Google Photos is a fantastic way to see your photos and the powerful search makes it easy to find pictures of certain people, places or times. Before 1 June 2021, Google did offer unlimited free storage for photos. Now, things have changed.
You only get 15GB of Google storage in total, which counts files on your Google Drive and Gmail, as well as Google Photos. Therefore, if you want to upload more photos and videos that will take your limit past 15GB, you'll need to purchase more storage with Google One.
There's four tiers of storage currently on Google One. These are:
- 15 GB - Free
- 100 GB - £1.59 per month/£15.99 per year
- 200 GB - £2.49 per month/£24.99 per year
- 2 TB - £7.99 per month/£79.99 per year
Sadly, no unlimited storage option is currently available. You'll have to look at other Cloud storage options if you want that. You can also make more room for photos and video by clearing out large files on your Google Drive.
There's no need to worry about existing files from before 1 June, as these photos will remain on Google's servers and won't be deleted or blocked if you don't pay - that's a common misconception.
If, like me, you have a photo library full of pictures you took prior to owning a smartphone, chances are they’re sat on a hard drive somewhere. Google hasn’t made it easy to upload them, but here’s are two ways to upload every single photo, one of which is automatic.
Upload to Google Photos via a web browser
Before I get to the best way, here’s the obvious way: head to photos.google.com and click on Upload.
Unfortunately, the easy way won’t work for most people because the Upload option in Google Photos will only upload the contents of a single folder.
Most people keep their photos in multiple folders so they have ‘albums’ for different occasions. Unless you’re willing to go through dozens or even hundreds of folders and copy – or move – those photos into a single folder, you won’t be able to use this option.
You could laboriously use the Upload button for each folder you have but, again, that’s impractical if you have a hundred or more.
TIP: Before you upload all your photos, upload one or two and check that Google Photos can correctly identify when they were taken. Otherwise, you'll have a tough time finding them again.
Once uploaded, you should be able to enter the date it was taken, such as '22 May 2000' and all photos from that date should be shown. If not, search for the exact filename of the photo you just uploaded, and Google Photos should show it. Click the i symbol at the top and you'll see the info for that photo.
If there is a problem and the 'date taken' isn't identified correctly, you'll need to use a tool to edit this metadata.
Once you've hit the limit of what you can upload, Google will inform you. If you need more space, you can get a premium Google One account.
Upload to Google Photos via Backup & Sync
And so we come to the best option for uploading your whole photo library to Google Photos. It involves downloading Google’s Backup & Sync utility, choosing a folder or folders to sync, then leaving it to upload the photos, as well as any videos in those folders.
If those folders happen to be on a NAS drive as mine were, you may find you cannot select the root folder in Backup & Sync. The workaround is to create a folder within that (call it upload or whatever you like), then move all your folders of photos into that.
Here, step by step, is how to go about installing Backup & Sync and uploading all those snaps to Google Photos.
Note: this only works for Windows computers and you’d need to install the Google Photos app on Android or iPhone if you want to upload the camera roll from your phone. This guide is primarily aimed at those who’ve already done that and now want to upload photos stored on their Windows laptop or PC.
1. First, head to the Google Photos website https://photos.google.com/apps and click the Download button.
2. When the file is downloaded, click on it in your web browser, or navigate to the folder where downloaded files are stored – usually Downloads. Double-click on the file (called installbackupandsync.exe) and click the GET STARTED button.
3. You’ll need to sign into your Google account, the one you use for Google Photos.
4. On the ‘set-up’ screen, choose Back up photos and videos.
5. Next, you need to tell Backup & Sync which folders your photos are in. This could be as simple as clicking the box next to Pictures, but if your photos are stored elsewhere, such as another folder on your hard drive, on an external drive or on a NAS drive, click CHOOSE FOLDER and navigate to it.
You can sync multiple folders, but you can’t select multiple folders at the same time.
6. Select the quality you want for your photo/video - Storage Saver takes up less room, but compresses the file. Meanwhile Original Quality will not compress the files, but will take up more storage in your quota.
7. Click START and Backup & Sync will begin uploading photos and videos in the folder(s) you’ve chosen to Google Photos.
8. If you want to check on progress, click the ^ symbol on the Windows Taskbar and click the little white cloud symbol. You’ll see a scrolling list of the files being uploaded.
How long it will take to upload all your photos and videos will depend on the total amount of data to be uploaded and the upload speed of your internet connection, which is typically a lot slower than the download speed.
Leave your laptop or computer on while it’s uploading the files. In my case, with a 16Mbps upload speed, it took around 24 hours to upload 30,000 photos and videos from hundreds of folders on a NAS drive.
Again, the amount you'll be able to upload will depend on the amount of storage you have in your Google One account.