Do you take lots of photos, but have no idea how to organize and back them up? I had the same problem. I have an Android phone and my wife had an iPhone, plus we had a Samsung Android tablet and and iPad. Not to mention the years of photos we had taken and scanned- terabytes of photos- that were scattered on desktops, laptops and external hard drives. There was no easy way for us to backup and access all the photos from all our various devices. And the thought of possibly losing them someday due to a broken hard drive or a natural disaster was terrifying.
Google has a complete photo management system that solved the problem for us. It’s easy to use and free. It also offers an unlimited amount of storage, although the file size and is slightly reduced (about 40% or so). The reduction in size does reduce the quality of the photos, but if this is only a backup and not your only copy of the photos it won’t matter much. And most of us are never going to print 99% of the photos we take anyway, we just want to be able to look at them at a later date.
For smartphone users, the Google Photos app is very easy to install, and works equally well for both Android and iPhone. Install the app, and associate it with a Gmail account (or open a new one for free). If you’re an iPhone user, Google will automatically back up all the photos in your Camera Roll, and all the new photos you take whenever you are in wifi range. Android users will also be able to select any number or all of their folders containing photos.
With the desktop app, your Desktop, My Pictures, My Documents and My Videos folders (and subfolders) are selected by default. You can add as many additional folders as you’d like. In this example I have added two folders from my mapped P drive that has all my photos on it.
If you have a large number of photos on your computer, the desktop loader may take days or even weeks to get them all uploaded.
The Google Photos Desktop App will continue to run in the background until it catches up, and then it will automatically add new photos as you save them.
In my case, I selected some very large folders and have over 46,000 pending, so it’s bound to take a while.
By logging in to the same account on the app on all your devices- Android phones, iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, Mac computers, Windows computers- the photos and videos from all those devices are all in one place.
For example, I created a new google account just for my family, installed the app on both my wife’s phone and mine, and then installed the desktop app. She can now log in from work and see photos I have taken while I am home with the kids during the day. And we can both access all those years of old photos that we took with our various digital cameras, as well as all the photos and documents I’ve scanned. Everything backed up in one place, for free.
While it certainly isn’t a full-featured editing app, the editor features a basic set of tools for enhancing your photos. Perfect for a quick correction before you post something online.
Using the autofix feature, I did a quick edit of this underexposed picture of my house.
Changes you make when editing are applied to the version of the image that’s stored on Google Photos in the cloud, while the original on your device remains untouched.
Sharing the files is simple and easy.
Just select the file or files you want to share, click on the share icon, and choose how you want to share it. If you want to select a bunch in a row, you don’t have to do them one at a time. Choose the first one, then drag your finger to the last one and Google Photos selects them all.
The Assistant feature in Google Photos is truly amazing. The app chooses certain photos and works some magic with them. In some cases, it may stylize them (think Instagram filter), or add a frame. If photos are similar, the assistant may group them together into a collage. Panoramas will be created by stitching together individual shots if they line up correctly. And if you have pictures taken close enough together in time, the Assistant will throw them all together into an animated GIF file. You can save any of these creations right to your account, or delete them with a swipe of your finger.
The search feature gives you several options to find your photos and videos.
If your photos have names, or are in folders with names, those names are searchable. But Google Photos goes further by using an algorithm to identify things in your pictures even if they aren’t named. A search for “cat” brought up hundreds of photos of both our current cat and our two previous cats.
Google Photos also gives you the option of searching by category. Here you can see it has displayed faces of some people it found in my photos. Clicking on a face shows all the other matching faces, and you can easily assign a name to any face you choose.
The places category is based on location data in the photos themselves. If you don’t have location data turned on, Google will still try to figure out where a photo is taken and put it in your places file. Somewhere like Cinderella’s Castle at DisneyWorld is going to be easy for the system to identify, for example.
The “things” category is a sort of hodgepodge, and isn’t totally accurate, but can be helpful if you only want photos with the Christmas ornaments, for example, and don’t want to sort through every picture you’ve ever taken at Christmas to find them.
At the bottom you can search your videos, as well as recently added photos, your Google Drive, and any of the creations you have saved with the Assistant feature.
I’m very familiar with the delete feature, because I often take photos in burst mode and end up putting the phone back in my pocket before the lock goes on my phone, resulting in dozens of dark blue and black photos.
Deleted photos can be recovered for 30 days, then they are gone forever. You can also go into your trash and permanently delete them whenever you’d like.
Google Photos does all of that and more, and will probably continue to add more features over time. If you only need to back up photos and videos, this may be the solution for you.