Google Photos has been around for a number of years now and is a go-to service for many people looking to store their photos and videos.

Google Photos not only lets you save personal media to a virtual locker but also makes that media available across all your devices. Plus, the service has all sorts of features for managing, viewing, editing, and discovering your digital memories. It's the default photo app for Google's Android, so it's on most Android phones, using your Google Account.

To help you navigate Google Photos, we've rounded up a selection of tips and tricks that'll maximise your experience and essentially make you a Google Photos pro.

Note: This guide is primarily about Google Photos for iOS and Android devices, unless otherwise noted.

Getting started

In the app you'll see a menu bar with three main tabs: Photos, Albums, For you, and Sharing. "For you" is where you go to rediscover old photos and see effects that were automatically created for you from your photos and videos. The Photos tab is essentially a list/grid of all your images and videos in Google Photos, while Albums is a list of all your albums, some of which were auto-created (like People & Pets), as well as different photo collections on your phone - from WhatsApp for example, or other apps that create their own photo folders.

Switch Google accounts

If you have multiple accounts on your phone (personal and work for example), you want to make sure you're using your personal account for your photos. You'll find your picture in the search bar at the top right. Tap this to select the Google account you want Photos to work with. Remember, if you're storing these in a work account and then you leave, you lose all your photos too - so make sure you're using your personal account for your personal photos.

Access the menu

Find the menu button (hamburger icon) in the search field top left, and then tap it to pull out the Google Photos menu. The menu has options for managing Google Photos, you'll also find your bin/trash here, the option for ordering photo books, as well as the option to free up space on your phone and more.

Manage your settings

In the menu, tap Settings. From there, you will see options to back up and sync to whichever Google account you're using, choose the types of notifications you want to see, manage the suggestions and "memories" you're shown, and way more.

Backup over mobile data

One of he great advantages of Google Photos is the backup options. You'll want to use Google Photos to back up all your photos to the cloud, but the default is to backup over Wi-Fi for photos and videos. We prefer the backup over mobile data option for photos, because it means that if you lose your phone, you still have those photos stored online. In the settings tap "back up & sync" and you'll find the toggles for mobile data backup, if you want them. There's also the option to backup or not when roaming.

Backup device folders

Speaking of backing up, to backup all your images (not just the ones you took with your device camera), like images you've downloaded or images taken with Snapchat, WhatsApp or Instagram cameras, go to settings, then select back up & sync, and tap Back up device folders. You'll need to flip the switch on each folder to have its contents automatically synced with your Google Photos library.

Free up device storage

If all your device photos are backed up to the cloud, you can safely delete any local copies to free up some space. Find the option called Free up device storage in settings to get started. The app may also prompt you to enable this setting if your phone's storage gets low. 

Searching and finding photos

Search your images

Google Photos is known for its intelligence and ability to smartly organise your media, thanks to AI. You can use the universal search bar at the top of the app to find photos based on month, season, location, objects, or even general keyword like flowers or baby. You can use multiple search terms too. Oh, and you can search by emoji. Try the sunglasses emoji to find photos of people with glasses or sunglasses.

Browse your albums

You can casually browse your albums under the Albums tab. There is also a carousel at the top with images and videos grouped into collections based on search terms, media type, and general theme (like People & Pets, Places, Things, Videos, Animations, etc). You can create albums here, which makes it really easy to organise photos around a theme, like a project, holiday - or you can have an automatic album of people or pets, which updates itself when you take a new photo of someone.

Find specific images of people or pets

Google Photos smartly helps you find images based on who appears in them. Go to the Albums tab and then select People & Pets to see a list of faces from your collection. If you want to search for someone by name, tap his or her face, and add their name. You can also use this process to ensure people are properly labelled in an image. That name will then appear when you start typing it in the search bar, so it's really easy to find pictures of people. It also works with pets.

Pinch to view your Photos

Under the Photos tab, you can pinch in or out on the gallery to make the thumbnails smaller or larger. If you pinch in enough, you'll see a calendar view, but if you pinch out, you will get larger and larger thumbnails until you're ultimately zooming in on an image in full.

Quickly scroll to a specific date

When you're scrolling through the Photos tab or in an Album, and want to jump to a specific date, touch the quick-scroll button on the right side of the screen. All you have to do is push your finger up or down to fly through time and find your image.

Managing and editing your Google Photos

Select multiple images

In the app, when you want to select a bunch of consecutive images, simply touch your finger to the first image until it becomes highlighted with a blue check mark, and then drag your finger up or down to quickly select more images at once. Once you select every image you want, you will see options to share them, create something new from them, delete them, or backup now.

Recover deleted images, or delete permanently

Google Photos has a bin/trash folder that's accessible via the menu. Every deleted image or video stays in the Trash for 60 days and can be quickly recovered; just select an image and then tap the rewind icon (or delete button, if you want to fully purge it). This includes images you delete from other image folders, like your WhatsApp images for example.

Editing your images

Google Photos is a powerful image editor. When viewing any image, tap the sliders icon to access several one-touch tools. You can add filters, crop, rotate, and adjust things like light, colour, and pop. Make sure to tap the down arrows next to light and colour to access even more options. It's worth playing around to see all the available editing tools. Remember to save.

Save a copy

When you save an image after editing, your modified version will replace the original. However, if you want to save it as a copy instead, don't tap save. Instead, tap the menu icon at the top of the screen to find the save copy option.

Create a creation

Google Photos lets you create movies, animations, and collages (aka creations) from any set of images or videos. Just select the items you want, then select the + option at the top of the screen, and choose what kind of creation you want to fiddle around with.

Don't forget For you

If you love the creation tools in Google Photos, make sure you consistently check the For you tab. It automatically generates animations, collages, and highlight videos from your library. It'll also create instant albums from images and offer fixes for photos - coming up with some dramatic results.

Scan your old prints

If you have old printed photos you would like to store in Google Photos, Google offers a PhotoScan app for Android and iOS. You can access the download link from the menu in Google Photos. The app can smartly scan just about any photo, from anywhere, and in high resolution.

Remove geo location

If you don't want your location data included any image or video, go to settings and then look for the Remove geo location option.

Sharing your photos 

Share your image or album

Google Photos makes it easy to share your images and videos with anyone. Once you select an image, tap the Share button at the bottom. You'll see several options, including the ability to share to social media sites like Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram. On Android you'll get access to all sharing options, including sending those images to people in Google Photos or to any of the apps on your phone or other online storage locations.

Share within Google Photos

One of the clever options is to share within Google Photos itself. This will use your Google account to sent to to another person's Google Photos. That means that it appears in their Google Photos as a shared item that they can view or save to their own account. This is a great option for sharing images without sending them all via SMS or other services. This is actually how album sharing works.

Add a partner to your Google Photos

If you want to share all your images with a partner you can opt to add another user to your account. They will then have access to everything that that you all them to see. That might be your entire Google Photos, or nominated people - i.e., your children. You can also opt to only share from a specific date, rather than back to the beginning of your collection. That's ideal if you don't want then to see the photos of you and your ex you might be hanging on to. The option to share with a partner are in the settings menu, as well as appearing at the top of the sharing tab.

See what you've shared

Click on the "sharing" tab and you'll see what you've shared and what's been shared with you. This makes it really easy to find albums that you're sharing with friends and family for example.

Create a link

After you select an image and tap the share button, you can select Create Link (or Get Link from the website) to create a shareable link for that image or video. Anyone you send the link to will be able to view that specific image or video, even if they don't have a Google account.

Cast your image to a TV

If you own Google's Chromecast dongle or a Chromecast-enabled TV, you can share your images and videos on the big screen by tapping the cast button in the upper corner of the mobile app (it should appear if a cast-ready TV is available). Once you're connected, tap any image or video to send it to your television. If you want to cast a slideshow, open an image, then tap the menu, and select Slideshow. 

Google Photos on the web

Google Photos has a desktop website, where you can access or manage you photo collection with Google, with Photos, Albums, For you, Sharing and Photo books available here. There's also a search bar at the top, with create and upload and menu options.

Manage your Google Photos in a browser

You can rearrange the order of images in your collection from the Google Photos website. Just select an image (click the check that'll appear on the thumbnail), then click the menu button in the upper corner, and select Edit date & time.

Google Photos desktop shortcuts

From the desktop site you can press Shift-? on your keyboard to get a list of available shortcut commands.

Google Photos uploader

If you want to upload hundreds or thousands of images from your computer to the cloud, use Google's desktop uploader tool. It's completely free and available for both MacOS and Windows. The software basically makes it easier to batch-transfer images. It'll also let you automatically sync new images to Google Photos whenever you plug a camera or memory card into your system.

Batch download your collection

For a batch download of your entire collection, or if you just want to export all your Google Account data, use Google's Takeout tool. It's free.

Want to know more?

Google has an entire Help Center with more tips for Google Photos.