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The complete guide on how to use Google Photos

Update: Google+ Photos dead on August 1

Google Photos was unveiled live on stage at Google I/O and the idea of a "Gmail for photos" has captured the imaginations of users. With unlimited backups (if you don't mind a little downsizing), apps for Android and iOS, and a web interface, it's one of the most comprehensive solutions out there. Here's our complete guide on how to use Google Photos.

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The new Google Photos app. / © ANDROIDPIT

Whether you've already taken the plunge with Google Photos or not, we're here to guide you through the various ins and outs of this new service from Mountain View. Find out how to upload your pictures from mobile or the desktop, what you can do with them on the web, and more besides.


The Google Photos app

Fire up the Google Photos app and the first job is to make sure all of the snaps you take on your smartphone are automatically going back up into the cloud — from inside the app menu tap on Settings and then Backup & sync to change which pictures are backed up and when.

That's all there is to it: Google Photos is designed to be as simple to use as possible. Also on the main menu you have Assistant (which acts a little like Google Now for your photos and can compile them into slideshows) and Collections (albums auto-generated based on time and location).

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Collections automatically sort your photos. / © ANDROIDPIT

To get a better look at your pictures, tap the three vertical dots in the top right corner and choose Month view. Select an image and it goes full-screen — from here you can share it with others, make edits to it or delete it. You can also delete the local photo file while keeping a spare in the cloud.

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A variety of different views are available. / © ANDROIDPIT

As you would expect from Google, the search facility inside Google Photos is very slick. Tap the search button and you already get some suggestions based on places or 'things' (like forests or cars) that have been identified in your pictures. Tap on any of the categories shown to jump to the selection.

You can also look for dates, people and places yourself using the search box. If your photos have descriptive filenames (they're backed up from your computer perhaps) then this is another way of searching — type in any part of the filename to see the results appear almost instantly.

Editing and sharing

Most of the editing smarts that are in Google+ have been carried over to the new Google Photos package. Tap on a picture then choose the pencil icon to get started — you can choose from a set of filter templates or make finer adjustments to color and brightness using slider controls.

In the slider controls you'll find an Auto option that attempts to make an educated guess about the best settings for the image. There's also a Vignette option to highlight the center of the picture. If you don't like any of the changes you make, tap on the Reset button to go back to the start.

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The edit interface is fast and intuitive. / © ANDROIDPIT

Finally, the last of the edit icons reveals a crop and rotate screen where you can straighten or chop down your picture; there's also an option for rotating the image 90 degrees at a time. As before, you can accept or reject the changes, and there's a Reset button if you want to start again.

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Sharing has been simplified too. / © ANDROIDPIT

Sharing has been made more straightforward in Google Photos. Tap the Share button anywhere in the app with one or more images selected and choose Receive link to generate a unique URL for just those pictures. The link lets people view and download the selected pictures but nothing else.

From the front screen, tap the plus icon (top right) and you can create new albums, movies, stories, animations and collages from your pictures. Each one has a different choice of settings and options, but the app guides you through the process to help you do something different with your pictures.

On the web and the desktop

As you would expect, there's an online Google Photos portal available at, and the layout and features are a lot like the Android app (you can only create albums, though, not stories and collages). Use the icons on the left to switch between the Assistant, Photos and Collections pages.

As before, entering a date or a place or a 'thing' in the search box at the top filters matching pictures for you as if by magic. In addition, you can find an upload button to the right of the search box for transferring photos from your hard drive that haven't been taken on your smartphone.

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Searching on the web. / © ANDROIDPIT

Speaking of local photos, Google has also released desktop clients for Windows and Mac that can automatically sync photos from your computer right to Google Photos. The clients let you choose which folders are included in the sync and at what size they're transferred to the cloud.

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The desktop client for Windows. / © ANDROIDPIT

Then there's Google Drive: inside the Drive settings page on the web you have the option to create a Google Photos folder for easy access to your pictures. If you use the Google Drive desktop client, you can use the same option to sync the Google Photos folder to your hard drive if you wish.

Google Photos Install on Google Play

Finally, and somewhat confusingly, there's a separate option in Google Photos on the web that lets you see pictures from Google Drive inside Google Photos. Confused? This simply shows images already in Drive without actually transferring them to the Google Photos service.

Do you use Google Photos? What do you think of it? Let is know in the comments below.


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  • Please note that the Search Photo by file name feature was removed.. what the heck?

  • It is a great app : a wonderfull way to see your pictures.
    But I would like to see an album offline. Is it possible ?

  • Firstly, thanks for the guide - I've been using Google Photos for a while, and even I learned some things new! It's good to see there are finally beginning to be some results when you google "Google Photos". This is a great service and extremely feature-rich just out of the box. I am a Mac / iOS user (so, why am I on an Android forum?), and I have had no problems with syncing, uploading or updating Google Photos. I have also been able to migrate my older photos, but it was a two-step process using my Dropbox Camera Uploads. Just an FYI, the Mac desktop upload app simply stopped working a few days ago, but if that happens to you, remove the old one and download again. I am back up and running. Google, if you are listening: De-dupe would be a great next feature, and the addition of some kind of "magic pen" to heal small areas of a photo would be welcome as well!

  • St Chit Jun 21, 2015 Link to comment

    I'm transferring fro iOS and I was amazed at how Google photo recognition works. For example, a search of "helicopter" reveals photos of me in or new a helicopter, even though none of my pictures are tagged.

    Unfortunately, trying to migrate existing albums from iOS to Google is disappointing as it doesn't recognise them :(

    Any ideas how to get that to occur automatically? Since I have over 6,900 pictures in existing albums but Google doesn't see those albums. And to recreate them would take too long.

  • I was excited to try this new app however when I try to open it all I get is unfortunately photos has closed error message. I've tried clearing cache s. Uninstalling and reinstalling the app but still nothing works.

  • They REALLY need an option to find and remove duplicates. The desktop app uploaded most of my photos twice (I got a new PC). Uses all my space on the cloud (I have desktop set to upload full res).

  • Mark G. Jun 7, 2015 Link to comment

    A similar situation for me, yes it does count towards your Storage limit.

  • A word of caution for anyone using the Drive desktop app: If you are uploading all your photos from a machine (Mac or Windows) that has the Google Drive app installed, and you add the option to show Photos in your Drive as well, (unless you change the option to sync all folders in Drive and uncheck Photos quickly), you will end up physically re-downloading all the photos back into your Drive folder. Get it?

    Sounds confusing but I learned the hard way. I had the Google Drive desktop app on a couple computers with them set to sync all folders. As soon as I added the "Show Photos in Google Drive" option, it started to download all the photos to that folder on the computers. On a tablet, phone, or the web, it just adds links to the same pictures but NOT on the desktop app where you are keeping hard copies synced.

    So be warned, the solution I found was just to sync all folders EXCEPT the Photos folder in the desktop app unless you want them all re-downloaded.

    I'm not sure if you did allow it to physically put all the pictures into your hard drive Photos folder if it counts towards your storage limit. I believe it does. I stopped mine once I figured out what was happening, but in the short time it had downloaded a couple hundred pics, my storage did show higher on my Drive until I deleted them.

    If your Drive settings are set to sync all folders, Google should have a pop up warning asking if you really want to physically download your whole photo collection to your hard drive as well.

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