Love taking pictures?  Don’t want to lose them?  Read This

Hey all!  So I decided it might be a great idea to incorporate how-tos into my blog.  Why?  Because I have a wealth of knowledge, courtesy of my familiarity with the digital world, telecom, and various OS’s.  For my day job, I work as a tech support rep for a major telecom.  What I’ve learned over the last few years of working with my current employer is that there is a dearth of familiarity with such devices as smartphones and tablets.

One of the most disheartening things that I hear about is when a customer loses their most important photos.  I spoke to a gentleman just a few days ago who was starting a business.  He had a photo of a recipe for a special sauce on his phone, and he had this need to write it down, just in case it got lost.  Unfortunately, it was lost, and he didn’t have a backup.  Stories like his are the most common.  The worst are those of the people who have lost loved ones and only have photos by which to remember them.

What I’ll be discussing with you today is how to backup your photos using Google Photos.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I very much dislike iPhones, but I use one for work.  I prefer using Android phones, with a very strong preference towards Samsung.  That said, I want to talk to you about Google Photos because this is possibly the best, and most cost effective, cloud service that I’ve used to not only save my own work, but to deliver photos various freelance customers with a much faster turn around and at a much lower cost than traditional means of delivery (shipping or manual delivery via compact disc, dvd, or flash drive).

What you need to know, right off the bat 

The very first thing that you need to know about Google Photos is a cloud service and that you only get 15 gigabytes of storage for free.  If you’re confused about what the cloud is, all it is, is a set of hard drives stored at various facilities owned by the companies offering you cloud storage.  It’s just like the hard drive on your computer, except it’s not attached to your computer and you can access it through the internet, most often for free, and by virtue of having an account with that service provider.

For those of you who have no idea of what a terabyte, gigabyte, megabyte, kilobyte, or byte is, they’re really just units of measurement describing the size of your photos (and any other digital information).  Your average cell phone photo is going to be about 1-5 megabytes (if you’re on a Samsung Galaxy S8, it could be upwards to about 30 megabytes if you’re shooting in professional mode with the Camera Raw setting turned on).  Those photos take up space.  You only ever have a limited amount of space (most cases), even on the cloud.  As mentioned with Google, that storage amount is 15 GB (gigabytes).

Depending on how seriously you use your phone for photography, and what you intend to do with those photos (print them, share them, etc), you may need more than the allotted storage.  Not to worry: Google’s additional cloud storage is relatively inexpensive, with the least expensive being $1.99/month for 100 GB, and most being $99.99/month for 1 TB (terabyte).  I know some of you might balk at that last price, but that one is necessary if you’re running a small business that requires lots and lots of storage.  Google has enterprise storage options, but we’re not going to get into that.  You really don’t need more than 100 GB if you’re serious.  If you’re not so serious, and you’re really just interested in saving the photos and sharing them on the internet, Google has an optimization option in the app that will allow you to reduce the file size of the photos as you upload them, and they will let you use an unlimited amount of space.

Think about what you intend to do with your photography.  If you’re printing, and need to save those photos for easy access later, purchase a plan.  If not, compress the files (don’t worry, we’ll learn how to do that in a bit).

Accessing Google Photos via your mobile phone

Both Apple and Android make it easy for you to install apps.  Google Photos is a cross-platform app (meaning you can use it on virtually any computing device and any operating system).  While iPhone has its iCloud service available to Apple device users, it’s not truly cross platform.  Sure, I can access my iCloud photos on my Windows computer, but it’s really difficult to get to them from my Samsung phone.

The first actual step in this process is to download and install Google Photos.  If you’re reading this article on your phone or tablet: Android users, click here; iPhone/iPad users, click here.  If you’re reading this from your computer, stop what you’re doing, and do the following:

Android users, go to the app called “Play Store.”  Apple users, go to the app called “App Store.”

In your respective apps, search for “Google Photos.”

Next, we want to install the app. Android users, click on “Install.”  Apple users, click on “Get” (it will sometimes also say “install” or there will be a cloud with a down arrow if you’ve previously installed the app).

Open the app.

Your phone will ask you for permissions for the app.  You basically want to accept everything.  Click Allow or Ok.

When you open the app for the first time, you’re going to be on a screen called “Back up & sync.”  This will occur on both phone types.

Okay, so this part is critical.  First, you need to choose an account to which to backup.  If you don’t have a Google account already, regardless of phone type, you’ll be prompted to create one.  Follow the onscreen instructions.

Next, if you are just taking photos on your phone that you just want to share online, through text, or email, choose the “High quality (free unlimited storage option).”  If you want the full resolution photos, just choose “Original (limited to account storage).  On your Android, you may need to click on “Change Settings” to get to the “Original” option.  Click “Done” when finished.

Okay, so you’re basically finished at this point.  Depending on what you want to do, there may be a few more settings to setup.

On both phone types, at the top left, you’re going to see three horizontal bars.  Click it.

On Android, choose “Settings.”  On iPhone, click on the gear at the top right of the pop-out menu.

Choose “Backup & sync.”

A couple of key tips so you don’t accidentally cost yourselves extra money (especially if you happen to be traveling internationally).  We want to make sure your cellular/roaming settings are turned off because, if you’re not on an unlimited data plan, photo uploads could cause you to accidentally use a lot of your data.

On Android, make sure “Photos” and “Videos” are both turned off in the “Cellular data backup section.”  Also, make sure “Roaming” is turned off in the “When to backup” section.


On iPhone, ensure both “Use cellular data to back up photos” and “Use cellular data to backup videos” is turned off.


There you go!  You’re all set!  Go, you!!!

Conclusion (Finally!)

Before we wrap up, I want to show you why I trust Google Photos so much.

This tutorial utilizes screen shots from both of my phones.  I accessed those screen shots from my computer, no wires involved.  That’s the power of cloud storage in general, and Google Photos in particular.

This tutorial is certainly not the end-all-be-all to ensuring you have an easily accessible.  In fact, check out the related links for more resources for photo backups.  Also included will be links to the device how-to guide for Google Photos.

If you find you need help with something, feel free to ask me, and I’ll be happy to help.

Take care!  😊

Resources and Guides:

PRO TIP #002: Did you know that Facebook also serves as an image curator?  What does this mean to you?  At least for the foreseeable future, you can upload as many photos as you like to Facebook for absolutely free.  For the enthusiast who doesn’t need to concern themselves with sharing photos beyond Facebook, this is probably the best way to go.

  1. Google Photos How To
  2. Google Drive
  3. Microsoft One Drive
  4. Dropbox

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