Backing up all of your photos somewhere online is a good idea. Phones get lost or broken, SD cards can go bad, and sometimes a picture is a priceless memory. We think you should be using any of the various services to keep everything stored in the cloud in case you ever need access to a remote backup.
Google Photos is one way to do just that. You can read all about the pros and cons of using it, but it's also important to know where the settings for the backup service are.
David Arnott, an editor at the Nashville Business Journal recently found this out. He wanted to try Google Photos, decided it wasn't for him, and uninstalled it. When he found his photos were still being uploaded after he uninstalled the Photos app, he was rightfully surprised.
We're here to help keep you from being surprised.
When you open the Google Photos settings to tell your phone when, how and which network to use to back things up to your Google cloud, it takes you into the Google Settings app on your phone. Google Settings (the grey gear icon in your app drawer that's been around since 2013) is one of those apps that most of us don't look too hard at, and maybe even an app that we hide in the launcher. But there's plenty of stuff there about the services we use — like Backup and Location — and ways to manage your Google data. You should take a minute or two and look around.
The settings for the photo backup service, which were moved to the centralized Google Settings from Google+ when you installed the new Google Photos app, are available when you tap on "Google Photo Backup" in the Google Settings app. In here you can turn things on or off, as well as set the upload size, account to use and give permission to backup when you're not on Wifi.
What happened to Mr. Arnott, and could happen to anyone who assumes that services are tied to a particular front-end, is that he uninstalled the Photos app but never turned off the backup component. This is possibly because Photo backup was originally part of Google+ (and is still accessible via the Google+ app settings), but in any case you don't have to use the Google Photos app (or even Google+) to use the backup service. Remember that Google Photos is available on other platforms, and it's not unreasonable to think you'd want to keep backing up photos from your phone to view on your tablet or the web.
So whether you're going to have the Google Photos app installed or not, check your Google Settings to manage your photo backups. We're not sure if this is the right way to handle services and their settings, or the wrong way. Just be sure to turn it off if you decide you don't want to use it.