Google Photos is one of the best ways to sync and store the image you take on your phone, but getting them from your library is a different story – especially if you want to keep your metadata (date, time, caption, etc.). Since Photos no longer includes an option to sync with Google Drive, it will take some effort to keep a rolling backup of your photos.
Here and your options are to create a backup that keeps your photos and metadata intact:
As before, Google stores high quality photos and videos in Photos for free so that they do not affect the space on your Google Drive. However, if you choose original quality, Google Photos uses some of the space on your Google Drive to store your library, even if you cannot see or access the photos. Each photo or video that is in both places takes up twice the space.
If you used Google Photos before July last year, all photos that were synced until Google turned off the functionality will remain in the folder. You can do whatever you want with them, but photos deleted from Google Drive will no longer be removed from Photos.
Upload from Drive
Google has added a new feature to Google Photos called Upload from Drive. Just like the “Upload” button and the drag-and-drop method, you can select photos and videos directly from your Google Drive and import them into Photos. Once uploaded to Google Photos, it will live in two locations and take up twice as much storage space. And if you delete one photo from one location, the other will remain.
Backup and sync
For years, Google has been offering a backup and sync app for Macs and PCs that lets you easily sync photos and videos from your desktop to your Google Drive or Google Photos. It’s not a two-way street like the current integration of Google Photos-Google Drive – which means you have to upload photos and videos to both locations – but you can select individual folders to sync automatically as soon as you start your computer. All new photos and videos on your computer will be available through Google Drive.
Download a photo archive
If you want to make sure you have a backup copy of your photos in addition to the one in Google Photos, you can still download a full copy of your Google Photo Archive through the Google Takeout service. It’s not as fast or seamless as Google Drive sync, but it will do the trick.
To get started, go over to Data & personalization on your Google Account, scroll down and select Download your data. There are quite a few categories to choose from, but you want to deselect them all and search for Google Photos. Click the check box, and then scroll down to Next step. On the next screen, you can select the delivery method, file type and archive size, as well as how often you want to receive a copy of your archive. Then select Create archives to generate your library.
It may take some time to deliver depending on the size of your library and then even longer to download when it is ready. However, your photos will be properly organized in folders by date so that they can then be uploaded to Google Drive or stored on an external device, whatever you prefer.
However, metadata for the photos themselves will be removed upon export. If you want to keep it, you have some options, none of which will be as simple:
1) Manually export photos from Google Photos on the web. This is a very tedious process that requires you to select 500 photos at a time and export them to a folder. They must then be sorted manually into folders so you can find them when you need them.
2) Share individual photos or albums via email or cloud storage on your mobile device. This is even more accurate, but you can select photos or albums on your phone, share them via Dropbox or Google Drive or email, and then move them to another location until everything is exported.
3) Try a third-party app or tool. Depending on how much information you want to keep from your photos, there are many free and paid tools that claim to preserve your data files. For example, PhotoMove 2.5 ($ 9) will “sort your photos by date and then move or copy them to folders named by year, month, and date.” Or try a 30-day trial of SyncBackPro ($ 55), which will organize your photos by date and keep metadata attached to them. Or if you are handy with the macOS Terminal or Windows command line, you can try ExifTool for free.
Of course, since these are third-party solutions, they are not guaranteed to work properly, but if you do not want to manually sort thousands of photos in your spare time, they are worth a shot.