Google Photos: Everything you need to know

Google Photos New Editing Tools Lifestyle
Google Photos New Editing Tools Lifestyle (Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Google Photos is more than just an app for storing your photos. Beyond photo backups, it gives you ways to edit them in dynamic ways, then share them with the world or store them in folders and never lose them again. 

The concept of Google Photos isn't particularly complex, but we'll break down which hidden features you may not know about, how much storage you need, and which features like Magic Eraser or Photo Unblur are exclusive to specific devices. 

Google Photos: Getting started

If you mainly want to use Google Photos for storage, then you simply need to follow a few key steps. Our Google Photos backup guide is where you should go if you're first setting up Google Photos on your phone. Essentially, you need to turn on backups, choose whether to store photos at "original" or "storage saver" quality, and choose which device folders from your smartphone should be synced with the Google Photos service.

Once you finish uploading your Photos library, you may want to enable Google's Free Up Space tool. Your photos will be safely stored in the cloud, accessible at any time, so this tool deletes your local file copies so they no longer take up space on your Android phone. 

You may also want to create a Google Photos widget on your home screen: just tap and hold your display, select widgets, and choose the Photos option to plop a 2x2 photo montage on your phone or tablet. Or, you can set Google Photos as your Chromebook background.

Google Photos: Sharing photos

Google Photos app on a Pixel 6 Pro

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Sharing a specific Google Photos photo is as simple as tapping the Share icon and selecting an app or contact. A more dynamic option is to go to the Sharing tab and create a shared album, with categories like event, travel, or family to choose between. 

You can create an auto-updating album with any photo that includes a specific person or pet, or just select photos manually. Then, once you're finished, you invite your friends or loved ones to access the shared album so they can see it in their Google Photos app. 

Another option is to automatically share all of your photos via Partner Sharing, so they can see all of your photos and share your memories. Or, in the unfortunate event of a family member passing away, you can recover their old photos if you remember to follow the right steps.

Lastly, if you want to preserve or share hard-copy versions of your memories, you can always order prints, posters, or photo books through the app.

Google Photos: Organize your photos

Google Photos app on a Pixel 4a held in one hand outdoors.

(Image credit: Android Central)

Google uses AI to automatically organize photos by location, people, and so on. Google Photos' machine learning is incredibly adept at identifying people, places, pets, and things, but you can also easily correct any errors or manually tag photos as you wish.

So you don't necessarily need to do much Google Photos organization if you don't want to. But there are cute tools like Google Photos collages if you want to create custom styles with your photos. 

To best organize your photos, click the Search tab. You'll find categories like Screenshots that you'll probably want to "delete all" to clear out storage space, or clear out some videos since they take up the most room.

Sometimes Google's memories and widget shows you photos you don't want to see. In that case, you can hide specific people, pets, or dates from your Google Memories so they no longer pop up unless you search for them. You can also create a Locked Folder in Photos to put photos that no one else can see, even if they can access your phone. 

Google Photos: Cost

Google One on an Android phone

(Image credit: Android Central)

Google Photos originally let you store unlimited "high-quality" photos to its cloud storage, or original storage quality if you owned a Google Pixel phone. But in 2021, Google ended this policy, making your photos count against your 15GB Google Drive limit. 

Whether you have too many photos for the baseline cloud storage, or want to switch to store original photo quality, you may want to pay for Google One since it'll boost your storage up from 100GB to 30TB, depending on how much you're willing to pay. 

Subscribing to Google One gives you some exclusive Photos perks that you'd normally need to buy a Pixel 7 or Pixel 6 to enjoy, like Magic Eraser and the Camouflage tool. You can also share your storage with up to 5 family members so they have more room for Google Photos storage too. 

Google Photos: Editing

A gif showing the before and after for Photo Unblur on the Pixel 7

(Image credit: Google)

Google Photos arguably has the best AI-driven automatic photo editing of any mobile app available. Some of those features are freely available on any Android phone or iPhone if you have a Google One subscription; others are only available on a recent Pixel phone. 

With Photos and One, you get access to both the Magic Eraser and Camouflage tools. This lets you circle and remove a person or object from a photo so it's no longer a distraction; or, if an object is too large or significant to fully erase, you can camouflage it so it blends subtly in the background. 

Plus, a One subscription gets you Portrait Light and Blur for better selfies, plus an HDR video effect "to help balance dark foregrounds and bright backgrounds (or vice versa) so you can soak in every detail."

But to get access to Face Unblur or Photo Unblur to make an out-of-focus selfie or photo look crystal clear, you'll need a Pixel 6 or Pixel 7, respectively. The latter feature is one reason why we consider the Pixel 7 the best camera phone available: it ensures your Google Photos look good even if you can't get the perfect focus in the moment.

As for our favorite Google Photos editing tools that don't require a specific phone, we recommend looking at its Real Tone filters and Portrait Blur.

Jeramy Johnson

Jeramy was the Editor-in-Chief of Android Central. He is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand.

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