Google Photos may seem like a simple image hosting service, but it’s actually quite powerful. Google Photos bridges the gap between cloud storage, image hosting, and image sharing services, giving stiff competition to Flickr, iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
You probably know that Google Photos can back up photos from your Android or iOS device, and that you can access it from the web to view your library. You probably even know that Google Photos provides free unlimited storage when you opt for their “high quality” setting (which means photos up to an ample 16-megapixel limit and HD videos up to 1080p). Any higher than that, and it’ll count toward your Google Drive storage. Though most of the features and services bundled with this application have been discussed for a while, here are some beyond-the-basics tricks you may not have known about.
Search for People, Places, and Objects
Google Photos will automatically arrange your uploaded pictures by location and by date taken. Using advanced image recognition and Google’s large database of information, it can recognize the subject of your photos quite easily. Search your photos for anything: a wedding you attended last month, pictures you took during holidays, pictures of your pets, food, and much more. At the bottom right, touch the search icon and from the box, type what you want to find–like food, cars, or your pet and touch “Enter” or “Search.”
The Google Photos app uses some complex image processing techniques to group photos together. The auto-grouped photos are shown in the main search interface. The categories you’ll see here depends upon what you take pictures of. These groups could be the places you visit, people you know, or objects such as food, cars, bikes, and more. At the top, you’ll see several Faces that Photos app has spotted in your uploaded pics.
Group Similar Faces Together and Label Them
Google Photos creates models of the faces in your photos in order to group similar faces together. That way, you can search your photo library for photos of certain people (like “Mom” or “Jenny”). Face groups and labels are private to your account, and won’t appear to anyone you share the photos with. To create a label for a face group, tap “Who is this?” located at the top of a face group. Enter a name or nickname (or choose from the suggestions). After you label a face group, you can search with that label using the search box.
If you wish to change or remove the label name, then tap the “Options” menu and choose “Edit or Remove name label.”
If there’s more than one face group for the same person, you can merge them. Label one of the face groups with a name, then label the other face group with the same name. When you confirm the second name, Google Photos will ask you if you want to merge the face groups. Face grouping is on by default, but you can stop grouping similar faces together in “Settings.” At the top left, tap or click the hamburger menu. Next to “Group similar faces,” turn the switch off. When you turn off this setting, it will delete all the face groups in your account, the face models you created for those groups, and any labels you created.
Change Backup and Sync Settings
Your Photos and Videos are backed up to a particular Google account. However, you can change which account to use, which photos to back up, and more in Google Photos’ settings. At the top left, touch the hamburger menu and select “Settings > Back up and sync.”
- Active account: To change the Google account you’re saving your photos and videos too, touch the account name to change it.
- Upload Size: Here you can choose between two storage sizes “High Quality” and “Original.” With “High Quality” setting you can back up unlimited photos and videos. This option is good for people who don’t care much about quality, but enough for typical printing and sharing. With “Original” setting, you get limited storage ( 15GB of free storage) but if you care about original quality and take photos with a DSLR camera, then this is a good option. Tap “Upload Size” to change the quality settings, but remember if you change them to “Original” settings then you should have sufficient storage in your account.
- Back up photos over Wi-Fi or Both: Choose whether you want to back up your photos only on Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi and the cellular network. You can choose “Back up all” if you want to backup your videos too. Remember, if you upload using your mobile network, you may use up data, or incur charges from your carrier.
- While charging only: If you switch this option, then your photos and videos will get uploaded only when your device is connected to external power source. So if you’re on a holiday trip, you don’t have to worry about your device’s battery life.
Delete Photos After Uploading Them
If you’re going to upload your photos to the cloud, why keep them on your phone? Google Photos can automatically remove images and videos from your phone once it uploads them, eliminating redundant copies of the photo. Previously, this feature was activated only if you’ve set the app to back up “Full original resolution” images, which costs you storage on Google Drive. But now it’s available “High quality (free unlimited storage)” too. Google Photos’ “Assistant” feature will prompt you to delete images from your phone when the storage space gets low. If you accept the prompt, it will give information on how much space you can free up if you delete images and videos on the device.
If back up and sync is always turned on, then you can manually delete local copies of your photos and videos too. At the top left, touch the hamburger menu and choose “Settings.” Touch “Free up device storage” to remove original photos and videos from your device that are already backed up.
Back Up Photos From Other Apps
Google Photos’ auto-backup is handy, but by default, it only backs up photos taken with the default Camera app. If you want to also back up photos you took in Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, and other similar Android apps, you can do so. You just need to know where those apps store the photos they take.
Open the Google Photos app on your Android phone, and tap on the hamburger menu icon in the top left corner. Select “Device Folders” from the menu that appears. You’ll notice different folders holding images from various apps like Facebook, Instagram, messaging apps, and Screenshots. Chose which folders to include or exclude from the backup process. If you don’t want to clutter your Google Photos storage with screenshots, for example, you can leave that folder turned off. And if you want all those cute filtered Instagram images, tap the cloud icon and it’ll scan that folder in the future.
Alternatively, go to “Settings > Back up and sync,” touch “Choose folders to back up…” and select the folders you want to back up. Note that this setting is available only on Android devices.
Pinch to Change View
You probably know you can pinch to zoom in and out of a picture, but there’s more to it with Google Photos. By default, the app shows your images in a daily view with thumbnails arranged chronologically, but there are a number of other options such as monthly view and “comfortable” view, which makes the photos full-width on the screen. You can move between the views simply by pinching in or out on your device’s screen. You can even pinch in on an image in a view to open it in as an individual image, and pinch out on a full-screen image to go back to the image list. Swiping up or down on the full screen image will have the same effect.
Select Multiple Photos With a Single Tap
Imagine having to select a hundred photos from your gallery and tapping on your screen a hundred times. Talk about tedious! Thankfully, Google Photos allows you to select multiple photos at a time. While viewing images in the Google Photos app, long-press on any photo to start selecting the photos. Then without lifting your finger, drag upward, downward, or sideways. This process will allow you to quickly select a series of photos without having to lift your finger. On the web, you can do the same thing by holding down the Shift key.
Let’s say you got a little trigger happy with the above gestures and accidentally deleted the wrong photos. Or perhaps you just changed your mind after hitting the Delete button. Google Photos will hold on to those images for at least 60 days in the trash. All you have to do is navigate to the trash folder, touch and hold the photo you want to undelete, and tap the restore arrow in the top right-hand corner. You can also delete those images permanently from the trash: just mark those images you want to get rid of and select the delete icon again.
Note: If you delete a photo or video and it appears to come back (without restoring it), try using your device’s Gallery app to delete it. The photo or video you tried to delete might be on a removable memory card in your device.
Upload Faster with the Desktop Client
Google Photos automatically uploads photos from your phone, but it also has desktop uploaders for Windows and Mac OS X. You can also drag-and-drop folders from your desktop to photos.google.com, and they’ll be uploaded instantly. This is useful if you’re uploading a large number of photos, and want a faster upload speed than your cellular carrier offers. The desktop uploaders can also automatically upload photos from digital cameras and SD cards when you plug them in, which is great if you take photos on something other than your phone.
Show Photos on a TV with a Chromecast
If you have a Chromecast, then you can display your photos and videos on a big screen. Install the Chromecast app for Android or iOS and make sure that your devices are on the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast. At the top right, touch the “cast icon,” and select your Chromecast. Open a photo or video on your device, and click the “cast icon” to display it on your TV. Swipe the photos, and you’ll see the change happening on your TV as well. If you’re on a PC or Mac, you can cast photos and videos from the Chrome browser to your TV, too. Just install Google Cast extension and follow the on-screen instructions.
Download All Your Photos at Once
Unlike Dropbox, Google Photos’ desktop uploader is a one-way client. You can’t directly download all your photos from it. If you want to download all your media from Google’s servers in one fell swoop, then you can do so with Google Takeout. Log in to your Google account and head over to the Google Takeout page. Select “Google Photos” and select the albums you’d like to download. Now you can download all the media as a ZIP file without having to tediously select each individual image in the Google Photos gallery.
Make Google Drive and Photos Work Together
Inter-app compatibility is a major issue when it comes to different cloud applications. However, Google Photos and Google Drive function in perfect sync, and Google Photos can even reside inside your Google Drive root folder and function just like a regular folder of Google Drive. To enable this feature in Drive, navigate to Google Drive settings from a browser and check “Automatically put your Google Photos into a folder in My Drive.” Now all your photos and videos reside inside your Drive in a folder named “Google Photos” which can be accessed from any platform.
If you have photos in Google Drive that you want to view or edit using Google Photos, then tap the hamburger menu and choose “Show Google Drive photos and videos in your Photos Library”. However, remember if you edit any photos in Google Photos, those changes will not get migrated to Google Drive. Also if your Google account is managed by a company or school, then you won’t be able to turn this setting on. One added advantage of using Google Drive along with Photos is that you can share or insert photos into Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
Send Images and Videos to Gmail and YouTube
By default, Google Photos isn’t accessible from Gmail. But if you’ve linked your Photos to Google Drive as mentioned before, you can easily attach any of your Google Photos in an email message. Simply click the “Insert from Drive” option in Gmail, then navigate to the Google Photos folder.
You can do this with YouTube, too. Head to the YouTube Upload Page and there’s an option to import clips straight from Google Photos into your YouTube channel, where you can title, tag, and share them as required.
Share Photos and Videos with Anyone
With Google Photos, you can easily share an image, album, movie, and story with anyone through a link, even if they don’t use the Google Photos app. Open the Google Photos app and select the photos you want to share. At the top right, touch the “Share” icon. Now you can decide how you want to share. You can either select an app or choose “Get link” to send someone a link.
Anyone with the link can see the selected photos, though, so you might want to review them periodically and delete the ones that are no longer required. At the top left, touch the hamburger menu and choose “Shared links.” Touch the “Option” icon and select “Delete link.” If the person you shared the link has already downloaded or copied what you sent them, deleting your shared link will not delete any copies they made.
Sharing albums is now a lot easier with the Google Photos app, too. At the top right, touch the “+” icon. A screen will open from bottom, and tap “Shared album.”
Select the photos and videos you want to include, and tap “Share.” Get the link to your album and send it to your friends or family. You can also let others add photos to the album by turning on “Collaborate.” To do this, open the album you want to collaborate on. At the top right, touch or click “Options.” Select “Sharing options” and from the next screen, switch on the “Collaborate” option (if you don’t see this option, turn on “Share album” first).
Use the link that was created to share the album through email, WhatsApp, or any messenger app of your choice. If you want to see all the albums you’ve shared, then touch the hamburger menu and choose “Shared albums.” You might see profile pictures of people who have joined your album. You can’t remove individual people, but you can stop everyone from adding their photos by turning off collaboration or you can stop sharing completely.
Hide Where Photos or Videos Were Taken
The location data stored with your photos helps Google clump pictures together, but you don’t necessarily want to include this data when you share photos with others. At the left, touch the hamburger menu and select “Settings.” In the location section enable “Remove Geo-location”, which lets you remove geo-location information from photos and videos that you share with a link, but not by other means.
Use Google Photos While You’re Offline
You can still use the Google Photos app if you aren’t connected to a Wi-Fi or mobile network. If you have enabled “Backup and sync,” then photos and videos you take while offline will get backed up once you reconnect to a Wi-Fi or mobile network. You’ll see an upload icon on photos and videos that are waiting to be backed up, and if you haven’t backed up your photos for days or weeks, the app will notify you periodically.
Make Stories, Animations, and Beautiful Collages From Your Photos
Google Photos’ “Stories” feature creates a narrative album showing a series of pictures in chronological order. Stories can only be created in the mobile app, however. Open the Google Photos app and tap the create icon (+) in the top right-hand corner. Select “Story”, and you can choose the relevant photos, videos, add captions and locations, and change the cover photo. You can view the story later by opening Collections. At any time you can delete a story without deleting the photos within it. You can also create collages or animation with your photos. Repeat the steps outlined above and select “Animation” or “Collage.”
Edit Photos On-the-Go
Google Photos lets you add filters, crop photos, and more on your mobile device. If you’ve enabled “Backup and sync,” then your edits will sync with your Google Photos library. Open the Google Photos app and touch the photo you want to edit. Click the “pencil icon” and you’ll see lots of options to tune your photo. You can automatically adjust color and exposure, manually change lightning, manually adjust color, or add effects. While you’re editing, you can touch and hold the photo to compare your edits to the original.
Once you finished editing the photo, tap the checkmark and select “Save.” Your edits will be shown on a new copy of the photo. Your original, unedited photo will also be in your Google Photos library. If you don’t like the edits you made, you can delete the edited version. Your original photo will still be in your Google Photos library (unless you delete it).
Google Photos is now the default photo app on most stock Android phones, and it’s much more than a normal gallery app. No longer do you need to back up all your photos to hard drives and CDs. With Google Photos offering free unlimited storage, there’s no reason not to back up your precious memories to the cloud and take advantage of Google’s awesome sorting features.
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