For a long time, I felt my digital photos weren’t nearly as well organized as other areas of my life. That situation changed overnight with Google Photos. Google Photos is in the news because of a change in its policy—it will no longer be free for unlimited storage. Like any other service which had been free and begins to charge, confusion arises. This article explains why Google Photos is still the best place to house those digital treasures.

If you aren’t familiar with Google Photos, start by reading this post. For starters, if you are saying, “I don’t even have Google Photos,” you probably do. If you have a Google account, you have Google Photos. Log into your Google account and go to and you’re there. You can start dragging photos into it today.

The June 1 change

Google gives you 15GB of free storage. Nothing changes there. To this point, Google Photos storage has been unlimited. It did not count against your 15GB. Starting June 1, 2021, new Google Photos, along with new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Jamboards will count against the limit.

Notice the word “new.” Everything you have stored to this point remains free. Anything you upload by June 1 will be free and will not count against your 15GB of free storage.

The strategy

From that last paragraph, you’ve probably already figured out what to do. If the change only applies to what you upload starting June 1, now is the time to jump into Google Photos with both feet.

Identify the photos you’ve stored on your computer and flash drives. Drag them into Google Photos. Use the Google Photos app to upload pictures stored on your phone. The link I gave you in the second paragraph also includes a 21-minute video. That video walks you through everything step-by-step.

Over the next 6 months, upload every photo you’ve got and take plenty more. You will have downloaded the Google Photos app, and the photos you take will automatically upload to your Google Photos account. They’ll be available from any computer where you are logged into your Google account. Gone are the days where photos filled up space on your phone. Gone are the days when you had to worry about what happens to your treasured photos if you lose your phone.

After June 1, it will probably take you years to reach your 15GB limit. Every digital photo I have is in Google Photos, and it only comes to 1.89GB. Want to know how much storage you have used with Google Photos, Gmail, or Google Drive? Go here to see. If at any time you need to free some space, this site will help you do it easily.

And just in case you go over your limit and need to buy more, how much will it cost? A whopping $1.99 a month for 100GB. Pay for whole year at once and you get a discount: $20 for the 12 months. You can hardly take the family to McDonald’s one time for that. For more information directly from Google, see this article.

Reclaiming Storage

One caveat for having unlimited storage for Google Photos has been using “high quality” as opposed to “original quality” when uploading. You may have uploaded some photos at “original quality” without knowing it. But how do you know and what can you do about it?

  • Go to
  • Click on the “Storage” link on the left.
  • You will see how much storage you have used. Below is what mine looks like. (To be honest, I forget how I wound up with 19 GB of free storage instead of 15 GB, but I’ll take it.) You want to be sure your Google Photos says “zero.” If it doesn’t, you can reclaim that storage. Read on.
  • If you need to reclaim storage, go to
  • Click the cog in the upper-right corner. You are now in your settings.
  • Be sure “High quality” is bulleted.
  • If you have storage eligible for recovery, you’ll see a button. Click it. Google Photos will compress the photos. You’ll receive a message that the process may take some time, but don’t worry. You can continue to work uninterrupted.

My own workflow

On my phone, You’ll find both the Google Photos app and a Dropbox app. Every photo I take uploads to both Google Photos and Dropbox. That built-in redundancy lends peace of mind that if something happened, those photos are safe somewhere else.


Specifically, in my Dropbox account, you would see a folder called “Camera Uploads” It’s nothing more than a dump of every photo. The good photos and the duds wind up there together. There’s nothing organized about it.

In my workflow, Dropbox functions as a place for those things which represent a “work in progress.” Supporting material for current projects lives in Dropbox. When I attach a file to a task in Remember The Milk, it’s automatically stored in a folder called “Remember The Milk” within Dropbox. (That’s a feature you get with the Pro plan for Remember The Milk.)

Periodically, I go to the “Camera Uploads” folder and organize and empty it. I begin by looking at the photos and deleting the duds and photos which closely duplicate each other. I label each of the remaining photos. Finally, I drag the photos to their proper folders in OneDrive. I’m finished when the “Camera Uploads” folder is empty.

(As a side note, if you do not have a Dropbox account, you can use this link to sign up for a free account today. In addition to the 2GB of free storage you would get, using this link gives you 500MB of additional storage. This link also gives my wife an additional 500MB of free storage on her account. I reached the maximum of 16GB of storage through referrals some time ago. Likewise, you will have a link you can give to others. When they sign up with your account, you both get the bonus storage.)

Google Photos Changes
Pictures from a recent trip still to be organized


In my workflow, OneDrive is the “filing cabinet.” You’ll find a logical folder structure. The items there consist of reference information. In my OneDrive, you would find a folder called “Pictures.” Within that folder, you would find many subfolders. Here are a few examples:

  • 1989 Wedding
  • 2005 Family Christmas
  • 2008 Speaking NAESP Nashville
  • 2017 Hawaii
  • Childhood
  • High School
  • Shelties (with a folder inside for each dog we’ve had over the years)

There are 264 such folders in all. Prepending the folder with a year lends a sense of chronological order to the whole thing. With Dropbox open on the side of my screen and OneDrive open on the other, I drag photos to their permanent homes in OneDrive.

Google Photos Changes
Some of the folderin the OneDrive Pictures folder

Google Photos

Every photo uploads to Google Photos. One of my once-a-month repeating tasks is to look at Google Photos and organize the recently-added photos. Again, I delete the duds and duplicates and label photos as needed. Some photos are OK to live as singletons in chronological order. The search capabilities make it easy to find what I need.

If I need to manually create an album or drag individual photos into an existing album, I do so.

Google Maps Changes
Google labels the exact name of the bed and breakfast on its own
Google Photos Changes
Google Photos recognized travel and creates the map with the arrow

A day in the life of Google Photos

Two months ago, my wife and I took a week-long trip to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. When we returned, there was no “organizing” needed. The Google Photos app on my phone uploaded everything to my account. Google knew the location of my phone, figured I had gone on a trip, and created an album on its own. Within the album, Google divided the photos into labeled sections: Carriage Way Inn Bed & Breakfast, Lightner Museum, St. Augustine Beach, etc. If I ever wanted a hard-copy photo album of that trip, creating it and ordering through Google is ridiculously easy.

Google Photos delights by creating video compilations of photos, sometimes even with music, and presents them for approval just as an added perk. Every few days, Google presents me with memories from past years. And if I am interested in seeing photos of a particular person, all I do is search for the name. Google Photos finds every photo of that person…even if it’s in a group shot from a high school reunion. 

If the grocery store announced that freshly-baked bread would be sold for a nickel a loaf, we would be flocking to the store and clearing the shelves. If the same bread had been free and was now going to sell for a nickel, some people would be up in arms and looking for alternatives for making a sandwich.

It’s the same here. I’m already seeing “alternatives to Google Photos” articles. Once upon a time, my digital photos reminded me of a junk drawer. Today, the collection is amazing.

Google Photos has made enjoying my photos so much easier. When we ask the question, “Why get organized?” the answer has much to do with being able to enjoy what you have.