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Saturday, May 14, 2016

My Experience with Google Photos

This week I have had more than one person talk to me about saving their photos. These days most of us have more photos than we know what to do with because we always have our Smartphones with us and we take pictures of EVERYTHING.

I usually organize my photos using Mac's Photo app. It works well for me. If you have a PC you can use Microsoft Photo Gallery which comes free with Microsoft Windows. Today I am going to try and also describe my experience using Google Photos.

external hard driveBefore I begin with Google photos I want to make sure that you are backing up all of your pictures on a hard drive or in the cloud somewhere (or both). The cloud is just a way to talk about a huge bank of computers that you can get space on in order to save things. iCloud is Apple's cloud. Dropbox is a cloud. Microsoft has OneDrive. If you use Google Photos you are backing up on Google's Cloud.

What I have learned is that in May of 2015 Google made a big announcement and began Google Photos. It was designed as a pain free way to store, organize and share all of your photos without having to do much of anything. The program does it for you. It is a single location for ALL of your photos from your computer, phone and any other devices you have. It works with Android phones as well as iPhones.

The first thing that you do is to download the Google Photo Autobackup App. This will search and find all of your photos from all of your devices and put them on Google Photos which you can find by going to This process takes a long time, maybe a few days, but when it is done ALL of your photos are backed up and accessible to you on all of your devices. If you choose to save them as "high resolution" the space does not cost you any money. If you want the RAW original format you will have to pay for extra space after your allotment is filled up. Even the "high resolution" photos are formatted perfectly for most of us. If you are a photographer and usually print large copies of photos you may want to pay for the extra space.

Now for my experience using the app.
  1. It has pop out tools on the sidebar. There are three ways to look at your photos
    • view photos iconPhotos-This is the view that you first see when you upload your photos. It is organized by date that the photo was taken. You can view all of these photos on all of your devices. You can see them as individual pictures, days, months and years by pinching and unpinching the screen. They are located "in the cloud", so they are not taking up space on any of your devices. You can download them or send them to someone from here.
    • albums iconAlbums-Google Photos will organize your photos for you by face (It is amazing at recognizing faces even as they change through aging) and by places and things. This is also the place where you can view albums that you have created using the assistant. 
    • Assistant-This is where you can create your own albums and other creative things. To do this Click on "create new album". Then click on all of the photos that you want in the album. The album will appear with "untitled" at the top. You click on it and give the album a name. 
search bar
  • You can also search your photos for specific photos that you remember. The search is amazing. I tried searching for "snow", "food", and several other things. Even though I had not tagged or named the pictures a bunch of snow pictures and food pictures were found. A few of the other searches were not as successful (books, beach), but I am not sure that I had any pictures that fit these categories. Also, my pictures were still being downloaded.
In the agreement that you must sign in order to use their free services it says that they can "host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute these photos".
  • There is the issue of trust. What is Google doing with all of your photos? Google is a search and advertising company. They make their money by very precise advertising. Your photos make it possible for them to know you better and target advertising directly to you. They do this already, but your photos make it even better for them.  If this is a problem for you then it is better not to use it. Many people think that the value of using all of the free apps that Google offers is a fair exchange. Targeted marketing is a little creepy, but in some ways is better than constantly getting ads for things you do not want. One video said that being selective about which photos are stored on Google Photos can protect some of your privacy. 

Having tried it I am impressed with Google Photos. I tend not to be someone who is very private, so my experience may not fit you. The important thing to take away from this article are that YOU are in charge of your photos and backing them up somewhere is EXTREMELY important. I think that having an external back up on a hard drive is a good idea because even Google may change its business model and who knows what would happen to your photos then?