Get Your Memories In Order For 2016… And Ever

If my computer and backup drive were to both die one day, there’s very few things that would really be missed. Most of the things on my computer could be got again. But the one thing I’d miss is my insane collection of pictures that I’ve taken over the years.

Since I got a digital camera almost 15 years ago and then a phone that allows me to take pictures at anytime, I’ve amassed quite a collection of photos. Probably something like over 27,000 photos to be not-so-exact. These are things that I could never get back again.

I’d thought many times about how I can make sure that I never lose these memories. Of course, the best answer always seemed to be having some kind of backup in the cloud, but I never got around to actually doing anything about it.

I thought about using iCloud to back up my photos since I have a Mac computer and an iPhone, but the free option didn’t give me enough space for all of my pictures and I just kind of balked every time I thought about paying for more storage there. No real reason why. I just did.

Then, a couple of months ago I was listening to the Note To Self podcast (one of my favourite podcasts, by the way) and they did an episode on how to declutter all of your photos (click here to listen to the episode). I wasn’t really so interested in decluttering my photos, since I’ve been pretty good about backing my photos up and putting them into appropriate albums as they needed to be, but I was interested in some of the other things talked about in the episode.

The biggest thing for me was Google Photos.

Google Photos

Being someone who’s always interested in the tech industry I had known about Google Photo since it sprung up, but it wasn’t until I got this little push that I decided to give it a go for myself. And my photo life hasn’t been the same since.

Google photos is great because it will automatically take pictures from my computer or my phone (using an app on each device) and back them up into the cloud so I can access any of my pictures anytime or anywhere.

But that wasn’t the big deal about it. Any cloud storage app can really allow you to do those things. It was the rest of what Google Photos could do that really blew my mind and made me love it.

Self Organization

While I had been pretty good about putting my photos together into collections, especially around trips and things, Google Photos was even better at it. And it does it automatically.

It looks at all kinds of things from the meta data in picture to the actually photo itself and organizes your pics in many different ways. It groups them by places, so if I want to see photos from my trip to Thailand years ago, I can easily find them. It groups them by people, using some kind of pretty decent facial recognition so that I can find all the pictures of me and a certain friend whenever I want. It even recognizes the things in my pictures, so if for some reason I want to see all the ridiculous amount of food pictures I’ve taken over the years, I can just look up “food” as a category and there they all are.

I wanted to find a good picture of my tattoo the other week and I went into Google Photos, searched for “tattoo” and it brought up every picture of a tattoo I had in my collection (mine, other people’s, ones that just happened to be showing in group photos, etc) making it super easy for me to find the picture I needed.

It’s pretty amazing the way this works, and it works pretty damn well.

The Proof Is In The Magic Though

I’m sure that there’s a lot of apps out there that can do some similar things. Heck, even Facebook is getting pretty good about knowing who the people in my photos are. Or my iPhone now knows the difference between a real picture I took and a selfie. But Google Photo does some magic extra things that really sold me on the platform.

Animations – Have you ever taken a bunch of pictures in succession trying to get that perfect photo? Well, Google Photo will automatically take those pictures and turn them into a GIF like animation for you just for fun. It does those with any photos that look similar to one another that were taken in a close time proximity. And it does it automagically and just surprises you with these every once and a while. Here’s one of me with my godson and his sister from just a few weeks ago:

Me and the kiddies


Collections – Another cool thing Google Photos does automagically is makes you collections of pictures into a video for you. It again uses meta data to figure out if you’ve been on a trip or to an event and then creates cool montage videos for you. You can even change the pictures in it, the music, how the pictures are shown and more. Here’s a cool one that made for me by itself (as in I didn’t change anything in it) from a trip I took to Lollaplooza back in 2011 (which was over 4 years before is started using Google Photos):


Scrapbooks of Trips – This is probably one of my favourite automagic things Google Photos does; helps you to document trips. Even though I had already made a photo album for most trips I’ve taken, this takes it a step further and makes it into a great looking travel diary type thing. It shows where you traveled, some of the great pictures you took and presents it all in a cool looking and interactive way. I haven’t figure out how to embed this into my blog here (I actually don’t think it’s possible), but click here to see the travel story of my trip to London in September that was made for me by magic (I could of course edit it and put in better pics of myself, but whatever, I like the auto magic).

Reminds You of Memories – It even has a feature that shows you something cool you did on this day years before, like this one that I got the other day to remind me of a New Years party from 5 years ago:

New Years... 5 years ago


There’s a bunch of other nifty things that Google Photos can do, but these were just a few of my favourites.

Seriously, if you’re looking for something to do with your photos that gives you unlimited ways to find and access them, but also to relive some of them (because before I was just putting them on my hard drive and leaving them there never to be seen again), I highly recommend you start using Google Photos now. You’ll never look at your pictures the same way again.