Now that the old Google+ user interface has been permanently switched off, everything revolving about photography has changed on Google’s social network – but not from one moment to the other. Ever since Google Photos was introduced, it was evident that the photography and image organizing features of Google+ were going to be moved to the new service – which is not a bad thing at all. It may be a very subjective view, but I’ve always found the image organizing features in the old Google+ clunky, slow and sometimes borderline unuseable, so after some initial misgivings I’ve been using Google Photos ever since it was introduced back in Summer 2015. So, in the danger of this blog becoming too much Google infested, here are some observations and tips about the new relationship between G+ and Google Photos.
» The first thing to realize is that what Google actually wants you to do is to manage your photos and images with Google Photos and use it to share your photos out to Google+ or other social media platforms. That’s right – even in the web interface there are now very democratic sharing target icons not only for Google+, but for Facebook and Twitter as well. But those buttons do work differently: when you share images from Google Photos to Google+, the actual images are transfered and posted, but Facebook and Twitter only get links to the chosen images on Google Photos. That is the main principle of the new ecosystem between Google+ and Google Photos.
» Nothing is getting lost! When Google Photos was introduced in 2015, all your Google+ albums and photos were copied over to Photos and for a while, both libraries were linked to each other. However, with the shutdown of Google+ Photos – which actually happened in August 2015 – this stopped and Google+ and Google Photos were detached from one another. That means when you now share an image directly in Google+, it won’t be added to Google Photos anymore automatically. Instead of the old Album section of Google+, there is now a new page called Album Archive that contains your images from all Google products including Google+, Photos, Hangouts, Blogger and (what was) Picasa. The former Photos from Posts is also located there. As the related help page says, this is only an Archive where you can view, delete and download, but not share or move images. There is currently no sensible way to access this archive from anywhere else and there probably won’t be – maybe with one exception.
» The new Google+ image picker is lousy – this is a problem that has been raised many times and Google is reportedly working on an improved version that once again allows access to what is in the Album Archive and has a search tool. If you have a lot of photos in your library, you’ll find it impossible to find anything, because right now everything from the Album Archive is lumped in there in one endless continuous thumbnail list. Once the image picker has been enhanced again, it should be possible to select photos from all Google services again on Google+, but don’t hold your breath: it could be a while until this feature is re-implemented.
» The best way to share images on Google+ right now is simply going through Google Photos. Just drag and drop the image file you want to upload in the Photos main screen and it will automatically upload to your image library. Then you will get asked in the lower left popup if you want to add the image to an album – this is actually optional and if you close the window, the image is still uploaded to your main Photos library. If you click directly on the displayed image, the Recently Added page is opened where you can see your photos in chronological order they were uploaded – this is different than the main Photos page, which displays them by actual image date. You can also select Add to Album or Shared Album to put the image either in a private or publicly accessible album or one you have shared access to on Google Photos. You can always do this later and if you go directly to the image via the Recently Added screen, you can share it to Google+ or add it to an album.
» Find your images with the search feature! – The search in Google Photos has really become quite good recently and even responds to keywords which you have not added to your images manually because the image contents themselves are analyzed for the search index. It’s a little bit hit and miss though, but definitively usable. What most users are not aware of is that you can also search by filename – this enables you to instantly find an uploaded image in case it gets “lost” in your library. Just be aware that it can take a couple of minutes for a filename to show up in the search results.
» The Google+ Sharing Window on Google Photos is virtually identical to the Google+ one – only with the difference that the photo has already been attached. You can select your sharing target by clicking on it next to your username – you have all the usual choices of just posting to the public, to select one of your Collections, a Community or individual users for a private post. The selected image will be posted directly on Google+ without a link back to Google Photos. Note that the Android app seems to work in exactly the same way, but actually downloads and transfers the image over to the Google+ app, which means further bandwidth usage if you’re on a mobile network. Using the mobile web version of Photos is recommended, because it works as well as the app even on relatively low-powered devices.
» Posting whole Albums is more difficult, but doable – clicking on the Share icon on top of a Photos Album unfortunately only gives Google+ a link to the corresponding Album on Google Photos and does not create an inline Google+ Album anymore. While Google Photos Albums have practically the same functionality that G+ Albums have, sometimes it’s just better to post an inline Album – and that is actually still possible with a trick: select all the images inside an Google Photos Album by clicking on the first image and then shift-click on the last one. If you then hit the Share button, the images will be transfered over to a Google+ album. The only downside is that it’s currently impossible to rename inline albums and they always have an ugly datestamp as their default name. This feature will hopefully be added again soon, because it has been requested a lot.
» Google Photos does not have any of the image download protection of Google+ – this is of big concern to some professional photographers, who are very concerned about image theft. While it’s true that you can always download Google Photos images from publicly shared links, I think this is more or less by design because Photos is meant as a private sharing tool for small circles like friends and family and not really built as a social network. I also think the fears about image theft are a bit of an overreaction, because if someone really wants to steal a photo, it can be done with screenshots or other means regardless how good the protection is. Perhaps Google will make the download option in Photos optional soon, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Overall, there are some, but not many things to complain about right now and most of them will very probably be fixed in the near future. This is by far not the unuseable disaster some Google+ users have claimed it to be, but you have to be flexible and adjust your workflow. The changes are really not that radical and I can only suggest to have a good look at the new system and try everything out before deciding to what has become known as ‘rage quitting’. It’s just not worth throwing the best combination of a great, completely free photo storage and organizing system and a fantastic social network away just because of technical progress and innovation. I’m not really susceptible to change, but at the same time I like trying out new things and the journey from the clunky Google+ Photos to today’s system has been really positive and brought a lot of fun back into my photography in connection with my self-hosted website.