How to upload photos to Google Photos


Important! 
Please be aware that the files you upload to Google Photos are not considered as real backups (extra copies kept for safekeeping in case the original is lost or damaged). Why not? If you upload photos or videos to Google Photos from a device then later delete the photos and videos to free up space on your device, you'll have only one copy at Google Photos. The copy is no longer a true backup. Please read more at Geeks on Tour: Google Photos is NOT a "Backup" of Your Photos 

There are basically 2 upload methods:
  1. Backup & Sync intended to upload all your photos in bulk, without automatically creating albums. BUS uploads to folders in "My computer" on Google Drive and from there to Google Photos.

  2. Uploading manually using various methods allows you to add the photos immediately to albums. You keep control and can create a nice album collection. It allows to edit photos before uploading and to upload selectively.
There is an automatic check behind-the-scenes to determine whether the exact same photo was already uploaded to Google Photos. Any change (except file name) made to the photo or a change to it's metadata will cause the photo to be re-uploaded.
See How to remove or prevent duplicates in Google Photos

"Backup & Sync" (BUS)

Backup & Sync (BUS), a Google Drive app, was launched in July 2017 and was intended to replace Google Photos Backup ("Desktop Uploader"). On May 12, 2018, the Desktop Uploader was discontinued and no longer works. 

BUS builds a new hierarchy in Google Drive which mirrors the computer folder structure before passing the photos on to Google Photos. We recommend creating a new hierarchy on your computer for new photos. Trying to merge already backed up files will be very difficult. If you don't want your photos uploading to Google Drive, do not use BUS.

See Geeks on Tour video about using Backup & Sync to upload photos and videos from your computer to Google Photos: https://www.youtube.com/watch
  • Backup & Sync "syncs" images to Google Drive. The folders structure from the computer will be maintained in Drive but not in Photos. That allows sharing of Drive folders that include sub-folders. However, edits made at Google Photos will NOT sync to Google Drive.

  • Photos/videos will upload into the "Photos" tab  in Google Photos, sorted by camera date (if present). If you want to convert folders on your computer to albums in Google Photos, it would be better to upload manually (see below). 

  • When you select "High Quality" in the Backup & Sync app, photos will be compressed and will NOT count against your Google storage when uploaded before June 1, 2021, unless Photos skips them (then they will use storage in Drive). When uploaded from June 1, 2021 on, they will count for the reduced storage. 

Drag & Drop from computer to "Photos" tab or into an album

  1. Go to https://photos.google.com or open an existing album or create a new one at https://photos.google.com/albums.

  2. Drag and drop one or more selected files from your computer to Photos or into the open album.

  3. A small pop-up window appears on the lower left corner of the monitor. If you click "Stop" - this will cancel the upload.The file(s) will appear in "Photos" sorted by date taken. You can also find them in "Recently added" sorted by upload date.

  4. If you dragged into an album, the photos now appear in the album (and in "Photos"), and you may stop reading here. Note that, if a photo was already uploaded and is not uploaded again, it will still be added to the album. That's a major advantage of this method. 

  5. If you dragged into "Photos", you'll now see a larger pop-up window. Click the X to close the window if you do not want to add the photos to an album. 

  6. If you didn't click X, click "Add to Album" then choose either "New album" (can be shared later if wanted) or select an existing album from the list of albums. Finding an existing album may not be easy if you have hundreds of albums, but you can use the browser's "Find" (Ctrl + F) function to find it. 

  7. If you select "New album" you can rename the "Untitled" album by typing a new name in the Untitled field, then click "Done" (the check-mark in the top left side of the header). The new album name at Albums is searchable using the search bar after a delay of several minutes.

Upload photos using the Upload button

In the Photos or Albums tab, click "Upload". You get a choice between "Computer" and "Google Drive". 
  • Upload from computer
    1. Browse to a folder on your computer and click "Open"

    2. Select one or more photos (Ctrl+select) and click "Open". The photo(s) will upload to the "Photos" tab.

    3. continue as described in points 5-7 under "Drag & drop"
  • Upload from Drive
    1. Open the folder from where you want to upload photos

    2. Select one or more photos. Note that selecting multiple photos may not work: 
      • As soon as I clicked a second photo the upload started. When I tried again it even uploaded after selecting the first one. That seems a bug.
      • Same happened when I tried to select a range with the Shift key; the upload started immediately. 
      • The only way I found was to select one at a time while pressing the Ctrl key.

    3. Click UPLOAD in the right hand lower corner. In the left hand lower corner of the screen you see "n items uploaded". Unlike when uploading from a computer, there is no option to add to an album. You will have to find them in "Photos", but preferably in "Recently added" where they should be on top. Note that you may miss photos that were already uploaded. 

Upload photos from computer to Albums using the "Add photos" button

  1. Open an existing album at Albums
  2. Click the "Add photos" icon
  3. Click "Select from computer"
  4. Browse to a folder on your computer and click "Open"
  5. Select one or more photos (Ctrl+select) and click "Open" 
  6. The photo(s) will be added to your album and upload to the "Photos" tab (if not yet uploaded)
Remarks: If you see a message that photos were "skipped" click "View Skipped" and note the file names that were skipped, then upload them again. If there are many you can just upload the whole batch again: no duplicates will be uploaded. 

Uploading for Picasa3 users

Google disabled direct upload from Picasa3 in March 2018. Picasa3 continues to be useful for local management of a photo collection with basic editing and some extras such as creating collages with much more options than in Google Photos. Emailing photos from Picasa3 using Gmail seems also disabled. Instead you can export (select the size you want) and add as attachment to a mail. 

If you edited photos in Picasa3, you must create an edited copy on the computer by using Export or Save. 

The "Export" method
To upload photos from an album in Picasa3 you always need to "Export" to get a folder with the photos.  

  1. Select thumbnails in the library of Picasa3, for example all photos in a folder. You can either use Ctrl+A or click between the photos to select none. To select photos from different folders/albums you must add them to the tray by clicking the green "Hold" button.

  2. Click "Export" and select the options, for example "Use original size" (for image size) and image quality, for example "Automatic" or "Maximum". You can add numbers to preserve the order or add a watermark. See this link for details. 

  3. After clicking the "Export" button, the folder containing the exports automatically opens in File Explorer (or Finder on Mac)

  4. Go to https://photos.google.com/settings and select  "High Quality (free unlimited storage)" or "Original." This setting works for future uploads only. "High Quality" is free till June 1, 2021.

  5. You can now either use the Upload button or drag & drop the selected photos to https://photos.google.com/ .
    You also find the recently added photos on top at https://photos.google.com/search/_tra_ 

  6. But you can also create a new (empty) album or open an existing one, and drag & drop directly into the open album or use "Add to album" > "Select from computer". 

  7. After you checked that the upload succeeded, you can delete the exported folder on your computer (optional).

The "Save" method:
  1. Instead of using "Export" you can replace the original by an edited copy in File Explorer (or Finder) by "Saving" the edits. The original is filed away to a hidden folder .picasaoriginals under the actual folder, which thus doubles the storage use on the computer. See this link for details. For albums created in Picasa3 the "Export" method is needed. 

  2. You can now use steps 4-6 of the "Export" method to upload the photos.

  3. Immediately after the upload, you are prompted to add the photos to an album. You also find the recently added photos on top at https://photos.google.com/search/_tra_ 

The order of photos in an album

It is not possible to sort by file name in an album in Google Photos, but there are workarounds. More info at this link.

How to get all photos in albums

In Picasaweb all your photos were automatically added to albums. Backup & Sync however uploads all photos only to the "Photos" tab. Re-creating the albums on Google Photos can be very laborious, but the following may help:
  • Upload new photos manually. There are several options:
    • After the upload you are prompted to add them to an album. You may miss photos already uploaded in the past.
    • You can create a new album (or open an existing one) and upload directly into it, for example by drag & drop. 
    • You find new uploads on top on  https://photos.google.com/search/_tra_  (sorted by upload date). You also get there by clicking in the search bar > Show more > Recently added. Interesting for example for uploads of scanned or other photos that are not easily found in the timeline. 

  • Get older photos from the "Photos" tab in albums 

    • You can systematically add photos manually to an album from top to bottom in the timeline. Keep record of where you stopped. In case of doubt you do not have to check whether a photos is already in an album: duplicates will not be added. But that method is very laborious. I recommend the next option.

    • Recommended method
      After all photos are uploaded by using "Backup & sync", and hoping that you did not delete the local collection, you can (systematically or gradually whenever you need a particular album):
      • Create a new (empty) album in Google Photos 
      • Upload the photos/videos to the album (via upload button or by drag & drop)
        The photos/videos will be added to the album, even when they are already uploaded. They will NOT upload again if not edited or metadata changed - changed filename does not matter.

    • Some users "Archive" all photos added to an album (3-dots > Archive), so that they are hidden from the library and shown in https://photos.google.com/u/0/archive instead. The archived photos are still shown in the albums. 
      I would not recommend that method though: 
      • After you added photos to an album the selection is lost, and you cannot archive from within the album. You will have to select the exact same photos again which is time consuming and error prone. 
      • Archiving is intended to remove "clutter" you do not want to see in your library or share. Photos in archive are not shared when you share your library ("Partner sharing"). 

    • Some third party software claims to add automatically photos from folders to albums. Not tested thus at your own risk: