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, 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 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.
While Google Photos may not quite be the photo sharing site serious photographers are looking for, it’s still a newer Google product 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.
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.
Syncing Photos from Your Computer: When using Google Photos in your browser, you can choose to upload photos in three ways:
- By dragging them into the library from another location on your computer.
- By using the online uploader tool (the cloud icon in the top right corner of the Google Photos page). Or…
- 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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