Of all the devices the modern smartphone has managed to kill off, the point-and-shoot camera has got to be right up there near the top of the list. And while it’s easier than ever to snap a quick but breathtaking photo or grab a minute or two of high-quality video, it’s what you do with those memories that counts.
In that spirit, here’s a list of tips and tricks you can use to make sure you’re leveraging Google Photos—which now has a billion-plus users—and all its powerful features to the fullest.
1. Back ’em up and clear ’em out
We’ve all had our lives turned upside down by the dreaded low-storage message popping up on our phones. And you know what’s probably the culprit? Photos and videos. They’re huge! One of Google Photos’ killer features is the ability to automatically back up your photos and videos for free at 16 megapixels for photos (which is pretty good) and 1080p full-HD for videos (also pretty good).
From here, you’ve got two options for upload sizes: High quality or Original quality. High quality backs up your photos and videos for free at the aforementioned resolutions, while the original quality setting grabs whatever resolutions your phone is set at and counts against your Google storage limits. These options can be found under Backup mode and Upload Size on Android and iOS devices, respectively. More info here.
And finally, once your photos and videos are safely backed up, you can clear them off your phone’s storage to free up space and get rid of low-storage warnings. Tap the menu icon and select Free up space to do just that. Your photos and videos will be accessible via the Google Photos app and on the web at photos.google.com, while your device itself will be freed up to take additional photos and videos. More info here.
2. Sharing is caring
By default, Google Photos is a private repository for your images rather than a public exhibition such as Instagram. What good is stockpiling a bunch of great photos if you can’t share them with anyone? Thankfully, it’s pretty quick and easy to share images, one at a time or in bunches. From the app, you can open an individual photo and select the sharing icon—which looks like a triangle made of dots connected by two lines—in the lower-left corner. Or for quick sharing and for sharing multiple photos, from the main interface, tap and hold on a single photo, which will then let you select multiple photos if you like. Once you’ve selected what you want to share, tap the share icon in the top menu bar that pops up. More info here.
Another great feature is the ability to automatically share some or all of your photos with a partner. My wife and I use this feature for the bajillion photos of our kids that each of us take with our respective phones. Tap the menu icon, then select Settings, then tap the Shared libraries item. From there, you’ll have the option of sharing all your photos or just photos of specific people (more on that in the next tip), and whether you want to start sharing photos taken after a specific date. Pretty cool!
3. Put a name with each face
News flash: Google has a heaping helping of computing power at its disposal. Some of it’s been put to use for facial recognition technology that you, in turn, can leverage to organize all your photos. From your computer, when logged into Google, go to photos.google.com/people, or from inside the app, tap the search bar and then tap the arrow to the right side of the people’s faces that show up near the top. From here, you’ll be able to label the friends and family (and pets!) that show up over and over again in your photos. This comes in handy to share just the aforementioned photos of your kids with your partner, or make it easy to find photos of specific people (more on that in the next tip).
4. Search like a pro
It would be kind of embarrassing if the worldwide leader in search technology had lackluster search features in its photos app. Not surprisingly, Google Photos search delivers. Once you’ve got a bunch of images stored and a handful of faces tagged, it’s drop-dead simple to find things based on people, location, and even by searching for objects. Search “car,” for example, to see all the photos you’ve taken with autos in them. That ski trip to Vail you took a million years ago? Just search for “Vail” or “skiing” to surface all those memories. Grandma Irene? Well, if you’ve used the previous tagging tip, all the photos you’ve taken of her throughout the years are only a couple of taps away. More info here.
5. Get prints promptly
Finally, if you’re longing for the good old days of printed photos, Google has made it pretty painless to zip your favorites around the corner to your local CVS or Walmart for near-immediate pickup. Simply tap and hold the photo you want to print and select other photos if you’d like to print additional ones. Once you’re ready, tap the shopping cart icon in the upper-right corner and select Photo print. From there, you’ll be able to choose the size and quantity of your prints and then choose the nearest CVS or Walmart location for pickup. It’s about as easy as it gets when it comes to going from digital to tangible. More info here.