How to Use Google Photos as the Perfect Vacation Companion
Holidays are a time to remember, where you capture memories that you want to cherish forever. Using Google Photos with your fellow travelers will ensure that your favorite moments are saved for a long time to come.
My friends and I recently went to the south coast of Portugal for a week-long holiday. When we returned to England we realized that we had over a thousand photos and videos taken from a combination of mobile phones, DSLR cameras, and Go Pro cameras.
We wanted a place where we could each save our files in a way that everyone can instantly access them the moment they’re uploaded. Considering they were media files, we were left with only one clear winner – here’s why:
We recently wrote an elaborate post on how to make the service work for you. With unlimited photo storage space , it’s more than capable of handling all your media files, as well as files that others share with you.
Regardless of which device you’re using, uploading photos to Google Photos is a breeze. On a PC, simply log in to your Google Photos account, then drag and drop the photos from your camera or memory card into your browser, or PC program. On a mobile phone, ensure you’ve installed the free Google Photos Android or iOS app, select all the photos and videos you want, then share it to the app.
As soon as your files are uploaded, you’ll see the option to add it to a new album or create a shared album. The second option lets other people access your files and add their photos and videos to your account. You’ll see a notification when each person uploads their batch of files to your album.
The process is so intuitive that after creating and sending my friends the link to a shared album via WhatsApp, I didn’t have to explain to any of them how to upload their photos. Within a few hours, each of them started uploading photos and videos from all their devices. While the constant notifications were annoying, it was also exciting to see their photos – many of which were better than mine.
Unlike other services, Google Photos’ program, website, and app all work in a similar way. They each contain three main sections – Photos, Albums, and Assistant. We’ll explain what each one does, starting with Photos.
This section contains all the photos and videos in your account, neatly arranged by date. A useful recent addition is that your scroll bar is now changed to a slider that lets you jump to any year or month to quickly see the photos taken at that time.
To create an album, all I needed to do was select all the dates of our holiday, click the “+” icon at the top, then select Album. The icon also lets you convert your selected photos into an animation (GIF) or a collage.
Upon clicking the Albums section, you’ll see your photos organized into neat categories – People, Places, Things, Videos, Collages, Animations, Movies, etc. Clicking Places, for example, lets you see all the photos you’ve taken at different locations (using your camera’s geotagging feature ).
A lesser-known feature is that all the categories in this section also function as individual search terms. Therefore, I can search for “Portugal” to see all the photos we took on our trip, or I can search for “Lisbon” to only see the photos we took at that place. Likewise, I can search for “June 13”, “Selfies” or “Portugal beach” to further narrow down my search criteria.
If you have many photos of your friends, then you’ll see small circular faces when you click Google Photos’ search bar. Upon clicking a friend, Google will ask you to name them. Going forward, you can search for your friends by name. I find this both brilliant and spooky.
The Albums section also contains the albums you’ve created, as well as ones shared with you. Clicking a shared album reveals all the people that have access to it at the top. The best feature is that each photo/video in a shared album contains the name of the person who has uploaded it.
What I’d really like to see though is a feature where you can select a name at the top to filter media files uploaded by that person. For example, one of my friends carried a GoPro, which we used to take underwater photos and videos, but there was no way I could only see his photos without navigating to them within the shared album.
The icons at the top left of this album let you add its items to your Google Photos library, reorder photos within your album, and share its link with others. The overflow menu (three dots) let you play all the album’s items as a slideshow, and download all its photos to your PC.
We’re gradually moving towards a world where artificial intelligence is being used to better our lives (read about the different ways you can use it right now ). One instance where you can see its usefulness is via Google Photos’ Assistant feature.
This feature automatically analyzes photos taken at the same location/date. It’ll then either stitch multiple photos taken from the same location into a GIF, or stitch adjacent photos taken from the same point into a panorama photo. You can also read about other free tools that let you create stunning panoramas .
The Assistant feature I like best, however, is when Google Photos creates short movies (complete with background music) using your best photos and videos (i.e. ones that aren’t blurred or taken from a wrong angle).
A day after uploading my photos, Google Photos automatically created three videos taken at different locations. While none of them were “perfect”, they each invoked a sense of nostalgia. I shamelessly took credit for creating them because my friends were so impressed with the video montages!
Create Your Own Movies
Even though it’s easier to create movies on your PC, Google (rightly) believes that your best photos reside on your mobile phone, so this feature is only available via its mobile apps. Select the photos and videos you want, click the “+” icon at the top, then select Movie. The app automatically creates a movie for you, but it’s easy to customize.
The icon at the bottom left lets you add 13 different color tones (think Instagram filters). The middle icon lets you add music from your device or choose one of the app’s free tracks. These are divided into five sections, which each contain about 10 tracks, so you’re sure to find something you like. The last icon (bottom right) lets you add more media files or delete/rearrange the current ones in your montage.
Relive Your Memories
The weekend after we returned, we were all suffering from major Portugal hangover and met up at my house. Even though we’d all seen the photos individually, we wanted to relive the moments together. Thankfully, I have a Chromecast, so I used Google Photos’ slideshow option to stream our holiday photos to my TV – something we enjoyed reminiscing for the next two hours.
Similar to Facebook’s “On this Day”, Google has a “Recover this day” feature where it brings up a photo or collage of things you’ve done on that day in the past. Delve into Settings > Assistant Cards > Recover this day to ensure it’s turned on.
Since, I’ve uploaded my entire photo library to Google Photos, I often get nostalgic about certain places I’ve visited, while also marveling at how fast time flies.
Other Free Alternatives
Facebook is the obvious best, free alternative to Google Photos. However, with more emphasis on social, it’s a place where I only tend to upload a selection of my best photos, and not use it as the primary location for all my media files. That said, its new photo sharing app could give Google Photos a run for its money in years to come.
Prior to Google Photos, Flickr was my photo storage destination of choice. It lets you create albums, add photos to a map, tag photos, and navigate your photos chronologically – just like Google Photos. However, Google’s AI tools, advanced search functions, and ability to create shared albums have led me to abandon Yahoo’s sinking ship.
A few years back, when all I had was my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone camera, I was heavily reliant on photo editing programs and Zoner Photo Studio was one of the best free options. Apart from managing all your photos and making basic edits , you can give your photos star ratings, create panoramas, and share your edited photos on social media.
What Do You Use to Catalog Your Holidays?
Before you book your next holiday, remember to read our Google travel tips and different ways to research your holiday destination .
We can’t recommend Google Photos highly enough as the best tool to catalog your holidays. It’s free, intuitive, and will remind you of special memories for years to come.
Are there any other tools or services that have served you better on your recent trips? Or any particular Google Photos features you didn’t know of until you read this feature? Post your thoughts in the Comments section below.
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