Organize your photos with Google

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I have thousands of photos scattered across my computers, smartphone, and my cloud-based storage drives. Many of my photos have been duplicated, and some have been cropped or edited. What's a good way to weed out the duplicate images and organize all of them together?

A. Google offers a photo tool called Google Photos (launched in 2015) that might meet your needs. To use this tool, log in to your free Google account and navigate to photos.google.com. Next, drag and drop your individual photos and folders of photos onto the Google Photos screen, and Google will automatically organize your photos. Listed below are the features I like most about Google Photos.

Unlimited photo storage. Google Photos allows you to upload an unlimited number of photos and videos; however, the resolution of each photo or video is restricted to 16 megapixels, or 1080p, respectively. If you upload higher resolutions, Google Photo automatically compresses those files to match the restriction limits. (An option exists to upload higher-resolution photos and videos, but these higher-resolution files are then counted against your Google Drive data file allowance, which starts at 15 gigabytes for free.)

Searchable. Google Photos are automatically organized by dates, people, places, and things. In addition, once Google has processed your images, they become searchable using ordinary search terms. For example, a search of my Google Photos page for the word "boat" produced pictures of boats from my photo collection (displayed at the bottom of the page).

The Google Photos search tool can accurately show me all of my pictures of "dogs," "trees," "houses," "food," "hats," and even pictures containing "Carlton" or other family members by name. In a quick test of these phrases, the search tool produced only a single error—a woman with bangs was incorrectly categorized as wearing a hat. It's difficult to convey how well this works; I think you need to try it for yourself to fully appreciate how far Google Photos' image recognition capabilities have evolved.

Automatic organization of future photos. As you continue to take pictures with your smartphone or add pictures into folders on your computer, Google Photos constantly grabs those photos and videos from all of your devices (on which you have installed the Google Photos' uploader tool) and incorporates them into your collection in the cloud.

Photo-editing tools. Google Photos includes a few basic editing tools for auto-enhancing images, cropping images, and adjusting a photo's light, color, pop (contrast), and vignette. (For superior photo editing, you might consider installing Google's free Snapseed 2.0 photo-editing application, which provides more-sophisticated editing tools, such as the ability to rotate an image or change an image's perspective. Additionally, Snapseed includes a healing tool for removing unwanted items, such as blemishes from faces, or unwanted people or objects from landscapes.)

Multiple platforms. Google Photos works on Windows, Android, and iOS operating systems; Apple offers a similar photo solution, but it works only on the iOS platform and does not include free unlimited storage.

If you have accumulated hundreds or even thousands of photographs and you want them organized, Google Photos may be worth a try.

Google photos

About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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