses and accessories that will make my photography experience that much better. The camera body can be upgraded in a few years if I feel the need to do so, Sony seems committed to the E-Mount Lens system for now. I plan on getting a few years of solid family and personal photography into this kit, I can imagine in 2-3 years smart phone photography may have closed some of these gaps.

Watch here for Part 2, my guide to getting this camera connected into a photo management system.