The Ultimate Guide to Google Photos

by: - Last updated on: September 26th, 2020

Android was always criticized for not having a great photo management app, the default ones were slow and didn’t really synced with the cloud. Third party developers jumped in quickly with some really good alternatives like “QuickPic” but those too were lame when it came to the UI itself.

Google at their I/O event this year unveiled the completely redesigned “Photos” app, a one stop solution for all your photos. With unlimited photo backups, beautiful materialized applications across platforms and a web interface, this app is just perfect.

google-photos-launched

Google Photos does two things exceptionally well – Organizing and Searching. Backing up to the cloud can be done easily by any other app but managing them can be a tedious task, exactly where this service shines. It will arrange your uploaded pictures by location and by date automatically. Being able to search for the context “Show me my mom’s photos in Aurangabad” is just breathtaking. Google also solved storage problems a lot of users have nowadays by letting them delete the local photographs. Sharing full-size photos is a piece of cake with this thing, just select and create the link which doesn’t take even a minute. iOS always had a wonderful photos app and now, Android has one too.

Even though the company tried to keep it as simple as possible, Google Photos, however, turned out to be a bit complicated for some users out there, so here’s a complete guide on how to use Google Photos like a pro. You should keep reading if you’re already using the service as there are some awesome features you might not even know about.

The First Boot

So you installed the Photos app, go ahead and fire it up. First and foremost thing to do is backup everything to Google’s cloud. Sure you can skip this but this app will be just useless without that. You can also change the settings later but I would recommend backing it up.

After completion of the initial screen, you land straight to your camera photos where you will realize how good-looking Google made this app.

google-photos-shared-albums

There are four primary tabs on Google Photos – Assistant that essentially acts as a feed and shows auto-generated content for you to save, Albums consists of folders, collections, albums, Photos is self-explanatory and lastly, Sharing which is a list of all the sharing activity. In this last tab, you will also receive sharing suggestions from time-to-time if the app detects your friend’s face in a picture.

Duplicate Files

Google Photos is smart enough to recognize the duplicate files and skip uploading them. The duplicate files might have different names and/or reside in different folders (or devices), but Google Photos can still identify and skip accordingly. It doesn’t decide for you but offers an option if you want to skip uploading the duplicates. A very handy feature indeed. Sadly, if you already have duplicate photos somehow, there is no easy way to delete them. A complex workaround exists, though.

Free up Space

free-up-space

Google Photos for Android has got a new feature where in you can delete the already uploaded photos and videos from the local folder of your device to free up space. This is especially useful when you have a phone without expandable storage (Hey Nexus! I’m looking at you.) To do this, go to the Settings screen and look for the “Free Up Space” button.

Downgrade previously uploaded photos from “Original quality” to “High quality”

This has been a much-requested feature on Google Photos. If you were someone who chose to upload your photos in full resolution without compression and later felt the pinch of diminishing storage space on Google Photos, you can now downgrade the quality of those already uploaded photos to “High Quality” which doesn’t count against your Google storage quota. Just go to photos.google.com/settings from your computer and click ‘Recover Storage’.

Pinch In, Pinch Out

To get a better view of your photos. You can pinch in to make them bigger and pinch out to zoom out dividing them according to their year/month/days. You can do the same by tapping the three vertical dots in the top right corner.

pinch-in-photos

Tap on any photo and discover the astounding editing tools Google offers. You can crop, rotate, apply filters, increase the lighting and all the basic stuff one expects from a photo editing application. You can even create animated GIFs and photo slideshows and send them to YouTube straight from the app. Press the info app to explore the details including Google maps location and the ability to add a description (will be used in the stories).

Google also allows deleting the local copy of that photo preserving the one on the cloud making your storage nightmare less scary. Get a public link by going into the sharing menu.

Create Collages, Stories, Albums, And Animations

On the main screen, you will find a plus icon on the top that reveals some really awesome features. You can generate collages, stories of your trips, albums, and animations of burst photos. Each has their own characteristics, settings which the app will guide you through. Sadly, if you had previously created albums and organized the images accordingly, Google Photos doesn’t care about them and stores them in one big pool.

Throughout your usage, the assistant will create movies/stories/animations of your photos/trip which you can preview and save transferring them to the collections tab.

You might be confused between movies and stories. Movies are just videos of your photos with music and effects but stories are just a really terrific way to showcase your trips. They show where were you with some photos in a magnificent design. Furthermore, if you have a lot of photos and videos of their child or another kid, Google Photos will also automatically create a themed movie – “They Grow Up So Fast” .

Find device folders like “WhatsApp images”, “Downloads” etc from the left by dragging the drawer. You can back those up too if you want, but that might get really messy if you get nonsense forwards like I do.

Rediscover this Day

Just like the “On This Day” feature of Facebook (or if you use Timehop), Rediscover this day option on Google Photos will help you find pictures taken on the current day in past years. It often displays them as a neat collage for easy sharing to social media.

Select Photos in Bulk

This has to be my favorite feature if Google Photos. You know how painful it is to select images and videos in bulk on mobile devices, but thankfully, that’s not the case with Google Photos. You don’t have to tap on each and every image you want to select, rather tap and hold on one photo and then swipe your finger downwards. You’ll see that all the photos around your finger will get selected automatically even if you didn’t put your finger on all the photos. Brilliant!

On The Desktop and Web

“Ok Google, show me my photos.”

Everything you just learned is available on the web (photos.google.com) which you can later access on your desktop or basically from anywhere. But as this is supported by Google, some cool things come packed. You can do simple Google searches to reveal your photos (you should be logged in obviously). The web interface is just an extended version of the app, so there’s nothing to get intimated by.

Try searches like “selfies”, “trains”, “dogs” or even complex ones like “dogs on a train” or “temples in India” or “cats from October 2014”. They may not be always accurate, but can definitely surprise you a few times.

google-photos-search

Speaking of desktop, Google has also launched desktop clients for Windows and Mac that can automatically sync photos from your computer right to Google Photos making it really easy to search anything and access. The clients let you choose which folders are included in the sync and at what size (you can also backup RAM photos) they’re transferred to the cloud.

This is also available in Google drive from the Photos tab on the left which is neat. If you use the Google Drive desktop client, you can use the same option to sync the Google Photos folder to your hard drive if you wish.

Going Pro

So all the basic stuff is now cleared, let’s now take a look at some of the Pro things you do with this application.

The Search

Google offers a really powerful search functionality that lets you find images based on basically everything from dates to faces to dogs. You can also name individual faces to locate them quickly. It also recognizes things like trains, animals, and mostly anything people click photos of generally which is if you think about it is just stupendous.

photos-search

Jumping in the Settings Page

You can do a lot of changes to suit your use by jumping in the settings page that you can go into from the side drawer on the left.

First, let’s talk about the backup setting, there you can change the upload size (choose high quality to get unlimited storage), change when to backup photos, choose which folders to backup, backup only while charging and a couple more.

You can also free up device storage by removing original photos keeping only the cloud copies, remove the location from the photos, filter assistant cards etc.

Shared Albums makes Sharing Photos easier

In a recent update, Google introduced shared albums, that as the name suggests, shows the albums/photos that are shared to or by you. If you are sharing to messenger app like WhatsApp, Google Photos will download and send the actual images in addition to the link to the shared album. Handy again.

Since there is no control who can see the shared photos once they have the link, it makes sense to keep a tab on the Shared Albums regularly and delete the ones that are no longer required.

Additionally, in an update, Google introduced a better way for sharing photos with other Google Photos users. Previously, if you needed to send someone an image or video, you either had to use a third party app or create a link. Now, there’s an in-app sharing function through which you can directly share files, the receiver will consequently, get a notification for the same.

google-photos-share

Don’t worry, your deleted photo is safe

This app also comes with a trash folder (available from the left drawer) that keeps the photos deleted by you, they’re permanently removed after 60 days or you can do delete manually from there. The only problem here is that if you want to delete an image permanently, make sure you delete from the local folder of the device as well, as Google Photos isn’t wise enough (yet) not to re-upload the deleted image.

Archiving

Google recently added a feature for archiving pictures as well. The option is available in the left side menu which you can access by swiping right. For moving files into the archive, simply select them, tap the three dots and “archive”.

Syncing Photos across devices using Drive

By default, Google Photos aren’t visible on Google Drive, but you can enable it by going to drive.google.com and turning on the “Automatically put your Google Photos into a folder in My Drive” option. This ensures you can see all your photos on Google Drive and even sync them across all your devices just like any other Google Drive folder. Most people don’t need this, but handy for professionals. This also helps you to attach photos in the cloud from your Gmail account.

Cast your Google Photos to your TV

google-photos-casting

With the new Chromecast device, Google added the much-awaited feature to cast photos from your Google Photos app in Android to your TV using Chromecast. So next time you want to show off your holiday pictures to your friends, do it in style by casting the app on the big screen. This feature is ‘coming soon’ to iOS and the Web as well.

Send videos to YouTube

Just like images, Google Photos can store all your videos as well (up to max resolution of 1080p), and now YouTube has added an option to directly import your videos and photos from Google Photos right from the YouTube Upload page. Of course, you can share them privately or publicly as you wish.

Remove Geolocation data

If you are concerned about your privacy, you can strip out the location data stored on your images before you share them with people. Head into Photos settings on the web and enable Remove geo-location in items shared by the link to do exactly that.

Hack to upload iOS photos to Google Photos in background

If you are on iPhone or iPad and want to move thousands of photos on iCloud to Google Photos, here is a nice little hack to beat Apple’s restriction on background app usage. The trick is to connect the device to the charger and make the music app running. Then open the Google Photos app and start the backup. This tutorial will help you.

Quick Shortcut

quick-shortcut

Google in a recent update introduced a “Quick Shortcut” to access the app as soon as you click a shot. The new feature started appearing on the “Assistant” tab but if you missed/swiped that, you still get it turned on from the settings (“Camera Shortcut” in settings). It’s a great add-on for people who aren’t using the Photos app as their default photo management platform. After you activate this, you will always see a floating icon of your clicked photo which will redirect you to the app once you click it. From there, you can do the usual stuff like editing, creating links and more.

Sharing the Entire Library with Someone

If you want, Google Photos also allows you to share the entire library with your partner in real-time. Hence, when enabled, all your future and existing pictures will be automatically synced with someone’s else account. To turn this feature on, swipe right from the left edge and select “share your library”. Tap “Get started” and follow the instructions.

Edit Live Photos on iOS

With Google Photos 2.0, iOS users can edit their captured live photos and turn them into shareable GIFs or videos. Additionally, it automatically stabilizes the shots and allows you to even freeze a particular frame.

Create a Custom Themed Movie on Google Photos

custom theme movie google photos

The app allows you to manually create custom themed movies in just a bunch of steps. There are a handful of themes you can look into such as “They Grow up so Fast”, “Doggie Movie”, “Meow Movie”, “Selfie Movie”, and more. Here’s how to use it.

Google Photos can handle images from multiple devices pretty well. Photos from all the devices you have chosen to backup get synced to your primary account and arranged chronologically. Sadly, you can’t filter/arrange them on the basis of the original device from where it was backed. That’s one handy feature we wish Google introduces soon.

So I guess that was all there is to know about Google Photos, it’s a fantastic app and you should give it a try if you haven’t yet. You won’t go back to any other after using this. Google really eliminated the photos disaster on Android with this one.

Already using Google Photos? Share your views on it down below!

Comments

  1. Hi Shubham, I´m trying to search for some person but EXCLUDING the photos that are already in some album. Do you know some way to do that?
    Thanks

  2. I have been using google photos and wishing for an option to MOVE all the relevant photos to specific albums. So, those photos attached to one or more albums should not show up in common photos folder. Anyway to achieve this or any alternative apps there ? Currently, I have thousands of photos old and new with some photos allocated to albums whereas some not in any album but I can’t make out which are not in any albums and it has become very messy to see all photos in one photos folder. So many times, I end up selecting many of the photos re-allocating to some of the same albums duplicating the efforts wasting time.

  3. Why is google photos backup images that are in my emails??? I get a junk email from whomever and it has advertisements in it, those photos are getting backed up. I do not want them backed up. I am not downloading these photos, that are just in the emails. How can I prevent that?

    1. This is extremely weird and I’m hearing this issue for the first time. Can you please let us know which device(s) are you using for Google Photos backup?

      1. I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge running Android 6.0.1. and google photo app build version 2.3.0.137536389

        It only started within the last few weeks. I upgraded my google drive space and have my google photo set to original size photos. Every email that I view on my cell phone that has any photos in it, the photos in the email will automatically get uploaded to my google photo account. Ads, banners, products, whatever image there is.

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