The Concept of Albums in Google Photos

Google Photos continues to be one of the fastest growing app & services from the Mountain View company.  With over a billion active users each month, Photos is the go-to place to store your photos online safe and sound.

But as a Google Top Contributor for Google Photos, there is one concept with the app that is a mystery to many:  Albums.  In the Product Forums for Photos and contacts here at the site, the idea behind Albums in Photos is one of the more confusing elements.  Hopefully this little tutorial will help explain things a bit.

First, let’s talk about the underlying structure of Google Photos itself.  The service leverages your Google Drive storage to store your photos.  If you store them in High Quality (you let Google compress your photos under 16MP in size), they don’t count against your Drive quota.  If you keep them in Original Quality, regardless of size, the count against your quota.

Second, there is no folder hierarchy concept in Google Photos.  Everything is in one folder which you view when you are viewing your library.  So what about albums?  Think of them as labels.

When you create an album in Photos, you are more-or-less labeling that photo to be associated with a group of photos with the same label.  You are not creating a folder.  So for example, I create an album “Clinton Skiing 2016-2017” and I add photos of me and my wife skiing last season to that album.  When I add those photos, all I’m doing is attaching the label “Clinton Skiing 2016-2017” to those particular photos.  I’m not moving them to a physical folder.

In this way, Google Photos is very much like the folder concept inside of Gmail.  In Gmail, when you create a mailbox (or folder) to put email in (for example, “receipts”), you aren’t actually creating a folder.  You are creating a label “receipts” which that email is associated with from that point forward.

If you are a Gmail users and use labels, then the concept of Albums in Google Photos will make a lot more sense to you as it is something you already do.

So why all the confusion?

I think it comes down to a couple of different things.  First, I don’t think Google explained the concept very well and, to be fair, they didn’t explain it well with Gmail either.  There is an assumption made here and I don’t think it is a good assumption

Google Photos Files on Google Drive
Google Photos Files on Google Drive

to make.  Many people who have PCs or Macs use folders in their storage structure and, in other photo tools like Apple’s Photos or Windows 10 Photos, the concept of an album creates a real folder.  But those are system-based storage solutions, not cloud based and that is where a bit further explanation by Google would be good.

Second, it comes down to Google Drive itself.  If you sync your Google Drive with your PC, Mac or if you look at it in Chrome OS, go to the Google Photos folder.  There you will see a folder structure for the various years of photos that you have uploaded to the service.  This, I think, makes people assume that Albums are folders too.

Hopefully this little tutorial will help clear up the confusion around Albums in Google Photos.

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