So You Think You Can Tech – Google Photos

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

#TechTuesday with E-Services

Hail and well met! Welcome back to another round of tips from me to you. Recently I have had several people come to me with questions regarding their pictures, specifically their pictures in the Google Photos app. Since there has been much confusion on this topic, I figured it best to have a look.  

First, a little background. For the longest time any picture you took with your cell phone, if you had Google Drive on your phone, would automatically back up to the Drive. While pictures would be seen in Google Photos and Drive, they really were in the latter while the former was just a convenient interface. Then, in 2019, Google decoupled the two platforms and now all your pictures are solely in Google Photos. 

#Why are things different? 

Believe it or not, Google thought this would be an improvement. According to them, they had complaints that things were too complicated. Therefore, in their mind, disconnecting Photos from the standard Google Drive experience is their way of ‘Making things easier’. The issue with this change is that all your new pictures are going to Google Photos while the others are in Drive. 

#Wait, you’re telling me I’ve got Photos in two places?! 

Yes, yes you do. If you were using Google Photos before the changeover you will have all your old pictures in Google Drive and all the post-change items in Photos exclusively. You can, if you want, merge the old with the new but that is the direction it will go, Old to New. Everything is in Photos now, not Drive. 

Although, you could, I guess, move all the pictures manually into Google Drive. I wouldn’t though because of the hit to your storage you’ll take. 

#How much storage do I have? 

Good question. Well according to their site, if you store your pictures at their original quality then you have whatever storage is in your Google Drive. This means, unless you are paying, you will max out at 15 GB. As with most things in life though, the storage number comes with a caveat. If you choose to lower the quality of your pictures from Max Quality to High Quality your storage cap rises from 15 GB to Infinity. Meaning that you can store as many pictures as you want forever. So long as you keep them in Google Photos. 

#What does it mean by High-Quality? 

If you choose the High-Quality option that means your pictures will be reduced in file size to 16 MB per picture. Now that may not seem like a lot, but a picture taken on my iPhone 8 Plus, with its 12 mega pixel camera, clocks in at 3.2 MB. With these numbers I would never hit the max size limit and my pictures would never be reduced. Even in pictures whose quality has been reduced, most of the compression is hard to impossible to detect with the naked eye unless you zoom in to 500% or more. So even under the new system you shouldn’t run into any problems with storage limits. 

#But I like how it used to be! What do I do? 

You have a couple of options. One, you live with the changes and merge the Drive pictures with Photos. Not ideal but it is an option. If you continue this way, if you just look at your pictures while they are in Albums and ignore the master list it will seem as if things were somewhat normal. Two, you can stop using Photos and move to another system such as OneDrive, where you can absolutely use the most complicated folder system you can devise. With OneDrive you will have, by default, 5GB worth of storage with the option of upgrading to more expensive solutions. If you pay yearly or monthly for Office 365 you have 1TB of storage; that’s 1000 gigabytes! Just download the OneDrive app, set it to your account and to backup photos, and sit back. 

There is another option out there if you don’t mind dealing with Albums of a sort, and that is Amazon Photos. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you have unlimited picture storage as one of the million other hidden benefits. The real restriction here is that you cannot use the service to store pictures if you are using for a business, as that is a separate account. If you want to go this route, just download the Amazon Photos app, set it to your account and to backup photos, and sit back. 

#So now what? 

Really? Just take your photos. If you have decided to use another of the apps then use those. If you are staying with Google Photos, then keep taking pictures. Either way, don’t let the varying machinations of a distant corporate machine keep you from enjoying your day. 

And remember, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe. 

We are excited to announce that E-Services will be offering half-hour versions of some of our popular classes live online via Zoom! The first classes to be offered will include job searching online, creating resumes with templates, creating a budget, email and the cloud, and web design using popular website creators. The Jacksonville Public Library's E-Services Department is dedicated to helping users learn and master the technology needed in today's economy. All of our classes are free and open to the public. You can find our classes in the event calendar and on our Computer Classes page at

John Carter

John Carter

Husband, Father, Digital Artist, and Teacher, these are but a few of the hats John Carter wears. If he is not at one of our many public libraries hosting a computer class or helping someone in an appointment you can find John working in his yard practicing hügelkultur, hidden away sketching and writing, making a pilgrimage to Disney World, or trying new recipes in the kitchen.

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