(Pocket-lint) - 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. There are some differences between Google Photos on Pixel devices and on some other Android phones.
In the app you'll see a menu bar with three main tabs: Photos, Search, Sharing and Library.
The Photos tab is essentially a list/grid of all your images and videos in Google Photos and the default view when you open the app. Across the top of the page is a carousel of highlights, with recent highlights and yearly jumps back in time.
Search provides search as the name suggests, but also groups your Google Photos based around people, pets, activities, places, events and a whole lot more. If you want to show people photos of your cat, you'll find a section here for your cat - and all these are created using Google AI.
Sharing covers all the photos or galleries you might have shared with someone else - including the conversations you might be having related to those images. This makes it easy to find images shared with you.
Library contains a range of features including albums you may have made, as well as some Google Photos tools - like the bin, achived images and utilities, which is where Google Photos suggests rotations, archive suggestions and where you can create movies and collages.
Google Photos storage allowance: What's changing?
Google offered free photo storage to many for a number of years, but a change happened on 1 June 2021, where new photos uploaded in "High Quality" will count against your Google account storage. That's the free allowance (15GB) you get with every account, or any additional storage you might have through Google One. Note that "High Quality" is a step down from "Original Quality".
Photos pre-dating 1 June 2021 will continue to be free, but this change means that from that date, new photos will now count against your limit, regardless of the quality you store them at.
For those who choose to upload in Original Quality there's no change: those have always counted against your Google storage limit. Pixel owners will still get unlimited High Quality storage, which is a small advantage, but not as attractive as the original Pixel offering, which was unlimited Original Quality photo storage for the PIxel 1, 2 or 3.
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 by tapping on your Google account icon - in that list you'll get lots of details, including access to your Google Photo settings.
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 the 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 most recent 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 space" in settings to get started. The app may also prompt you to enable this setting if your phone's storage gets low.
Recover storage on your Google Photos account
If you've uploaded a lot of Original Quality images and want to reduce those to High Quality to save storage space in your Google Account, you can find the option through the browser. Head to photos.google.com/settings and you can option to "recover storage". This will compress your Original Quality photos - but be warned, it's a destructive process and cannot be reversed. But, it could save you a lot of storage space if you don't need those originals.
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 once you've tapped through to the Search tab. You can search on date, 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.
Find specific images of people or pets
Google Photos smartly helps you find images based on who appears in them. Go to the Search tab and you'll see People & Pets at the top of the page. If you want to search for someone by name, tap his or her face, and add their name - you can also link to existing contacts.
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.
Browse your albums
You can casually browse your albums under the Library tab. 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.
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 - dates will appear as you start sliding through time.
Identify something in an image with Google Lens
Google Lens is integrated into the Google Photos mobile app. When you tap on an image, you'll see the Google Lens icon at the bottom. Tap this and Google will identify whatever is in the photo. It's a great way to identify a flower or plant, for example.
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. The bin is also synced across your devices where you're signed into Google.
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.
Google One subscibers gets more options than non-subscibers.
Create a bokeh photo
You an easily create a portrait photo in Google Photos. Open the selfie you want to adapt and tap edit. Under the Tools options you'll see the option for Blur. You can use this slider and it will blur the background behind the portrait. It doesn't have to be taken with a depth camera, Google uses AI to make the adjustment.
You can also remove background colour using the "colour focus" option in the same menu.
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 albums, movies, animations, and collages 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.
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.
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 top. 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.
Send in Google Photos
One of the clever options is to send within Google Photos itself. This will use your Google account to sent 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.
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 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, then click the "i" info button in the right-hand corner, and you can edit the time and date. This can be used to put old photos you upload into the corret timeline, rather than it being the date you uploaded it.
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 Drive 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. This was an independent app, but it's now part of the Google Drive management tools.
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.