Getting photos to the cloud(s) and back

This article is prompted by a combination of a casual enquiry about sending photos from your iPhone to Google Photos (hosted on a Google Drive), and my own discovery that I was backing-up iPhone photos to BOTH iCloud and Google Photos.

Observation one. Google Photos and iCloud Photos don’t work in quite the same way. Whereas you can access the Photos you may have stored on Apple’s iCloud storage from through the iCloud Photos app, you cannot access Google Photos from directly – you have to go to to access them. Google Photos uses up some of your Google Drive storage – you get 15Gb “for free” with a Google account – but it’s a standalone application, in the same way as Google Mail is. It’s an important distinction. Google provides you with applications which make use of their cloud storage, Apple provides cloud storage alongside access to applications which use that storage and which synchronises back to devices.

The iCloud window {Access to all Apple applications and cloud storage}
The Google Drive window {NB No access to Photos, or Mail}
The Google Photos window {separate from Google Drive}

Observation Two. This article concentrates principally on Google and Apple, because they are the two principal players in the Camera and Cloud Storage space. There are other cloud storage solutions on which you can store photos, eg Microsoft’s OneDrive, and Dropbox. I will only refer to these briefly at the end of this article. There are undoubtedly other cloud storage solutions, but I won’t be writing about them.

Observation Three. Anything I write about the link between Camera and Photos on an Android/Google system is second-hand knowledge, and I cannot verify it!

Observation Four – the final one. This article does not seek to cover the general topic of transferring photos from a phone to your computer. This is more than adequately covered in this article. I suggest you read it too.

Not wishing to be dismissive, but just because it’s so straightforward – I’m going to discuss Google Photos first. If you have an Android phone and thereby have a Google account, you automatically have 15Gb of cloud storage and the two are linked, and by default any photos you take on your phone are backed-up to your Google account. This is described well in the Google Support article. A couple of things are worth highlighting however: a) you can switch-off automatic back-up and synchronisation of your photos, in which case all backups would need to be done manually; b) you should carefully choose the “quality” of the photos you back-up – they may not be the same as that of the photo on your device; and c) it would appear that you could backup photos to a different account from your main one, thus adding to the free 15Gb you get with each account. [Alternatively, for £15.99 a year you could get an additional 100Gb of storage from Google. If you aren’t an Apple user this is definitely worth considering.]

It’s not that much more difficult if you want to save photos from your iOS (iPhone or iPad) device to the Google cloud storage. Again the Google Support article describes the process and the options quite well.

Similarly if you’ve transferred photos to your computer (eg from a camera SD-card), then Google’s got you covered to back-up and sync to their Cloud storage in this article. You should nominate a folder on your computer that Google Drive will monitor for newly added files which will then be backed-up and synced to either Google Drive, or to Google Photos, or both, depending upon the option(s) you’ve chosen.

Note (4) – you might get two copies if you don’t uncheck “Sync with Google Drive”

For this to work however, you do need to be sure you’ve a) installed the Google Drive on your computer, and b) you’ve set the preferences the way you want them. In my case, since I’ve increased the amount of Google storage I have, I’ve chosen to Mirror a folder (in itself called Google Drive) – then both the folder on the computer, and the one in the cloud should be exactly the same. A mirror in fact. Anything I add to (or edit on) my local Google Drive will be copied to my Google Drive in the cloud.

So we turn next to the Apple ecosystem. [I should feel more confident here, but as you may have noted that I disclosed at the start of this article that I was doing something extremely stupid and not noticing my idiocy.] Here the support page on Apple Photos and iCloud I think really does a good job of explaining your choices and how to set up backup to their cloud storage. I don’t think I can improve on it. But what if you’ve got Google Photos installed as well on your iOS device? This is where I made my foolish mistake. I enabled Backup and Sync on my iPhone and so I got TWO copies of every photo – one in my Google storage in Google Photos and the other in my iCloud storage. Duh!!!

Disabling the Backup and Sync left me with an image which was shared locally between the Google Photos and Apple Photos apps. How could I get that image (or group of images) onto Google Photos to perhaps share with friends or family?

It turns out that there are two reasonably easy ways of doing this. By enabling iCloud Photos on the phone (or tablet) …

Set iCloud Photos to On

… I can then download from iCloud to a folder on my computer which I can then upload to Google Photos from. Really rather simple and not a use case for Google Photos Backup and Sync to be employed.

Alternatively, I could go into the Google Photos app, select the image I want to send to Google Photos in the cloud and Share it by getting a link and then sending myself a message. The act of sharing it copies the image to the cloud, from which I can then add it albums, etc.

Using either of these approaches allows you then to obtain a link for the album which you can then Share to a list of users, or obtain a link for public sharing.

Once you get the photos onto Google Photos the fun starts. It’s not intuitive what happens when you decide you want to delete them either from the cloud, or from your device. In fact it’s downright confusing. I’ve written about this before and life is too short to repeat anything that I believe still to be correct. Best of luck!!!

The situation with deleting photos from Apple Photos and iCloud Photos is slightly more straightforward and is detailed below …

I can confirm that deleting a file on iCloud Drive from the Files app on an iPhone will delete it from and your iCloud drive on MacOS as well – which is what you would expect should happen.”

However, the situation of Photos stored in the Apple Photos app (on iPhone or iPad) and iCloud Photos should also be noted – for completeness.

I’m not going to write anything; just provide three links to follow to clarify …

How to Delete Photos From iPhone but Not iCloud

How to Delete Photos From iCloud (While Keeping Them on Your iPhone)


How to recover a deleted photo or video on your iPhone or iPad

If you want to delete a Photo from both device and iCloud Photos. Just ensure Sync is left on and then you can delete the image from either the device or

Having confirmed all this, and having more storage space on iCloud, and understanding that sharing Photo Albums is about to come to Apple Photos, and having checked that Sync’ing does seem to be working for iCloud Photos (from my Apple devices), I checked my Google Photos settings settings and switched-off Back up and Sync. I was doing far too many cloud backups!!! Always worth checking. If I want a Photo to be on Google Photos (for sharing for instance), I will now Upload, not rely on syncing.

It goes without saying that keeping it all in the Apple ecosystem (for me) makes a lot of sense, and with the ability to share albums on the way – it’s not yet as sophisticated as the Google Photo Albums service – I may transition away from Google Photos altogether in time.

If you’re a PC Windows user with an iPhone, then a solution is beginning to appear that enables you to use the Windows Photo application with iCloud. You can install iCloud for Windows on your PC and then you should be able to manage your iPhone photos from your desktop.

For Dropbox users, you can setup an automatic upload of photos to the service. They even give you a bit more free storage if you enable this, or at least they used to!

It's in the Cloud – Part 1

Attending my first meeting of the Cardiff University of the Third Age (U3A) Computer Group, I offered to write some notes to accompany the talk that was given on Data Storage in the Cloud by David Reeves. So here goes …
Computing has moved a long way from the days when all you stored on your computer were words and numbers. Gradually this has been extended to include first pictures, then audio, and then video. With the addition of these media so the requirements for memory to store them increased first by needing an increase in the Random Access Memory (RAM) that the computer had so that you could actually view or listen to the media, and then in the disk storage you needed to hold and recall the images or music at a later date.

220px-floppy_disk_2009_g1220px-laptop-hard-drive-exposedThis need for additional storage meant first the introduction of floppy disks, then hard disks inside the computer, then external hard disks 250px-toshiba_1_tb_external_usb_hard_driveconnected usually to a USB port on your computer and then flash drives which you could carry around 220px-sandisk_cruzer_microwith you and then connect to a USB port on your computer.

With the changes in technology, so the amounts of information stored by each device increased. To give you an idea of how much this has changed you might like to look at the table below – which is actually out of date because you can now get both USB Memory Sticks and Hard Drives considerable larger than those quoted here.


If you want to read more about Information Storage including some technologies I’ve not discussed here such as CD/DVDs you could follow this link or this one, but there’s far more information in these articles than you need to understand why it might be a good idea to store information away from your computer – in the cloud.

Before we do that it might be a good idea to raise an issue that storing all this data causes – what happens if the device breaks, gets corrupted in some way, or just simply gets lost! Now, computer professionals have always done back-ups of their stored data (or they should have done), but the home computer user has never really put a value on their data UNTIL they lose it. So backing-up your data (stored information – words, numbers, images, music and videos) is actually an ESSENTIAL part of owning a computer. This article describes the various ways you might consider backing-up your data but at the bottom of the list is Cloud Storage and that’s where I’m going to take you now.

Wouldn’t it be great if every time you saved a picture, word processed document, spreadsheet … whatever, a copy was automatically made and stored away from your computer so whatever might happen to your computer, the most important part of it – the information it stored – was safe. That’s the essential value of Cloud Storage and the most important reason for using it. We’ll turn to the second most important reason – sharing information with others – later.

cloud-storage-imagesThere are a number of Cloud Storage options you can use for free as long as you keep your storage below a certain limit. You can use as many as you want to and you might consider using different providers for different purposes. For instance I use Google Drive mainly for Photo Storage, Apple’s iCloud for documents, and Dropbox for sharing stuff. [I’ll maybe explain why I do this in another post.] The other main provider is Microsoft with their OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) offering, I don’t tend to use this much, but the principles for using it are much the same as the others.

So how do you use them? As I said above, the principles for each are much the same. I will use Google as the main example, and provide links to the others as well.

Google Drive. You will need a Google Account. This is a good idea in any case as it allows you to create another eMail account – I’m a strong advocate for having more than one eMail address anyway (see Point 3 in this post). Go to Google Accounts to setup your Google ID – you can use your existing eMail address if you want to. Then with your account set up you can go to this page. I would suggest you download the applications for your desktop as well as setting it up for your browser. Installing the application on your Windows PC, or your Apple Mac, will then create a Folder in which you can store information and which then will then be backed-up to your Google Drive “in the cloud”. Voila – you have peace of mind that your precious information has been saved. Any changes you make to the information will be synchronised with the version saved on your cloud storage.

For Dropbox go to this link and create your account, perhaps using the Google email address you’ve just created above – a lot of services allow you to link to your Google ID and this means you don’t have to remember lots of IDs and Passwords.

If you’re an Apple user (iMac, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, etc) it makes sense to use iCloud. Even if you’re not, you can still add an iCloud Drive to your desktop and access the 5Gb of free storage you’re provided with “in the cloud”.

If you’re a Microsoft (Windows and Office) user it makes sense to use OneDrive. Like iCloud you get 5Gb of free storage from this link. You may also find that you are offered the option of installing OneDrive when you install Microsoft Office (or Office 365).

Finally sharing information with others. I don’t think I can improve on David’s demonstration and on this YouTube video …

I’ve focussed on using a Folder on your desktop/laptop machine to backup or synchronise files to your Cloud Storage. Remember also that David demonstrated how you can Upload a file using your web browser (I would recommend using Google Chrome) from your desktop to your Cloud Storage.