Google photos 📷 might look like a simple smartphone app – but there’s more to it than you might think. Its flexibility, generous storage, and ease of use make it a useful tool for photographers of all abilities, from beginners to advanced hobbyists and even professionals.
Photos have evolved over the years. It started out as part of the defunct Google • social network before being spun out into its own app in 2015 and has now developed a distinct personality of its own.
With powerful tools for editing, sharing and organizing images, Google Photos is far more than just a gallery app.this post tries out its expert features
It’s less closely integrated with Google Drive than It once was too. Although your photo library is directly accessible through Google Apps and Gmail, you can’t actually get to it from the Drive interface. And your upgrade options are different depending on whether you use G Suite or have a personal Google account, as we’ll discuss below.
Here’s our guide to Google Photos’ advanced features to help you maximize your storage, share and collaborate on albums, store documents as well as photos, protect your private content and touch up images so they look their best.
Take advantage of your free storage
If you’re serious about your photography, you’ll want to share the fruits of your labour with others – not just friends and family, but online communities and even prospective purchasers who might want to buy the rights to your images.
Traditionally, you would do this by building a personal website or signing up for a service such as soopx or Behance, but Google Photos gives all of those approaches a run for their money because it’s simple to use and extremely generous with storage.
In fact, if you’re happy to stick to resolutions of 16 megapixels or smaller, you can store an unlimited number of photos. Google Photos refers to images of this size as “high quality” images. Larger pictures can be automatically downsampled, or you can choose to upload them as “original quality”, in which case they’ll count against your Google Drive allocation.
In all but the most extreme cases, the “high quality” resolution should be fine for both online and print use: at a 4:3 aspect ratio, a 16-megapixel image will have a resolution of 4,920 x 3,264. That gives you enough detail for an A3 print at approximately 3oodpi, which is considered the standard for professional print quality.
Indeed, there’s an argument that the images you share online should be of a much lower resolution than this so that anyone who wants to use them has to contact you and agree on terms for obtaining the full-quality version. Either way, capacity should be a non-issue.
If you do want to store all your images at a larger size, you’ll almost certainly need to pay for more storage space: Google gives you 15GB for free, but that’s shared with Gmail and Google Drive so it’s likely to get eaten up pretty quickly.
Luckily, a personal Google One account isn’t expensive, with prices starting at £1.59 a month to increase your allowance to 100GB – or £15.99 a year if you pay for 12 months upfront. Beyond that, five additional tiers offer between 200 GB and 3oTB from £2.49 to £239.99 a month.
G Suite users can’t upgrade to Google One, but they can increase their Drive storage allowance for the same price.
Share your images with the world
Once you’ve uploaded your shots, you’ll want to share them with friends and colleagues – or, if you’re a jobbing photographer, you may wish to show off to prospective clients.
You can do this easily by opening the Google Photos in a desktop web browser and clicking the tick in the upper left corner of each image you want to share (it appears when you move the mouse over the thumbnail).
Once you’ve selected all the desired photos, click the sharing icon at the top of the screen – it looks like a “less than” symbol with dots at the ends of each arm. A window opens allowing you to send a link directly to your Google contacts that they can click on to view the selected images.
You can also click “Create a link” at the bottom of the window to generate a link that you can distribute however you like. This is a very easy way to spread your photos far and wide, but remember that anyone with the link can access your work.
Albums generated in this way are unnamed by default, but you can give yours a memorable title. Just paste the link into your browser’s address bar to view the album, then click the three stacked dots at the top of the page and pick “Edit album” from the menu.
You’ll see a space where you can type to give your album a name; once you’ve entered this, click the tick at the top of the screen to save your changes. You can also select a cover photo by picking “Set album cover” from the options menu.
Upload to Google Photos from Lightroom
The Google Photos app automatically uploads images taken on your phone, but you can also add images that were shot on a different camera. If you’re an Adobe Lightroom user, an easy way to do this is using Jeffrey Friedl’s Export to Google Photos add-on, available from pcpro.link/3061r.
To install it, open Lightroom and click File followed by “Plugin Manager…”, then click Add and select the downloaded file. The plugin needs to be authenticated with Google Photos before first use,
so open a browser window and log in to Google Photos. Now return to Lightroom and select an image to upload. Click File followed by Export, then select “jf Google Photos” from the dropdown menu beside Export To.
Click “Authenticate to Google Photos”, click to grant the requested permissions and return to Lightroom: the plugin should have been enabled. You can now start creating and adding to Google Photos albums direct from Lightroom.
If you use the plugin regularly, you can save time by configuring it as a preset. To do this, return to the Export dialog and click Add. Give the preset a name, then select “jf Google Photos” from the dropdown.
Work through the various sections of the form, optionally reducing the resolution to bring your images within the 16-megapixel limit. Finally, click Export: again, the plugin will export whatever was selected when you established the preset and the preset will be saved, ready for future use.
Collaborate with shared albums
When you create an album of photos as described above, only you can add new images – and in most instances, that’s probably how you’ll want it.
However, it’s also possible to create a shared album and grant secure access to others so they can add their own photos alongside yours. To find this feature, point your browser at photos.google.com/ sharing, click “+ Create” and pick “Shared album”.
Give your new shared album a name, then select “Add photos” and click the tick in the upper left corner of each image you want to include from your own collection. Click “Done” when you’ve finished.
You can also upload and include images that aren’t currently in your Google Photos library by clicking the “Select from computer” the link at the top of the page and browsing to wherever they’re stored.
When you’re returned to the “Create album” page, you’ll be able to add email addresses for the people who you want to have access to the album – they’ll receive an email from Google Photos containing a link.
Alternatively, as before, you can click “Create link” to generate a link that can be shared via other methods. Creating a collaborative album like this is a great way to collect together photos from an event, or to share the work involved in researching a subject.
Architecture offices can gather feedback from clients and staff who make field visits, designers can set up group mood boards, teachers can share resources spotted while out and about_ the opportunities are limited only by your imagination.
Digitize your assets
You might assume – if only from the name – that Google Photos was only good for storing images. But there’s no reason why you can’t use it to archive and share documents too.
You can even tap the Google Lens icon (at the bottom of the main image view in the Google Photos mobile app) to convert the content of an uploaded image into a fully searchable text.
The only potential problem is that your phone’s built-in camera probably isn’t designed for this task, and you may struggle to get a good shot of reflective materials or documents with uneven lighting.
Google’s free PhotoScan app for Android and iOS – available from pcpro.link/3o6scan – gets around this problem by intelligently combining five images to produce a single glare-free result.
To use it, simply hold your phone above the original document, so that all of the images, including its corners and edges, is within the frame, then tap to capture a photograph. PhotoScan will freeze it on the screen and prompt you to move your phone towards each corner in turn while the app automatically takes additional shots.
All of these photos are then analyzed and combined to produce one composite image with glare and reflections removed – and with any extraneous background cropped away.
Limit what you share
As we’ve mentioned when you create a shared album, anyone who has the link can access it. In fact, even people who don’t have the link could, in theory, guess the address – so you need to be wary of sharing anything personal or confidential.
Luckily, there’s an alternative, and that’s to share private material using Google Drive, rather than Google Photos. This gives you control over who can and can’t access it, limiting visibility to logged-in users.
To share images in Drive, point your browser at drive.google.com and click New, followed by Folder. Give the folder a name, open it and upload your photos, either by dragging them into the browser window or by clicking New followed by “File upload” and select the images you want to share.
Next, select the folder you want to share by clicking on it once – don’t click twice to open it – and click the share icon that appears on the second-level toolbar, which looks like a person with a plus sign above one shoulder.
Enter the addresses of the people you want to share the folder with, then click the pencil icon to select whether they should be able to view the folder’s contents or whether they should also be able to organize and change its contents (the latter of which is the default).
Quick and easy editing
Adobe Photoshop has little to tear from Google Photos, but the app can be handy for applying simple fixes. You can also use it to apply identical edits to multiple photos, which can be useful if you want to punch up the colors or adjust the exposure fora series of images.
To edit a photo in your web browser, open it and click the sliders icon at the top of the page. Initially, this presents a selection of one-click fixes and effects: if you want more control over light, color and vibrancy, click the sliders button for a second time and use the graduated controls for each (use the -Pop” slider for the latter).
These controls may feel like a blunt instrument to start with, but clicking the down-pointing arrow to the right of “Light” and “Colour” subdivides each effect into more granular categories. For example, you can lift the shadows and dim the highlights in a particularly contrast- heavy image, or adjust the individual blacks and whites without ruining the overall tonal balance.
If you want to apply the same look to a set of images, that’s easily done. First, apply your desired adjustments to a single photo and store It as a Favourite so that it’s easy to find (to do this, open it and click the star that appears at the top of the page when you hover over it). Return to the root of your library and you’ll now see a new Favourites folder. Open this. open the photo you just set and press Ctrl C: this will copy not the image but the applied edits. You can now close the image, open her one in its place and press Ctrl V to apply your edits to this new shot.
You’ll find the same editing tools in the Photos mobile app for making adjustments on the go. The only differences are that the “Pop” control has been relegated to a sub-category of “Light”, and the option to copy and paste edits between photos is sadly not available •