Google Photos: Are your photos eating into limited storage of your Google account?

Google Picasa retired on 1st May, 2016. The background was set and it was the next logical step allowing Google to focus entirely on one photo service - Google Photos which was there for one year and saw widespread user adoption. Picasa was a desktop application allowing to edit and manage photos. You could upload photos to Picasa Web Albums to store and share them online. Google Photos, on the other hand, was completely online i.e. cloud-based with no offline desktop application like Picasa. With the world moving to cloud and mobile, it was a decision to keep up with the times.

Google had developed Google Photos as part of Google+ and it was one of the best features of its social media platform. Though Google+ had very powerful features, it didn't have the user adoption of Facebook. So Google spinned Photos out of Google+ in May, 2015 to allow users to use Photos without any need of signing up for Google+.

Google Photos proved to be powerful as well as popular. Industry analysts have declared it as the best cloud photo storage service. The app is available for Android and iOS devices and you can of course access it from its website. The most amazing thing is you have free unlimited storage. You can upload and store any number of photos or videos to Google Photos provided they meet the below criteria.

Google Photos allow you to select one of the two options: High-quality and Original. Don't get confused by the term High-quality. If you select this option in settings, you have free unlimited storage. You can upload photos up to 16 MP and videos up to 1080p HD. If your photos or videos are above these limits, they are resized to these limits and smaller ones go without any modification (as good as original). For most purposes, they are absolutely fine and probably you won't even notice any difference. And thats why the name 'High quality'.

But if you are a professional and need very high resolution for specialised tasks like a magazine cover or print banners larger than 26 inches X 16 inches, you can upload them using the other option: Original. This upload preference allows you to upload without modifying but it counts toward your limited storage quota.

Google gives 15 GB of free storage space to all its users. As a Google user, you utilise this storage across Google services like GMail, Drive and Photos. You can click here to check your usage of this storage. I have opened my storage usage for example:

Shows usage of Google storage and premium plans
Like most, I am on a free plan (15 GB). The above screen-shot also shows premium plans. If you click on view details under the pie-chart, you can see the break-up of your usage across 3 Google services. Mine shows as below:

Have you noticed that Google Photos occupies 0 GB though I have uncountable photos and videos? But if that's not the case for you, don't worry. We can fix it.

You can perform the below task and make change to settings from your mobile phone too. The steps are almost same as from the Photos website. Open the website and login using your Google account. At the top left, you will find 3-line menu icon. Click on it to open the menu. Now click on menu item: Settings and you will go to Settings:

I have used my another Google account to demonstrate this setting since my original account showed Google Photos storage as 0 GB (I had selected 'High-quality'). But here, it was set to Original by default and I never changed it. I can change it now to 'High quality' for future uploads. Additionally Google has added feature to 'Recover Storage' which converts the existing photos and videos to the High-quality limits thus freeing up space. When you click on Recover Storage, it will display the message: Compressing photos and videos to high quality. This process is time-consuming and the actual time taken depends on the size of your photos and videos collection. When it completes, you can again check your total storage and it will be:
Google Photos: 0 GB
Congrats and Enjoy your time using Google Photos!

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