Google has launched Google Photos, a major new (and free) cloud service it hopes will change the way you file, store, organize and share your digital photos and video.

The need

  • Smartphones have given us all a powerful video and still photography camera that is with us all the time.
  • Using those photos can help you grow your business in many ways.
  • The price of digital memory has become so low, photo organizing and storage companies are willing to give it away for free in exchange for gaining loyal customers for other services or in exchange for advertising.
  • Making sure all those photos get transferred from smartphone to the web can be confusing.
  • Choosing among the various solutions for transferring and storing such media can be confusing.

Solution

Previously, we’ve outlined the benefits of having a Flickr account (with its new design) to solve such challenges.

Now (June, 2015), Google has launched a new photo service that is similar to Flickr except where Flickr provides a terabyte of storage space (more than you’ll likely use, ever), Google leapfrogs Flickr, offering free storage to infinity and beyond. (With an exception we’ll touch in a moment.)

According to early reviews, Google Photos also provides some pure-magic search options inside the software that helps the user find photos based on image search—not tagging like iPhoto and other software.

Background

You may think you are already using a product/service called Google Photos, but those were probably Google Picasa or Google+ Photos. This is something new.

The Verge’s Casey Newton had an early look at Google Photos and provides an in-depth review of it and explains some of the highlights of the service:

  • It is more like Flickr than cloud storage solutions, e.g. DropBox Carousel.
  • It is a “set-it-and-forget-it” system that automatically uploads and protects your photos and videos the moment you take them.
  • It is from Google, so you’ll see some search magic. For example, using image search, Google will organize your photos in an endless variety of ways: search “dog” and all your photos of dogs will appear, even if you haven’t tagged them.
  • Unlimited storage for free. (Fine Print: However, if a file is over 16 megapixels, it will be stored in a compressed format. To keep from storing such large files in a compressed format, the user will need a Google Drive account, a paid service after reaching 15GB.)

How to start using Google Photos

  1. To use the automatic upload features, Google Photos requires you to have an app on your smartphone, mobile devices (Android, iOS) and desktop. You’ll find links to the apps here.
  2. Take some photos on your iPhone or Android smartphone after installing the app.
  3. Open the Google Photos web app (https://photos.google.com)
    1. At the top left, touch the menu icon Photos.
    2. You should see the photo you just took at the top. Try scrolling down to see what else is there.

Helpful Tip: Bookmark these links related to Google Photos (May, 2015)

Downside:

There is a popular quote among users of the internet (at least that’s who Apple CEO Tim Cook attributes it to) that goes like this: “When an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.” When Google is willing to give away an unlimited amount of something for free, how do they expect to turn us into a product? (The obvious answer is the way in which they do already: through connecting users and advertisers.)

Google is a great search company. However, they’ve failed twice at being a great photo storage company. Is the third time the charm? Let’s hope so.

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