Everything You Need to Know  About Google Photos (Complete Review)

Everything You Need to Know About Google Photos (Complete Review)

Google Photos is a gallery application introduced by Google in 2015. If you have an Android mobile, this application will already be installed on your mobile.
In case, you can not find it on your phone. Search ‘Photos’ on Playstore or Appstore.

When you open ‘Google Photos’ it might not look anything other than a gallery application.
Its main advantage over the competitors is that it lets you save photos on the cloud for free. You just have to log in with your Google ID and all the images will be synced in that Gmail ID.
This Gmail ID can then be used to access the photos anywhere and on any device.
Therefore, Google Photos is not just a gallery but a storage service too. I am going to dive into everything Google Photos can do for a user.

List of things to go over to know everything about Google Photos:

Google Photos Cloud Storage and limitations

Google photos can save photos on your phone or on the cloud depending on your settings.
You have to select what folders you want to backup in google photos.

Google Photos gives two options to store images on the cloud.

  1. Original Quality: Only 15GB storage for uncompressed Images with no details lost. It is exactly as it sounds. We have found no difference in images if we use this option to save our photos.
  2. High Quality: Unlimited compressed Images with some details lost

If you want more than 15GB Images and you want to save photos in original uncompressed Quality, you can either buy a Google Pixel (Smartphone made by Google) or buy more storage from Google.

For Google Pixel Users:

Pixel (2016): You get unlimited free storage at original quality. You won’t be able to use High quality.
Pixel 2: You get unlimited free storage at the original quality for all photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos from Pixel 2 through January 16, 2021.
Pixel 3: You get unlimited free storage at the original quality for all photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos from Pixel 3 through Jan 31, 2022.
Pixel 3a and Pixel 4:
You can choose to get unlimited free storage at High quality, or you can choose to upgrade your back up to Original quality.

Source: https://support.google.com/photos/answer/6220791?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

If you want to buy more storage, these are the options:

Source: https://one.google.com/about

Google one is a membership for all of the google services. You can store images, docs, excel sheets and anything from a google app or service on Google one.

How to reduce Photos and Videos in size?

Since you can store unlimited photos in Original quality. So, if you want to save some space, change your already backed-up photos and videos to High quality. This setting will not appear if you don’t have any photos in Original quality.

  1. On a computer, go to photos.google.com/settings.
  2. Click Recover storage. This will not change the quality of your future uploads.

Note: You can only recover storage once a day. 

Photos or videos will not be changed to High quality if you’ve uploaded them with:

  • Google Drive
  • Your Pixel
  • Your Pixel 2 or 3 during your Original quality offer period

But it will change any photos or videos you’ve uploaded on:

  • Blogger
  • Google Maps
  • Google Photos
  • Google+
  • Hangouts
  • Panoramio
  • Picasa Web Albums
  • YouTube Web Channel Art

Source: https://support.google.com/photos/answer/6220791?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

Google Photos and Drive are not connected anymore?

Previously, If you save a picture on Google Photos, it was also saved in Google Drive in a folder named “Google Photos” and if you saved photos in Google Drive, you could view those pictures in Google Photos. But, Google Photos and Google Drive are not connected anymore.


Sure, you can upload photos separately on Google Drive. But, it will take up extra space from your 15GB free space.
The thing is Google Drive only stores images in “Original Quality” and takes up your free space of 15GB.

On the Contrary, Google Photos can store images without taking any space from your 15GB quota, if you choose the upload quality to “High Quality” instead of “Original Quality”.
This is something you can not do in Google Drive.

Now, if you want your photos backed up in Google Photos and Google Drive. It has to be done manually.

Save on Google Photos From Google Drive:

Open “Google Photos” on mobile or go to photos.google.com.
Select “Upload” and click on “Google Drive”
Just select the images you want to upload and your drive pictures will be available in Google Photos.

Save on Google Drive from Google Photos:

This is not as simple as uploading on “Photos”.
For Mobile:
Select the images you want to copy to “Drive” and click on the share icon on the top.
Scroll to the right and select “Save to Drive”.

For Computer:
You need to first have images on your computer. For this purpose, Google has another app that lets you keep all of the google photos in your PC or MAC.
The application is called Backup and Sync.
Download the app and sync all your Google Photos on the computer.
Now go to drive.google.com/drive
Click on “New” and select the files you want to upload on “Google Drive”.

In case, you can not understand the ‘Backup and Sync’ application. Google has a complete guide on it. That is why we are not writing that here.

Here is the link to the Google Guide on ‘Backup and Sync’.
https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2374987

Backup your Google Photos (Android, iOS, PC, Mac)

Now that you are using ‘Google Photos’ for your daily snaps, you might want to back up those precious moments you captured with your smartphone or DSLR.

That’s right, you can even backup pictures that are not taken on your smartphone. You would have to keep an eye at the free storage for your Gmail if you opt for ‘Original Quality’ images.

Let’s start with the easiest one:

Android:

  1. Open ‘Photos’ app
  2. Click on the three lines (hamburger) icon on the top left
  3. Go to Settings
  4. Click on Back up and Sync
  5. Check if the backup and sync is on
  6. Now check the folders you want to backup

By default, ‘Photos’ will only backup on Wifi but you can backup your snaps on Cellular Data too.

iOS:

For iOS, the same method would be used except for one step.

If you see a message asking to allow the app to access your photos:

  1. Open the iOS settings app > tap Privacy  Photos.
  2. Turn on Google Photos.

PC and Mac:

Google has an application for computers called ‘Backup and Sync‘.
Just download the application and select the folders you want to sync and you are good to go.

Source: https://support.google.com/photos/answer/6193313?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en&oco=1

4 Ways to Share Google Photos

Google photos may be the only gallery app that allows sharing photos on literally anywhere.

1) Photos to Photos:

The simplest way to share pictures is to send snaps to a friend who has “Photos” installed on his phone.
Select the pictures you want to share and click on the share button on the left bottom corner of the ‘Photos’ application.
Photos icon next to the contact picture means the person is using ‘Google Photos’ on his device. We can share pictures with multiple contacts as shown in the right screenshot.

2) Photos to Email/Contact No:

If you click on the share button and share the pictures with someone who does not use ‘Google Photos’ then instead of photos. ‘Photos’ will send a link to those pictures on the receiving person’s contact number and email. The other would receive a message like in the right picture below.

3) Share with a Partner

Google photos has an option that allows you to share all of your pictures and videos with another person.
All you have to do is Go to the ‘Sharing‘ tab.
At the top, you will see ‘Add Partner Account’.
Just add that partner’s account and He/She will be able to access existing and future photos that you will upload in ‘Google Photos’.

Note: you can only share with one partner.

You can then select the features like “Filter by date” and “Filter by face groups”.

4) Share links of Albums:

This feature is especially unique to ‘Photos’. Let’s say you have to share a ton of pictures with your group of 50 friends. This is so useful when all of your friends take pictures on your smartphone (if you have a Pixel Phone) and then text you to share images.

Friends who don’t use Google Photos:
For this, we will have to select the photos and select the share option. In sharing, you can see an option as ‘Create Link’.
Copy that link and send it to all the people with whatever application you are comfortable with. I use WhatsApp and you can use a simple text message too.

Friends who use Google Photos:

This is simple. Create an album of the photos you want to share and add all your friends who you want to give access to.

you can look at the vast majority of options available here. You can add any number of people to this shared album. All the people in this shared album can then add their own images and also comment on any picture.

Also, in the 4th snapshot, the option ” Automatically add photos” works really well. if you select that ‘Photos’ will add all the future photos automatically of that person in this shared album.

Once you have created a shared album with this method, you do not need to share any photos of the people in this shared album ever. Google photos will automatically keep updating it.

Keep in mind, you need to enable backup for your images. Otherwise, ‘Google Photos’ will not be able to make links of the images and therefore will not be able to share automatically.

This is what I mean when I said ‘Google Photos’ is a social media for pictures.

Google Photos Search Features:

Searching a photo in any gallery application does not give you the proper results. Google Photos really excel at searching because of how well Google AI performs.

There is an assistant for the ‘Google Photos’ too aside from the normal voice assistant in an Android phone. The Photos Assistant helps you organize your pictures. You can look at the suggestions by the Photos Assistant by going to the ‘For you‘ the third option in the bottom menu.

Google Photos allows you to search by:

People
Places
Things
Selfies
Collages
Animations
Movies

Let’s discuss the unique ones:

Search by People:

Google photos detect all the faces in pictures saved in your phone in the past and in the pictures you take daily. It then combines all those faces photos together for you to view them in one place.
Go to Albums>People>Select person to view pictures.


Google Photos is so good at recognizing faces that even in crowded photos and in places where you won’t think it can do it, it can pick almost all the faces.
Take a look at the pictures below. I tried to trick Photos by concealing my cousin’s head but ‘Photos’ still recognized them as the same person.

But if you are not having the same success with face recognition. You can even train Google Photos Assistant by going to
Albums>People>Select Person> Scroll down for a bit.
It will ask you at the bottom “Same or different person“. Click on that and train the assistant.
Remember this option will not be shown on every person. Only on those people where ‘Photos’ is having trouble recognizing.

This does not work only on humans. You can use this feature for animals too.

Search by Places

If your GPS i.e. location is active on your Smartphone. Every time you take a photo, Google Photo saves the location of each image.
You can then use those locations saved by Google Photos to search, organize or view those pictures. You can search by location or Place. It looks sneaky and it is.
The option is available in the “Albums” tab in the bottom same as in the search by people.

How it Works: Every time you visit a new city for the first time, “Photos” will list all those images under that city name. What I am trying to say is “Photos” will not save that image under the exact location spot name but under the city name because you have not had a lot of recurring visits to this place.
Now let’s say you live in a city named “Islamabad”. In this scenario, “Photos” will not save your taken images just under the city name but it would also save images under the spot names which you visit very often e.g. the place where you work, coffee place you visit every day. These recurring visits to a location help “Google Photos” separate images taken at those spots from the rest.
But remember, if you visit a place a couple of times only, the images taken at those spots will just be saved under the city’s name.

Search by Things:

This is a really unique way to look at your images as they are organized by people anymore. You would see your images organized by Cooking, Mountains, Food, Wedding and even Birds. Just take a look at the images below to see the things in my “Photos”.

While it looks really good everything organized by type of things but this is always perfect.
For example, In the sky, it will try to find the sky blue color. I have seen some pictures where there is no sky but a lot of sky blue colors in a picture and “Photos” thought that picture belonged in the sky category.

Another problem is that this is based on object detection in an image. In the food category, if you have images of pamphlets or menu of food, that would also in the food category in “Google Photos”.

It still works like 90 percent of the times and that is amazing for a free application.

Is it free though? More on this later

Google Photos Image Quality (Original VS High Quality)

As mentioned in Photos Storage heading above, we can choose to save the images in their original quality for a limited amount (15GB free) and after this 15GB is full, you have to purchase storage to further storage images in their original quality. You can always choose to store in high quality if you want to have unlimited storage for your images.
Google says it will backup pictures up to 16MP and 1080p videos but that’s not really true. Even if your picture is under 16MP and video is under 1080p, “Google Photos” will still compress your pictures if you choosing “High-Quality Backup”.
That being said, how much is the quality difference between the two storage options (High vs Original). To analyze this, we took several shots in daylight and night time. To make this more accurate, we took pictures of different objects and humans.

Check out the samples below.

To be honest, it is really hard to feel any difference. But if you zoom into these already zoomed pictures, the difference is in the detail of the texture. Textures grains become smoother on the high-quality images. Google Photos suppression is different for all the images. One image was compressed to 3.2MB from 4.5MB and another image was compressed from 5MB to 800KB.

In Short, It is completely fine to use high-quality images for casual use which most of us use Google Photos for. So I would suggest keep using that free unlimited high-quality images.

Access Google Photos Anywhere and on Any Device

Google services have changed our thinking a lot about how to use products on multi-platform devices. This is a quite simple feature, to be honest, its benefits outweigh its simplicity.

To access your images stored in “Google Photos”, you just need to go to photos.google.com and sign in with your Gmail ID.
It works on every Smartphone, PC, Macbook, Ipad, Tablets. I mean literally any device that has an internet browser in it.

Are Google photos Private and Safe?

Everyone has to ensure the privacy of their important images these days. Google Photos back up your pictures on the cloud. Being on the cloud does not mean it is private and safe.

If you are looking for a quick answer. Yes, your images on Google photos are private unless you share them yourself.

Let’s take a look at what Google Terms and Service say about stored content on their cloud.
When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. 

Google does use your images for different purposes like data mining, personalized ads, use pictures to improve image processing for their Pixel Phones and so much more.
Read the privacy policy from Google
We collect information to provide better services to all our users — from figuring out basic stuff like which language you speak, to more complex things like which ads you’ll find most useful, the people who matter most to you online, or which YouTube videos you might like.

The good thing is Google photos has not had any scam of leaking photos since its launch. But Google has given information to Government on special cases. If there is something really secretive, you should not put it on Google Services.

When you share your images on Google Photos. Photos will create a link for those images and this link is public. If someone has that link, they can access those shared images. So the only someone can hack or view your shared images if they can guess that link. That is not feasible.

Let me show you a link to one of my Google Photos Album. Look at the screenshot of my shared Album.
The link is shown in the image. The link contains 15-20 random letters and that is very hard for anyone to guess or crack

In short, Google Photos is safe and secure at least for now.

How to Delete Google Photos

It is a good idea to backup your pictures. We recommend using “Google Takeout” for this purpose. If you delete any pictures from your Google Photos, it goes to the trash if it is backed up. If you have not backed up a photo and you delete it, it will not go to trash and will be permanently deleted from your account/device.

There are two options to delete. Either delete it from your phone app or computer browser. Deleting through the “Photos” application limits you to delete only 500 pictures at a time. So if you deleting photos in bulk, we suggest you use a PC or MAC.

To Delete Photos:
1. Go to photos.google.com
2. Select the pictures you want to Delete.
3. Go to Trash in Google Photos.
4. Empty Trash

Drawbacks of Google Photos:

I have written the whole article bragging about the features of Google photos. But keep in mind nothing is truly free in this world. By using Google Photos features and storages, you are giving Google a license to use your photos as data for their use. Google studies the behavior of each customer by machine learning and turns that data into a personalized advertisement for you. The advertisement then makes money for Google.

In short, you are paying for Google Services with your privacy and data.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1) How to delete pictures from Google Photos without deleting them from the device?
Ans: Turn off Backup and Sync in Google Photos and delete all the photos you want to. The photos will stay in the device.

Q2) Can Google use my photos without my permission?
Ans: No they can not use your private photos unless you make public by sharing to social media.

Q3) Does Google own my photos once uploaded to Google Photos?
Ans: No Google does not own any of your content but they can use for whatever reason.

Q4) Are Google photos public, safe and secure?
Ans: Google photos are not public unless you share it yourself by creating a link. Yes, Google photos are safe and secure.

Q5) Can I recover deleted or permanently deleted files from Google Photos?
Ans: When you delete a backed up photo, it will remain in the trash for 60 days. Within 60 days, you can recover those photos. If you delete a non-backed up photo, it will be permanently deleted from Google Photos. No, you can not recover permanently deleted Photos.Since Google drive does not store the Google photos anymore. So your photos will be lost forever.

Q6) How do I stop Google from accessing my images?
Ans: Simply Go to backup and sync and turn off the backup and google would not be able to access your images.

Q7) Is the Google Pixel really have unlimited Original Quality Storage?
Ans: Nope, It stores images in original quality for up to 125GB. they call this capacity as unlimited (Typical Marketing Schemes).

Ask any other questions you might have about the Google Photos.

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Anas Abdullah

Tech Enthusiast, Content Writer, Part-time Gamer.

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