How to freely and properly store your photos in Google Drive

It has been quite a time since Google allowed us to store our photos in Google Photos for free. They recently increased the size of the photos that can be stored for free to 16 Mega Pixels. When they announced that, I decided to back up all my photos to Google Photos.

The best thing about uploading photos to Google Photos is that you actually get two ways to manage your photos; and I really like that. When you upload photos to Google Photos, you can add those uploaded photos in to “Albums” — In which you can store up to 2,000 photos. There’s no limit to the amount of Albums that can be created. — and look at the photos at your leisure. But that’s not the coolest trick Google got up their sleeve. All the photos that are uploaded to Google Photos will appear in your Google Drive account! You get to view your photos as files in Google Drive and you can do anything with them. And those photos do not consume your Google Drive space (As long as they are below 16 MPs.)! It’s really like uploading your photos directly to Google Drive for backing up; only that Google do not count their file size against your Google Drive space quota. How cool is that?!

Seeing your uploaded photos as files instead of some images in a virtual album gives you more control over those photos. You can move, delete, rename and do anything you’d do to a photo collection in a folder of your PC to the photos in Google Drive. Google puts the photos uploaded to Google Photos in a Google Drive folder called “Google Photos” by default, but you can — and you should — move them away into your own folders. By default, Google will divide your photos into folders by the year and the month they were taken, but that won’t be much helpful.

Following is how I utilize the features provided by Google to create my perfect online photo back up location for free.

1. Organize photos in your PC by albums

To create a perfectly organized collection of backed up photos in Google Drive, you must first organize your photo collection in PC nicely. I have been taking and collecting photos since 2012 and I have about 60 GBs of photos now. Following is the folder structure I have used to store them:

 ├┬ 2012
 │├─ 2012-02-11 - 1 - Olcott Memorial Cricket Tournament 2012
 │├─ 2012-02-12 - 1 - Olcott Memorial Cricket Tournament 2012
 │├─ 2012-04-07 - 1 - Battle of Golden Lions 2012
 │└─ ...
 │┬ 2013
 │├─ 2013-01-24 - 1 - Lunch at Sanekvin
 │├─ 2013-02-02 - 1 - Sanmark Annual Almsgiving
 │├─ 2013-02-11 - 1 - ICT Seminar for Students of Rahula College
 │└─ ...
 │┬ 2014
 │├─ 2014-01-16 - 1 - Sanmark Asanka Birthday Treat and Gift
 │├─ 2014-04-04 - 1 - BGL2014 - Day 1
 │├─ 2014-04-05 - 1 - BGL2014 - Day 2
 │└─ ...
 └─ 2015
  ├─ 2015-01-19 - 1 - Received "A Feast for Crows"
  ├─ 2015-01-19 - 2 - Moving Sanmark to a New Place
  ├─ 2015-04-11 - 1 - Rahula 2k11 Get-together 2015
  └─ ...

I have named all my album folder by the format “YYYY-MM-DD – N – Title”. “YYYY-MM-DD” part is the date of the album. “N” is an incremental number should there be more than one album for same day. All those album folders are then moved inside folders for each year.

Photos inside the albums are also named following a similar format. Following are some examples of that:


The format used there is “YYYY-MM-DD-HHIISS-N”. Like before “YYYY-MM-DD” part is the date of the photo. “HH” is the hour of the photo in 24 hours format. “II” is the minute, and “SS” is the second. “HH”, “II”, and “SS” must use 2 digits always. “N” is an incremental number, in case there are more than one photo taken at the same second.

2. Make sure your photos fit in Google’s size limit

The maximum pixel density of the photos you can upload to Google Photos for free is 16 Mega Pixels. You have to see if you have photos larger than that and make them smaller. I hardly ever have to do this, and 16 MP is more than enough for storing personal photos to be later seen at.

3. Make sure your “Google Photos” folder in Google Drive is empty

You don’t want photos of two albums to be mixed. If you already have photos in the “Google Photos” folder of your Google Drive, move them elsewhere. Place them in a folder in your Google Drive that has a hierarchy similar to the one I described above.

4. Go to Google Photos and upload photos of one album

Once uploaded, add them to an album in Google Photos.

5. Go to Google Drive and see your newly uploaded photos

You’ll see your newly uploaded photos in “Google Photos” folder. Move them to your own folder as described in step 3.

6. Repeat 4 and 5, one album at a time

You will have all your photos uploaded to Google Drive, without them taking up any space. Free photo storage for life!

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