Managing your shared photo links in Google Photos

We're used to photo editors and services having their own specific ways of sharing items, and with Google Photos there are a few quirks to understand. When sharing basic photos and collages from your phone via the Google Photos app you'll be able to send just the image, but if you're using the Photos website or sharing more complex content like a story or movie, you'll be sharing a link.

This will be confusing for folks until Google Photos starts to gain more popularity and regular use, but the great part about sharing a link is that you control its destiny after sending it out into the wild. We're going to show you what exactly a Google Photos link gives those you share it with, and how to effectively manage the links once you send them. Read along.

What happens when you share a Google Photos link

Google Photos shared album

When you share a Google Photos link — either by choosing "get link" in the share menu or sharing something complex — you can send it off to anywhere you wish. Drop the link into a tweet, share it directly to a friend over SMS or just save it for later in Google Keep, it doesn't matter. Facebook now gracefully handles Google Photos links and shows a preview of the image when you post them, but in most cases it'll just look like a regular link without a preview when shared.

Whenever someone clicks the link they'll be able to view all of the content you linked to the same way you can in your own private library, whether it's a single photo or a whole album, and subsequently download the content. If the person is signed up for Google Photos and signed into the service when they click the link they'll be able to add the photos to their own collection as well.

We'd love to see some sort of "read only" permission option that keeps those viewing shared photos from downloading full versions, but perhaps the sharing-focused story that Google is telling with Photos may not be compatible with that. An option to edit the content shared in the link (such as removing a couple photos from an album) would be great as well — maybe in a later update.

What you can do after sharing

Google Photos shared links

Perhaps the greatest part of this system is that you get a full history and control the destiny of your photos when you share with links. Find the "Shared links" option in the side panel of the Google Photos app or website to see every link that you've shared out on the service, the date the you shared it and a thumbnail of the content.

You can then copy any of the links for re-sharing, or choose to delete the link entirely. If you delete the link the photos will no longer be accessible if someone were to find the link somewhere else it was shared. This gives you complete control over the access to those items going forward, but unfortunately if someone has already clicked the link and downloaded the images before you delete the link, there's nothing you can do.

Even though there are some missing features in the current linking system, it's very reassuring that Google Photos offers a way to manage and delete shared links at any time.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Sounds a bit messy to me... Posted via the Android Central App
  • actually it sound very simple to me. nothing can get simpler than this. select pics and get link. whats messy about this?
  • Yes it is simple, but not powerful. One cannot control where the links are copied. I think, it is good to have control over who can open the links as in Google Drive.
  • If you're posting them to Facebook, I don't think you can be picky as it's gone outside of Google's system. I'd say, if you want that level of granular control over a few photos, don't share a link to them.
  • What's messy is that it forces you to manage more stuff. I'd rather it just send a full picture, similar to what the Photos app on iOS does. You want to share it to something or someone, it will pull the image and insert it into n MMS message, or email it as an attachment, or pass the entire image to an application that supports that type of data via the sharing system. This is sort of like Flickr, which I do find kind of messy because you have to manually expire everything. If they just inserted a setting to auto expire the links after i.e. 7 days, that would be a lot less "work" than constantly going back to that page to delete them manually.
  • I don't think you and a lot of people here understand the use case for this links. You can still just click share and select any app, like SMS, and just send that picture, but each app handles that image in a different way, Whatsapp for example compress and reduces de quality of the file and it sends it. This link sharing feature is when you want to share many pictures with anyone, in a easy a fast way that don't require the other person to use any specific service, and the person will get the pictures in their original quality (well depends on your upload settings, if its original or the free high quality version). One good example for this is you go to a party or a trip and take a lot of pictures, and someone asks you to send pictures that the person is in, you just go select those specific pictures, create a link and send it. The person can just open the link and click the download all button and now the person have all those pictures in original quality.
  • Google+ Photos handles this much better with circles and the ability to make albums not re-shareable in my opinion. You have to actually log in with a Google account to view the content and there is no link that can just be passed around at a whim. In other words I like the security of sharing with certain circles vs sharing a link. Other than backing up pics from my phone (which the old app also did), there doesn't seem to be anything I like about the new Google Photos versus how things were handled in Picasa and Google+. Obviously I will probably have to adapt at some point, but until then I will continue to use the legacy services.
  • You can still share pictures from the new Google Photos to circles in Google+ and restrict resharing.
  • Well, part of the issue with requiring accounts to see things is that if my friends shared images to me that way I'd never see them because I don't have a Google Account and I'm not about to create one just to share some photos they could have emailed or messaged me, anyways. Photos are always reshare'able, if someone can view them. That's what Screenshots and Caching are for.
  • Most of my family/friends rarely or never use Google+, and sending them a straight link to an album or Story or video is a lot easier for them than making them go and log onto G+. And for the ones who do inhabit the Google ecosystem, this is a super convenient way to share pictures taken on multiple phones so we can all get the pictures into our own collections. Posted via the Android Central App
  • If pictures are stored online, why the phone memory isn't fully available? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I frequent a lot of forums for various hobbies of mine, and one thing that happens regularly there is embedding photos into posts. With G+, I used to be able to share a photo using "anyone with the link", then just right click a photo and select "copy image URL". Then, embed that photo in a forum post with the URL I was given. This is no longer the case. Now, in order to successfully do that, I must first share in Drive (not in Photos). It also must be shared publicly "public on the web" (notice the difference there). Once that's done, I have to get the URL of the photo from Drive (again, not in Photos). It looks like this: What I get from Drive: Now, that won't work for embedding a photo directly. It's because that URL goes to the given image in a Drive slideshow-esque view. Forum posts don't like that. They like a direct image URL without anything wrapped around it. The solution is to take the id of the photo and put it in a different URL, like this: Sharing by selecting Get Link in Photos yields a completely different ID that won't work for direct linking at all. So far, the hoops I have to jump through with Photos/Drive to make it happen are all I've found to work. What you get when you share in Photos and select "Get Shareable Link" is this: The URL changing trick shown above does not work in the Photos link. It only works in the Drive link. The shortened Google URL also does not work by itself for forum posts. So, sharing direct image links has become tedious.
  • Can't you just share it to Google+ and then do what you used to do?
  • Nope. The old way wasn't shared through Google+, it was shared through the old Picasa Photos site. It wasn't done via a G+ post at all. It was through the Photos link accessed through G+, which now sends you to the new Photos site.
  • I wish they can create links that I can set to die after a week or something so I do not have to worry about all these links im creating to share.
  • Question, Android Police. Is there an easy way to move my previously uploaded backup images (Google+) to the new free unlimited tier?
  • +1... Yes, none of my pictures are >16 megapixels, so they should not be charging against my storage.
  • I believe you can go to your shared links and delete them when you wish. You can also attach all kinds of permission as to who can edit, or be a read only type thing. I have started uploading photos from years ago and am finding this to be pretty cool. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have my photos I take being saved to my SD card. I can't believe it won't upload them. Anybody know if it can be done?
  • So what happens if I share an image via a link, say a screenshot of my phone's battery consumption, and then I wanna delete it from my collection? The link will point to a dead end, and users that will hit my post won't see anything anymore. Hardly good.
  • That was always the case, even before the Photos refactor.
  • Whenever I want to edit a video, the app keeps on crashing. Posted via my G3
  • I like the new share by link option. However a few things I would like added:
    - I don't like how sharing geo-location is an all or nothing setting in your account. I would like to decide on a per-share basis.
    - I'd like to set expedition time on links
    - I'd like to be able to edit the share after it's been created (I.e. Add or remove photos) More generally, and going beyond share links, the other sharing related feature I'd like to see is the ability to create collaborative albums with another Google Photos user
  • What about using shared links with a digital frame like DayFrame? Anyone found anything that is working well with Google Photos?
  • Even you delete the shared links, If you have the image url then you can access the image :( :(
  • hi...............
  • When I share an album with someone through Google pics, why does it not show up in their collections as an album? it just inserts all the photos into their photos. I want to see albums shared with me in my collections, but the photos are all mixed into my other photos instead of showing up as an album. Is there a shared with me button that I'm missing?