Google Photos: Everything you need to know

Google Photos might be one of Google’s most-used and best apps. And that’s saying a lot, considering Gmail has over 1.8 billion active users. Google Photos is a way to back up your photos, but over the years, it has become so much more than just a photo backup tool.

In this article, we will be going over everything there is to know about Google Photos, which is actually much more than just an app these days.

What is Google Photos?

Google Photos is a photo-sharing and storage service that Google announced at Google I/O 2015. It was originally part of Google+ but Google eventually spun Google Photos out of Google+, which was probably a good idea, seeing as Google+ is no longer around.

Google Photos quickly became a popular favorite for photo storage since Google was offering everyone free unlimited storage for their photos. That was unheard of at the time, and even though Google is no longer offering that for everyone, it’s still pretty unheard of. Amazon’s Photos does include unlimited photo storage, but video storage is capped at 5GB. At the same time, Google Photos had unlimited storage for photos and videos.

Today, many things have changed for Google Photos. However, it’s still one of the best photo storage options on the market. And it’s available on both iOS and Android.

Getting Started with Google Photos

Google Photos is a great tool for storing all of your memories. Whether you have photos of your kids when they were toddlers, or your loved ones before they passed, Google Photos will keep them intact for you, and bring them up as memories from time to time. To get started with Google Photos, you’ll of course, want to download the Google Photos app on your iPhone or Android device. Or you can head to the Google Photos website.

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When you first open the app or the website, it’ll ask you to log in. You’ll log in with your Google account, and from there, you’ll be asked about backing up your photos. There are two options for backing up your photos: you can back them up in the original quality or in Storage Saver. Both will use up your Google One storage, but obviously, “Storage Saver” will save on your storage. Surprisingly, this option does not compress your images and video all that much. Photos are compressed to 16MP, and where most phones will pixel bin their higher-resolution photos down to 12MP anyway, that’s not a big deal. Video will be compressed to High Definition, which is actually 1080p. Google also mentions that this option will still provide good quality prints up to 24″ x 16″.

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After you’ve set up the app and have your photos backed up, we’d recommend adding the Google Photos Widget to your home screen. On Android, you can set it in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and also choose what photos or albums are used in that widget. So if you have an album of your kids, you could use that and have it automatically switching out photos every few hours.

Getting more storage

Google provides every account with 15GB of storage. This storage is used for your Gmail, Docs, and Photos, as well as a few other things like device backups and Google Recorder recordings. It originally was 5GB for each of Gmail, Drive,, and Photos, but Google has decided to merge it all together, so you can have 7GB of photos, 2GB of Docs, and 1GB of Gmail and still have some storage left over.

However, if you need some additional storage, it’s pretty cheap. Google One offers three plans that most people would sign up for. They do have some even more expensive plans, but I don’t think many would need those. For $2 per month, you can get 100GB of storage. This also includes some advanced Google Photos editing features, which we’ll get to later. Google’s VPN is also included in these paid plans. At $3 per month, you can get 200GB of storage. If that’s not enough, for $10 per month, you can jump up to 2TB.

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These plans are all available as annual plans too, which drops them down to $19.99, $29.99 and $99.99 respectively. Google also typically offers discounts for the first three months. At the time of writing this, the 100GB plan was going for $0.49 for the first three months, which is not bad at all.

Now, if you need a ton of storage (and we do mean a ton), Google offers plans up to 30TB! So if 2TB isn’t enough, Google has a 5TB plan at $24.99 per month, 10TB at $49.99 per month, 20TB at $99.99 per month and 30TB at $149.99 per month. However, only the 5TB plan is offered as an annual plan, and it is $249.99 for the year.

How to get unlimited Google Photos storage

You can still get unlimited Google Photos storage, but the choices are getting pretty tough. You could get unlimited storage on the Pixel 3 until January 31, 2022. Now, you’re only real choice is through T-Mobile.

T-Mobile offers an exclusive Google One Plan that will get you 500GB of storage for $5 per month, or the regular 2TB plan for $9.99 per month. T-Mobile does also offer a 2TB + Unlimited Photos and Videos plan that gives you unlimited storage for your photos and videos and will not count against your 2TB of storage. Google does say that you are limited to only backing up 100GB of photos and videos every 30 days. But that is still a lot of content. This plan costs $19.99 per month and is billed through T-Mobile.

What features do Google Photos have?

Google Photos has quite a few features, both editing features and organization features that make the app and service the best among its competition. One of my favorite features are the auto-updating albums.

Auto-updating Albums

Creating albums is cool and all, and a standard feature with any gallery app or photo storage service. However, what sets Google Photos apart is the auto-update of albums. So, Google is able to identify both people and pets. With that being said, you can create an album and have it add photos of specific people and/or pets. For instance, I have a photo album with all of the pictures I’ve taken of my dog since I got her four years ago. That album now has over 8,000 photos, and I didn’t have to lift a finger to do that other than creating the album in the first place. That’s pretty neat.

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Something that I feel is missing from this is the ability to add a location for an album. Say you go to Las Vegas every year, you could make an album for Las Vegas, and have everything taken there every year in that album automatically.

Of course, you can still create albums and manually add photos, but having both options is really nice.

Creating Animations, Collages and Movies

Google Photos does also offer the ability to create an animation, collage and even a movie pretty easily from within the app. Just tap on Library and then Utilities to get there. Google will sometimes create these for you, but you also have the ability to do this yourself.

Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur

Using AI, Google has introduced Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur. Now these two features are only part of a recent Google Pixel purchase, or a Google One plan.

Magic Eraser will allow you to erase people, pets and objects from your photo. It’s not perfect, and sometimes you can see that something isn’t quite right with the photo. But most of the time it works as intended.

Photo Unblur works as you might expect as well. Ever taken a blurry photo? Well, Google and its AI magic is able to unblur the photo. Even photos that were taken many, many years ago. There’s no limit to what kind of photos this works on. I used it on a digital photo from over 15 years ago, and it was pretty impressive how well it was able to make this pretty blurry photo a lot more sharp.

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Video editing

While the service is indeed called “Google Photos”, it is not only for photos. But also for videos. Google also has a pretty decent video editor. You can use Video Boost on the Pixel 8 Pro, which will enhance the quality of your photos. The video editor isn’t going to replace something like Capcut, Adobe Premiere Pro, or Rush or something like that. But for some simple editing, it can get the job done. Google also lets you export specific frames, which can be very useful.

Google Photos can identify people and pets

As mentioned before, Google Photos is able to identify people and pets, allowing you to group those photos together in Google Photos. You are able to add names for different people, so you can now search for them by name, and find every photo with them in it. This works extremely well, and you can even find them in a tiny photo or screenshot from something like Google Messages or WhatsApp.

Speaking of Google Messages or WhatsApp, Google’s search engine inside Photos can also find every WhatsApp screenshot by searching “WhatsApp”. So you can quickly find those receipts when you need to post them on social media. This works for other apps, too, actually, and even places if they are in the photo. Like a specific restaurant.

This is the power of Google’s AI and Search put to good use.

Sharing photos and videos in Google Photos

Sharing photos and videos can sometimes be pretty tough, especially if you’re sharing multiple photos or videos. As they can take up a good amount of space. But Google let’s you share, essentially, a link that goes to the album or individual photo you are sharing. That’s going to save space in your email, instead of sending them as an attachment.

Additionally, you can create a shared photo album. Tap on the sharing icon at the top of the screen (it’ll look like two people), then tap on “Create shared album,” and from there, you can choose who you want to share with; now, both (or more) people can add photos to that photo album. This can be very useful if you want to a birthday party, and multiple people take loads of photos. Now you can add them all together in a single photo album to share with everyone.

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One final cool sharing feature that Google Photos has is, sharing with a partner. Say you want to share all of your photos with your spouse, Google makes that easy. Just tap on “Share with Partner,” and from there, you are able to choose the start date of photos being shared and also which photos are shared. The options for which photos are still kind of limited, basically all photos or photos containing selected people. Then, you’ll choose the partner you want to share with.

Hide sensitive photos and videos with Google Photo’s Locked Folder

Back in 2021, Google introduced a new Locked Folder for Google Photos. This allows you to keep certain media locked away behind a pin, passcode, or fingerprint. This is a good place to store photos like those of your passport or ID card and maybe some nudes, too.

Basically, anything you don’t want to be backed up to the cloud but do want to be stored in Google Photos, you should add it here. But this does mean that if you switch to a new phone, and don’t copy all of your data over, those photos will be gone. Since they are not backed up.

Clear up your phone’s storage with Google Photos

Google Photos is easily able to back up your photos and then delete them from your phone. That’s going to save you a good amount of space on your phone, as photos and videos can be a pretty big part of what’s using all of your storage.

To do this, tap on your profile icon at the top of the app, and then tap on “Free up Space”. This next page will sow you how much it can free up, and verify with you that the items are already backed up in Google Photos, and that you’ll be able to view them anytime in Google Photos.

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Now, if you need to free up some space in Google Photos, you can also do that here. Tap on your photo in the corner, then tap on “Manage storage”. On this page, it’ll tell you how long you can go before you run out of photo storage. That’s based on what you’ve used so far. It also gives you a few options to review and delete, freeing up space. These are “Large photos and videos,” “other apps,” “screenshots,” and “blurry photos.” You can almost always free up space by deleting all of the blurry photos, to be quite honest.

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Creating photo books with Google Photos

Google Photos lets you create photo books, print out photos, and so much more. As I’ve mentioned before, it is a full-fledged photo app, and it’s really incredible.

To print a photo, find the photo you want to print. Then swipe on that photo and tap on “Order Photo”. You can choose the size you want to print the photo in, and even have it arranged to be picked up at a local CVS, Walgreens, or similar place. You can also create a Canvas Print or a photo book. The photo books are really cool. I’ve made a couple for my Mom over the years, and I’m always impressed at how well they come out, considering these are all pictures from phones.

Google Photos is much more than a gallery app

While Google Photos may have started out as a glorified Gallery app that could store your photos in the cloud, it’s now much more than that. Google Photos can store your photos, edit them, and even create some pretty cool collages, photo books and so much more. Even if you don’t have Google One and the extra storage, Google Photos is worth getting and using.