Six Google Photos quirks and how to work around them

Google's new service is off to a great start, but they still have a few kinks to iron out.

google photos
Derek Walter

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Google Photos is one of the best new products the Mountain View company has rolled out in some time. It has a great interface, some nice navigation tricks, and smart search so you can look up images by places or the objects in them.

Though like any new product, it comes with its own set of quirks and features that aren’t obvious at first glance. If you are all-in with Google Photos, or just curious about whether it should serve as the home for all your memories, read on to see everything that we’ve dug up. These tips will solve a few of the service's shortcomings.

Use the desktop uploader for faster import

If you have a large catalog of images on your hard drive, the best way to upload them to Google Photos is to use the uploading tool.

Download the desktop uploader, then sign in with your Google account. You can select to upload photos from your camera/storage card, desktop, or any images on your computer.

google photos uploader

The Desktop Uploader can import any images on your hard drive to Google Photos.

Then, decide if you want to get free, unlimited storage (though your files are compressed) or to back them up at full size. This will then eat into your the storage limit on your Google Drive account.

This option is also best if you import images to your computer through a camera or SD card and want them to automatically backup to Google Photos. Otherwise, you can upload a batch of images whenever you wish through the Google Photos site.

Just sign on to and select the cloud icon at the top of the screen. Then you can drag in a folder or individual images. Or, just as with Google Drive, just drag and drop a photo directly into the Photos site.

Learn the caveats behind the storage limits

Here’s something else to be aware of if you were using the previous iteration of the product, Google+ Photos, to save all your images. If you were already backing up your images at full resolution and almost full, you’re not off the hook for all that space.

As indicated by this tweet, the unlimited storage only applies to any new uploads. So if you’re running short on space, you’ll need to buy more Google Drive storage. Fortunately, the plans are reasonable: you can get 100GB for $1.99 per month and 1TB for $9.99. 

Use location for smarter search

Google Photos doesn’t just use image recognition when helping you search for images (though it’s quite good). It also uses the location data supplied by the images. Take advantage of this when trying to find particular photos.

google photos snow

Use location in your search queries to more easily find pictures based on where you took them.

For example, when searching for snow there are a lot of options that come up from my photo portfolio.

However, I’m able to narrow this down. When searching for “snow Maine,” I get the only pictures containing snow that were taken in Maine.

It’s not perfect, as you’ll notice a couple of the snow pictures don’t have any actual flakes in them. But it significantly narrows down the time it takes to search through those on your own.

Save space on your PC by removing Google Drive tie-in

Your Google Photos account may be unlimited, but your hard drive isn’t. Fortunately, you can choose whether or not your Google Photos sync to your Drive. This is useful if you want everything on your computer so it’s easy to open images offline or if you use a desktop editing program. 

photos drive settings

You can include all your Google Photos in your Drive, which will then sync to your computer.

To do this, you’ll need to have Google Drive installed on your computer and turn the feature on from your online Drive. 

If you do want want all your images in your Drive, you can flip this off.

If you run into issues, this Google Photos help page has additional details.

To delete, or not to delete?

If you have a storage cap, you may want to go through and delete some images. But let’s say you accidentally delete the wrong photos when rapidly deleting a batch using one of those multi-select gestures. 

google photos delete

You can salvage any photos from your trash within 60 days.

Or perhaps you decide you really want to keep those images you deleted of your cat. Fortunately, you can get them back. Google Photos holds on to any pictures you deleted for 60 days. So just head to the Trash and select the pictures you want to rescue.

Manage your folders

Your Android device automatically stores images in folders, depending on the app that generated them. This may vary on your device, but most will automatically sort photos into folders with names like: Screenshots, Instagram, and Twitter.

google photos folders

Choose which folders on your Android device will back up to Google Photos.

Open the slide-out menu by swiping in from the left and selecting Device folders

If you don’t want to clutter your Google Photos storage with screenshots, you can leave this folder turned off. Or maybe you want all those cute Instagram images that you tweaked with filters. Just hit the cloud icon and they’ll upload.

The key with any new product like this is to keep playing around with it. That’s how I found such snippets of wisdom. Your photos are important, so take the time to really get to know the new Photos app and decide if Google is worthy of being entrusted with all of them.

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