When Google launched Gmail in 2004, it bundled 40x more free storage space than competing web mail services. It seemed to solve all storage woes and there was not even a “delete” button in Gmail because, with a gigabyte available, why would anyone ever delete their emails. They’ve adopted a similar approach with Google Photos but gone a step further.
Google Photos offers unlimited online storage space for your digital photos and videos. The original images are compressed after uploading but the difference is barely noticeable, at least on the computer screen.
I started dumping all my pictures to Google Photos, the day it launched, and couldn’t be happier. The initial purpose was online backup but now Google Photos has become “the” place where I go to explore my photos. The files do not consume a byte of local storage space and yet the entire collection is always available on every device that I own.
Here are essential things that you should know about Google Photos and some tips to help get the most out of this amazing photo backup service.
Upload your pictures to Google Photos
Google Photos has desktop uploaders for both Windows PCs and Mac OS X. Alternatively, you can drag folders from the desktop to photos.google.com and they’ll be uploaded instantly. Android, iPhone and iPad users can install the Google Photos app and their mobile photo will be backed up automatically.
There’s no support for Windows Phone. Linux users can upload photos from a web browser but it is not a very convenient thing when you have too many folders to upload. And if you are already storing photos in places like iCloud, OneDrive or Dropbox, you’ll have to download them locally first for sending to Google Photos. There’s no cloud-to-cloud transfer option.
Organize your Google Photos
Google Photos will arrange your uploaded pictures by location and by date taken automatically. It can also recognize the subject of photos using machine algorithms so if you search for “food” or “dinner”, you will likely see all your family dinner photos. You can find “selfies” too. The results aren’t always accurate but a useful option nonetheless.
Facial recognition, the most useful feature of Picasa, is also available in Google Photos but not outside the United States. There’s no way to search for photos by date or tags either.
If you have painstakingly organized your photo in albums manually, you’ll be disappointed to know that Google Photos will ignore these albums and instead dump all the photos in one big pool. You can create photo albums inside Google Photos but it will not maintain the local album structure during upload.
Duplicate Files in Google Photos
Google Photos can smartly detect duplicate photos and will skip uploading them if a copy has been uploaded previously. The file names of your photos can be different and they can reside in different folders of your hard disk but the service will still recognize the duplicates and remove them from the upload queue.
There are two kinds of duplicates – exact duplicates and near duplicates. If you take a file and slightly crop it or change the EXIF data, it is a near duplicate of the original file. Google Photos will however treat this is a different photo and upload it as well along with the original image.
If you have too many “near duplicates” on your computer, use a desktop tool like Picasa to remove the duplicates before adding them to the upload queue.
Deleting Files in Google Photos
You can delete a file from Google Photos and it will go to the trash. It sits there for 60 days and is then permanently removed so you have enough opportunity to restore your accidental deletes.
Here’s an important detail you should know though.
Let’s say you have a file holiday.jpg in a local Google Photos folder. If you delete this file from the Google Photos app and also empty your Google Photos’ recycle bin, the local file will get re-uploaded to Google Photos. This will happen on mobile as well. If you delete an item from Photos, the item may get re-uploaded from the phone’s gallery.
Thus, always remove files from the local folder as well after the upload it complete else they’ll be re-uploaded if you ever remove the corresponding files from Google Photos.
Editing & Sharing Google Photos
You can select one or more photos, hit the Share button and Google Photos will create an semi-private album with your selected photos. If you choose to share on WhatsApp or other messaging apps, Google Photos will download and send the actual photos and not just share the link to the album.
Google Photos include a suite of image editing tools that let you perform basic edits and you can also apply Instagram-like filters to your images. I was impressed with the photo editing capabilities of Google+ earlier and the same set of tools are now available in Photos. You can even produce animated GIFs and photo slideshows and send them to YouTube straight from the app.
When you share a photo or album in Google Photos via a link, anyone with that link can view your shared photos. There’s no way to limit sharing to specific email addresses as we have in Google Drive.
Google Photos – Tips & Tricks
- The Google Photos uploader is a one-way client and, unlike Dropbox, it will not sync your photos on multiple computers or mobile devices. You can however use Google Takeout to download all your Google Photos on another computer.
- In Google Drive, go to settings and turn on the option that says “Automatically put your Google Photos into a folder in My Drive.” You can now see all your uploaded photos inside Drive and you can even sync your Google Photos with other computers just like any other Google Drive folder.
- There’s no Google Photos API available but if you want to programmatically access Google Photos, the good old Picasa Web API may do the trick.
- The Google Photos app is not Chromecast compatible but you can cast the entire phone screen to see your photo collection on the TV.
- The desktop uploader for Google Photos may not upload screenshot images.
- If you not sure if the desktop uploader is working, go to this secret link and confirm whether files are getting added or not.
- Google Photos are not available inside Gmail but if you have linked your Photos to Google Drive, you can easily attach any of your Google Photos in email messages.
- Go to the YouTube website, click the upload button and you’ll see a new option that says “Import from Google Photos.” You can pull any video from Photos and send it to YouTube.
The hard disks and CDs, where you are currently storing those precious memories, will go defunct in a few years. With Google Photos now available, there’s no reason not to upload your pictures to the cloud because all you need is a decent internet connection.