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How to Use Google Photos Backup

Michael Kwan
Google Photos
Google Photos

Google provides a broad range of tools and services for its users, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Calendar and Google Photos. For better image management and for free unlimited cloud backup of all the pictures and videos you take with your smartphone or tablet, Google Photos is one of the most robust solutions available today. Getting started is very easy and the mobile app can back up your photos and videos automatically.

Preparing to Use Google Photos

Accessing Google Photos

Google Photos is available as a free app for Android devices via the Google Play Store and for iOS devices, like the iPhone and iPad, through the iTunes App Store. There is also a browser-based web interface to use on your computer.

Adding Your Google Account

Google Photos main menu
Google Photos main menu

After downloading and installing the Google Photos app on your mobile device of choice, the first thing you will need to do is to connect the app with your new or existing Google account.

If the app does not do this automatically during the initial setup process, you can add your account manually.

  1. Open the Google Photos app on your smartphone or tablet.
  2. Tap the three horizontal lines in the top-left corner to open the main menu.
  3. Tap on the small downward facing arrow near the top.
  4. Tap on Add account.
  5. Enter your Google account credentials.

This is also how you can add multiple Google accounts to the same Google Photos app and how to switch between them.

How to Back Up Your Photos Automatically

Backup settings
Backup settings

Once you have connected your Google account to the Google Photos app on your mobile device, you can configure the automatic upload feature.

  1. Tap the three horizontal lines to open the main menu.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Tap 'Back up & sync' near the top.
  4. Select the Active Account to use. This will also display the amount of Google Drive storage you have remaining in you account.
  5. Under Backup Storage, choose the upload size. The High Quality setting allows for free unlimited storage, but it limits photos to 16 megapixels and videos to 1080p full HD. The files are also intelligently compressed, which should result in only minimal quality loss. Alternatively, you can select Original to upload the full-resolution files, but this will count against your Google Drive storage limit.
  6. Under Backup Settings, choose whether to upload photos 'Over Wi-Fi only' or 'Over Wi-Fi or use cellular network.' Similarly configure how you would like to upload videos.
  7. Tap on 'Choose folders to back up' to select which image and video folders on your mobile device you would like to back up to Google Photos.
  8. Toggle whether you would like to back up photos and videos when roaming on a data network.
  9. Toggle whether you would like to back up content only while charging.
  10. Tap on 'Back up all' to initiate a full backup.

After the settings have been configured, the pictures and videos you take with your smartphone - including additional folders like screenshots and WhatsApp images (if you selected them) - will be uploaded to Google Photos automatically based on your settings.

Navigation and Advanced Features

In addition to the core functionality of viewing all your photos and backing up your images automatically to the cloud, Google Photos also comes with a number of extra features.

  • Google Photos Collections
    Google Photos Collections
    From the main view of your images and videos, you can use the two-finger pinch to zoom gesture. Zooming in makes the individual thumbnails larger, while zooming out allows you to see larger groups of photos and videos at a time.
  • The Search tool allows you to look for photos based not only on the date they were taken, but also the people in the pictures, the places where they were taken, and the things that were in them, as well as by 'types' like videos.
  • In addition to the main Photos view, accessing the main menu reveals the Assistant and Collections pages.
    • Assistant will automatically determine when certain groups of images can be joined together into animations and collages. These are called "Creations."
    • Collections allows you to group images together based on a theme, like all the photos you took on a recent vacation. Collections also allow for albums, movies and stories.
  • Google Photos has built-in functionality that makes it easy to share images with others.
    • To share a single image, long press on the image and tap the 'Share' icon.
    • To share a group of images, long press on one image, tap on the other images, and tap the 'Share' icon. Then, select 'Get link' or 'Copy Link to Clipboard' from the resulting list of options.

Pros and Cons of Using Google Photos Backup

With so many cloud storage services available, Google Photos offers a number of both advantages and disadvantages over the competition.


Photos view
Photos view
  • Free unlimited storage of high quality photos and videos
  • Automatic backup and upload of mobile images and videos
  • Unique features, including automatic animations and collages
  • Conveniently tied to your existing Google account
  • Easy access via both the mobile app and through the web
  • Remarkably powerful search tool to find people, places or things
  • Robust organization tools with albums and collections
  • Mobile app is fast and fluid


  • Trusting Google with even more private data
  • Not available for Windows Phone or BlackBerry
  • Search and organization are imperfect
  • Does not synchronize automatically with a folder on your computer
  • Lack of more powerful image editing tools
  • Does not automatically remove older photos and videos from phone's internal storage
  • Will likely need to pay in order to store full-resolution images, especially RAW files
  • Cannot search or filter based on device used to take the photo

A Convenient Solution for Mobile Shutterbugs

Despite some of its shortcomings, Google Photos is one of the best automatic photo upload and organization apps available for Android and iOS devices. It is very easy to use, can be accessed through a convenient web-based portal, and offers free unlimited storage of high quality photos and videos.

How to Use Google Photos Backup