Put your holiday photos in the cloud - a simple guide to Google Photos

How to Use Google Photos Simply When you Travel

Google Photos

Google Photos has many uses when you are travelling. But if I am on holiday I don’t want to spend my precious holiday time fussing about photo uploads and backups. Follow my simple formula and take the pain out of your holiday photo backups.

Don’t know anything about Google Photos? Here’s the Wikipedia Entry. You will need to open a Google account (free) if you don’t already have one.

So you are taking a holiday trip. And you are taking photos, probably lots of them. If you are anything like me you have a mobile phone camera, a compact camera and a DSLR (or two?). The challenge is backing up the photos, sharing them and then having them available to use as and when you want. Sometimes waiting until you get home to process and post them is just not something you want to do. But you are on holiday. You don’t want to be wasting time poring over a computer trying to get photos backed up and uploaded. I know. I have tried it.

For a long time I used Google Photos just as a backup for my mobile devices. Then I recognised another use. I could upload full size DSLR JPEGs to Google Photos, and that way make them available when I was away from home for editing and captioning for blog use. And then I bought a camera with WiFi, and my whole approach change. The whole point here is to use a bit of the downtime between the day’s holiday activities to easily and without much effort backup your best photos. I do this at least every three days, but I find that, like most photographers, I enjoy having a quick view of the day’s shooting on the day.

So How do I use Google Photos?

Simple Outline

  • Set it up once, before you go;
  • While you are travelling, when you have a bit of idle time, load selected photos to your phone or tablet;
  • Connect to the Internet;
  • When you feel motivated go online, organise your uploads into albums and share with family and friends.


Some Basics

When you create a Google account you get Google Photos as part of the deal. If you haven’t already done so, go and have a look. It is a cloud based photo storage and sharing system. In general the photos are private, until you give someone the gallery link. Then that person can see and interact with the gallery.

One important Tip: you can have multiple Google accounts, each with 15GB of storage. It would be silly to just keep adding accounts, but you may find it useful to register more than one account. I have four, for good business and personal reasons, though I tend to keep photos to only one of those. If you are short of space in one account use a separate one to handle your photography.

But here are the really important parts:

  • You can choose whether photos uploaded to Google are kept at full size, or reduced to 16 megapixels;
    • If you opt for full size, the space occupied by your pictures comes off the space in Google Drive allocated to your account (currently 15GB, though you can buy more);
    • If you opt to upload at “High Quality” (16 MP) size, photo storage is FREE! That means you have unlimited photo storage at 16 megapixels!
    • Best of all, Google has a function to reclaim storage. If you have uploaded at full size, click on this option to reduce the photos to High Quality, 16 MP resolution. This is important point 1– remember it;
  • Google Photos has an app for iOS and Android. The app gives the option to backup all photos on the device This is important point 2 – remember it;
    • You control whether it updates using WiFi, data, or both;
    • The app offers an option to clear from the device any photos which are already backed up to Google Photos. That means no more running out of space on your phone while you are away!

My “Formula”

To begin with simply ensure that your Google Photos settings allow upload at Full Size. This makes sure that any photos uploaded are full-sized JPEGs, providing a backup if it is needed.

Set this on the website: Menu -> Settings -> Upload size for photos and videos uploaded on the web only. Set it to Original

If you haven’t already done so, install the Google Photos app on your mobile devices, and set it to backup all photos. I carry an iPad and Android phone, and it is effective on both. Note that I don’t carry a laptop unless it is a business trip. The app instructions are in the menus, as follows:

Menu -> Settings -> Backup & Sync.  Switch on the Backup & Sync option. On iOS the Menu is the gear wheel icon.

On Android check on the Backup Device Folders option. Android stores edited versions in different folders.

Set the upload size to Original in Menu -> Settings -> Backup & Sync -> Upload Size

Now, when you take a photo on your phone, it will, as soon as you connect to the Internet, upload to Google Photos.

If your camera is WiFi enabled, selectively transfer the best of the day’s photos, or those you want to use or share, to one of your mobile devices. They will also be backed up.

For my DSLRs I have an OTG (On The Go) android hub. This allows me to insert the SD card from the camera and selectively copy photos to the Android phone. Again, these will upload when you connect the device.

Once the photos are on the phone or tablet, do any edits you like. I favour Snapseed for quick edits. Originally developed by Nik software, it is now owned by Google and is very intuitive and powerful. Available in the Android Play Store and Apple store.

Create an album in Google Photos for the trip, or for each part of the trip, if you like, and put your selections there.

By doing this, you have a neatly curated full resolution backup of the pick of each day’s shooting in one or more albums.

Share the Photos

Go the extra step and share your photos. Share the link to the family back home (I use WhatsApp). That way they can see your trip as it happens.

Share your album(s) on either the app or website: Click on the Albums Icon -> Click on the Sharing icon

Either select recipients and send the link to them, or look for the Get Link option and copy the link.


At some time well before the internet (I heard this in 1989!), someone said “the system is the network, the network is the system”. That was never more true that it is today. The network, of course, is the internet. If you aren’t connected your fantastic phone / tablet / laptop can’t do much. The beauty of cloud services like Google Photos is that you just need to have a data connection, and your photos will sync to the cloud. All you need to do is put the photos on the device, and let the app do its thing.

Typically you will either connect via 4G or WiFi. In general I have found that 4G is easily available in many places, including the Mozambique coast, South Africa and many European locations. WiFi, as many have discovered, is another story, ranging from low-grade, overloaded hotel systems to high performance internet café systems.

Uploading photos every day on holiday will use a big chunk of your 4G data allowance, so be aware of this and keep an eye if you choose this method. If you have the capacity, this is the best way to connect. Using a WiFi connection, particularly a public one, can raise some security worries, so it’s best to limit the connection as much as possible.

My method goes like this:

  • Arrange for unlimited 4G for the trip. This may cost a bit, but is worth it. If you do need to limit it, give yourself between 10 GB and 20 GB for a three week trip.
  • Set the Google Photos app to sync using mobile data
    • Menu -> Settings -> Backup & Sync -> Mobile Data Backup
  • Leave the mobile phone connected to 4G all of the time. This is useful if you use WhatsApp and the like to communicate.
  • Any photos on the mobile phone will be automatically uploaded to Google Photos. Simple!
  • If the photos to upload are on the tablet, I set up a hotspot on the phone
  • If all i have available to WiFi I will carefully choose where I connect, and leave the phone connected just long enough to complete the upload.
  • Obviously I will connect the tablet directly to WiFi if there are photos on it.

If you have no internet connection, don’t let that stop you. Just carry on offloading photos to the mobile device. Once you reconnect, it may take a bit of time, but the photos will sync. All you need to do is connect to the internet.

The Backup Option

Google Photos is often touted as a full backup method for your photos. You certainly could do worse than keep a 16 megapixel JPEG backup, and Photos is effectively an unlimited storage at this resolution. I don’t use this for a couple of good reasons.

Put simply, a couple of hundred photos uploaded while away from home is likely to take a lot of time.

More importantly, if you are not carrying a laptop, the transfer time from SD card, always assuming your mobile device is big enough to store all of your photos, to mobile device will be huge, consuming both time and battery power. Your holiday will soon become an exercise in uploading photos.

If the worst happened, and I lost my gear, SD cards or whatever, I would rather come home with a small selection of good photos, and memories of a good time away. Up to the point of disaster at least!

The RAW backup option

RAW files are big files. I’d rather have a holiday than spend my time trying to upload them, juggling bandwidth and storage capacity. In fact I have never used the RAW capability in Google Photos, though I believe it is pretty good.

That said, if I have a mind blowing fantastic photo or two, I may drop the RAW versions into DropBox or similar.

And then What?

Here’s where this comes into its own! You get home, offload your SD cards, BACKUP! If you followed my formula, you have a neatly curated album from your trip, with all of the JPEGs at full resolution. Add to it, show it off, download any edits to add to your home system, blog them or whatever.

At some point, don’t forget to reduce the storage utilisation.

Google Photos? Wouldn’t leave home without them!

Working on the iPad

5 Key Travel Hardware Items (Travel Computing Part 1)

Working on the “big” screen in the garden.

Travel Hardware

Travelling? Working on your blog? Processing photos? What hardware do you need? The answer is pretty simple – your travel hardware needs a hybrid, light weight computer like the Microsoft Surface. That will cover everything you need.

BUT does it?

A decently powerful hybrid computer is expensive. Is it the answer if you do short trips? A couple of weeks and long weekends at a time? I would rather be spending my hard earned budget on the trip! Aside from that I have no need of the “travel computer”when I am not travelling. At around £800 for a decent hybrid system that makes it very expensive!

As an IT Manager I am surrounded by all sorts of technology and often called upon to find a build working solutions. Over our recent travels I have made a point of trying out various solutions, generally leaving the laptop at home.

In this, first article, on the subject of travel computing I’ll be taking a look at the other options available, And they may surprise you.

What’s the Point?

In deciding on your travel hardware you need to be clear on what you want to do. Here’s my requirements list:

  1. Process photos, including those on my DSLR, and post them to Instagram, Flickr, perhaps 500px;
  2. Write blog posts, both quick, short posts, and longer ones, and promote them;
  3. Take notes and note locations;
  4. Post and check in on Facebook;
  5. Reply to e-mails, social media and the like;
  6. Play some music;
  7. Read books;
  8. Keep in touch with family on SMS, WhatsApp and the like.

Pretty much everything that most of us want on holiday. Obviously doing all of that needs a combination of hardware, software and connectivity. For now let’s just look at the hardware and come on to the rest in later articles.

My Travel Hardware

My travel kit contains five key pieces of hardware which allow me to do everything in the list above.

1. Smartphone / Mobile phone

Most, if not all, readers of this blog are likely to carry an Apple or Samsung, or other Android smartphone. Both iOS and Android support common apps which will do everything in the list. In fact the mobile phone is the cornerstone of most of these processes, for the simple reason that it is the device which you will generally be carrying. It’s also the device you are likely to be using for a WiFi hotspot for others. Mine frequently has a couple of other devices attached via a hotspot when we are on holiday.

At present my phone of choice is the large screen Samsung Note 4 with it’s stylus. In fact most of the modern phones with their larger screens will match anything I can do on it. The key here is to have as much storage as possible. This is where the Androids score, as they use a micro SD card, as opposed to the bigger cost of the larger capacity iPhones.

In the next couple of articles I will discuss the software and connectivity issues.

2. A 10 inch Tablet

The bigger screen of the tablet simply makes it easier to use. There is another consideration, though. That is battery capacity. Continual use on a WiFi or 4G link does drain the mobile phone pretty quickly, while the tablet will last significantly longer.

My device of choice at present is an iPad 3. So i have the best of both worlds – Android on one and iOS on the other! For quick weekend trips the iPad will often stay at home and everything will rely on the mobile phone.

A key requirement of my systems is that everything is sync’d (within reason depending on connectivity). Like many I struggle to sleep on long haul flights, especially being over 6 foot tall. Using the tablet, loaded and sync’d with the phone, I have a couple of days of music loaded. I simply start the music, put on headphones and that soon helps me to drift off. As part of sync, all of my Kindle books are also available.

Using an Android phone to blog

Blogging from a mobile phone, with a view of the sea from a hotel balcony.

3. Bluetooth Keyboard

At this point some of you will have said “you can’t be typing on a mobile keyboard all the time”. Some may have noted the keyboard. The bluetooth keyboard is probably the most important productivity aid in the whole process!

Bluetooth keyboards are not expensive, and there are many types available. I use two:

  • A small, rechargeable keyboard. It’s most useful for short “hand luggage only” trips, though in use it is a bit small;
  • The larger keyboard shown in the photos. Note that it is the same keyboard, just connected to a different device. This one is AAA battery powered, which means that I can pack it in checked luggage – something you should never do with a rechargeable lithium battery device. Its larger size does make it cumbersome in hand luggage.

Compatible with just about any device, the keyboard really takes most of the pain out of using the mobile devices.


4. The “On The Go” OTG Hub

Most of the more recent Android devices have the built-in OTG functionality. Basically this gives the device the ability to access files, such as photos, on an SD card, USB memory stick or external hard drive (with additional power). It’s a quick and easy way to load photos to the device for processing, posting, backup, etc. It’s an inexpensive but incredibly useful add-on to the system.

In my setup the OTG device will obviously only work with the mobile phone. Given the right software (see the next article) that’s not a problem. The iOS world has it’s own similar devices, which I have never bothered about, as My initially investigation of them suggested they were expensive and had limited capability.

5. Power – the Backup Battery

The iPad has sufficient battery capacity that I have never bothered about spare power for it. Any modern mobile phone, when asked to move around, stay connected and run location services, consumes battery capacity quickly. Here’s what I use:

  • A solar battery backup. This delivers about 60% of the full Note 4 charge, and is VERY slow to recharge on solar. It generally is recharged from mains power, but will run the phone directly from the solar panel in a pinch;
  • A second battery, recharged from USB, which delivers around 70% of the charge to the mobile;

On rare occasions both batteries have been necessary, but generally one or the other does the job nicely. Here’s a similar but higher capacity unit:


Other Bits and Pieces

Depending on what you want to achieve there are many accessories available for both the iOS and Android worlds. For example I find a stylus is a vital tool. There are also adapters to let you display the screen on a TV. It is really up to you. These are the five most important pieces of hardware in my kit.

And they are not only limited to holidays. On more than one occasion at work, but out of the office I have used both devices to access spreadsheets, and even server screen using VPN and RDP software. In fact I frequently don’t use my PC e-mail software at work, opting instead to use one or the other or both mobile devices.

Looking to the Future

Typically technology prices come down over time, so it’s worth watching the market for bargains, both in the hybrid computer arena and the tablet space. For the present a fully featured Windows 10 system really needs to be one the better / more expensive hybrid laptops. Having said that, there are a number of lightweight laptops with 2GB RAM and Windows 10 available at low prices. I am cautious as these are very small systems to run Windows. Hopefully, in due course,  I’ll have an opportunity to check out one of those devices. From the specifications, I suspect that their performance will be similar to an iPad or Android tablet. They may be a good alternative to the tablet in this article. Then again maybe not (I am NOT a Windows fan).

To Conclude…

Staying connected, blogging, uploading photos and so on does not need an expensive, lightweight computer. While there is no argument for long term travel – I would haul a laptop along for that, on a short trip that’s not necessary.

In two more articles to come, I’ll cover the software which powers it all and some of the connectivity issues which come up in short trips away.

Please let me have some feedback if you are interested in more on this topic.





Snapseed – First Try

Interesting! I had to try this! I came across #snapseed recently. What better way to try it but to pick a pretty mundane “I was there” photo. This thing could be fun!

Busy times, so it has been a few days since I shared Otto Münchow’s blog about Snapseed. I have subsequently used it to tweak a number of photos on both an Android phone and found it to be a very useful tool.

From my point of view it’s about being able to edit a photo quickly and easily on either phone or tablet. If I am travelling I like to keep it light. There is little easier than Android with an OTG adapter to load photos from my DSLR, edit them and upload them. Never mind the excellent camera on the Note 4.

The only downside I have found at this stage is the lack of an easy ability to crop the picture. But I have tools for that, so it’s not a problem.

The software has proved effective for all sorts of images, including a mobile scan shot of a precious photo, which needed enlarging. Needless to say it will see a bit of use in the next couple of weeks.

Snapseed is part of the Nik software suite acquired recently by Google, and released free of charge. It’s available on both Android and iOS.

#photography #processing #h1t via Instagram http://ift.tt/2cK448e

Blue winged butterfly

Linux and Photos – Hi Performance Low Cost

Blue winged butterfly

Linux and Your Photos

Fed up with the need to frequently upgrade your Windows PC or laptop? Stretching the budget to move to an Apple system? Worried about the cost of Photoshop / Lightroom, etc? Give some though to a Linux system.

For a while now I have been acquiring the odd older laptop and installing Linux. It is not hard, and often a damaged hard drive, which has trashed Windows, but is not totally destroyed, is recovered by the installation. Now my computer has to achieve a few things:

  1. My photography – storage, management and processing of photos;
  2. Music – storage and CD writing;
  3. Internet access – pretty standard;
  4. Work – documents and access to VPN systems.

In other words, pretty much what most people want their home computer to do. With possibly a bit more emphasis on the photographic processing.

In its earlier days, implementing Linux required a bit of “techie” understanding of your computer hardware. Nowadays you have the choice of taking a slightly more complex installation route, which does require some basic understanding of your system, or taking the basic “plug in and go” approach. Many computer users would be easily able to install it on their PC, especially if it is an older machine.

Advantages of using Linux

  • It extends the life of the PC. Because it performs more efficiently than Windows older, smaller PCs will often perform well. I recently loaded Mint Linux 16 (latest version) on to a 2 MB ex Windows Vista system. It performs like new!
  • It is FREE. Simply choose the Linux version you want to use, download and install;
  • Current flavours of Linux support highly effective packages equivalent to similar Windows packages. Browsers, Office, Photography, Music – they’re all there.
  • Most application packages are FREE!

Disadvantages of Linux

  • Linux does not, as a rule, run Windows software. To date I have not found a Windows package which does not have an equivalent, highly effective, Linux / Open Source alternative.
  • Installation of “dual boot” (Windows and Linux co-existing on the same machine) often requires a bit of “techie” knowledge. I don’t run any machines like this, so installations are easy, taking about an hour.
  • Apple does not support the Linux environment, so if you are an Apple user. There are ways, but they are tricky. So if you are into iTunes, you will need Apple or Windows at some point.
  • Some TV services, such as Netflix, are not supported. The “front end” of these services is managed via Microsoft DRM (Digital Rights Management) which has not been made available to Linux developers. That said, I have little problem in the UK running the Freeview catch-up services and live streaming.

From a budget photography perspective Linux offers a solid alternative to the Windows / Apple / Adobe option. Well worth thinking about if you, like me, would prefer to spend your hard earned dollars on lenses than on computers.

My current preference of Linux flavours is Mint Linux – simple, easy to use interface with a good software manager.

What’s that got to do with butterflies? Absolutely nothing. The Linux logo is normally Tux, the Linux penguin below, but I didn’t have a picture of my own, so I used the butterfly, which, by the way, was processed in Luminance HDR and GIMP on a Mint Linux system.

Tux: the Linux penguin Copyright Larry Ewing.

Tux: the Linux penguin Copyright Larry Ewing.

Some Relevant Reading

Amazon offers a broad selection of books about the linux operating system, as well as a selection of books about photo processing with Gimp, the favourite Linux photo editing tool.

Buy Blue and Black butterfly prints from Jeremy Hayden Photography