I’ve wrestled with how best to keep photos safe, especially while travelling, ever since I got my first digital camera in 2002.
What if something happens to my camera, or, nowadays, my phone? If I drop it, lose it, or it gets stolen, photos from the entire vacation will be gone forever.
Thanks to Google Photos, a new app that the search giant announced in May, that’s no longer an issue.
Google Photos, which is free, not only backs up your photos online, organising them chronologically, but also makes them searchable. Google’s algorithm analyses the photos and categorizes them based on what’s in them.
This makes it really easy to search thousands of photos for things like “dog,” “sky,” “mountains,” “bikes,” and “beach,” for example, or by a location like “Portland” or “California.” It even recognises selfies if you search for “selfie.” Google calls it “Gmail for photos” and that seems to be a pretty accurate description of the service.
It also gives you free unlimited storage for photos under 16 megapixels. If you choose this option, however, Google Photos will store a compressed version of the photos, not the original file. Google says that this is sufficient for photos taken with popular smartphones like the iPhone 6 and line of Samsung Galaxy phones, and you’ll still be able to make “good quality” prints of these photos at 24 x 16-inches.
If you want to store the uncompressed photos, it will count against the online storage Google gives you. (The same storage in your Gmail account.)
The biggest downside of using Google Photos, at least for me, is handing over all of my photos to the search giant.
As I wrote in May, when Google first announced the new app, “there is something deeply unsettling about giving the huge data collection company unfettered access to nearly every photo I’ve ever taken.”
The company promises, at least for now, that it won’t use your photos in advertisements without your permission. But the company doesn’t say that it won’t use what’s in the photos — in my case, my friends and family, bikes, mountains, my cat, and more — to better understand you. That is, I expect the company will analyse the contents of the photos to better target ads to me.
Google is an advertising business, so it’s going to do everything it can to better target ads to me.
Despite my concerns, however, the convenience and ease of use of Google Photos outweighs the privacy issues for me.
I recently went on vacation, and now I’m convinced that Google Photos is the best way to save your photos when you’re travelling.
All you have to do to backup the photos is open the app, which for now is available on iPhone and Android. If you are taking photos with an actual camera, you can upload the photos to Google Photos through the Mac or PC app.
I borrowed an iPhone 6 Plus from Apple, and used it almost exclusively as my camera during the vacation. I’d take pictures with my phone each day — I’m very impressed with the phone’s camera — and each night when I got back to the hotel, I’d connect it to wifi at the hotel to backup my photos.
For some reason, every hotel I was in had very slow upload speeds, so I’d usually have to leave the app open for a couple of hours to backup all of the photos. At my apartment or office, you can upload photos much more quickly.
It’s possible to upload your photos over a cellular connection, but I didn’t want to blow through my data allotment, so I just waited until I had wifi.
I highly recommend using Google Photos to backup your photos, whether you’re on vacation or not.
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