Google Photos

I hated Google+ when it was launched as a social network as it was forcing us to sign up for a Google+ account to use other Google services (like YouTube, Gmail, Picasa Web, etc.). But then I learned to love Google+ because of Google+ Photos.

Google+ Photos was a revamped version of Picasa Web Albums. I was able to explore all my Picasa Web Albums (oh yeah, it was my favorite photo storage service) in Google+ Photos and then there was a handful of powerful features like Unlimited Storage (up to 2048 x 2048 px), Auto-Backup (to backup every single photo on your phone to Google+), Auto-Enhance (a fantastic online photo editing tool), Photo Sharing, etc.

As you probably know, Google dropped the “+” from Google+ Photos and now it’s simply known as Google Photos (in other words it’s now a standalone product).

That’s not all! Google Photos offers free unlimited storage for photos up to 16 MP or around 4,000 x 4,000 px (up from 4 MP or 2,000 x 2,000 px). Voilà! Google Photos is a standalone product and it’s got over 200 million monthly active users. In fact, it’s one of the best Google products ever.

It’s great because Google+ Photos was such a great application for photo storage and organization but was actually hidden inside an ugly social network.

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The best thing about Google+ Photos was that it virtually offered unlimited storage (yes!). And it appears like Google borrowed Gmail’s philosophy when it comes to organizing Photos.

Remember, Gmail offered 1 GB of free storage space when its competitors (including Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.) were offering less than 10 MB of free space. And if you go to Gmail, there are no folders.

There’s only one folder in Gmail and that’s called “All Mail”. Everything else is “Labels”. Also, it used to remind you that you’ve got 1 GB storage when you try to delete an email message.

The same way, Google not only wants you to upload your entire photo library to Google Photos but it also wants to help you free up some storage space on your phone by backing up everything and anything photo to the Google cloud.

That’s why they’re offering unlimited storage space (good for photos up to 16 MP and videos up to 1080p).

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Coming back…

Here are the 11 reasons why I love Google Photos. Oh yeah, Google didn’t pay me to write this very blog post. :D

1. Unlimited Storage

Google Photos offer free unlimited storage space for photos up to 16 MP and videos up to 1080p HD. All you need to do is, go to Google Photos Settings and choose “High quality”.

Google Photos Settings

When you choose “High quality”, Google will store ALL your photo, for free. That is, you can upload as many photos as you want (as long as it’s up to 4,000 x 4,000 pixels in size). So if you upload a photo that’s higher than 16 MP then it will be downsized to 16 MP.

Likewise, videos higher than 1080p will be resized to 1080p HD. However, it doesn’t really mean that Google won’t change photos up to 16 MP as it may still compress photos even if it’s 16 MP or less.

2. Search

Google’s search technology is truly magical and you know it if you are a hardcore Gmail user. The search function in Google Photos is no different.

Your photos are automatically organized by People, Places, Things (Cars, Beaches, Food, and more.), etc. and absolutely no tagging required.

Google Photos Search & explore

The best thing? You can search Google Photos by entering keywords like date, location, color, season, a theme of a picture, etc.

For example, search “baby”, “beach”, “sun”, “blue”, “wedding”, “dance”, “rose”, “food”, etc. and Google Photos will automatically fetch those photos for you.

You can also enter a combination of those keywords and it will show photos that match all those keywords.

3. Sharing

Google Photos is not a social network and yet it makes sharing super simple. All you need to do is, click the “Share” button and then click the “Get link” button to get the direct (public) URL to a specific album.

Or, you can use the social media buttons to share an album directly to Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.

Google Photos Sharing Options

The only thing is when you share an album (or use social media sharing buttons), anyone with the link can see the photos (whether they’re invited or not). However, you can choose to disable the sharing options and the public URL immediately becomes void.

When you’re using a mobile device and you share a specific picture (say to WhatsApp) then Google Photos will send the original picture and not its shared album URL.

Wait, that’s not all. What if you want to share only selected photos from your timeline — https://photos.google.com/ — or what if you want to share only selected photos from a specific album?

Well, you can simply go to your timeline (or an album) and tap all the photos that you’d like to share and then use the “Share” button to create a “New shared album” (with a custom name). You can then use the “Get link” option to get the URL of this newly created album.

Alternatively, you can simply mark all the photos that you’d like to share and then use the “Get link” option directly so that a newly created shared album (without a custom name) is ready for you to share.

You can choose to show/hide the newly created shared album on your album archive — https://photos.google.com/albums — by using its album options.

Google Photos Album Options

Finally, do you want to see all the albums that you’ve shared on a single window? Just go to https://photos.google.com/shared and it shows all the albums that you’ve shared (including the custom shared albums).

4. Google Cloud

Google Photos is so reliable that it’s powered by the Google cloud. So all your photos are safe, secure, and available on all your devices. It’s so organized that you would want to delete the original photos on your computer (unless you’re a professional photographer or a designer).

I do not store a single photo on my computer (or phone). If I want to keep a photo then I will upload it to Google Photos and if it’s not required then it’s deleted. So I never had a problem with photo storage ever since I switched to Picasa Web Albums.

Google Photos is not just a perfect photo storage or a backup service, it’s a perfect tool for exploring your photos as well. By albums, by tags, by date, by people, by things, and more. The best thing? It doesn’t use a single megabyte on your computer or phone and yet all your photos are available on all your devices.

What I like most about Google Photos is that Google used its search intelligence, in the best way possible for photos. And it’s no big surprise for me as a compulsive Google Image search user.

5. Photo Editing

One of the best features of Google+ Photos is its online photo editing capability (to apply filters, adjust lighting, etc.). It is just fantastic! Google has integrated the same with Google Photos and image editing is now as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Google Photo Editing

You don’t have to download photos for editing. Everything can be done online.  You can restore the original photo in just one-click. Or, you can create a copy before editing the photo (just in case!).

6. Duplicate Files

Perhaps the most underrated feature of Google Photos could be the way it handles duplicate files. You know why? Because it automatically identifies duplicate files when you upload it.

That is, when you upload a file that’s already uploaded, Google Photos will just skip it (whether you’re uploading it to the timeline or a specific album).

And if you rename that file to another name and then try to upload it, Google will skip it again. But if you resize the image and use the same file name then Google will reupload it as a new file.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? By the way, you can go here https://photos.google.com/search/_tra_ to explore all the successful uploads.

7. Automatic Backup

With Google Photos, you can choose to automatically backup your entire photo library to the cloud. The best thing? Just use the “Free Up Space” option and you can remove original photos and videos from your phone that are already backed up.

8. Automatic Face Recognition

Google Photos has an inbuilt facial recognition function and it’s pretty genius. You know why? Because it automatically creates an album called “People” and tag photos by people.

You can even assign a private label to person and can then assign the same label to multiple persons so that they’re merged together.

9. Google Assistant

Google Assistant lets you create a new album or a new shared album, or a collage, or an animation, or even a movie —- all by using existing photos on your timeline.

Google Photos Assistant

And if you are on a mobile device, then it even alerts you about photos that are not backed up and also offers tips on how to make the best use of Google Photos.

Again, when you’re running out of disk space, it helps you delete photos on your phone that are already backed up.

10. Trash Folder

Oops! Accidentally deleted a photo from Google Photos? Luckily, there’s a Trash folder and it retains your deleted photos for 60 days. It’s definitely going to be a life saver for those who wants to restore that accidentally deleted photo or video.

11. User Interface (UI)

Google Photos has a got a clean interface and it’s so user-friendly. One of the best things about Google Photos’ UI is its drag and drop capability. Just drag and drop as many photos as you want from your computer to Google Photos and it will start uploading it.

Google Photos UI

When the uploading is done, it gives you a chance to add those photos to an existing album or create a new album or you can ignore the popup and it will simply be added to the timeline.

Google Photos: Made for the way you use photos – today

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Closing Thoughts

Google Photos is not the only photo storage service or backup solution that is free (or available). There’s an Apple alternative for iOS users called the iCloud Photo Library. And then there’s an Amazon alternative for Amazon Prime users called Amazon Prime Photos.

And again, there’s a Microsoft alternative for Office 365 users called Microsoft OneDrive. Obviously, all of them are paid alternatives (unless your actual disk space requirement is less than 5 GB) and that makes Google Photos even more attractive.

Happy Photo Organizing! :)

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Mahesh Mohan

Agnostic, Apolitical, Bluephile, Brutally honest, Curious, Digital Creator, Finance geek, Marketing ninja, Microsoft fanatic, Multi-passionate nerd, Overthinker, Perfectionist, Workaholic.

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About Mahesh (@maheshone)

Mahesh Mohan

Agnostic, Apolitical, Bluephile, Brutally honest, Curious, Digital Creator, Finance geek, Marketing ninja, Microsoft fanatic, Multi-passionate nerd, Overthinker, Perfectionist, Workaholic.

Say hi: @maheshone

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