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Just over a year ago, Google launched Google Photos as an online photo sharing and storage platform.

Google Photos was designed as a replacement for Picasa, and while it falls short of Picasa’s capabilities in some areas Picasa Is Going Away: 5 Reasons You Should Be Disappointed Picasa Is Going Away: 5 Reasons You Should Be Disappointed Picasa will be discontinued on 15th March, and there are good reasons to be disappointed that its long run is ending. Here are five reasons why you should be upset. Read More , it remains a strong option for individuals, families, and groups, looking for an easy way to share photos between devices.

So, let’s talk more about the service which already has more than 200 million active users.

Why Use Google Photos?

Google Photos is an extension of Google Drive that offers users the ability to store, edit, share, and organize their photos online. The major selling points of this program over other online photo sharing sites Online Photo Albums: Where to Host Them for Free Online Photo Albums: Where to Host Them for Free Which online photo storage service is the best? Between free price tags, unlimited storage space, and photo security, which service is best for you? Read More are that it’s free and importantly offers unlimited storage if you choose to limit the file size of your photos.

It also offers multiple sharing options, is accessible from any device with an Internet connection (and has dedicated Android and iOS apps), and to round it off  — it’s pretty intuitive to set up and use.

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While Google Photos may not quite be the photo sharing site serious photographers are looking for, it’s still a newer Google product The Top Google Updates in 2016 You'll Want to Know About The Top Google Updates in 2016 You'll Want to Know About Google has introduced quite a few changes to many of its products over the last 4-5 months. We decided to round up some of the more useful ones that you might want to know about. Read More that’s under ongoing development.

Right now, the updates Google Photos seems to be focusing on are ones that allow everyday users to organize, backup, manipulate, and share their entire photo collection as easily as possible. These tips and tricks can help you organize and optimize your photo library effectively using the best of Google Photos’ features.

Uploading Photos

Online photo storage and sharing sites are useless if uploading your photos is a chore – thankfully, Google Photos makes this as simple as possible, no matter what kind of device you are using.

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Syncing Photos from Your Computer: When using Google Photos in your browser, you can choose to upload photos in three ways:

  1. By dragging them into the library from another location on your computer.
  2. By using the online uploader tool (the cloud icon in the top right corner of the Google Photos page). Or…
  3. By downloading the desktop uploader. This streamlines the process of uploading a significant number of files at once.

Syncing Photos from Your Phone: Many users choose to use Google Photos as their primary backup for the photos they take on their phones, or as a way to save storage space on their phone Free up Massive Space on Your Phone with 7 Photo Storage Services Free up Massive Space on Your Phone with 7 Photo Storage Services Thanks to smartphone photography and high-definition video phones run out of storage space very quickly. But there are popular cloud storage options and auto-upload features which can help us get some space back. Read More . You can set your phone to automatically backup and sync your photos by navigating to the settings menu on your app (either iOS or Android) and then selecting “Back up and Sync.”

If you would prefer not to have all of your photos uploaded to Google Photos, you can also choose to upload selected photos through the app as well.

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Upload File Size: When making decisions about uploading your photos, keep in mind the file size you would like them to be stored at.

Google Photos recommends you select the “high quality” storage option if you most of your photos with a phone or camera are under 16 megapixels in size. This will allow you to access free unlimited storage for a slightly reduced file size.

However, if you take most of your photos on a DSLR or require high-quality prints, you are better off selecting the “Original” size upload setting. storage size. Be aware that any files you upload at their original size will count against your storage quota for your overall Google Drive account.

Know that you can change this setting for individual photos – your preference will just be the automatic option for uploads unless you indicate otherwise!

Shared Albums: One great feature of Google Photos is how easily you can share albums with multiple contributors. Once you have started an album, simply press the share button, and then select “Let Others Share Their Photos.” This will allow anyone with the shared link to add photos to your album.

Shared albums are a great idea for ongoing family albums, events that multiple people have taken photos at, or when collaborating on projects with other people. Of course, it is always important to be aware of the security risks when sharing your photos online.

Organization

Google Photos definitely stands out from its competitors when it comes to the intuitive organization tools available throughout their platform. Google Photos’ organization system turns them into collections based on the information they have about your photos. These collections may be based on time or date, location, subjects, or objects included in the images.  The filters and recognition options aren’t flawless yet, but they definitely have promise.

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Organize by Key Words: Google Photos allows you to access a lot of information about every photo you upload by pressing the “Info” button. A space exists for you to enter key words that you can later use to locate and sort your images.

You can also choose to enable location sorting options by pressing the location button when editing an album. Google Photos may include this information automatically, if GPS information was recorded by your phone or camera when the photograph was taken, or it may estimate the location of an image based on your history.

You can remove a photo’s location information by pressing the information button while viewing an image and then deleting the location information from its box.

Organize by Date and Time: Like most photo organization platforms, Google Photos automatically sorts your photos by the date and time that they were taken.

If photos are appearing with the incorrect date and/or time, you can manually shift this information so that photos are sorted correctly. To do this, shift click on the checkmark icon on every photo that is incorrect, then press the “more options” button at the top right of your screen and select “edit date and time.”

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Organization by Subject: Google Photos is working on identifying the different objects in each of your images. This means that Google will organize photos together that share similar contents (e.g. flowers), settings, and/or people.

I found that this feature was hit or miss with the fifteen photos I uploaded – Google Photos was able to group together albums based on the subjects “beach”, “sky”, and “birds”, but ignored some other large concepts such as “water”, “sunset”, or “animals.”

The face-recognition option isn’t yet available in all countries, but if you’re in the United States you can have Google Photos use face recognition software to identify people who regularly show up in your images, allowing you to organize photos based on the people that are in them.

If you are uncomfortable with Google having access to this part of your information, you can choose to turn “Group Similar Faces” off in your settings.

Searching for Photos

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One of the truly awesome things about Google Photos automatic organization system (and the options that they give users to improve upon it) is that it makes searching for photos incredibly easy. The search feature accesses photos based on key words in their description, their location, the people in them, and the objects in them.

It should be noted that several of my photos were identified by objects (such as “squirrel”, “ice cream”, and “tree”) that weren’t automatically sorted into larger albums – but again, the process wasn’t perfect and some photos were overlooked.

One of the most random additions to Google Photos search features is the fact that you can use emoji to search for images. Sunglasses, burgers, happy faces, dogs – if there’s an emoji for it, it’s fair game!

Making Albums Beautiful

Google Photos takes its job as a photo sharing platform seriously, and wants to make it easy and aesthetically pleasing for users to share images with each other. While it does well at presenting overall albums, however, the available photo editing tools themselves fall pretty flat.

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Image Editing: Compared to other basic photo editing programs available on social media (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, your cell phone’s native photo editing software), Google Photos falls short. The editing tools work well, but there are few of them available – the platform offers eleven filters, basic crop and rotation features, and four sliders for “light,” “color,” “pop,” and “vignette.”

This is where most people who have come to Google Photos looking for a Picasa replacement Picasa Is Going Away: 11 Apps That You Can Use Instead Picasa Is Going Away: 11 Apps That You Can Use Instead Read More may find themselves most disappointed – to edit your photos with any degree of accuracy and precision, you have to use another program and then upload the final project to Google Photos for sharing.

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Arranging Albums: When it comes to the albums themselves, however, Google Photos allows for a beautiful, minimalist presentation with a decent amount of room for creativity. Albums can be organized visually in rows (up to five photos across horizontally) by dragging and dropping images into whatever order and arrangement the user wishes.

In addition, the user can add maps, locations, and text interspersed throughout the images to give viewers a greater context for the images that they are seeing by accessing the “text” or “location” button in the top right corner when editing an album.

Creative Options: Users are also able to create fun projects with their images, including animations and collages. These options can be accessed from the “Assistant” menu by selecting the “make new animation” or “make new collage” button, and following the prompts provided.

Sharing Your Photos

Google Photos really was designed primarily for sharing large numbers of images in an organized way. Again, the system hasn’t been perfected yet, but there are a lot of great features in place to ensure that you share your photos when you want, with whom you want, with your chosen level of security in place.

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Setting Permissions: Sharing permissions can be set for individual albums, or individual photos. In order to begin sharing you will need to access “Sharing Options” under the “More Options” button at the top right of your screen.

You need to allow “Anyone with the link can see these photos” in order to begin sharing, at which point you will be presented with a shareable link to your album or photo. This link can easily be shared by copying and pasting this link into an email, text, or instant message or through one of the social media buttons presented on the screen.

You can revoke sharing permissions at any time using the same menu if you are worried that your photos have been shared with someone outside of your intended viewers.

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When you are sharing photos with friends and family, Google Photos has enabled a couple of options to ensure that you are able to enjoy the experience together.

Slideshows: When viewing an image in an album press the “More Options” button at the top right of your screen and then “Slideshow” to view all of the photos in full-screen with simple navigational controls (left and right arrow keys on your computer, swiping on your smartphone).

Commenting: Much like Facebook, if you choose to enable comments on your photos and/or albums, people with Google accounts will be able to comment on them with their thoughts and impressions. This is a great way to connect with family and friends viewing your images and to add multiple perspectives to the memories that you are sharing through photos.

Is Google Photos Enough?

Right now, Google Photos is a basic photo storage and photo organization tool that is quickly becoming an innovative way to store and organize photos. There’s definitely still a significant amount of room for improvement, but the platform is setting a precedent that could accomplish incredible things with a few more years of growth.

Do you currently use Google Photos? Why or Why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! And, if you do use Google Photos – what feature would you like to see the developers add next?

Image Credit: student worried by Piotr Marcinski via Shutterstock

  1. Cathey Dowell
    July 15, 2016 at 11:35 am

    When I post a image to a social media directly from google photos, it shows my name posted from google photos. Is there anyway to block your name from posting on it????

    • Briallyn Smith
      July 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Cathey - unfortunately, I don't know that that is possible right now! I haven't tried to do this very often, but would it be possible for you to edit the post after it has gone through to remove your name?

      • Cathey Dowell
        July 20, 2016 at 12:44 am

        That doesn't work. When I go to my google photos I have saved and click on them, it gives you a option to share on Facebook, Twitter, Google +. When I share it to my personal blog it automatically post on the picture at the side it says new photo by me, then at the bottom it show posted by photos. google. It's so confusing . The only way I can post is if I download all the photos into a download file and then post from there. If I knew how to contact google about this I would.

  2. Sharon Harding
    June 29, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    I am a Realtor for the past 30+ years, so I take lots of photos of homes, food, events, landscaping, people, flowers, etc. I have been using Photos for about two years, and I really miss Picassa, which I used for years and loved.

    I still cannot figure out how to save numerous photos of one home that I just listed in one file alone so that I can lighten, brighten, crop, and save the photos. Hundreds of my photos are all in the same file in a haphazard order, so I waste a lot of time searching for a specific photo that I might need to email to a client. How do I put photos in separate files together and separate from all my other hundreds of photos? That's one issue that I have. It would be nice to be able to add a name label or address to each photo, so that I could somehow search quickly for the listed home's address to pull up the photos of that house.

    Another issue is this. How do I email a dozen or so photos all at once in one email? I presently search for each photo individually in my huge collection of hundreds of photos by scrolling through all of them. It takes a long time to search and is tedious. Why can't I just hold down the control or the shift key and click on multiple photos to send them all together at once? It takes a long time to find and email each individual photo. I would like to be able to share with clients all the photos that I took of their house.

    Thanks for the article, and I hope that Photos gets easier and faster to use. I like how fast the photos upload from my digital Nikon Coolpix camera when I upload photos. I like how easy it is to lighten photos, and I like how easy it is to quickly crop photos. Thanks, again!
    shschaumburg@aol.com

    • Briallyn Smith
      July 19, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Hi Sharon - thank you so much for your incredibly thoughtful comment about your experiences with Google Photos! (I'm still in mourning for Picassa too)

      As far as making separate files go, have you tried sorting each photo into its own album? I know it's not quite as intuitive as it is with other programs, but that might help you to name and find the photos you need more quickly, as well as simplify the process for when you are emailing them as well!

      It's such a tricky balance right now with Google Photos, eh? On one hand, all of the features they DO have are really cool and easy to use. . . if only they'd bring the rest of their features up to speed and catch up with the other photo processing systems out there!

  3. Don Ebberts
    June 29, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    I like Google Photos. I am very organized. I keep very careful track of all of my photos on my PC, including tagging them with locations and the names of people in the photos. Unfortunately, that information does not get uploaded to Google Photos. It figures it out on some of them but I wish it would look at that information when it can't figure out who someone is.

    It also bothers me that if I delete a photo from Google Photos, it also wants to delete from my device. I get the reasoning for that, I would just like an option.

    I love the Assistant. It's fun when it pops up with the 3 years ago today, or however long ago. It's a great way to remember what happened and share with my family. I look forward to it getting better...or Google getting tired of it and just dumping it at some point for a new shiny toy! ;-)

    Thanks for the article, very informative.

    • Briallyn Smith
      July 19, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Don - thank you so much for your comment – it's so great to hear about how you've been using Google Photos and the changes you'd like to see made to it.

      I was also really frustrated that Google didn't seem to recognize some of the information I'd already associated with my photos too – I really hope they figure this component out soon!

      And that's so fun about the Assistant, right?! Fingers crossed Google keeps working on this one and doesn't ditch it for a new toy ;-)

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!! :)

  4. Pamela
    June 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I'm using Google Photos to backup from phone, and it works well for that. Beyond this, it's almost as if they've let us in to the beginning of a project instead of at the finishing line. It's so way behind almost any of the other photo services available.

    I'm currently using it to sync photos on computer, but there's an annoying issue I'm having with it. So photos get synced to Google Photos when appearing on hard drive, or from phone. But when I want to dl from Google Photos, let's say to work on a photo uploaded from phone, herein lies the annoyance. I download from Google Photos onto my hard drive, and Photos begins to upload same photo that's already on there from phone. Perhaps syncing with both devices is just not a viable option yet with Google Photos? : /

    I've been handling this each time by "pausing download," but this gets crazy! I have to then remember which photos, if I've edited them in any way, do need to then be uploaded anew, and which I can ignore. I will probably end up switching to manual upload and not bother with the sync option at all for desktop.

    Thanks for the reveiew, Briallyn!

    • Briallyn Smith
      July 19, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      Hi Pamela - thank YOU so much for this incredibly detailed comment! It's really good to hear about your experiences with Google Photos (as frustrating as they are - seriously, it's incredibly strange that they haven't seemed to consider that users will want to back up photos from multiple devices!)

      I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying about feeling like we're in the beginning stages of a project - it's strange how many features that we take for granted aren't included in Google Photos right now – but I find the features they do have so promising. . . it's frustrating! I have my fingers crossed they'll sort everything out soon!

  5. MGVH
    June 29, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Google Photos is great in many ways, but one infuriating aspect is how hard it is to share the photo itself. Yes, there is the "share" link that can send photos to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, but on many sites, I need to share/embed the photo with a JPG extension. "Getting the link" generates a long code that Google understands, but not a site looking for a JPG. If there is an easy way to share the photo with a *.JPG address, I haven't found it.

    • Briallyn Smith
      July 19, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment, MGVH – your frustrations are definitely felt here as well and I really hope they make a change for this soon!

  6. Axl
    June 25, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    from the article:
    "Google Photos automatically sorts your photos by the date and time that they were taken"

    This is not true, unfortunately.
    Google photos seems to use the File Modification date rather then the EXIF data.

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks for the correction, Axl! Dangit, Google.

      • David Hall
        November 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm

        I recently scanned a plethora of old family photos as far back as the 1950s. After I scanned the photos, i went into properties and changed the date taken to a date close to the date of the photo. When I uploaded to Google Photos, it did sort the photos on the "date taken" date.

        • Briallyn Smith
          November 25, 2016 at 2:40 pm

          That's so cool to hear, David! I really want to tackle a couple of projects like that, so it's really good to hear that it's worked so well for you :)

  7. John Buchmann
    June 25, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    I love Google Photos, but here are things I'd like to see improved:

    - more powerful image editing. Bring back Snapseed tools natively like they used to have and then took away.

    - shared albums are ordered by oldest first. I'd like the option to order by newest first so recipients i share with can easily see new images added without scrolling all the way to the bottom.

    - fix white balance with an eye dropper tool

    - on mobile if i edit a pic with third party app i would like the resulting image to be next to the original, not saved at the top under today's date and time

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, John! I agree with all of your suggestions :)

  8. Linda Hax
    June 25, 2016 at 1:44 am

    I have been using Photo app a couple of months. I like the simple editing tool. I would like to be able to add a caption under each photo rather than over a collage of photos.

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Linda! I agree - it would be nice to have a caption associated with each photo kind of like you would see in a printed photo album!

    • Jerry Suppan
      June 30, 2016 at 5:07 am

      you can sort of do this already by pressing the 'T' icon (for text) when in edit mode. I say sort of, because it's not for each individual photo. But you can add multiple text with captions to explain your photos,and drag and drop those around in the album as one sees fit to do so.

  9. Mohannad
    June 24, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    I don't use it yet because setting the correct date on photos and videos has been a headache. Photos with wrong dates are easy to fix by changing the exit data. But as for videos Google photos doesn't recognize the created date so all my videos are not in the right date in Google photos. Many people are having this issue as well and as long as it continues I can't really use the app.

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience Mohannad! Thankfully there is the batch edit for dates and times now, but I agree, it's still not quite as seamless as it should be (especially when it comes to videos)

  10. Cacho
    June 24, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I just started using Google Photos as a backup repository of an entire life time of my photos and videos, including thousands of old family photos dating back to the 1800s. It blows my mind that they can handle unlimited uploads (the 16 megapixel limit is still higher than most of my images). I've uploaded 150gb in the past 2 months, I'm surprised my ISP hasn't throttled me yet.

    It's amazing to scroll through a 100 years of family history then suddenly get a detailed view of my own life around 2002 when I got a mini digital pocket camera and was snapping photos everyday, a habit which continued with every cellphone upgrade.

    And that's where Google Photos really shines for me with its unlimited uploads and image recognition search: it lets me upload the tens of thousands of random, often sloppy daily pics I take, most of which have sat unorganized on backup drives for the past decade. I would never bother to put those on Flickr, which I still use for my polished Lightroomed DSLR photos.

    I've also switched from Flickr to GooglePhotos for sharing private albums since it doesn't require people to sign in with an account to view them like Flickr does with Yahoo.

    Features I'd like to see added to Google Photos:
    - Night time mode (black background). Chrome in general should have this built in to affect all the Google sites. The Deluminate extension I use is sloppy.
    - Option to bulk add descriptions and rotate multiple images at once or all images within an album.
    - Option to choose different date/time when uploading. For example, if no exif date/time exists, it currently defaults to the file's last modified or creation date. But it would be awesome if it could parse file names and extract date/time from there if it exists. I have thousands of old cellphone camera images with no exit data, but do have the proper date/time in the file name (YYYYMMDD-HHMM.jpeg)

    • Briallyn Smith
      June 26, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Cacho, this was an AMAZING comment (seriously, it's almost as long as my original article!) Thank you so, so much for sharing your thoughts and opinions and experiences with Google Photos - I enjoyed reading this so much!

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