Google Photos is by far our favourite app for backing up the thousands of cat photos we’ve taken over the years.
Not only does it store all your photos for free (at high resolution), there are also a bunch of features within the app that give it the edge over other cloud storage services such as iCloud and Dropbox.
Google is also constantly updating it with new features, for instance its ability to remove duplicated pictures, or the ‘Rediscover this day’ reminder for a hit of photographic nostalgia, among many others. Its in-built tagging, meanwhile, is powered by some seriously clever (or seriously scary, depending on your point of view) AI. It really has to be seen to be believed.
Here’s a list of tips and tricks to help you make the most of its photographic magic.
BEGINNER: 1) GET FREE UNLIMITED STORAGE
Let’s start with the simple stuff. Google Photos offers free, unlimited photo storage with only one minor caveat: you get a maximum resolution of 16MP.
Unless you’re planning to blow up your photos to billboard size, though, that’s ample. A 16MP photo can be printed at around 17 x 11 inches at excellent-quality 300dpi resolution, and not many people need to print bigger than that; indeed, not many people bother to print at all.
So to qualify for this free storage, simply go to the settings menu (> Top-right main menu > Settings) and change the resolution from ‘Original quality’ to ‘High quality’.
If you do want to store all your photos at their original resolution, leave it on ‘Original quality’ – but bear in mind that you might need to boost Google Photos’ free 15GB storage (prices start at US$1.99/month for 100GB).
The same deal applies for video: you can upload up to 1080p quality for free, anything above that will either be downscaled or will count towards your data allocation, depending on your preferences.
2) TURN OFF CELLULAR BACKUP
Most of us will use Google Photos for two things: automatically backing up images taken on a smartphone or tablet, and backing up existing photos on a computer or camera.
The first thing you’ll probably want to do on the smartphone side of things is to head to the Settings menu and turn off backups over mobile data (> Main menu > Settings > Backup & sync > Back up photos > Over Wi-Fi only).
Android users can also protect their battery life by telling the app to only back up while their smartphone’s charging. All very handy, particularly for those who don’t have unlimited data.
3) FREE UP SPACE ON YOUR PHONE
Using a 16GB device with no SD card slot? Poor thing. Or iPhone user. Either way, no worries: Google Photos will free up space on your device by removing pictures and videos that have already been backed up to the cloud.
Just tap ‘Free up device storage’ in the settings menu (>Main menu > Settings > Free up Device Storage), and Google will delete already-backed-up photos and videos from your device.
Don’t worry – the photos will remain accessible so long as you’re connected, though obviously at a reduced quality if you opted for high-quality free unlimited storage in tip No.1 above.
4) UPLOAD YOUR OLD PHOTOS
Google Photos isn’t limited to just backing up your smartphone photos – you can also use it to back up all your existing photos, wherever they’re saved.
Adding them to your Google Photos library is a simple matter of dragging and dropping them from your desktop or external storage. The speed at which they’re uploaded will depend on your connection and whether you’re uploading the full-res images or letting Google downscale them, and a handy window in the bottom left of your screen will show you how far into the job you are. You can also stop the uploading process at any time.
Handily, photos will appear in your library based on the date they were taken rather than uploaded – so if you add a bunch of images from 10 years ago, they’ll be happily nestled at the bottom of your feed rather than sitting at the top as a constant reminder of how much better you looked a decade ago.