6 Google Photos tips you may not know

Enhance your smartphone gallery app experience with our top Google Photos tips

If you have an Android phone, you may be familiar with the Google Photos app. It’s a digital photography gallery where you can view all the images stored on your phone – that includes the pictures you’ve taken with your smartphone’s camera and images people have sent you via messaging apps, screenshots and downloads. 

You may be using a different gallery app on your smartphone, and if you’re on iPhone you’ll probably default to Apple’s own Photos app – but Google Photos has several features which can enhance your photographic experience. 

Google Photos logo on a phone screenCredit: Shutterstock / sdx15
Google Photos is more than just a simple gallery app on your smartphone

Google Photos is available free on both iPhones and iPads (via the App Store) and Android smartphones and tablets (via the Play Store). We’ve been using the app since its launch in 2015, and here are our favourite Google Photos tips so you get the most from the app. 

1. Map view

Travel the world and zoom in on moments

Smartphones allow us to quickly capture photographs on our travels, and the fact it’s so easy to do can mean you end up snapping a lot. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can make finding photos from a few years ago a little laborious as you scroll back through hundreds, if not thousands, of images. 

Google Photos makes reliving trips much easier, with ‘Your Map’ view. Access it by tapping ‘Search’ along the bottom navigation bar and then ‘Your Map’ in the ‘Places’ section. 

From here, you’ll be given a Google Maps view of the world, with the familiar pan (slide your finger across the screen) and zoom (pinch in and out) controls to move around. You’ll notice a key addition to the map here though – coloured ‘hotspot’ zones, which mark places where you took pictures. 

Google Photos map viewCredit: Exceptional
Hotspots on the map show you where you’ve taken pictures around the world

Zoom into a place and you’ll see a picture count at the bottom of the screen start to decrease, as Google Photos filters down to the pictures you’ve taken in that part of the world. 

Sliding up from the bottom of the screen shows you this filtered view, allowing you to browse only the photos taken in the area of the world currently shown on screen.  

It’s a fascinating way to look back at previous trips and events, not only to places you remember visiting very well, but also those you’ll enjoy being reminded about.  It’s also our favourite among these Google Photos tips.

For ‘Your Map’ to work you will need to have allowed location data to be stored against images you’ve taken. If this hasn’t been enabled, the images won’t be matched to locations and Google Photos won’t be able to plot them on the map. 

You can enable location capture using the following steps: 

Android: Settings > Apps > Camera > Permissions > Tap ‘Location’ and then ‘Allow’
iPhone: Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services > Tap ‘Location Services’ slider to turn on 

2. Filter by faces

See every photo of a person… or pet

Google Photos also leverages the search giant’s image processing systems to help you find the photos you’re looking for. The search bar in Google Photos is extremely powerful.  

Want to see pictures of cats you’ve snapped over the years? Just search ‘cats’. Similarly, you can tap in a location (for example, ‘New York’) or a generic place, such as ‘beach’, and the app will return photos related to that search. 

But it can do even more. Google Photos can learn the faces of your friends and family, and even your pets (yes, really), allowing you to search for a specific person or furry friend. 

People and Pets section in the Google Photos appCredit: Exceptional
Google Photos can identify people in images allowing you to see all photos featuring that person… or pet

This feature may already be enabled in your app – tap ‘Search’ at the bottom of the screen and then see if you get the ‘People and Pets’ header at the top of the page. If you do, tap a face to filter by that person and return all the photos they appear in. 

You may find there are some faces the app has recognised, but there’s no name assigned – you can add the names of people and pets yourself, making it easier for you to filter your photos. 

If you don’t see this option, you may need to enable it. When you’re in Google Photos, tap the circular icon in the top right of the app and then select ‘Phone Settings’ followed by ‘Group similar faces’. From here you will be able to tap the ‘Face Grouping’ slider to the on position. 

3. Back up your snaps

Keeping your photos safe

Backup complete message in Google PhotosCredit: Exceptional
Backup your photos just in case the worst happens to your phone

Photos can hold some of our most treasured memories and, in case the worst happens to your handset, having them all stored solely on your phone is not ideal. It’s a good idea to have a backup of digital media that’s important to you, and Google Photos can make it easy to do this. 

Every Google account – a requirement for you to use the Photos app in the first place – comes with 15GB of free cloud storage (if you’re particularly snap-happy, you can pay for more). In the app you can set it to automatically back up your latest snaps to the cloud every time you connect to wi-fi. 

This ensures Google Photos isn’t gobbling up precious data from your mobile plan, but when you get home, or connect to a wi-fi network, any pictures which haven’t been previously backed up are taken care of. 

4. View photos in more places

Access Google Photos on your tablet or computer

The Google Photos logo on the screen of a laptopCredit: Shutterstock / monticello
View your photos easily on a bigger screen

Another benefit of using Google Photos is the ability to access your pictures on any computer. Just head to the Google Photos website in your browser and log in to your Google account to see all your images. 

This is great if you want to view your photos on a larger computer screen, as you don’t have to connect your phone and transfer files. 

You can also follow the same steps on your tablet, but the Google Photos app is available for both Android tablets and iPads, and is a better way to view photos on these devices. 

5. Clear out unwanted snaps

Let Google Photos help delete bad images

Delete photos in Google PhotosCredit: Exceptional
Google Photos can help group together images you may want to delete

We all take a lot of great photographs. We’re probably also guilty of snapping some real duds. With what can feel like unlimited storage on our phones (but isn’t), it’s rare for us to go back and delete the shots which aren’t up to scratch.  

This can lead to a large number of unwanted images taking up storage space, and if you’re getting close to the complimentary 15GB cloud storage limit – or your device’s internal storage is reaching capacity – removing these images is a good way to claw back some space. 

To save you scrolling through every photo you’ve ever taken, open Google Photos, tap the circular icon in the top right corner and then tap ‘Manage Storage’. On the resulting screen, you’ll see a section titled ‘Review and delete’. 

Here, Google Photos has grouped together images, including ‘blurry photos’ and ‘screenshots’. This gives you a far smaller batch of images to work your way through and decide whether they can be deleted. 

6. Share albums

Collaborate and collate

Album section in the Google Photos appCredit: Exceptional
Create and share albums to allow others to view and add photos

If you’ve travelled somewhere with friends or family, or have just attended a gathering closer to home, it’s likely that many people will be taking photos. 

With Google Photos you can create albums and share them with other people who also use the app, not only allowing everyone to see your photos of the day/trip, but also allowing them to add their own shots. 

This collaborative way of pooling images is a fun way to get a more rounded view of events, from the viewpoint of different people – you may even spot yourself in some photos. 

Tap ‘Library’ along the bottom of the app, and then under ‘Albums’ tap ‘New album’. You’ll be prompted to give your album a name and just below that is a ‘Share’ button, allowing you to invite others to join the album. 

John McCann

Written by John McCann he/him


John McCann has been a technology journalist for more than a decade, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He’s interviewed CEOs from some of the world’s biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. During his time in journalism, John has written for TechRadar, T3, What Laptop, Windows 8 magazine and Gizmodo UK, and he’s appeared in the Evening Standard and Metro newspapers.

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