How to Google Photos: how to back up photos from your mobile, tablet or computer

How to Google Photos: how to back up photos from your mobile, tablet or computer

Get a backup of your photos sorted with Google’s cloud service

Do you want to back up your photos and videos with Google Photos? Whether you’re shooting with a phone or DSLR, Google Photos is one of the best options for storing your digital memory safely in the cloud. Here’s how to use it to store your photos safely on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Backing up your valuable shots is unnecessary and storing them in the cloud has many benefits. Unlike physical hard drives, there is a slight risk of mechanical failure. Storage capacity is usually much greater – and easier to expand with a subscription – and you should be able to access your entire library from anywhere, using almost any device connected to the web.

If you are looking for the best cloud photo backup service, Google Photos is there with the best. Easy to use, offers unlimited free storage for photos up to 16MP and features a smart search function to help you easily find certain types of shots. It also works with a large number of devices, including smartphones, tablets and computers – and you don’t need an Android or Google device to use it.

Google Photos does have some oddities when it comes to uploading, backing up and managing your photo files in the cloud, but after you complete important settings, it can be one of the simplest options for storing your photo library online safely. That said, it’s still a good practice to have two backups of your photos in different places, so we have included instructions on how to back up your own Google Photos library too.

Set up for the first time or want some top tips to help you get the most from this service? Whether you use a Mac, PC, iOS or Android device, this practical guide will tell you how to upload photos to Google Photos – and how to sort them once you have them.


Google Photos: storage options and upload limits

The first thing to decide when setting up Google Photos is whether you want to upload and save your photos as ‘Original’ or ‘High quality’ images.

If you choose High quality, Google will allow you to upload unlimited number of 16MP and 1080p videos to the cloud for free. This means you can take and take photos as you like and your photos will always be backed up safely on Google Photos.

However, it is important to note that if you select the ‘High quality’ setting, images stored in the cloud will be slightly compressed to save space. The compression is very efficient, reduces file size without losing large or noticeable quality and this option should be good enough if you mainly upload smartphone photos or view images on your screen

If, on the other hand, you want to back up your original size photos at full size, or you plan to print your images from the cloud, then you must select the ‘Original’ option. As the name suggests, it will save your photos online in their original form, without compression or loss of quality.

This is very important if you are a photographer who needs backup options for full-size Raw files – but be sure to check whether Google Photos supports your camera’s file type, because that won’t accept all Raw formats. There is a complete list of supported files on the Google support page.

Although Google offers unlimited compressed file storage for free, you will only get 15GB if you plan to upload and save original photos. If you need more space for uncompressed photo files, you must pay a subscription fee for Google One membership.

These range from $ 2.99 / £ 2.99 / AU $ 4.39 per month for 200GB storage. The cheaper 2TB package costs $ 9.99 / £ 7.99 / AU $ 12.49 per month, while the largest 30TB bundle will make you return $ 299.99 / £ 239.99 / AU $ 374.99 every month.


Google Photos: how to back up photos from your phone or tablet

Ready to start uploading photos from your smartphone or tablet to Google Photos? Great news, easy enough.

The first step is downloading the Google Photos application for iOS or Android. Open the application, log in to your Google account and you will be offered a choice between backing up ‘Original’ or ‘High-quality’ images (see above). You will also have the choice whether to use cellular data for backup when you are not connected to Wi-Fi. Only activate this if you have a large enough data plan, because photo uploads can quickly drain your pocket money.


After you make this selection, you can change the backup settings by tapping the menu button (three horizontal bars), selecting ‘settings’ and pressing ‘Backup and Synchronization’. With ‘backup & sync’ activated, your camera roll will automatically, continuously and safely be uploaded to Google’s servers. Here you can also change the upload size and cellular data settings.

Because this is a Google service, Android device users have more options than their iOS counterparts. The Android application, for example, lets you choose the specific folder that you want to back up your Photos – especially useful if you want to avoid storing all your meme screenshots in the cloud. Open ‘Backup & Sync’ and tap ‘Backup device folder’ to choose which you want to upload.

Exaggeration makes you run out of smartphone space? In the settings menu, tap ‘Manage device storage’ then ‘Free up space’ to delete photos from your phone that have been added to the cloud by Google Photos. This is a great trick that can release storage space on your cell phone in an instant. You can also switch ‘Limit cache size’ to limit the amount of storage your phone uses for thumbnails.

Google Photos: how to back up photos from a PC or Mac

If your valuable photos are currently stored on your computer or an external hard drive, there are two ways to upload them to the cloud. You can visit, sign in with your Google account, tap ‘Upload’ then choose a folder from your computer to upload to Photos. You must keep the window open until the upload is complete.

Or, if you want to automatically back up photos from any folder on your computer, you must download the Google ‘Backup & Sync’ desktop application, which works with Windows and Mac. Once installed, just log in to your Google account and select the folder you want to store in the cloud. The folder you choose will then be backed up continuously, so photos that you add afterwards will be automatically uploaded by Google Photos.

If you want to back up an SD card or folder stored on an external hard drive, you must insert or connect it to your computer before selecting it as the source during the ‘Backup & Synchronization’ setting.

With everything running and running, you will find ‘Backup & Synchronization’ running in your menu bar, checking for new photos and uploading copies to the cloud.


Google Photos: how to upload photos from Google Drive

In July 2019, Google changed the way that photo files were shared across all of its Drive and Photo services. Previously, two cloud storage solutions handled shared photos. Every photo uploaded to Drive will automatically be added to Photos and any changes made in one service will be reflected by another.

To simplify the system and prevent users from accidentally deleting, the system has changed – for the better and, in some cases, worse. The disadvantage is that you no longer have automatic backups on both services.

That’s because the two services now handle photo files separately, so images uploaded to Google Drive will not automatically be imported into Photos. Likewise, anything that you upload to Photos will not automatically be displayed in Drive.

Have some photos on Google Drive that you want to back up with Photos? There is a relatively simple, if not perfect, way to do it manually. On the web version of Google Photos, open the ‘Upload’ button in the upper right corner (see image above), select ‘Upload From Google Drive’, then select the image from your Drive that you want to import into your Photos library. You will have the option to transfer them as ‘Original’ or ‘High quality’ files, and the files will appear directly in your library.

This revised approach also applies to other actions, including editing and deleting photos. Even if you save the same photo in Drive and Photos, the file is not connected. So if you delete a photo from Drive, you will still find it in your Photos folder – and vice versa.

Changes also apply retrospectively, so each photo that is synchronized to Drive and Photos before the new system is introduced now will be treated as separate. This means that if you want to free up space in your Drive folder, you can safely delete previously synchronized photos because they are still in Google Photos – even though you might want to check first, just for peace of mind.

Google Photos: How to back up analog prints
Have a stack of printed photos stored in a shoe box somewhere? Google Photos is not backed up to your digital archive, you can also back up physically.

Download the Google PhotoScan application (below) and you can scan your physical photos one by one. This copy will then be uploaded to the cloud for safe storage.

What is very good about PhotoScan is that it has a smart way to remove glare which is a common problem when you try to scan a laminated photo album, or indeed any photo under artificial light.

This application takes several scans of your photos by guiding you around four virtual dots. Then, using a good algorithm (what’s more, this is Google), it issues an average to eliminate the bright blobs that will obscure the view. In our experience, this works really well.


Google Photos: how to manage and organize your photos
Uploading your entire photo collection to Google Photos? Of course, you want to organize and sort your archives for easy navigation.

Google Photos offers album functionality, so you can easily group selected photos into folders in the cloud. Select multiple photos and click the plus symbol to add them to an album, or open the ‘Album’ tab to create a new album first then add photos. You can then easily share this album with family and friends. However, you cannot place an album in an album or group them, so organizational options are relatively limited compared to some other services.

The real magic of Google Photos lies in its machine learning intelligence. As long as you like the Google AI engine to explore your entire photo library, it’s great at detecting subjects, faces and objects intelligently, which you can then find by entering terms in the search bar.

You will also see this same category under the ‘Albums’ tab, with special folders for ‘people & pets’, ‘places’ and ‘things’. Your entire library will be sorted by subject, which makes it very easy to track certain photos in even the largest collections. Under ‘goods’, for example, Google Photos can identify everything from stadiums and race tracks to cars, boats and beer bottles.

It’s best to recognize faces and group photos that feature the same person, who you can then label by name. You can also improve these results by reviewing photos and telling Google what they contain, and adding anything that might be missed.


Google Photos: how to edit your photos

Google Photos offers relatively limited editing options. Open any photo you have backed up to the cloud, press the slider icon and you will be able to apply filters, crop and rotate images, and adjust color and light settings. This is closer to the experience of changing photos on your smartphone than a comprehensive set of editing.

Once again, Google’s AI intelligence adds to the experience here. Press the ‘For You’ tab and you will find animated images, short films, and stylish photos that are automatically created by Google Photos using shots from your library. As you see? Click Save Save ‘to save the edited image.


How to back up your Google Photos library to the hard drive
Google Photos must keep all your images safe and stored online, but it is always a good practice to keep two backups of your photos in different places. This means many people want to make an offline backup of their Google Photos library on the hard drive.

Unfortunately, while it’s easy to download a copy of your library, there’s no easy way to keep that copy synchronized with Photos. Instead, you should save your entire Photo library periodically using Google’s Take-Out service.

To get started, go to the ‘Download your data’ section of your account in ‘Manage your data & personalize’, or go directly to Google Takeout. Here you will see a list of Google Apps with data that you can export.

If you only want to download your Photos library, tap ‘Uncheck all’ then scroll down to Google Photos and check the box. Don’t want to export all of your Photos albums? Click ‘All photo albums included’ and unselect anything from the list that you don’t need.

Click the next step ‘step and you will be presented with several options. You can choose whether you want to back up directly to another cloud service (such as Dropbox or OneDrive) or receive a download link via email. You can also change the compressed file format and maximum export size, from 1GB to 50GB (anything bigger will be divided into separate downloads).

Finally, you can choose to download once or schedule regular exports, every two months for one year. Remember that this export will not be limited to new photos added since the last backup, but will include your entire Photos library at any time.


When you are ready, click ‘Export’ and Google will start making copies of all files in your Photos library. Depending on the size of your library, this can take several hours. After it’s done, you will receive an email and can start downloading a backup copy to your hard drive.

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