Facebook basically does the bare minimum when it comes to giving you your photos back, and that's really unfortunate.

Most of us have a lot of photos in Facebook, but don't actually use that platform as a long-term storage solution. That's probably a good idea considering how photos are handled on the service, and making the move to something like Google Photos instead is something to consider. Unfortunately the data export tools for Facebook are pretty bad, leaving you with lots of issues when it comes to getting every photo out of the service and over to something new.

But there's no better time to get this done than now, and we're going to explain all of the caveats related to getting your photos from Facebook to Google Photos.

Getting photos from Facebook

Facebook data export tool

Facebook makes it really easy for you to share your photos to its service, but doesn't make it easy to get them back out. Your only way to go for getting photos from Facebook is to either download them one-by-one, or request a download of all data associated with your account. Head into your Facebook settings on the web, then under the "General" tab at the bottom you'll see "Download a copy of your Facebook data." Click that, and you'll then click a button to request a download of your data.

Facebook will take a few minutes to gather up your data, and you'll receive an email with a link to download a .zip file of all the data associated with your account. Unzip the file, and you'll see (among other things) files labeled "Photos" and "Videos" containing each type of file. The folder structure is nonsensical, and the folders are filled with tons of duplicates because of the way Facebook hands back your photos from all aspects of your account, not just the "my photos" section.

Most annoyingly, the photos you get back are heavily compressed and downsized, to about 800x800 maximum resolution, which is dramatically lower than the original files that went up. Sure, that's almost understandable, but the bigger issue here is that all of the EXIF data — which contains information on the camera, the date and time of capture, and often location information — is wiped clear as well. This means that computers and photo programs (including Google Photos) will think that all of these photos were taken on the day and you downloaded them from Facebook, and won't know what they were taken with. Annoying, we know, but there's nothing you can really do about it.

In short:

  1. Go into your Facebook account settings on the web, and select "Download a copy of your Facebook data."
  2. Wait for the Facebook email with a link to your data, and download the .zip file
  3. Unzip the file on your computer, and isolate the "Photos" folder inside
  4. (Optional) Don't use Facebook as a backup of photos you intend to download later

Moving them up to Google Photos, and a warning going forward

Google Photos Backup tool

We've covered this process numerous times before, and it's all pretty much the same in the case of Facebook. The best way to automatically upload all of these photos to Google Photos will be to use the Google Photos Backup desktop app. Install it, sign in with your Google credentials and then use it to automatically scan and upload photos from your newly-downloaded Facebook archive.

Be warned: Facebook strips out the EXIF data, so your imported pictures will be a mess.

The only thing that's different in this situation is the end result. Because Facebook strips off the EXIF data of your photos, when they're uploaded to Google Photos they won't be slotted into the correct times and dates for searching. You'll still be able to create albums and animations out of the photos, but they're all going to show up in Google Photos as if they were taken on the day that you downloaded them from Facebook. That's a huge issue for some (us included) who want their photo library to be properly sorted, but if these are photos that are the only copy you have, it may be worth just putting them up there.

The other thing to look out for when uploading is duplicates. It may be tedious depending on just how many photos you have in Facebook, but you may consider going through the folders and deleting duplicates before you upload to Google Photos — again, depending on how strict you are with managing your photo library.

In short:

  1. Install the Google Photos Backup desktop app, sign in with your Google credentials
  2. Uncheck any unwanted desktop folders, select "Add..." and instead select the Photo and Video folders in the Facebook file
  3. Choose whether you want "High quality" (free) or "Original" (paid storage) versions to be uploaded
  4. Wait as the uploader takes pictures from the Facebook folder and uploads them in the background

As we've seen here, getting your photos from Facebook is a messy experience — but this isn't isolated to just Facebook. There are many other services that don't do justice to your pictures, and can't always be trusted as a good archival copy of the image you took at the time. If you've been using Facebook as a "backup" of your photos with intentions to retrieve them later, you should probably consider otherwise. And keep this situation in mind when you look at any other photo service — including Google Photos — as a backup of your most important photos and memories.