Is it free to store photos on Google?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is free to store photos on Google through their Google Photos service. Google offers unlimited free photo storage for photos up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p resolution.

How Does Google Photos Work?

Google Photos is a cloud-based service that allows users to store, organize, edit, and share photos and videos. Here’s a quick overview of how it works:

  • Download the Google Photos app on your mobile device or visit on your computer.
  • Any photos or videos you take on your mobile device can be set to automatically back up to your Google Photos library.
  • You can also manually upload photos and videos from your computer or external drives to your Google Photos account.
  • All your photos and videos are stored securely in the cloud instead of taking up space on your device.
  • You can access your library from any device by logging into your Google account.
  • Google Photos uses machine learning to organize your photos based on people, places, things, and events.
  • You get free, unlimited storage for photos up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p resolution.
  • You can edit photos with filters and adjustments, create albums, collages, animations, and more.
  • Easily share photos and albums with friends and family or post them on other platforms.

What Storage Size is Free on Google Photos?

Google Photos offers free, unlimited storage for photos up to 16 megapixels (MP) and videos up to 1080p resolution. Here are some guidelines on what this includes:

  • Photos up to 16MP: Most modern smartphone cameras shoot photos around 12MP, so the vast majority of your photos should fall under the 16MP limit. Even many basic DSLR cameras shoot below 16MP.
  • Videos up to 1080p: This resolution is also known as Full HD and has 1920×1080 pixels. It covers most videos shot on smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras.
  • RAW files: The RAW files from DSLR cameras are usually over 16MP, so you’ll have to store them at their original size.
  • 4K videos: Videos shot in 4K quality (3840 × 2160 pixels) will also need to be stored at original size.

So in summary, all standard smartphone photos and videos as well as those from entry-level digital cameras can be stored for free at full resolution on Google Photos. Only users with advanced cameras shooting in RAW or 4K will need to use their storage quota for those original files.

What Are the Limits on Free Storage?

While Google Photos offers unlimited free storage for most users, there are some restrictions in place:

  • Photo and video uploads must be under 16MP and 1080p resolution respectively to qualify for free unlimited storage. Anything higher will count against your Google account storage quota.
  • The free storage is not meant for general file storage. Non-photo/video files will also count against your quota.
  • There are daily upload limits: up to 5,000 photos and 50GB per day via the website, 20,000 photos per day on Android.
  • Google may apply limits during periods of high traffic and revoke unlimited storage offers for abusive usage (such as storing non-photo files).
  • Unlimited free storage does not apply to Google Workspace/G Suite accounts. They get a set storage amount per user.
  • Deleted items continue to count against your storage for 60 days. After 60 days, the space is freed up.
  • If you want original quality for photos over 16MP and videos over 1080p, you have to pay for a Google One storage plan.

So for most users with common photo and video needs, Google Photos provides genuine unlimited storage. But there are restrictions in place to prevent abuse. As long as you follow the guidelines, you can store a lifetime of memories at no cost.

How Does Photo and Video Storage Work in Google Account?

When you upload photos and videos to your Google Photos library, they don’t directly count against the free 15GB of storage that comes with every Google account. Instead, here’s how the storage works:

  • Photos up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p don’t count against your 15GB quota.
  • Photos over 16MP and videos over 1080p count against your storage quota at their full original sizes.
  • Other non-photo files like documents, spreadsheets, etc. also count against your 15GB Google account storage.
  • Once you hit the 15GB limit, you cannot upload any more photos or videos at original size. They will be compressed/resized to save space.
  • You’ll need to buy additional Google One storage to continue uploading original files after hitting your 15GB limit.

The key takeaway is that the unlimited free photo and video storage is separate from the 15GB Google account storage allotment. So you can store as many photos and videos as you like for free as long as they are under 16MP and 1080p. But other files will eat into your 15GB space.

What Happens When You Run Out of Free Storage Space?

If you fill up the free 15GB storage that comes with your Google account, here is what happens to your Google Photos uploads:

  • Photos over 16MP will be downsized to 16MP.
  • Videos over 1080p will be resized to 1080p.
  • You’ll get an on-screen notice saying your photos and videos are now being compressed to save space.
  • The metadata, editing, albums, etc. associated with the photos will remain intact.
  • Only the raw image/video resolution is compressed, but all your edits are preserved.
  • Original RAW files from DSLR cameras will be compressed into JPEGs.
  • There will be minor visual quality loss due to compression but most users won’t notice.
  • You can choose to buy more Google One storage to continue uploading original files.

So running out of storage just means your new high-resolution images and videos will shrink a bit. But all your existing photos and edits are unaffected. Consider buying extra storage if maintaining full original resolution is vital for you.

How Much Does Additional Storage Cost?

If you need to store photos and videos above 16MP and 1080p, or just need more than the base 15GB for other files, Google One offers paid storage plans:

Storage Amount Monthly Price
100 GB $1.99
200 GB $2.99
2 TB $9.99
10 TB $99.99
20 TB $199.99
30 TB $299.99

As you can see, 100GB comes at a very affordable $1.99/month. 2TB would cover most people’s needs at $9.99/month. There are larger plans up to a massive 30TB for those with enormous storage demands. Overall, buying extra space on Google One is quite reasonable compared to standalone cloud storage services.

What Are the Pros of Using Google Photos?

There are many benefits to using Google Photos for your image and video storage needs:

  • Free unlimited storage for common photo and video sizes saves you a lot on cloud storage costs.
  • Machine learning automatically organizes your media and makes searching easy.
  • AI-powered editing tools make quick adjustments, photo enhancements, collages, animations, etc.
  • Syncing across devices lets you access your library anywhere.
  • Sharing features make it easy to collaborate with others.
  • Backward compatibility with some Android and iOS local storage allows easy migration.
  • Works across platforms like mobile, web, tablets, and integrates with Google apps.

For most users, the free unlimited cloud backup for standard photo and video sizes is the killer feature. But Google Photos offers a lot more, cementing its place as one of the best photo management and storage solutions.

What Are the Cons of Using Google Photos?

Google Photos has a few drawbacks to consider as well:

  • The free unlimited storage does not apply to files over 16MP or 1080p. Those count against yourGoogle account’s 15GB storage limit.
  • There are minor visual quality impacts from compression at 15GB. Not noticeable to most users.
  • Lack of facial recognition, keyword tagging, geo-tagging, and people albums in the web interface.
  • No folder system for organizing photos. Reliant on Google’s AI for categorization.
  • Albums limited to 20,000 photos — needing workarounds for larger collections.
  • Limited offline capabilities compared to standalone storage and syncing services.

However, for most casual photographers, these limitations are not dealbreakers. Power users with specific organizational needs may want standalone storage with robust metadata and tagging. But for general consumer photo and video storage needs, Google Photos hits the sweet spot.

Is Google Photos Safe for Photo Storage?

Yes, Google Photos is very safe for storing your photos and videos. Here are some key security features:

  • Encrypts all data in transit and at rest using AES 128-bit and TLS encryption.
  • Data centers have ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, SOC 1, 2, and 3 certifications for security.
  • Access requires your Google username and password. 2-step verification available for additional safety.
  • No public links shareable by default. Options to password protect, disable downloads, and set expiration.
  • Granular privacy controls let you select specific people to share albums with.
  • You own your data. Google will never claim rights or sell your photos to others.

Rest assured that Google employs state-of-the-art security measures to keep your memories safe. The service also gives you control over who can view and access images shared through it.

Can Google Photos Be Hacked?

While no system is 100% immune to hacking, Google Photos employs industry best practices to maximize security:

  • Password and 2-step verification prevent most unauthorized logins.
  • Encryption secures data in transit and at rest.
  • Sharing has privacy controls and link expiration limits.
  • Google’s cybersecurity team constantly monitors for threats.
  • Data centers are physically secured against intrusion.
  • Google has a bug bounty program to uncover vulnerabilities.
  • Automated systems detect suspicious activity to prevent breaches.
  • Databases are isolated to contain potential exposure.

Realistically, the bigger risk is on your end through a weak password, reused password, malware infection, or accidental public sharing. With strong unique passwords and sharing vigilance, your Google Photos library will remain private.

Does Google Use Your Photos for Anything Else?

Google has explicit policies assuring users that their photos remain private and are not used for anything outside the intended purposes:

  • Photos and videos in Google Photos only exist to be stored or shared as per your instructions.
  • Google will never scan or leverage your content for advertising purposes.
  • The service provides machine learning-powered search, editing, organization, and sharing of your media.
  • Google does analyze images to enable search features, but no humans view the content during this automated process.
  • Your media is only shared with others when you explicitly enable it.
  • Google employees only access user data for technical support reasons with permission.

Rest assured — Google Photos is intended solely as a consumer service, not a data mining operation. Your photos remain private unless you choose to make them public.

Does Deleting on Google Photos Permanently Erase Files?

When you delete photos or entire albums on Google Photos, they behave as follows:

  • Deleted items go into the trash bin where they remain for 60 days.
  • After 60 days, the deleted items are permanently erased from Google servers.
  • Deleting does free up storage space immediately.
  • Emptying the trash bin right away permanently deletes items.
  • The 60 day window allows recovery of accidentally deleted photos.
  • Permanently deleted files cannot be recovered even by Google.

So yes, deleting ultimately permanently erases files after 60 days. Be aware that emptying the trash immediately and permanently deletes photos. The window is there to allow recovery of mistakenly deleted content.

Can You Download All Your Photos From Google Photos?

Absolutely. Google Photos allows you to export all your stored pictures and videos in their original quality:

  • On the mobile app, tap Library > Settings > Download a copy of all your photos.
  • You can also download individual photos, albums, or your whole library.
  • On the desktop website, click on the three-dot menu > Download all.
  • Original quality downloads will be in compressed ZIP files.
  • The ZIP files contain your media in their original resolution.
  • This serves as a full backup that you control separately from Google.

The download option is useful both for backups and when switching away from Google Photos. Just be aware that full library downloads can be enormous in size and take time.

Can You Recover Deleted Photos from Google Photos?

If you delete photos from Google Photos, you have options to recover them:

  • Deleted photos remain in the trash bin for 60 days before being permanently erased.
  • The trash bin provides a window to undo accidental deletes.
  • On the mobile app, tap Library > Trash to look for recently deleted items.
  • On the desktop, click Trash in the left sidebar.
  • Recover photos by selecting and restoring to an album.
  • After 60 days, deleted photos are purged and become unrecoverable.
  • Back up regularly as a precaution against permanent deletion.

So you do have adequate time to retrieve mistakenly deleted photos. But act fast once you realize the error, as the photos will be permanently gone after 60 days.


In summary, Google Photos offers a stellar combination of free unlimited storage for common photo and video formats alongside robust organization, editing, and sharing options. It provides sufficient security for most users’ needs and is very accessible across devices and platforms. Just be aware of the resolution limits for unlimited storage and utilize the backup options for peace of mind. With those factors considered, Google Photos represents one of the best and most affordable solutions for consumers’ photo storage needs.

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