Understanding the New Google Photos

By Chantal Bechervaise

I have been using the new Google Photos since it launched about two weeks ago. Google Photos is a new, standalone storage app for photos and videos, with some cool new features that were previously only available in Google+.

Automatically Backup Your Photos and Videos

I admit that I forget to backup my photos to the cloud from my phone, tablet and Chromebook. I usually remember when I go looking for a particular photo to email to a friend or to post on Twitter and realize it is not on the device that I am using. I have a Homer Simpson moment – ‘Doh!’ – and have to figure out where I can find the original photo.

Now with Google Photos, I can automatically backup my photos and videos from across all my devices just as long as I am logged into my Google account. I don’t have to worry about which device the photo was originally on. I can access all my photos on any of my devices and even my desktop.

Tip: You can also upload all your old photos from your desktop with the Google Photos Uploader by going to photos.google.com. The desktop version is available for Windows and Mac users.


Google Photos provides free, unlimited storage but will automatically compress photos that are larger than 16 megapixels, or videos larger than 1080p. If you would like to save and store higher resolution photos, there is an option available in Google Photos called ‘Original.’ These images will then count against your Google Drive storage.

Google Drive allows you to sync and save up to 15 GB free of charge. After you reach 15 GB, Google Drive will prompt you to pay for extra storage space ($1.99 a month for 100 GB or $9.99 a month for 1 TB). I am currently using the free, unlimited option with my photos. I find the compressed versions fine to sort through and share on social media.

Let the Organizing Begin

Once you have uploaded or taken a bunch of pictures and have saved them in Google Photos, this is where the fun begins. Google Photos will use facial recognition and geotagging to sort and organize your photos into the following categories: people, places, and things. You can further organize your own photos into albums and timelines, referred to as ‘stories’ in Google Photos.

Having your photos organized by category also helps when you are trying to locate a particular photo. For example, if I am trying to find a photo of my dog, I can do a keyword search using the word ‘dog’ or by the place the photo was taken (e.g. ‘beach’).


This is my favorite feature of the new Google Photos. If you missed the Assistant when opening Google Photos, you can locate the menu on the left hand side of your screen. It is accessed by either a slide-in panel (on the app or website) or by simply swiping to the right across the main gallery view page.

Photos-AssistantAssistant provides information about your photos using cards similar to those used by Google Now. These cards provide information, such as your photos are being backed up, your phone is waiting to charge before uploading photos, and when new ‘Creation’ cards appear.

Creation cards indicate some sort of action that the app would like you to perform or accept. I received a creation card for a color photo I took of the parliament buildings in Ottawa. It provided me with an option to save it as a black and white photo. You can accept the action or suggestion by tapping on the card or dismiss it by swiping it away.

Most of the time there will be no actions to take and the Assistant will display the message ‘All caught up.’ You can set up notifications in the Assistant menu so that you don’t need to check for Creation cards all the time. The app will notify you if there is anything that needs your input.

One of the best uses of Assistant is when you have taken a lot of sequential photos of the same thing. Sometimes you might take a series of photos from slightly different angles or to capture that ‘perfect’ action shot. Assistant can take those photos and compile them to create an animation or collage.

Assistant will also detect pictures that are similar and stitch them together to create panoramic shots. Even if you are on vacation and didn’t intend to take a panorama of the beach, Assistant will detect the similarity of the photos and location and create the panorama for you.


As with all cloud services, security and privacy can be an issue. According to Google, Google Photos provides the same security and privacy as their other products. Google will not share your information with others unless you explicitly choose to do so. I recommend using strong passwords for your Google account to help protect information across all their products. If you are not sure how to create a safe and strong password, read this article.

You can learn more about Google Photos on their About Page or leave a comment/question below.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.


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