Reviewing Google Photos

In this post I mentioned I would be reviewing back up and sharing software for digital photos. My goal is to evaluate how various applications manage the following features.

  1. Automatically backup my photos from my phone to either my computer or the cloud.
  2. Manual options to upload photos from your computer to the cloud (if you prefer to work that way).
  3. Instant access to the images and an ability to view them in case my phone or computer dies.
  4. What are the storage size options and corresponding fees.
  5. What are the online sharing and upload options with family members. How do they get access, can they add images etc.
  6. What are the privacy settings. Can albums be set up with passwords.
  7. Can everybody comment and like images (similar to Facebook).
  8. Can images be grouped into events, or albums. Can they be tagged.
  9. Can members download images for printing or send images out to be printed. Are there book options.
  10. Are there image editing options.
  11. Can you email an album or slide show to members that may not be so tech savvy.

We will start by looking at Google Photos. (https://photos.google.com)

Google Photos

To back up/share images to Google Photos you must have a Google account. Anyone who has a gmail account or uses Chrome regularly will an account. Getting an account is free and easy. People without a Google account who are invited to see your album will be able to view it but not add to it.

Auto Backup

  • Using the Google Photos app for mobile phones, you can set it up to automatically back up your images to the cloud
  • Available for PC and phones
  • Options to remove the images from your phone at the same time to free up space
  • Back up and Sync is the only option. Syncing means that if you edit or delete an image on one device it will change the image on every other device. However, if you have backed up all your images on your phone and you want to free up space, deleting the images off your phone is possible. This action happens after you have backed up your files to the cloud.

Manual options for Posting to Cloud

  • You can manually upload images from folders on your desktop using the website photos.google.com
  • Best to upload images in groups you will want to put into an album. Once the images are uploaded, you will be prompted to create said album.

Viewing Area

  • On the website photos.google.com you will be able to view in thumbnail format your album(s) or all your photos.

Storage Size and Fees

  • Unlimited storage for each image under 16 Megapixels and video up to 1080p HD. This isn’t a problem if you shoot jpegs (phones and basic digital cameras). If you shoot a lot of RAW images with a DSLR you would probably have to start paying for storage.
  • You have the choice of uploading the original size image or a reduced size that is fine for viewing but may not be great for printing. This choice however, saves space in your quota.

Sharing Options

  • Your images can only be viewed by you with your Google account password unless you share them with others
  • Sharing an album is available and is done through the settings for each album
  • Members are added by sending the link to the album via email
  • People who have been added to view the album can add photos if under the album settings Sharing and Collaborate have been turned on.

Privacy Options

  • Albums are not password protected. Anyone with the link can view the album. However, the link is a very long and complicated and is not something that would show up readily in an online search.

Commenting Options

  • Available on an album to album basis.
  • Under the Sharing settings turn Comments on
  • Comments can be turned on or off at any time and the comments can still be viewed however,
  • If you turn off Sharing on an album after people have commented, those comments will be deleted.

Categorizing Options

  • Auto uploads (if not put in an album) are sorted by the date the image was taken.
  • You can create albums on either your phone or online.
  • Some automatic tagging is done by the application, for example, images of sky or flowers.
  • You can tag your images with the name of a person or persons but attaching a label to the image.
  • Tagging images also works for subjects like dogs, Paris etc.
  • Once images have been tagged you can easily search for them.

Printing Options

  • You can’t directly send an image from Google Photos to be printed. However, you can download either one image or a whole album. From there you would save them to your hard drive or a USB key and either upload them to a printing website like Adoramapix or physically take the USB key to a printing store.

Editing Options

  • You can do basic editing of each image through photos.google.com. You can also make a collage of images or a slideshow of an album.
  • Syncing your images means that if you edit an image on one computer that change will appear on all devices the next time you backup and sync.

Send options

  • You can send an album via email. The email will have a couple of the images. For the recipient to see the full album they must click on a link. If the album is open to be shared, they will now become participants in the album.
  • You can also share it via Facebook, Google + or Twitter.

All in all, Google Photos worked pretty well. Screen shots were easy to understand and navigate. The help pages were to the point and informative. My complaint are that I want the option to back up and OR sync but that’s just how I roll. Also, I would like to have the option of a password protected album. I am of that generation that would prefer to not have all my life plastered across the internet. But as a tool to back up your images and free up memory on your phone it was pretty straight forward.

A note about Privacy. It is recommended that you use the 2-step verification for your Google Account – that means password and phone number. However, sharing anything online automatically means that someone else has the ability to view your images. In the case of Google Photos that means anyone with access to their servers. Think carefully about what you want to put out in the digital world.

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