I started using Google Photos by accident a couple weeks ago, and now it’s kind of blowing my mind.
I guess it actually all started when we used our Android Nexus 5 Phones. There was an option to automatically upload our photos taken with our phones to Google Photos, so I figured why not?
Well, a couple weeks ago I was trying to buy some winter snow tires, and I remembered having taken a photo of our tires with my phone sometime in the summer. I headed to Google Photos to try and track down the photo and I noticed a search bar.
I typed in “tire” and bingo! The photo I was looking for was easily found.
Google had automatically applied image recognition to all the photos that had been uploaded. (Note: You can see from the screenshot above that the image recognition isn’t perfect. The search also found a quadcopter and a patch of road, but it’s still pretty good!)
It’s taken me a while for the impact of this little discovery to really sink in. You can now easily search through your photos without having done any previous organization or keywording whatsoever. Just think about how useful that will be! No more hours spent vainly trying to find a specific shot. Your photos are instantly way more accessible, making it easier to actually use them!
Google Photos also applies face recognition to all the photos so you can browse your photos for specific people. And it actually works quite well, unlike the same feature in Adobe Lightroom that took my computer two weeks to scan half my photos, and it still wasn’t very accurate.
Google Photos was released in May 2015, and just yesterday (October 20th) they announce they had reached 100 million active monthly users.
First, I definitely missed the memo on how rad Google Photos is, and second, apparently a lot of other people have already realized how powerful and useful it is.
Search Is The Most Powerful Feature, But There Are Others…
Google Photos has a few other neat tricks up it’s sleeve.
First you can get free and unlimited photo and video storage. That’s right, free and unlimited. The catch? Google will compress your photos and videos. The compression isn’t bad though, it still looks pretty high quality. You can also choose to upload original sized photos, but then you only get 15GB free storage for original photos. You can pay to subscribe to larger storage plans though.
Since I’m not using Google Photos as a backup plan, the free and unlimited option works well.
There are several other features that focus on doing things automatically with your photos.
For example, Google Photos will automatically create animated GIFs from a sequence of photos. It will automatically stitch together individual photos to make a panorama. It will automatically edit photos and videos into short movies with appropriate music. It will also create photo stories (which work really well for travel adventures).
And all these automatic creations are easily sharable.
It’s certainly not all gold, some of the automatic stuff looks terrible (with Google Photos applying hideous filters – please turn those off, Google!), but for the most part they’re really fun! We especially love the GIFs.
Since Google Photos is available for both Android and iPhone, anyone shooting photos with their phone can download the Google Photos app and start syncing their photos.
You can also download a desktop uploader for Mac and Windows so you can upload photos you take with your other cameras.
I still recommend making sure you properly backup your photos on your own computer (this goes for both camera phones and regular cameras). I wouldn’t be comfortable giving up control and only having the photos stored in the cloud on Google Photos.
The only photos I’ve uploaded to Google Photos so far are from our Android and iPhones, but given how powerful the search feature is, I plan to slowly start uploading our archive of personal images.