Google Photos: Game Changer?

For years, memory keepers have struggled with a good way to store, backup and share photos. With better cameras, more megapixels, and phones that allow us to always have our cameras with us, photo collections can quickly get out of control.

Enter the new Google Photos App for iOS, Android, and Web (plus desktop uploader app). Google advertises free, private, shareable, unlimited file storage. So besides requiring a Google account, what is the catch? The free account limits your photos to 16 megapixels or less. And, Google will compress your images. If you upload DSLR photos, it also converts them to JPG. If you wish to upload larger photos, or photos without compression, you’ll need to choose a Paid plan. Paid plans range from $2 to $200/month and all your Google services, including Photos, Mail and Drive, count against your limit.

A note on compression… in my tests, the compression on JPG images resulted in lost highlights in the textured areas, but it was subtle when viewed at 100%. PNG and TIFs did not seem to involve any compression whatsoever. Camera Raw images are converted to JPG, and the conversion does result in loss of quality, and you cannot make any adjustments to the conversion like you can when you open a camera raw image in Photoshop.

If you’re willing to settle for the compression, you can automatically upload, store and sync your photos to the cloud. Your photos remain private, unless you choose to share them. You can share a single image, or an image collection.

Once you’ve uploaded your photos to your Google account, you can use your phone or tablet to do all kinds of things, including:

  • Find photos by who or what is in them and where they were taken, without tagging. Facial recognition is built-in and works quite well.
  • Share photos you choose to anyone, with or without Google Photos app.
  • Free up device storage.
  • Automatic Story creation. Google Photos will pull together photos along with maps to create a digital story book. You can also manually create your own projects through the iPhone or Android App.
  • Create panoramas.
  • Enhance photos with basic photo filters, cropping and adjustments.
  • Combine related photos and videos into a movie, complete with soundtrack.
  • Combine sequences into animated GIFs.
  • Deleting images from your phone will not delete them from Google+. However, deleting images from the web interface removes them from all synced devices and places them in your trash where they will be permanently deleted in 60 days, unless you empty the trash manually.
  • Store and sync all your photos, from all your devices in one location, grouped by timeline, automatically.

File Types

I’ve tested Tif, PNG, JPG and camera raw. They all worked fine.


Photos are stored and shared completely outside social networks. Everything is kept privately until you choose to share it. You can share directly to your favorite social network, or via email non-Google users. Of course, Google will use information about the photos and videos we upload to tailor their advertising, but they will keep your photos private and allow you to control how they are shared.


Photos are automatically sorted into People, Places and Things (which is slightly reminiscent of Stacy Julian’s Library of Memories method). You can access these categories through the search menu. And misclassifications are able to be corrected.

People displays your images grouped by person, using automatic facial recognition. It won’t identify the people, but simply sort the photos together. Tap or click a person to see more pictures of that person. Google will not assign names to the photos, but you can tag them with a label or nickname, and these will not be shared with other users.

Places makes use of geo-tagging information and known landmarks.

Things allows you to enter a search term like cat, birthday or car and Google automatically brings up matches, and does it pretty well. You can even search by color!

My Take On Google Photos

I think it’s a great backup option for your photos. Because it does introduce compression, it won’t be my primary photo storage method. I will continue to copy my photos to EHD and back them up elsewhere. But, I do think it’s a fantastic backup option, and a great way to share photos between family members. Imagine automatic sharing of photos between families!

Finally, all this got me thinking, “What if I could store my digi kits in Google Photos.” More on that in a future post!