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Photography is part of modern daily life now. Think about it. You carry a camera (in the shape of a mobile phone) with you at all times in your pocket (or purse). How many photos did you take today? how many this week? this month? this year? 

google photos logoOne of my all time favorite tech tools relates to working with photos (if you know me and tech, giving such an accolade should make you be more than a little curious!). That tool is Google Photos.

I'm going to introduce you to this tool and highly recommend to you that you check it out. And if you already know about it, perhaps I'll share a thing or two that you didn't yet know.

Google lets you store a copy all of your photos and videos for FREE. So the first perk of using Google photos is having your photos backed up. Phone lost or stolen? Computer hard drive crash with all your photo folders? If you can imagine yourself in those situations and then you think of some of your precious photo moments gone forever... well, do I have your attention now? You're welcome.

Google photos is MUCH more than just a backup system though. It has a simple, yet amazing set of editing tools to make your photos look better. It also has an online albums feature where you can pick out a set of your favorites and share the album with others. (Have you ever tried to share a bunch of photos as email attachments? You realize then how cumbersome that process is!) Google is the king of search and searching photos gives you amazing power, I'll show you all of the above. Let's get started now getting more details so you can start using it!

Backup of Your Photos and Videos

Consider the peace of mind knowing that you have a backup copy of your photos and videos. So when you lose your phone or drop it and then it will no longer boot, all those vacation photos that you just took are still safe online. Once you install the app on your phone (Android or iOS), you need to configure to enable the automatic backups. It will by default only upload a copy of your photos while you are on a wifi connection which is good so that you don't get charged for data overages on your cellular plan. The other setting that you will want to check is the "upload size" setting. I highly recommend that you leave it set to the high quality setting. This gives you UNLIMITED uploads for FREE*. This is a very high 16 megapixel max resolution (or 1080 video resolution). That's a deal that's hard to beat! (if you opt for the "original" photo setting it will be tracked against your google storage quota and would have to pay for more storage as you max out. I think only extremely few people would want or really need this option) 
*2023 Update: The unlimited Free storage days are now over. But I do recommend that you use the "space saver" backup setting on the app on your mobile device. This will let you store a huge amount of photos while still in the free tier of your Google account. If you fill up your free tier, you can jump to 100 GB of storage for only $20/year.

google photos app upload size option


Besides just uploading the photos that are currently on your phone, there is also a desktop app (use that link to go to the download page for both Mac and PC) that will let you upload all of your photo folders to the cloud.  This will give you online access to your entire photo library. Keep in mind when you first install the desktop backup app, it may need to run in the background for quite some time to get all your files uploaded, but it is worth it!   

Photos in the Cloud

One of the instant advantages of having your phone automatically backup to the cloud server is that you can sit down at your computer or your tablet and immediately enjoy your photos in much LARGER size than you can see on your phone.

How do you get to google photos on the web?

On the google home page, at the upper right of the screen is a button that shows many different google sites, photos is one of the buttons you can choose. Or, if you wish, you can just go to photos.google.com in your browser.

getting to google photos  

Simple and Amazing Editing Tools

*2023 Update: the toolbar icons have changed symbols from when this post was made. The tools shown below still function the same, you'll just see different symbols on the buttons.

It could be very easy to miss the editing mode but once you discover it, you'll be hooked. When you are viewing an individual photo, look for the pencil icon at the upper right of the photo. This takes you into editing mode.

See below for an example below of before and after edits were made. The original version I show in the inset and you can see it is a little dull and dark. The edited one on the right is brighter and more vibrant.

 basic adjustment tools in google photos

The very first thing I want to point out that you definitely do not want to miss in editing is the "Auto" button. This one click can do some amazing things instantly. It automatically detects the adjustments in the four categories for you. Usually then you can fine tune it a little and you are good to go! The four categories for editing are: Light - so you can add brightness, Color to make your colors stand out with more vibrance, Pop - which adds clarity and sharpness, and Vignette which adds subtle darkness around the edges and is particularly used with portraits of people to draw the eye to the center of the picture.

I'll give you one more little "pro" tip that I particularly like to do. After you have made some edits, click and hold somewhere near the middle of the photo. This will show you the "before" version of the picture and when you release you get to see the "after" version. You'll be amazed at the comparison and how much better the after version looks! I say to click somewhere near the middle for this, because if you click on the left or right side of the photos it takes you to the previous or next photos (which by the way is useful to do when you are editing a series).

Finally, to note is this; the edits that you do are called "non-destructive" which means that you can always "reset" to get back to the original version of the photo.

Besides the four basic adjustment type of edits mentioned above, you can also crop and straighten your photos which very often comes in handy. (There is a third toolset for "color filters" similar to what you might get in an app like Instagram. I guess there is some "artistic" tweaking that you can do if you are so inclined, but for me personally I don't have much use for that toolset but it is there if you wish to explore.)

google photos straighten and crop

There will be times that you need to take your photos out of the Google world in order to utilize them in different places. For example, adding one of your edited photos in a blog post, sending a set of photos to a printing service, or if you are a real estate agent, you may need to get the edited versions of your photos to upload to your MLS. In a section below, I illustrate how to select multiple photos, you will use that technique to pick the ones that you want to get, and then by clicking the three-dots button at the top of the page, you will want to choose the "download" option. This will give you the high resolution files in their edited state so that you can use them elsewhere.

Google is Synonymous With Search

If you want to find something, what do you do? You "GOOGLE" it. Well, googling your photos can be a huge assistance when you are trying to find "that one photo" in thousands. One of the first things that you may want to try searching for is people. Google identifies faces and groups photos together by matches. (PS you can see this people page at photos.google.com/people or you can also get there through the "Albums" home page)

google photos people search

You can click any of the faces to have it show you all photos that it found with a matching face. Further, if you take a few minutes and tell google the names of the people you can then search by name. What is also interesting is that sometimes you want to find photos of certain people together. Take an example of me and my son together. Let me do that search to see what I can find.

google photos search two people together

In the next search examples, let's look in my library for places and things. I'll search for "cats" and "sunsets" and let's try a place "cape cod"...

google photos search places or things


Though it is possible in Google Photos to share a link to a single photo, usually you will want to go through your photos and select many photos to share. The method to do this is by creating Albums and then sharing a link to all the album. You can get the URL to the album, by clicking the share button that you will find at the top of the album's page.

When somebody clicks a link to an album page, the first thing you see is a page of thumbnails. You can click any thumbnail to see the larger version. They can use the left/right arrow keys to go through the album (or click the left/right edges of the photo to go forward and back. (Tip; F11 key in a browser goes in and out of full screen view and full screen view is especially nice when viewing photos). Albums additionally have a "slideshow" mode which you can get to by clicking the three-dots button at the top right of any photo page.

Click here to see an example of an album from Craig's Library

google photos album thumbnails


One easy way to start an album is from the thumbnails view of your photos. Select one or more photos by clicking the check mark in the upper left corner of the thumbnail. Next click the plus (+) button on tht top toolbar and choose the "Album" option. You will be given the choice to add the photos to an existing album or to make a new album that you will need to give a name.

google photos add photos to album

One more feature of online albums that is fun to do sometimes is to turn on the "collaborative" option. This means that other people that you invite to the album can also add their own photos. My family has done this recently a few times, for example with a recent wedding. We all could see each other's best photos of the day and it was very easy to do this.


On the top left hand side of the window when you are in the Google Photos environment, there are three main areas to explore. "Photos" shows all your photos sorted by  most recent. "Albums" which shows all the albums that you have created. The top most one is called "Assistant." This is Google being a little bit creative with the photos that you've taken and it notifies you once in a while that it has something new for you to check out to see if you like it. It is kind of fun and often surprises you with some good stuff.

One of my favorite items on the Assistant page is called "Rediscover This Day". It creates a collage of a few photos from the same day one or more years back and notifies you that you to come check it out. It is often fun to see that collage and then jump back to the rest of the photos from that memory.

There are several types of items that Assistant will create for you. It can create animated GIFs if you take several shots in a quick sequence. It can stitch a few photos together for a panorama if you taken the shots in a panning motion. It sometimes alerts you that it has created a 1 minute highlight video of a day and it puts it to a background track of music. It also creates "stylized photos" and collages

Google Photos - Check It Out! 

Well that's enough of me giving you the tour. Time for you to go check it out! Remember all the things that you can do: backup, easy viewing on multiple devices, simple and powerful photo touchup, simple sharing of your photos, searching and finding otherwise lost memories and new discoveries all the time! I give this tool my highest rating and recommendation. I hope that you enjoy it too!

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Craig Daniels
This blog is all about technology and helping you to use it smarter! Your digital footprint is your chance to attract new clients. What kind of impression are you making via your website, blog, and social media? We’ll be talking about that! Are you as productive as you can be? What apps might help you out? Do you know how to use all the best tools inside the apps? I enjoy photography and videography, you can expect to see those topics also on this blog.
Are you ready to learn?
Welcome to Craig’s Classroom!

PS - get ready for some homework… :) 

Comments (97)

Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

OMG that was a lot of great information.  I had no idea all this was available for FREE.  Thanks for pointing it out.  Now I'm following you too.

Oct 05, 2016 11:12 AM
Melissa Jackson REALTOR
Trinity Premier Properties - Azle, TX
Helping You Make The Right Move

I use Google & Photos but never knew of all these great options.  Thanks for sharing.


Oct 05, 2016 11:38 AM
Rochelle Kretchmar
GenEquity Mortgage - Lewisville, TX
Simply Irresistible Staging

Wow! I knew about Google Photo's but this information is really amazing - thanks for sharing!  Will definately use the tools in the future.

Oct 05, 2016 11:28 PM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

This is an awesome tutorial Craig. Thanks so much for writing this informative post. I learned something new today.

Oct 06, 2016 10:57 PM
Alison Creamer
Keller Williams Elite - Virginia Beach, VA
Realtor,MRP,ABR, CDPE,IMSD,HamptonRoads

Great tutorial on Google Photos!  I love Google products!  I am bookmarking for reference

Oct 07, 2016 12:25 AM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Craig - this is awesome information and I have bookmarked it.  I have a few online storage places but have not used Google.

Oct 07, 2016 01:21 AM
Sandy Padula & Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Florida Realty Investments - , CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

Craig Daniels Great information for us here; thank you. I have been using a Passport to store my photo libraries for each year, but this is a good back-up.

Oct 07, 2016 10:08 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Thank you for the great tips. I will bookmark this post and read it again.

Oct 07, 2016 10:26 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Thanks Craig, I have been using Google photos for a few years now, but after reading this I will be using them much better in the future.

Oct 11, 2016 02:16 PM
Debb Janes
Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
Put My Love of Nature At Work for You

Ya big tease. I saw a like from you and rushed over to see if you'd posted a new blog. Whatever you're up to these days, I'm sure it's all good. Best to you. D 

Jan 14, 2017 01:33 PM
Elyse Berman, PA
LoKation Real Estate - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824

Craig Daniels Thank you for enlightening me to Google Photos.  I had no idea but will be looking into this for sure.

Jan 29, 2017 03:45 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Craig, I came across this post again today and rediscovered it! I'm continually learning how to edit photos, thanks in part to the contest last month. I had read your post about Google Photos but the forgot about it. If you use GP, is it private to us? Just making sure. Thanks in advance!!

Jun 14, 2017 08:46 AM
Craig Daniels

hi Pat Starnes -
Glad you rediscovered these great tools for photos from Google. And yes, all your photos online are private to you. Unless you decide to share and specifically click the "share" option (a single photo or an album), nobody else can see your pics. Enjoy!

Jun 14, 2017 09:53 AM

Great information

Jul 30, 2017 06:47 PM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

Well, I saw you in Q&A and thought I'd pop over to see if you had a new post...ad found this!

Great info, Craig! Thank you. One question - do you still utilize Google Photos and recommend it as highly as you did last year?

Thanks again!

Aug 20, 2017 10:49 AM
Craig Daniels

hi Debe Maxwell, CRS thanks for visiting!
YES still highly recommended! I use it every day!

Aug 23, 2017 12:36 PM
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Thx.  I'll need to check this out.  I've been using Canva (for pinterest) once I have the photo, but need to do a better job upfront w/ the photos. Also, totally amazed by their ability to instantly match my picts to similar visual ones.

Sep 04, 2017 08:04 AM
Brenda Whitman, Live in Laramie Real Estate
Live in Laramie Real Estate, Laramie, Wyoming - Laramie, WY
Broker/Co-Owner, Laramie, Wyoming

I really didn't even know what Google photos was.... thank you for the info as well as some of the tutorials!

Sep 23, 2017 07:22 AM
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

Wow Craig Daniels this is an amazing instructional episode of learning & I just found out what I'm not doing!  Doing as much of it as I can today.  Many thanks!

Nov 01, 2019 06:49 AM
Craig Daniels

Ginny Gorman This post still has legs :) I use google photos literally every single day. I'm glad you discovered some new things to try out!

Nov 01, 2019 07:09 AM
Scott Seaton Jr. SLS Home Insp
SLS Home Inspections-Kankakee Will Iroquois Grundy Counties - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

so much good info, easy to follow as well. Thanks

Dec 29, 2019 05:15 AM
Buzz Mackintosh
Mackintosh REALTORS - Frederick, MD
“Experience, reliable, leadership”

I have had a couple of Google Pixel phones really like the camera and photo app. This is a great tutorial and always pick up new tip on you informative posts. Thanks for sharing!

Feb 05, 2022 04:30 AM
Craig Daniels

thanks Buzz. I have been using Google Pixel phones as well! Highly recommend them!

Feb 05, 2022 08:30 AM
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Great info! Came here from your current post on hide drive backup! I need to find out how of my phone is backup to Apple 

Nov 16, 2022 06:52 PM
Craig Daniels

thanks for exploring this post as well Tom Bailey - apple has photos backup to icloud, but in the comparison of the apple vs. google choice, I'm going to pick the latter for better usability and value (but both work)

Nov 17, 2022 08:02 AM