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If you’re anything like me, you’re taking more photos than ever but there’s an important next step which is often overlooked — organizing and archiving.

Google Photos is my favorite solution for storing, organizing, and sharing photos and videos.

It’s easy to use and it’s free, yet many people still don’t know about this useful resource. We’re here to help!

This beginner’s guide to Google Photos explains how Google Photos works, how to get started, and lots of tips and tricks for getting the most out of it.

What do you do with all the photos you're taking on your phone? Google Photos is an excellent free solution for storing, organizing, and sharing photos and videos. Let's get you started! The Edublogger

The Basics — What Is Google Photos?

Google Photos IconGoogle Photos is a photo sharing and storage service developed by Google. It was released in May 2015 and is now hugely popular worldwide.

Google Photos stores your photos and videos in “the cloud” — this is just tech-talk for online storage.

In the past, you might have plugged your phone or camera into your computer and laboriously transferred all your photos and videos. From there, you might have backed up your computer on an external hard drive.

While extra backups can still be a good idea, especially for important files, storing your photos and videos in the cloud does have many advantages, such as:

  • It’s quick and easy — you can set up backups to occur automatically.
  • You can access your photos or videos from any device as long as you have an internet connection.
  • Sharing is easy.
  • Running out of storage on your phone is a thing of the past! Once your photos or videos have been uploaded, you can free up space on your phone.

There are a number of services available where you can store your photos in the cloud.

Google Photos is particularly popular because:

  • You get unlimited storage for free. You can pay if you want your photos stored with the original resolution but you’ll probably find the standard high-quality free version is fine. (Images over 16 megapixels are compressed to size, and videos are capped at 1080p resolution).
  • It’s packed with numerous features to organize, use, share, and manage photos and videos.
  • It works on all devices seamlessly.
  • You don’t need to be overly tech-savvy to use Google Photos. It’s fairly intuitive and straightforward to navigate.
  • Other people don’t need to have Google Photos to be able to view the content you share with them.

How To Get Started With Google Photos

  1. To get started with Google Photos, download the free app from the App Store or Google Play Store.
  2. Open the app and sign in to your Google account. Chances are, you’ll already have a Google account (such as Gmail). If not, it’s quick and easy to sign up.
  3. Once you’re signed in, you simply follow the prompts to start uploading your photos and videos. Be prepared. This can take a while if you have a lot of images and videos.

There’s also a web version of Google Photos for uploading pictures and videos that are stored on your computer.

Viewing Your Photos And Videos

To view your uploaded photos and videos, you simply open the app or visit the Google Photos website from any device.

Go to https://photos.google.com on the web, or tap on the Photos icon in your app to view all your photos sorted in order of date uploaded.

You view an individual photo by tapping on it. This is also how you access the options for editing and sharing a photo.

Photo options

  • Cast to – allows you to stream your photos from your phone to your TV using Chromecast. If you don’t have a Chromecast, you won’t see this icon.
  • Favorite – adds the photo to your favorite’s folder.
  • More Options – including where you can edit the photo information.
  • Share – used to easily share a photo with others. The icon looks a little different on iPhone/iPad but is in the same position as the image above.
  • Edit – used to apply filters to your photos; adjust light, color or pop; rotate or crop the photo.
  • Google Lens – image recognition software designed to bring up relevant information using visual analysis.

Backup And Sync

My phone is set to automatically upload my photos to Google Photos when I’m connected to WiFi. It’s a good idea to make sure this setting is turned on if you have a limited data plan on your phone.

To turn on the WiFi backup setting:

  • Open the app and press the menu/hamburger icon (three parallel lines) on the upper left of the app.
  • Tap the gear icon in the upper right corner to access your settings.
  • The first option is backup & sync. Toggle to activate backup & sync.
  • Make sure the two options at the bottom of the screen, “Use cellular/mobile data to back up photos” and “Use cellular/mobile data to back up videos” are turned off.

How to turn on backup & sync Google Photos The Edublogger

Favorite Google Photos Features

Google Photos boasts many excellent features.

Below is a summary of some of my favorite Google Photos features which I’ll explain in detail in this post:

  • Google Photos Search
  • Google Photos Assistant
  • Google Photos Albums
  • Google Lens
  • Free Up Space
  • Digitize Old Photos
  • Add A Partner Account
  • Worried About Safety?

If you’re a blogger or have a website, we’ll also explain how you can easily embed your photos, videos, or albums:

  • Embed Google Photos
  • Embed Google Photo Album

We’d also love you to share your own tips and experiences in a comment!

Google Photos Search

Google Photo search uses complex image processing techniques to group photos together which makes its search incredible and very accurate!

This is handy when searching for finding photos you want to use or show others.

1. Click on the Search field at the top of Google Photos.

Photo Search

2.  This loads the search window which lists recent searches, photos grouped by person, by media type and location.

 

Google photo search

3.  Enter your search term.

Searching Google photos
All my kangaroo photos

Naming People and Pets

When you click on a photo of a person or pet, it pulls up any photo you’ve uploaded to Google Photos with them in.

Note: Go to Settings > Group similar faces in your app and turn on Show pets with people if this is your preference. 

You can name the faces of people for easy future searching too:

1. Tap on More icon.

Tap on More

2. Tap on the photo of the person or pet you want to name.

Tap on photo

3.  Tap on Add a Name.

Tap on Add Name

4.  Type their name and tap Done if a new name.

Type name

Or select from an existing list of names if matches an existing name you have already created and then tap Yes for merge.

Tap Yes

Google Photos Assistant

The Google Photos Assistant provides updates for what’s happening with your Google Photo library, alerts you to when new “creations” are available to view and act on, and provides information on the latest Google photo news.

New “creations” are the automatically stylized photos, collages, photo albums, movies, and animations that the assistant creates from your photos. You can choose to save these automatic creations, ignore them, or delete them.

It also shares “Rediscover this day” which are images from a point in the past as a reminder of past events.

Go to https://photos.google.com/assistant on the web, or tap on the Assistant icon in your app.

Google Assistant

My favorite feature of Google Photos Assistant is the ability to easily create your own albums, collages, animations, and movies.

1. Tap on the icon for what you want to create.

Tap on the icon

2.  Select the photos you want to include and then tap on Create.

Select Photos

3.  Your creation is automatically saved to Google Photos.

Collage

Google Photo Assistant can be used in so many different ways! You could share memories of learning or excursions on your class blog. Or perhaps you’d like to make a special video for a friend or family member. The possibilities are endless.

A movie created from photos.

You can also use Google search when creating your own albums, collages, animations, and movies.

1. Click on the Search field at the top of Google Photos.

Photo Search

2.  Enter your search term.

Enter search term

3.  Press hard on a photo you want to add to your creation.  This selects the photo and opens up the select box.

4.  Select all the photos you want to add then tap on the + sign.

Tap on plus sign

5.  This launches the creation tools page. Select what you want to create from the list of “Create new” options.

Selection Create New

Google Photos Albums

Google Photos uses its complex image processing techniques to automatically group photos together into Albums.

Go to https://photos.google.com/albums on the web, or tap on the Album icon in your app.

The automatically created albums are grouped at the top of the page and the albums you created are displayed below.

Albums

Google Photos makes it easy to add text to the photo albums you create!

1. Tap on the album icon in the Google Photos Assistant.

Tap on Album

2.  Select the photos you want to include and then tap on Create.

Tap on Create

3.  Replace Untitled with your title.

Add title

4.  Tap on the Add Text icon to add a text box to your album.

Text icon

5.  Add your text.

Add your text

6.  You can add as many text boxes to your album as needed and change the order of text boxes and photos.

Press hard on the text box or photo you want to move to another location in your album then drag/drop to the new location.

Drag drop text box

7.  Tap on the Save icon when you’ve finished editing your album.

Tap save

You can open up an album to add more photos, delete a photo(s), or add more text by tapping on the More link

Tap on more

and then tap on Edit album.

Edit album

Google Photos makes it easy to share your albums with others!

1. Tap on the Share icon inside your Google Album.

Tap on Share

2. This launches the share options.

I usually share using the Get Link option.

Get link

Remove photo location

You may not always want to include the location where a photo was taken when sharing photos.

1. Tap on More options.

Tap on more options

2.  Tap on Info.

Tap on info

3.  Tap on the More Link next to the location and then tap on Remove location.

Remove location

Note: Go to Settings > Remove geo location in items shared by link in your app if you want to hide the location on all shared images. 

Here is one of my shared Google Photos albums with text added so you can see what it looks like.

Google Lens

Google Lens is image recognition software designed to bring up relevant information using visual analysis.

When you view a photo in your Google Photos app on your mobile device, you’ll see a Google Lens icon.

Google lens

Tapping on the Google lens icon makes the scanning dots appear on your picture and then Google will serve up suggestions.

Google Lens preview

Googles Lens suggests my photo is most likely a photo of a whippet.

Tapping on whippet launches the result in Google Chrome.

Whippet info

Free Up Space On Your Phone

Many people find that one of the biggest advantages of Google Photos is freeing up space on your phone. No more frustrating “storage full” messages just as you’re about to capture a precious moment in time.

Once your photos are backed up in Google Photos, you can free up space on your phone by going into settings in the Google Photos app and selecting Free up space.

You’ll then get a pop up telling you how many items can be deleted from your phone. Remember, you’ll still be able to access these photos at any time via Google Photos. They’ll just be gone from your phone’s camera roll.

How to free up space from Google Photos

Reversing The Process: Download Images To Your Device Or Computer

How to download images from Google Photos on your phone or tablet

If you delete images from your phone but want them back again, downloading from Google Photos is straightforward.

  • Open the Google Photos App.
  • Tap on the image (or select multiple images) that you want to download.
  • Press on the triple dots on the top right.
  • Tap on download or Save to device.
  • The image will be saved in your camera roll.
How to download images from Google Photos on your computer

You can do the same on your computer with the web version of Google Photos too.

Digitize Old Photos

If you have albums or shoe boxes full of old photos lying around the house, it’s a good idea to digitize these and safely store them online.

It’s a quick process with older non-glossy photos:

  • Place the photos on a table outside where there is good light with minimal glare
  • Take pictures of the photos (preferably using a digital camera)
  • Upload digital images to Google Photos using your computer

Most of my old family photos were digitized using the above technique using a digital camera.

This technique won’t work for the newer glossy photos due to glare issues.

Here’s what happens:

Taken with digital camera

The solution is to use Google’s PhotoScan app on your phone. The PhotoScan app works the same as an image scanner but is easier and means you can do it using your smartphone.

Here’s the same photo taken with the PhotoScan app.

Taken with Photoscan

Here’s how to use the PhotoScan app:

  • After launching the app, position the photo within the frame
  • Tap the shutter button.  Four dots will appear and you hover your phone over each dot and hold in position until the dot is filled.
  • Once completed, PhotoScan stitches together a single image from several overlapped photos eliminating any glare and evening out exposure.

Here’s a video to show how easy PhotoScan is to use.

After you’ve finished taking your high-resolution, glare-free images using PhotoScan, you just back them up to Google Photos along with your more recent photos.

Just search for PhotoScan in your App Store.

Adding A Partner Account

If there are specific people you always share photos with (e.g. sharing photos of children with your partner), you can add them to your Google Photos account. Simply go into settings in the app and tap on Add partner account. 

You’ll then be prompted to enter your partner’s email address and choose what you want to share. This could be items from a specific date or photos of a specific person.

You can change or turn off these settings at any time.

10 Google Photos Power Tips

Looking for more ideas for using Google Photos?  Check out Ryan O’Donnell’s Power Tips shared with us courtesy of Brian Briggs.

To access the links in Ryan’s Google Photos Power Tips you need to visit his Google Drawing here!

You’ll find other great Listicles created by Ryan O’Donnel here!

Worried About Safety?

If you’re unsure about your Google account being jeopardized, you might consider turning on 2-step verification. This means you’ll enter your password as normal and then be asked to enter a code that’s sent to your phone.

Want to learn more about passwords? Check out — Updated Password Advice: What Teachers And Students Need To Know. 

Just go to Google’s 2-Step Verification page to set up this extra security measure.

Google 2-step

Embedding Tips For Bloggers

If you have a blog or website, you probably know that a picture or video tells a thousand words. It can really break up your text and bring your content to life.

Embedding photos, videos, or albums from Google Photos is straightforward. Just follow the tips below.

Embed Google Photos

Want to embed a video but don’t want to upload to YouTube, like my video of dolphins in the Swan River?

Would you like readers to be able to zoom in easily on a photo? Like my photo of my Ockerby ancestry below compiled by Rev Thomas Ockerby Hurst (my great-grandfather) in 1939.

You can do both by embedding Google Photos into your website.

How To Embed Google Photos Into Your Blog Or Website

1. Log into Google Drive in the web browser on your computer using the same Google account you use for Google Photos.

2.  Click on Google Photos folder in the left sidebar (photos and videos are automatically added to Google Drive).

Click on Video

3.  Click on the video or photo you want to embed and then click on the More icon and select Share.

Click on Share

Videos take some time to upload to Google Drive from Google Photos.  If the video has only recently backed up to Google Photos it mightn’t appear for a while in Google Drive.

4.  Click on Advanced option in the Share window.

Click on Advanced

6.  Click on Change next to Private.Change

7.  Click on On – Anyone with a link or On – Public on the web and then click on Save.

Click Any one with link

8.  Click on Done to close the Share window.

9.  Click on the More icon and then Open in new window link.

Click Open in new window

10. Click on the More icon in the new window and select Embed item.

Embed item

11.  Copy the embed code.Copy Embed code

11. Paste the embed code into your post using Insert Embed Code in the Add Media Window and then click Insert Into Post.

The method you use will depend on the website or blog platform you use. This is how you do it on Edublogs and CampusPress networks.

Add embed code

12.  Once your post is published you’ll see your photo or video embedded.

Embed Google Photo Album

Here’s how to embed a Google Photos album:

1.  Log into Google Photos on your computer.

2.  Click on the Album you want to embed.

Google photos album

3. Click on Share icon.

Click on Share

4.  Click on Get Link.

Click on Get Link

5.  Copy Link.

Copy link

6.  Go to Publicalbum.org

7.  Paste your Google Albums link into 1) Create gallery from link and click 2) Create gallery code.

Add link

8. Click on Copy code into clipboard to copy the embed code.

Copy embed code

9.  In your blog dashboard, click on Add Media > Insert Embed Code. Paste your code and then click Insert into Post.

The method you use will depend on the website or blog platform you use. This is how you do it on Edublogs and CampusPress networks.

Paste embed code

10.  Once the post is published you will see the album embedded as a slideshow.

Google Photos Album Embed Examples

Below are two different examples of embedded Google Photos albums so you can see what the embed looks like.

My photo album from Sculptures by the Sea.

My photo album of the Western Mail Centenary Number (1828 to 1929)

Viewing this slideshow on a mobile device allows you to zoom in to read the text.

“The Western Mail” Centenary Number publication which was published in July, 1929 to commemorate the 100 years of the founding of Perth and the establishment of the Swan River Colony, the first permanent European settlement in Western Australia.

The 80 page publication highlights the development and history of Western Australia from 1828 to 1929 in Perth and country towns. It includes photos from the 1800s to 1929 comparing changes in the city, towns, Parliament, transport, sport, fashions, primary production. The publication was sold for 1/6 in July, 1929.

It’s packed full of content that could be used with students and will be helpful for those interested in history.

Conclusion — Don’t Forget Physical Photos

We’re now well and truly living in an era of digital photography and there are many advantages:

  • You can easily view and retake photos until you get the perfect shot.
  • There’s no waiting around for images to be processed and printed.
  • Images can be shared with family and friends in seconds, either privately or on a more public platform.
  • There are countless ways to transform images with filters, collages, slideshows, or video.
  • Most people have a phone in their pocket when they’re out and about so capturing the moment is so easy.

With all these advantages of digital photography, we shouldn’t totally forget about having hard copy prints of our precious memories.

Having a physical print, perhaps in a frame, or in a photo book can really bring the images to life. From a family history perspective, it can also be nice to have some carefully curated memories to pass on.

Google Photos helps with this too. If you’re in the USA or Canada there is a Google Photos Book printing service. If you’ve tried it, let us know!

For other countries, you’ll find that many popular photo printing and photo gift services (like Snapfish or Shutterfly) are now integrated with Google Photos. So, if you want to make a photo book for example, you can search through your Google Photos while you’re making the book. This can be a real time saver when looking for images from certain times, locations, etc.

Any Tips or Questions?

I hope this information helps you organize, store, and share all your photos and videos!

Please leave a comment below to provide tips on using Google Photos or let me know if you have any questions.


Recommended Reading

You might also be interested in reading the following posts about photos and videos:

Google Photos is an excellent free solution for storing, organizing, and sharing photos and videos. Let's get you started!

17 Comments

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  1. What is the purpose of albums and archive?

    • Hi Jerry,
      This is my understanding…
      Albums are just a way to organize your photos. Similar to an analog photo album!
      Archives are for photos you don’t want to delete but don’t want to show up on your stream. These might be photos of documents or screenshots etc.
      Hope this helps!

      • Kathleen Morris
  2. I have recently discovered Google Photos and have been able to share two albums with one person and have a third that for some reason won’t share. Is there a glitch with this app?

    • Hi Clara, I’m not sure but perhaps you could try again or sometimes when I’m having trouble with apps it’s because the app needs to be updated? Good luck!

      • Kathleen Morris
  3. Hi Sue,
    Is there a way to place text on an individual photo in an album? I appreciate the information about adding text to the album itself, just wondering if it is possible for each photo individually.
    Thank you.
    Gayle

  4. Google photos is awesome. I always have it turned on on my phone to sync any photos that I take and I haven’t lost a photo since 2011 (because I let it grab stuff from my memory card too).

    I like the rediscover feature and the auto-created content. Didn’t know you could embed stuff though so thanks for letting me know about that. Amazing post.

    • Hi Kenyata, I pretty much feel in love with Google photos after switching to an Android phone. Makes it so easy. Love rediscover feature and the auto-created content. Hope the embedding helps!

      Sue

  5. OMGosh, Sue! My head is SWIMMING with all this great info. What an improvement since Picasa!! Honestly, after I never bonded with Picasa I became a Flickr grrl. Now, this might change things…but I gotta read this like 5X! So. Much. Info! Thank you for doing this and for showing me kangaroos in the wild. I still have blurry pics of that! LOL
    Cheers dear!
    @GwynethJones – The Daring Librarian

    • Gwyneth Anne Jones
    • Thanks Gwyneth! Stopped using Flickr years ago for a range of reasons including 1) auto uploading by Google photos made it easier. 2) Changes to their service over the past few years concerned me. I found even more locations where you can see kangaroos for the next time you visit Perth.
      @suewaters

  6. Excellent resource, thank you! I’ll be using it with adults at community technology sessions I run for our library.

    • That’s fantastic! Good luck with your sessions!

      • Kathleen Morris
  7. Hi Sue,
    Do the Google Photos embed options work with free Edublog accounts?
    Thanks,
    Sarah (readlearngrow.edublogs.org)
    @ReadLearnGrow14

    • Hi Sarah

      Unfortunately due to misuse by spammers who create blogs to promote products and services we can’t allow the use of embed code on free blogs. Embed code can be used on Edublogs Pro blogs, student blogs attached to a Pro blog via My Class and CampusPress blogs.

      Sue

  8. I think your article is excellent, so useful and informative.

  9. Thorough as always Sue. I have touched on Photos in the past, my only concern relates to where it sits within Google. It is not a part of the core suite of apps, therefore if you are to use it with students you should really get signed consent first?

    • Hi Aaron,
      Thanks for making this valid point. It’s definitely always a good idea to err on the side of getting consent!

      • Kathleen Morris