Master Google Photos Guide – 30 Useful Tips & Features you should know

by Vishal Toshiwal 2

Mastering anything requires two things, patience and practice, but that rule doesn’t apply to everywhere, especially when you’re reading a guide. The whole point of a guide is to be to make sure its readers understand the tips quite easily. Otherwise, it beats the basic purpose of it. And that is what you should expect from this guide, an easy understanding of the deep, yet resourceful features of the Google Photos.

Google has always been ahead in terms of competition, and that is what can be experienced on its Photos app. After upgrading it to the standalone app as we know it now, it used to be once the part of Google+ Photos system. This change happened last year during the Google I/O event, which is an annual event hosted by the Mountain View giant.

Google Photos is by far the best app we have come across for backing up the thousands of camera samples we have that we have taken over the years. The reason is quite simple; it is not just a image hosting service. It rather bridges the gap between cloud storage, image hosting and image sharing services. Thus, it gives tough competition to the likes of Dropbox, Flickr, Onedrive and iCloud.

Note: You should know that when opting for Unlimited Storage option, you’re giving permission to switch original camera quality to higher quality. Under that settings, the app can maintain the quality of images if they have up to 16MP resolution, while 1080p resolution for videos. Anything higher resolution than that would be compressed if you’ve selected High Quality settings. Otherwise, you can go with your limited storage option to store DSLR captures and 4K content. We have demonstrated most of the features either on Android app or web version.


Table of contents


Getting Started

Back up Photos from Other Apps

Once you have enabled the option to back up the photos on your device, it automatically starts creating a back up on the cloud, as per the storage option you’ve selected. After that backing up is easy and quick, as Google Photos does a clean job of sending pictures you capture on your smartphone or tablet to the cloud. You’ll be glad to know that it also allows you to do the same for media files shared on other apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram. This operation is done from the Android app, to do that you have to go to the menu option on the app. There you have to tap on the Device folders option, once you tap on it, you’ll see a new window opened. In that window, you can see image files from different folders stored on your device. For instance, you’ll see separate sections for WhatsApp Images, WhatsApp Videos, Instagram uploads and more folders from other apps. You’ll see a cloud icon on the right corner of the folder name, once you tap on that it will start backing up the photos from that folder. Here, you can see which folder form your device is backing up o not. If you don’t want any specific folder to back up after sometime, you can remove it. It’s quite easy.

Import Photos from Computer & Cameras

Of course, mobile apps for Android and iOS are bound to get most of the attention, because that’s where we take most of our photos these days (Link Smartphones overtake DSLR article). But like I said above in a note, you can either choose to upload unlimited photos for free with little less quality, or go with limited storage option you have or purchased some storage for your Google account. Since, Photos is a Google service, you can use that storage to back up your high resolution photos from DSLRs. That’s why there is an option to upload a photo directly from your computer, Windows or Mac. To proceed with this, you have to download a client for your system. Once installed and configured with your Google account, you can specify the folders/files to upload, and seat back and relax, as Google does its job. Note that you can select folders like Desktop, Camera and Storage Cards.

Accessible Everywhere – View Photos in Google Drive

You can access your images stored on Google Photos from anywhere. By anywhere I mean; Android, iOS and web version. Once you login your Google account, you can see all your uploads in these apps. The synchronization across all the platforms is quite seamless and easy to do. You can also view your photos stored in Google Drive in the Photos interface. Only if you have enabled the feature, which is done in the Settings app. Do make a note that this doesn’t move all the images in Google Drive to Photos, but make available to view as it’s convenient, if you already have a lot of content stored in the Drive. You can disable the feature if you don’t like to show the contents. It’s also vice versa, you can view uploads done in Google Photos in Google Drive.

Create Stories from your Photos

We take a lot of photos on our smartphones, like a lot, and with Google Photos, it’s not only easy to back up them seamlessly, but it’s easier for to create a story out of those photos. You get couple of options for that too, such as create an animation or a movie. Just tap on either icons you see in the assistant section and select the photos/videos you want to use, although you can later customize it and add or remove photos/videos. After creating animation you require at least two photos/videos and can add up to 50 in one project, while for creating a movie, you can use even one photo or video and app up to 50 in one project.
For creating a movie, you get select different kind of themes, such as if you’re sharing a memory, there is a theme style named Memories, which will showcase it in a particular style. There are numerous number of style themes available to select from. After selecting that you can also add music from My Music, or a Theme music library in app. Further you can add more images/videos in the same project; it’s quite easy to arrange them, just by dragging. Add the title and you’re good to go. While for creating an animation you don’t have to do much, just select a bunch of images/videos and tap on create, it will automatically make something out of those images/videos.

Remove Geo-location Data

Geomarking photos are possible on almost every smartphones these days, but users generally prefer not to do so, because of some obvious privacy concerns. Google Photos have a very intelligent engine that can understand where was the photos taken (Some limited possibility if photos aren’t marked with geolocations), it may help app in arranging the photos with respect to their location, which is all nice and good, but if you don’t want to showcase that, then you can disable this feature. To do so, head over to the app and load the menu, tap on Settings. Once you scroll down, you should see an option “Remove Geo-location”. So, next time if you share photos and videos using this app, then the geo-location will be removed from those files. But note that if those images shared by other means, then the data would be there to access by other apps.

Send Videos to YouTube

Don’t be deceived by the name, Google Photos app also handles video content on your device, as you can notice in above features we have mentioned several times. It can store unlimited number of videos, but only if you’re happy with 1080p video quality. These days many people have YouTube channels, and if you’re one of those creators, then you would very much like to have an option to directly upload videos stored on your Google Photos. Well, you asked for it and you shall get. Once you click on upload button on your YouTube channel, you’ll see an option to directly import clips from Google Photos application into your channel on the right side, if you’re uploading from web. Now this should make uploading videos quite easy for you, though, remember, you can only import a 1080p videos if the storage plan you selected was free unlimited storage. With this integration, it has become quite convenient to upload the videos to your YouTube channel from Google Photos.

Creating

Assistant Feature

Google knows that people usually tend to snap a lot of photos of the same thing in different lighting, to ensure that they have got the perfect shot. While we post the perfect shot on our social media channels or share it with people on instant messengers, as those repeat photos just sits in the dusty corners of your hard drives, which is never to be seen again. But if there is any clue that you have taken from this guide about Google Photos, then you should know that there is a better way to use them, and the assistant feature on this application knows how to make use of those photos. Once you have uploaded the entire collection on your hard drive using the upload client on your system. Assistant finds the repeat photos and automatically creates collages, photosets and animations for you. They’ll appear in the form of cards in the Assistant section. Though, only if you have enabled the New Creations option, which can be toggled once, you get to the Assistant cards option. Finding that is easy, just head over to the menu and then settings, you’ll see the option you desire to choose.

Rediscover the Day

Have been backing up images on your Google Drive since quite a time, well if that’s true, then you’re in for a treat. His feature is particularly for the nostalgic people. Assistant feature on Google Photos will showcase will ask if you want to literally Think Back, About What were you doing on this day in years past?, if you select Yes, then an old memory will resurface of what moments you uploaded on that day. If you didn’t selected Yes at a time when Assistant app asked, then no worries, you can still enable it. Then, head over to the Settings menu in the Photos app and tap on Assistant cards, there you’ll see a second option of “Rediscover this day”. All you have to do is turn ON the toggle in front of the option. Now you should start seeing cards for your old memories. If you ever want to turn OFF this feature, then you know where to head.

Make Collages

There are some things that Google Photos automatically do and making collage is one of them. Based on your recently uploaded photographs, it can bake a collage for you, it’s up to you whether you want to save it library or not, as every time it cooks up one, it will appear in assistant section. You can either dismiss that card or move on to do other things on app, or maybe just save it, because it makes great collages. It’s up to you. And if you like collages a lot, then you can also create them. To do so, just tap on Collage icon you see in the assistant section on top. You’ll be asked to added at least 2 images and maximum of 9 to create a collage. Just tap on the images you like and then tap on create; you should see a nice collage cooked up.

Editing Your Photos

With an option of unlimited storage, I know you’ll like to keep all of your images on Google Photos and so do we. In fact, we have already transferred a lot of old memories to the Google Photos, which not only makes it easily shareable and accessible from mobile and desktop, but it also offers an editing option. There won’t be tools like you see in apps like Photoshop, but hey, Google has other tools such as Snapseed for rivaling. If you were looking for a quick edit on your uploads, then it has a built-in editing tool. Using it is easy, all you have to do is simply tap on the little pencil button that appears when you’re viewing an image in full. A new window will open, where you’ll see a set of tools for editing the image. They can be best described as basic and are good for quick editing. With Auto you can adjust the lighting in one tap, or if you’d like to manually change the lighting, then tap on Light tool, which will let you increase or decrease the light. While you can also adjust the colors, pop and do some vignetting. Other features include instant filters like Instagram, cropping and changing perspective. And the best part, you don’t have to sync or upload the edited image again, since you were editing in the cloud.

Quick Switch to Snapseed

Well we have showed you how can you edit the images on-the-go in the Google Photos app, as well as have guided you through a lot of tips. All of them should prove quite useful to you or anyone else. This last tip that we would like to share with you is how you can switch to Snapseed within the Google Photos app. The first thing that is required to do that is the device should have the application, Snapseed installed on their handset. Now after that all you have to do is open the image (full view) you’d like to edit in the professional image editing app from Google and tap on the options menu (three). A list of options will open, tap on the Edit in option, now you should see a new window appear, where you’ll be given choice to edit in Snapseed. The image will now load in the Snapseed application, which can be edited using the advanced tools that were not present on the Google Photos.

Share Your Albums

There is no way that it offers sharing and collaborations options too, ohh, well, it does. Google Photos has made collaborating effortless than ever. Suppose you want to share a bunch of photos captured at a wedding of your brother. After backing up all the photos that you took from your devices, DSLR or smartphone, you can create a separate shareable folder in the mobile apps as well as on web version. All you have to do is press and hold, just like we have mentioned in the above tip. Now tap on plus icon you see (mobile or web app) on either apps, you’ll see a list of options appear in as a pop up, tap on Share Album. Write the title of the album “Brother’s Wedding” and start sharing with your family members. You can share it via all social channels, email, whatsapp, or anything social app. Note that since it is a shared album, the users with shareable link can add photos to this Share Album you just created. If you don’t want that, but only want others to view this album, then, you need to turn OFF the Collaborate option. To do that tap on (three dotted) menu button, and then on Sharing options. You would have to toggle the button in front of Collaborate option to not let others add their photos. Though, you shouldn’t worry strangers seeing these photos, as you can see who all seeing this album as they would have to join it using their Google account.

Exploring Search

Search Captures Taken Using Certain Devices

We talked about how you can search the large collection of photos in your Google Photos quite easily. There are ways to find photos of a particular person in the sea of photos using Google’s face groups service, which uses an AI program to identify the faces and pair the images they appear in a same group. Whilst that was not it, you can also search images by objects such as food, cars, bikes, etc, as well as search by themes (clubs, restaurant, flowers, concerts, weddings) and location too. These are all just usual things, whereas you’ll be surprised to see how powerful the search engine on the Google Photos is. After all the Google is the most widely used search engine. If you didn’t know up until now, you can also search images based on the devices they have been captured. For instance, I want to search for the images that are capture by my Samsung device. Then, all I have to do is search using “#Samsung” and the app will display images captured using Samsung devices. If you want to see model specific, then you can replace brand name with model that’s it.

Group Similar Faces

Google has always been intelligent with its features, and face group is one of the features where company has deployed a lot of thinking by using their facial recognition technology. Google Photos creates models of the faces appearing in your photos, which allows it to group similar photos together. This makes searching for certain people in their photo library quite an easier task, you can later label these face groups and sync with your contact on the Google account. Creating a label for face group is easy, just tap on the “Who is this?” which is located on the top of a face group. Enter a nickname or name, or choose from the suggestions made based on your contact list. Later you would be able to search for the face group by that label. Removing/Changing them is also easy, just tap on the options menu and choose to edit or remove the name label. If you see more than more face group for a similar person, then you can merge them, all you have to do is label the second face group with similar name and Google Photos will ask if you want to merge those face groups. Tap on yes and you’re done.

Explore Search Engine – Face Recognition

Google is a search giant, so you should expect some wonders when it comes to searching on their Photos app. As soon as you tap on the search box in the Photos app, you’ll start to notice the insanely powerful features of the search. At the top of the screen you’ll see the five frequently photographed faces from the images backed up on your account. For instance, I see myself, my mother, my father, my brother and a friend who evidently managed to be in the top spot. Once you tap on arrow in front of the faces, you’ll see more faces. What Google Photos does is that it scans all your uploaded photos for facial recognition and creates a separate page for each face it thinks appeared a lot of time. You can tap on a face and assign a name from your contact list if they’re in your contact list. Scroll through all the photos and images, you’ll notice that face appear in all of them. It’s quite fascinating and scary at the same time that it is quite accurate search AI (Artificial Intelligence). Moreover, you can hide some faces if you think they’re not required. To do that just tap on (three dotted) menu, you’ll see an option to hide & show people. Now all you have to do is select the faces that you don’t want to keep and tap on Done. Note the images containing the faces that you just hide won’t be deleted; they would be available to view and share.

Explore Photos By Location

Even though you might not have selected geo-location while taking photos from your smartphone, it is surprising to see Google Photos arrange my uploads based on a location. The closest explanation by search giant is that, its technology can recognize the geographical landmarks from your photos. As well as they use some intelligent logic to infer the location in other nearby photos. For instance if you took a photograph near Taj Mahal on May 4th at 2PM, then it will assume that all photos taken after 1 hour in some restaurant is taken in Agra. Check it out yourself; you’ll be surprised with the accuracy with which it identifies location.

Explore Photos By Objects and Themes

If you thought, you have seen everything Google Photos has to offer in terms of exploration; well you couldn’t be more wrong. Apart from categorizing photos using facial recognition and automatically tagging the location despite no location added in images, there are cooler things that this app is capable to do, once you upload varieties of photos on it. You will experience that when you start search by objects, such as food items, cars, bikes and even toys. Search either by predefined types such as videos, photos, collages, animation, screenshots or even selfies. I’m sure you have a lot of selfies in your uploads. What’s more fascinating is that you can also search by themes such as flowers, concerts, weddings, forest, nightclubs and more. Isn’t it amusing feature that Google have provided on its image cloud storage service.

Navigating

Press & Hold to Select

Google Photos not only offers best features in terms of searching through large library images of yours, but also ensures that it’s easy for you to share those digital memories with your family or friends. You agree that most of us have a pile of those digital images on our devices; with this app you can keep them at one place. Moreover, you saw how neatly they are organized and can be found easily. Now once you find what you’re looking for and want to share it with others, Google have you covered. Sharing them is quite easy, for instance, inside the mobile apps, you can press and hold and then swipe to select multiple pictures. It has been made easy just as one uses a mouse and a keyboard to drag across a group of photos.

Change the View

You don’t like the way the grid on your Photos app looks, well, neither did us at first. But wait until you see how you can change the perspective. By default, the app showcases your images in a daily view, they are appearing as medium-sized thumbnails with the arrangement in chronological order by date. There are three other ways available that you can easily switch between. It’s all done by pinching in and out.

Pinching outward once from the default view will move you into a more comfortable viewing perspective, as thumbnails appear significantly larger and you can easily see what’s going on any particular image. While pinching inward once from the day view will put you into a more compact mode that will have smaller thumbnails, which means you’ll see many more images on your screen at a time. You do one more inward pinch from that and then app will step into what is called Monthly View. There would be bunch of tiny thumbnails that is arranged by month. This will give you a broader perspective of your images and will allow you to quickly jump between your collections.

Easily Jump out of Images/Videos

Transitioning animations are nicely made and more than appearances, they make navigating in an application quite easy and fun that one might get addicted to their usage. As we talked about the pinch game in above tip, this is related to it. Those gestures can be carried out throughout the app, as every time you pinch inward you’ll have a closer look at the images, once you are in a closest possible view, the comfortable view, you can pinch on any image and it will open in full. Nonetheless of any view you started in, once you pinch outward on an image, it will take you back to the list in a very nice transitional manner we mentioned in very first line of this paragraph. Google is very particular of the user experiences on their apps and Photos is not an exception.

Scroll Slowly, or Quickly

This is a recent addition to the Google Photos, which makes scrolling through your large collection of images quite easy. Scrolling the normal way, by sliding your finger up or down the screen, is fine when you’re searching through recent uploads. But if you want to jump between the months, we suggest you use the quicker scrolling option, which appears when you’re scrolling in a normal way. Once you start scrolling through images, an icon will appear on the right side, you have to hold on to it scroll. You should notice you’re scrolling faster now. As per your perspective, a small text box will show as you scroll through images, in comfortable view it will show a month and year, while if you’re on thumbnail view then only year will appear in that text box. It is the faster way to scroll through images on the Google Photos. It’s quite effective.

Navigate Between Sections

While we are on the subject of scrolling through collections, let’s talk about navigating between the sections. The best part of the Google Photos is navigation, the Mountain View giant has made navigating in the apps quite seamless. From the main photos list, that appears on the center, you tap on left icon, which will take you to the Assistant feature, where as you now know that it will display different cards. While tapping on right icon, from main photos list will take you to Albums, where you will see images organized by topics, trips and albums you’ve created over the time. See how easy it is to navigate between sections on Google Photos.

Sweet Hacks

Use Google Photos Offline

Google Photos can be still used if you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi, or even mobile data. The Photos you take from your smartphone would be backed up once you connect to a Wi-Fi or mobile data. Make sure you have enabled “Backup and Sync” to work that. You can access the already loaded photos and videos while you were connected to the internet. As well as every new photo you take would be available for you to access offline. An upload icon would appear on photos and videos that are waiting to be backed up. Note if you haven’t backed up your photos for days or maybe even weeks, then the app will automatically notify you periodically.

Add Photos Shortcut on your Camera App

Google Photos offers this nifty little trick that allows displaying a shortcut access directly from the camera app on your smartphone. With this shortcut you could directly open that image in the Google Photos app. After reading almost everything on this guide, you already know how powerful this app can be. Would you still like to use the default Gallery app on your custom Android interface? I wouldn’t. Unless, if your smartphone comes with Android stock interface, then you get Google Photos app as the default gallery app too. Isn’t that great!

Downloading on Desktop

Suppose for some reasons you want to download all the uploads you did on the Google Photos and you’re not finding a way to do that. It’s because there is no way to download the photos from the app itself, on mobile or even on the web. So, how are you planning to do that? Well, it’s not through the Google Photos service, but through the Google Drive. Yes, if you want to download the photos backed up on this service, then best way is through Drive. In the Google Drive settings on the web, you have to opt to for creating a folder for Google Photos. After that install the Google Drive desktop client. Note that, everything you have uploaded from mobile would be available for you to access on desktop as well. The local Google Drive folder you see will have all the content stored on cloud, i.e. images and videos, as well as any other files too. More importantly, you’ll see a separate Google Photos folder in that where all the images uploaded would be available for your access, as they have been downloaded.

Send Image to Gmail

A proper integration of services is what Google thrives for and this wasn’t any different than any other services from the company. The Photos app isn’t accessible by default from the Gmail, but it can be certainly used to send images. The condition is that you should have linked your Photos to Google Drive as it’s required. You asked how to send image to Gmail? Well, it’s quite easy, just click on Insert from Drive option while compiling an email. Then, navigate to the Google Photos folder and select the image you’d like to add. Now click on send. There, you have just sent an image to Gmail, wasn’t that quite easy.

Saving Originals

Restoring Deleted Photos/Videos

The Google Photos stores your images and videos in cloud, the service works similar to a system, if you delete the photos, and it doesn’t permanently get deleted. So, at time you might have accidentally deleted some photos and even videos that you’d like to recover. Just so you know, the items in the bin can sit up to 60 days, which means you’ll have time to restore those images and videos until those days runs out. Restoring the deleted images and videos is quite easy, all you have to do is load the menu and tap on Bin icon. A new window will open, which will showcase the deleted images and videos. Press and select the images you want to restore and then tap on restore icon you see on the top right corner. If you want to permanently delete those images, then you have to tap on the delete icon, which will permanently delete the photos you’ve selected in the Bin.

Save RAW files & Uncompressed Originals

You have a paid Google Drive storage account and you want to save the images on Google Photos in original uncompressed state. Well, it is quite easy procedure, just like we taught you how to upload unlimited amount of images and videos in high quality. First thing you have to ensure is that you have signed in with your Google account that has purchased Google Drive storage. Then, head over to the menu on the app, there you have to tap on the Settings option. Now a list of options will appear, open the first option, Backup & Sync, which will further open a new window. There you have to tap on the Upload size option, a pop-up menu will show, select the Original option in that to upload RAW files on Google Photos. Remember, you can come here and check back how much storage has been left, in case you want to switch to free unlimited storage later in future.

Delete Photos From Device After Uploading/ Free Up Device Storage

You should ask yourself a question, that if you’re backing up all your uploads from the device, then why do you need to keep original files on your device. Exactly! Google Photos not only make sure that you have backed up all your images on the device, but also assist you in free up in deleting original images on your smartphone, which in order free up a lot of space on the device. If we are talking about freeing up device storage in a large way, then you have to follow some instructions. First load the hamburger menu and open the Settings, then tap on third option appearing in the list, which is Free up device storage. After tapping on that once you have to wait as Google Photos scan through the device and cross checks how much storage can be freed up from your device. Once that is done you’ll be notified how much exact storage you can free up by deleting the original images. Note that since you have backed up the images, you shouldn’t worry about deleting them forever, that is what the popup window message would be like. They’ll be accessible when you’re connected to the internet. Though, if you’re just looking to delete the single copy from the device, which had already been backed up. Then, all you got to do is open the image in full view and tap on options menu (three dotted) and select the Delete device copy. That’s it.

Turn OFF Cellular Backup

You can use Google Photos for mostly two things, automatically backing up images taken on your smartphone or tablet. While sometimes you would also do the backing up of your existing photos on a computer or storage cards. You know how to do that as we have showed you that too. While uploading through the system, you’ll definitely be connected to a high speed broadband connection, which would be either home or office. But while automatically backing up photos on mobile might cost you a lot of bucks if you haven’t switched OFF the cellular upload. So, you should configure the Google Photos settings to make sure that your device isn’t using mobile data to automatically upload the images. To do so, you have to load the menu and go to Backup & Sync option. There you should scroll down the options and tap on Back up Photos, by default it is selected to Wi-Fi only, but in case you need to make sure that it is selected to that option, now you know how to do it.

[inpageLink link=’Getting Started,Creating,Exploring Search,Navigating,Sweet Hacks,Saving Originals’/]

Congratulation reader, you have successfully mastered the Google Photos using this extensive guide on PhoneRadar.

Vishal Toshiwal

Born in West India, raised in the North and currently chasing dreams in the southern part of India- Vishal is an entrepreneurial spirit, a tech enthusiast and a writer by profession, who is busy taking pictures when he is not writing. He would love to talk to you about the latest movies, TV shows and DC/Marvel comics. As a personal rule, he doesn't let a day get by without at least one dessert. Because, why not?

  • Rohit Kavathekar

    A Very well deeply detailed analysis of the Google Photos app.
    Provide an very Good information regarding every corners & every options of Google Photos. Liked it. 👍

  • Wow! Very extensive. Linked to in today’s ResearchBuzz. Thank you!