Over the last few months I’ve been shooting more and more images with my Android phone. After spending way too much time in-and-out of the Play Store trying different apps, I finally settled on SnapSeed as my mobile photo editor of choice.
I’d always had the Google Photos app on my phone, but I assumed was an alternative to the gallery app which comes with all Android devices and never gave it the time of day.
Imagine my surprise when I read in a blog post that SnapSeed wasn’t being supported anymore and had in fact, not been supported for some time. The reason, I later discovered was because Google had bought SnapSeed and integrated aspects of it into Google Photos.
I have to be honest, my first thought wasn’t “That’s cool! Now I can have an updated version of SnapSeed AND the support of a huge company like Google”, it was “Why did I just spend the best part of two days trying out different apps, when I could have just read some reviews on the web and saved myself a lot of hassle!”
Anyway, enough of the preamble, on to the review….
Google Photos started life as a service offered to Google+ members, which meant that in order to use the service, you had to subscribe to Google+. Last year though, Google announced at it’s Google IO 2015 event in San Francisco, that Google Photos would be released as a stand alone product, which would be available across web, iOS and Android Devices.
There are loads of positives for photographers of all genres (although there are some shortcomings as well) with Google Photos and below, I’ve tried to list the ones that are important to me.
- Free, Unlimited storage for your images. (with a file size restriction)
- View, organise and edit your photos anywhere, on any of your devices.
- It just works, straight ‘Out of the Box’.
- Intuitive and straight forward to use.
- Automatically organises your photos into Albums (Collections).
- Automatic back up of all your images. (with restriction as above)
- Great quick and easy editing tools.
- Unlimited storage is restricted to images up to 16-megapixels
- The web version has fewer features than the mobile apps.
- Editing tools are fine for social media type photos, but too basic for anything more demanding.
Free, Unlimited storage for your images.
One of the biggest reasons to use Google Photos is the Unlimited free storage, although this does have a downside. Your storage is only unlimited if your photos are less than 16 megapixels.
When you set up your Google Photos account, you’re given the choice to use High Quality, or Original Resolution. The free unlimited, High Quality option applies to images that are less that 16-megapixels in size and any video that’s 1080p or lower. You can store images and video larger than this with the Original Resolution option, but the storage will come off of the 15GB storage limit that comes with your Google account ( Gmail, Google Drive, etc. )
If you choose the High Quality option, you can still upload images larger than 16mp, but they’ll be compressed to that size to save space. If you’d prefer the original option, you can increase your storage space easily. Google offers an extra 100GB for a couple of quid a month.
For most non-professionals though, the High Quality option is ample.
View, organise and edit your photos anywhere, on any of your devices.
As soon as your photos are uploaded, they’re immediately available on any device connected to your Google account. Be aware though, that with the Google Photos mobile apps, there’s an automatic backup feature that saves every photo, or video you capture with your phone, as soon as you take it. This means that when you first set up the app, any existing photos and videos on your device are automatically uploaded to your account in the cloud.
If you go to the app’s ‘settings’ when your setting it up, you can choose which folders you want to back up. It’s a small thing, but it could save you loads of time later on. 😉
Once you’ve set it up, when you save an image to Google Photos (whether that’s by dragging an image, or folder to the Google Photos web-app on your computer, or by your phone’s camera saving to your selected folder), it’s synced to the cloud. Open Google Photos on another device and it immediately starts to sync, keeping all your devices up to date.
It just works, straight ‘Out of the Box’.
For me, one of the best things about Google Photos is it’s intuitive interface and the fact that apart from selecting folders for back up, everything else happens automatically. Your photos are backed up automatically, separated into ‘collections’ automatically, and if you want to select photos for deletion, or to share on your favourite social network, instead of having to tap on every individual photo to select it, you can tap onto one photo, then drag your finger around to select the other photos.
You can also pinch to zoom out, making it easier to select many images.
Overall, I found it very slick and easy to use.
Great quick and easy editing tools.
There are only a few basic editing tools available, but they’re ‘intelligent‘ tools and are ideal for quick edits. In the App you get an ‘Auto’ button which makes automatic adjustments and does a good job almost every time. You also get individual sliders; A ‘Light‘ slider, which is basically an intelligent brightness adjustment. A ‘Colour‘ slider, which resembles saturation, a ‘Pop‘ slider, which adds contrast and sharpening and finally a ‘Vignette‘ slider which puts a ‘content aware’ black vignette on your image. If you apply a series of adjustments, then change your mind, you can easily return to the original by using the ‘Reset‘ button.
Also incorporated into Google Photos are a selection of 14 pre-set filters and a ‘Crop/Rotate Image‘ slider.
Used together these tools give you access to most of the editing you’ll need to do on the majority of your images.
All-in-all, a very useful app and of course, being from Google, it’s free with no ‘in-app purchases’ necessary to have the full version.
Which mobile app do you use? Why not share your experiences in the comments below?