Five Google Photos tips for finding, organizing, and sharing all your pictures

Can't find that one photo you're looking for? Google’s smart photo app can make it easy.

Google Photos is far and away one of Google's best services. It’s easily the best option on Android for saving, managing, and sharing all of the pictures you’re probably snapping away regularly with your smartphone.

But if you’re solely using Google Photos as a gallery and backup tool, you’re missing out on a lot of what it can do. The service offers a ton of features, both obvious and hidden, that will handle the heavy lifting when it comes to finding pictures, sharing them with others, and helping you quickly throw together albums and movies.

Whether you’re just getting started with Google Photos on Android, or have yet to really look into what it’s all about, then get going with these tips for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your photos are safe and well organized.

Get data smart

It’s a Google product, so of course everything is going to the cloud. That means all of stuff has to be uploaded to your account. In order not to blow through your data, head to the Settings and make sure you’re only doing the backup when you’re on Wi-Fi. Or perhaps you have a rather generous plan and you want to backup images on LTE, but restrict movies to when you’re back on your home wireless network.

google photos backup

Take charge over your Google Photos storage options in the settings.

This is also the spot where you’ll want to choose of the photos you’re sending to Google’s cloud. You can opt for the unlimited option, though that authorizes Google to compress images (more details are on this help page). Google promises that the quality won’t suffer, but it’s not ideal if you think you may ever need the images for more intensive editing.

I honestly feel it’s best to go with the full uploads, especially since buying extra data is super cheap: $2 per month for 100GB, or $10 gets you 1TB. And this applies to all of your Google storage, so you can use it towards Drive and Gmail.

Share and share alike

Google Photos is great about making your albums more collaborative. You’re able to send a link for your album to anybody and invite them to contribute with their own pictures and even make comments. You can also change around the order, drop in some details about the location, and tweak the album in a lot of ways to make it more appealing to sift through.

google photos sharing

You can create new albums, tweak the ones Google Photos automatically creates, and collaborate on them with others.

Most of the albums that I use are ones that Google Photos will automatically generate, usually based on a trip or a batch of photos (especially of cats, dogs, and cute toddlers). So look for them to appear when you get home or after you’ve done a photo session. It’s a good way to organize some of the pictures without the laborious drag-and-drop routine on your PC.

Seek and ye shall find

By now you probably know that Google Photos is great at finding people, places, and lots of different things through its image recognition technology. But just how good is it? The search is pretty impressive, allowing you to make discoveries from your photos by location, name, or of course the people in your contact list.

google photos baseball

Get creative when it comes to searching through your Google Photos images as you may be surprised as to what you’ll find.

So my advice here isn’t what you should search for, but that you should search early and often to see what you might be able to find. And since this element of Google Photos is controlled on the server side, it’s getting better all the time in the background without any need for app updates. So the next time you want to find images of your golf clubs or that giant ball of yarn you visited while on the last road trip, try it out in search.

Go beyond Android

Another key positive to Google Photos is that much of the same experience extends to the web and, for those who dabble with the dark side, iOS. On the desktop, the best way to interact with Photos is through the web interface. That’s where you’ll get all of the same image search recognition technology and the ability to view all of your saved albums and videos.

Images that you delete or edit in one place all will be synced and appear the same wherever else you use Google Photos. One area where the smooth simplicity falls a bit short is if you use the Google Drive desktop app to sync your photos. In this situation, the Drive app puts the images in a series of folders that don’t nicely line up with how things are organized inside of Photos. However, this is the best way to have all your photos on the desktop at all times, even if you’re not connected to the internet.

Save space on your smartphone

One of my favorite clever little tricks is how Google Photos will free up space on your smartphone with just a couple of taps. You may have encountered some of the clever ads that illustrate this concept.

From the slide-out menu you’ll see an option to Free up space.

google photos removal

Clear up some much needed space on your phone by using the Google Photos deletion tool.

The app will calculate how much room on your phone would be saved by deleting files from your local storage. They’re already backed up to Google Photos, so no need to worry about them going away.

You’ll still see the preview for all images and videos as normal. The only caveat, of course, is that Google Photos is caching a smaller preview on your phone. If you’re heading out to some areas with poor signal or don’t want to have to wait for images to load, then this option may not be fore you. Especially so if you’ve opted for a device with lots of storage or added it on via an SD card.

Beyond these tips, expect Google Photos to double down on the machine learning to improve search and image discoverability. It makes Google Photos a compelling package and an excellent option for all of your memories.

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Derek Walter

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