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Gear & Apps

Google Photos | The Answer To Your Storage Prayers? For Some But Probably Not You

By Kishore Sawh on May 29th 2015


It is “a single, private place to keep a lifetime of memories, and access them from any device.” That’s what Google is saying about Google Photos, just recently announced on the stage of Google’s annual I/O conference. That’s right, the much-anticipated service has just been unveiled and appears to be what a lot were asking for. Though it may not quite be the answer many photographers were looking for – not that we’re the easiest to please.

What we’ve been presented with is a Google created way to store and possibly manage your photos and videos independently from other Google services, such as Google+ (thank God). Adding to the joy is the fact that this storage has been said to be unlimited, and utterly, entirely, free. Well, that’s what you’ll read pretty much everywhere else, but it’s not entirely true.

Storage vs. Organization

Given that everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone and camera that shoots north of 8MP these days, this is certainly a rather ambitious endeavor from Google, and it would seem like it would take a tech behemoth like them to even attempt it. It seems, however, that even for the G people, there are limitations.


Upon signing up for the service, you’re presented with two options of storage sizes to back up your media to the Google Photos library:

  • High Quality
    Unlimited free storage
    Regular cameras: Recommended for phones or point-and-shoot cameras that are 16 megapixels (MP) or less.
    Uses: Good for typical printing and sharing.
    Size: Save high-quality photos and videos while reducing size.
  • Original
    Limited free storage: Uses your Google Account’s 15 GB of free storage.
    DSLR cameras: Recommended if you take photos with a DSLR camera and want to maintain the exact original quality.
    Uses: Recommended for printing large banners or to store your original files.
    Size: Store your photos and videos exactly as you captured them.

That’s the caveat right there. If you thought that this would be the ultimate way for you to store your professional images for free, the answer to many of your frugal prayers, it may not be.


If you’re a photographer, and not just someone who likes to take photos (yes there’s a distinction), then odds are your camera right now is going to be shooting 16MP and up, which means if you choose the free unlimited version of the service, your photos will be scaled down, resigning a lot of captured info to a silicon wasteland. You’re likely not going to want this, so really for photographers the ‘Original’ plan is what you’ll be looking at to keep your photos and videos in mint, uncompressed condition. You’ll get 15GB free, and then it looks like $10 a month after that.

You’re not simply getting a digital storage room, however, as there are other features built in, like organizational tools that many would be used to from other Google and non-Google services. There is an automatic organizational feature that uses facial recognition, GPS data, time stamps, and so forth to arrange your images in albums and moments for you. If you were concerned that this is a bit of a security risk, (or at least hinting towards sharing of your data), Google has said that it is all private, and there will be a big push to ante- up the security of the service.

Of course, you can always view your images as you input them in reverse-chronological order.

There’s More…

Rather than just stick to doing one thing and doing it really well, Google has opted to go the route of trying to give you more of what you don’t need, and probably don’t want, and I mean editing features. If you frequent photography circles like SLR Lounge, I’d wager you don’t rely on the ‘auto-enhance’ feature you’ll find in your phone’s standard photo app or anything of the sort, but Google has included this option anyway. Will they begin to offer more serious editing options? It’s possible given their proclivity to acquire companies that focus on that, but it will probably remain too basic for most photographers.



There have been some rumors and accounts that Google photos is automatically editing your photos with some sort of ‘enhance’ feature even when it’s not requested, but I have yet to see this myself, though it’s something to look out for.

The last thing of real note and this is the interesting one, is that Google Photos will allow you to share a single link with whomever you like, and the recipient of that link will be able to see only the images you’ve selected as okay for them to view; all without the need for them to have Google Photos or for any separate login of any kind. If they DO have a Google Photos account of any level, they will also be able to save that entire selection with ease.

You can get Google Photos now for the web, iOS, and Android. You can find out more and get it here on the company’s blog post.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rob Campbell

    You might also want to read the terms of service! (

    When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services

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  2. Nashaine Johnson

    Or you can create more than one account

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  3. Jean-Philippe Thierry

    Nothing different from what was existing or am I missing something! 2048 pixels wide images were already eligible to unlimited storage. it sounds like a typical Apple revolution

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  4. Herm Tjioe

    My free account allows 100GB, perfect for finished work transfer for long distance clients to view and download at original resolution file size

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  5. Steve Morton

    I hope Google’s engine for uploading your photo library is a bit more controllable than the one used by Apple for their iCloud Photo Library which is all or nothing.

    Turned on it robs all of your available bandwidth making your home internet connection as good as useless.

    With over 25000 images (about 90 GB) in my own small library (I realise others will have far bigger libraries than me) I’m still a long way off finishing the initial upload on mine after 10 weeks since starting!

    With two people in the household both trying to use iCloud Photo Library we have to co-ordinate who will turn theirs on today!

    But thanks for the detailed info on the Google offering. I will pass on it for now!

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  6. Walid Isar

    I use MEGA. 50GB free storage with extra high security.

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  7. robert raymer

    While the review is appreciated, as are the clarifications as to the different “plans”, I never really saw this as an attempt by google to have “professionals” use their service. In fact, with the inclusion of a lot of the “things we don’t need” like filters, pano stitching, etc, it seems they are specifically targeting “casual” photographers and those who just want a place to put their smart phone images.

    In fact, while I don’t plan to use this as a means to back up my professional images, I am considering it as a place to store all the day t day snapshots I take on my phone.

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  8. David Blanchard

    In other words, if you are a photographer, this is useless.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Well, I wouldn’t say useless, as it may be good to share with family and friends, and perhaps even samples to clients. But the free version is just not going be our solution

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  9. Brian McCue

    Kishore, good info. Considering that most photos are taken with a smartphone, it’s a great play for Google.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      That’s just it Brian, there’s just no denying the frivolity we wield with pictures from phones and even smart cameras, and anything that makes that more organized and storage simple…is good. It IS a good play for Google. Cheers

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  10. Paddy McDougall

    Agree that it sounds great for causal storage maybe even an extra back up for an emergency e.g. Fire flood etc. no such thing as a free lunch though.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      This is precisely the only reason I would use this Paddy. Cheers

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    • Dustin Baugh

      I never used Google photos as a backup storage so I’m fine with the High Quality option. Ever since I lost my pics back in the 2000’s when an online service tanked I only keep my own RAW backups. Online is just where I store pictures that are for online use.

      If I lost my 3 personal backups and had to restore my library from online sources it would be a little hurtful to be restricted to their HQ versions instead of full size but I feel losing the RAWs would still be more painful anyway.

      I think if you’re relying on Google Photos (or flickr, or instagram, or whatever) as your backup strategy you’re already in a bad position.

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