IN THIS AGE when people go gaga over losing photos more than they do with control on the data shared over seemingly harmless apps, to say that we need an unlimited vault for our pictures is an understatement. Enter the tech giant Google, who stepped up to take the plate and address this with its cloud-based photo-hosting and photo-sharing platform: Google Photos.
The now-commonplace app didn’t have a great start, though. Originally a part of its Google+ parent, the juggernaut’s wildly unpopular stab (flail?) at social networking, it has slipped under the radar for some time. Comparing it to Picasa, once Google’s clout on the photo space with its rather large fanbase, didn’t help either. Once Google Photos became part of the ecosystem, however, it achieved 500 million active users a month in a span of two years. Today, Photos continues to rake in users with its appealing basic features: unlimited space for photos and videos not bigger than 16 megapixels (videos are downgraded to 1080p) and a host of photo editing tools on the get-go.
But wait, there’s more: here are some other things you might not know Google Photos can do.
Dig deep with search
Look up the date or look for places and you’ll be surprised how well the app can handle your queries. Google Photos also employs some serious digging in the background, which translates to photos grouped according to categories, e.g. places, objects, or people. Speaking of people, you’ll be happy to know that you can…
Label people by name
Yep, that’s right. You can ID who’s who in photos. There’s no need to run through all your photos, too. The app uses smart facial recognition tech to understand and ID people, even if they’re in the background. Google Photos groups similar faces and asks you “Who is this?” Tap the question to add a label, and you’ve got the person sorted. You can also merge two groups of the same people by labeling the second group with the same name and confirming merge. Finally, you can also opt out of this trick by switching the option next to Group Similar Faces in the hamburger menu.
Hold and drag to quick select
Say goodbye to multiple clicking and tapping! To select more than one photo, simply tap and hold the beginning photo and slide your finger sideways and downwards. If you’re skipping a few, you’ll have to release and repeat the process for where you resume, though.
Pinch to change view
Want to see the full timeline of your photos? How about groups by months or days? Pinch in and out to toggle these views. You can also pinch outward from a single photo to view.
Copy photo edits
Ah, what good are photos if not for posting on Instagram? For you theme-conscious, you can apply the same edits on other photos by clicking the overflow menu (the three vertical dots) and selecting Copy Edits. Apply the edit on other pictures by going to the same process but selecting Paste Edits instead. If you’re using Photos on a PC, lucky you! Press Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to quickly do this.
Remove location data for privacy reasons
Location markers are a great way to remember fun times, but these data—which are often embedded in images along with other information—can also pose threats such as stalking, data brokerage, and more. To avoid this, you can visit the Settings and make sure that Remove geo location in items shared by link is not activated. Whenever you hit the share button, the person on the receiving end won’t get any geo-data—but keep in mind that this works only if you use Google Photos’ share feature.
Archive old images and filter photos for Rediscover
There’s a time for everything, and Google Photos knows that. If you don’t want to delete an old photo (because it might be useful later on) but would like to hide it in your gallery (because the sheer number of photos synced is enough to drive you mad), archive it by following the Assistant’s Clear the clutter card.
Another similar scenario is Rediscover This Day, a feature that tries to cheer you up with photos of the past—only that some parts of the past are best left untouched. To keep the not-happy part of nostalgia at bay, tap the search box and click the arrow (>) to view all faces recognized by the app. From here, select who to Show and Hide so you can filter your bestie from your ex in the remembrance posts. If you’d like to turn off the feature altogether, go to the configuration via Assistant Cards inside settings and turn Rediscover off.
Back up over Wi-Fi only
Running on a metered connection? It’s best to hold off automatic background syncing to conserve data by turning off “Photos (or Videos) back up using cellular data” on mobile. You’ll thank us of this tip, promise.
Recover deleted photos, with a caveat (and another caveat)
Accidentally deleted a picture? Don’t fret just yet! Google Photos allows you to recover deleted images by going to the hamburger menu and selecting Trash—all your deleted mementos are there. The caveat: trashed photos only stay there for sixty days. Another caveat: Emptying your trash essentially bums you out of this feature, so beware!
Download all photos
If you don’t feel that Google Photos should be the be-all-end-all home of your images, you can batch-download pictures by 500, which are condensed in a single ZIP file. If you want to get every single one of them, though, you’ll have to use Google Takeout, but you’ll lose out on the EXIF data, geo-location data, and other information.
Now that the following years are gearing up for more visceral visual experiences in the form of VR and AR, Google Photos is holding out not as a contender, but as a stable storage that links the digital to the human aspect of our lives.