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How To Use Google+ Photos (And Moving From Picasa to Google+ Photos), the Ultimate Guide

This article will provide you all you need to know when moving your photos from Picasa / Picasa web to Google+ photos.

But before we get there, no doubt you're asking yourself "why?". Let's start with that important question.

Why should I be moving photos from Picasa to Google+?

Like the majority of you photo lovers, I'm a big fan of Picasa. It has been the most important part of my photo workflow for many, many years. The convenient upload/backup process to Picasaweb gave me peace of mind that my photos were always secure (at least with the free 2048 Pixel Version). But now, after a long anticipated change, I have had to put in the effort into moving my photos to Google's new photo service "Google+ Photos".

Why should you do this sooner rather than later?

1. We'll start with the obvious: sooner or later Picasa and Picasaweb will go away anyway, being taken over by several better platforms. All recent updates to Picasa now revolve around including Google+ features into Picasa. Google even cut down other features like the online editing functions. So it seems clear to me that Picasa will go away. Sure, you could just wait until this happens, but there are other reasons to make the move now...

2. The work flow for photos has changed. In previous years life was much easier. You just had your prime camera (and maybe another smaller camera to take pictures). After taking pictures you took your SD card, inserted it into the computer, imported pictures, sorted them, edited them and then synced/uploaded them. Well, for me, this has changed over the last 3-4 years. While with my first smartphone the pictures I took weren't at all suitable to be saved and collected, now a huge chunk of my photos come from my smartphone. Herein the process has also changed. Earlier I connected a camera to the computer and downloaded them, but over recent years and months the photos are now auto-synced to services including Google+ with "Auto-Backup" (learn more about Auto-backup). By having my photos online first it's extra work to download them into Picasa and then to upload them again.

3. There are big benefits to all this. You can edit photos on your desktop, on your cellphone and on the web and the results are shown on all places at the same time (you still have the chance to revert the images to the original version at any time).

4. You can include PhotoSpheres photos in your albums. This makes sharing your photos with friends and family much more fun. (Find out here what Photo Spheres by taking a look at some examples).

5. On Google+ there's a much better search option. The earlier I prepare my photos accordingly and use Google+ as my main resource the easier I can find and access my photos from anywhere.

This changing workflow was my tipping point for starting to use Google+ photo as my prime photos service.



My new workflow working with Google + Photos and regular SD Cards

Photos from my cellphone or tablet are synced automatically into Google+ photos. I download all photos from the SD card locally to my computer. ⬇ I choose what pictures I want to keep (the others I directly delete) - it doesn't matter if I do this with Picasa or Windows Explorer. ⬇ I then upload (more info about how to upload photos) all the pictures. Further below I explain the tools available to to make this even easier. I recommend just using the the 2048 Pixel option. On the one hand this is free, on the other this workflow allows you to have the large, original file backed up locally. If you have the cash you can also choose the option to save the photos in the original size. ⬇ These untouched pictures I then save in my folder structure (they are still in the original size) as backup and will not touch them again. ⬇ Once all the pictures are on Google+, I put them into the album. I move the already synced photos from my smartphone and/or tablet that will fit also in this album. ⬇ After I have all my photos together, sorted by date, I import the album in Picasa with "Import from Google+ Photos", this will create a new folder within the collection "Web Albums". ⬇ Set this new album to "autosync". ⬇

My net process involves things that are still more convenient to do in the installed Picasa version (I believe over time Google+ photos will get better in this department and I will over time do those also online)

-> add location data -> add descriptive tags ->description of photos

⬇ The changes are directly uploaded on Google+ ⬇ After you are completely done with the album I recommend you take out the autosync. Why? It has a risk of updating your data automatically on Google+. You might delete photos accidentally. I don't trust the sync too much, so I'd definitely turn it off after you are finished with this step. (please notice, that photo edits (contrast, color etc…) done on your local Picasa, that would be synced to Google+ but are not revertible online. ⬇ Go to the online version of this album in Google+, all the information that you added locally now appears online.

Voila! You now have all the photos together online on Google+.  

What Software or Services can you use to upload your photos automatically or quickly to Google plus photos?

Using Google + Photos and Eye-Fi Cards

Usually I take pictures on my Eye-Fi Card. This makes the workflow even simpler. It's basically the same as above but now I'm even faster:

  1. I take pictures with my DSLR.

  2. With Eye-Fi synced enabled I directly get those photos on my cellphone.

  3. In the Eye-Fi App I select all new photos and share them to "Google+ Photos" (not to Google+).

  4. After the upload has finished I then delete all the photos in my Eye-Fi app on my phone.

  5. I now have all my photos on Google+ photos and can move them to a new album or an existing album.

  6. I leave the photos on the SD card. Once connected to a computer I move them to my computer to the backup location in their original size.

  1. Using Chromebook

You can install the Google+ Photos App. Whenever you insert an SD card into your computer you have the option to directly upload the photos to google+

Using Android

In Android the photo backup is built in, you can simply turn it on in the Google+ settings.

Using iOS

Install the Google+ App for iPhone or iPad and turn the "autoysync" option on.

Using Windows/Max

Install the Google+ Auto Backup Software (Windows / Mac ). Once installed you can set what directories should be observer. Whenever the software finds new photos or Videos these will be uploaded/synced with your Google+ account.


Understanding the Structure of Photos on Google+


These are albums that you set up and automated "folder" setup from Google from the auto-sync from your cellphone. I will call these automated collections "folders" to differentiate them better from albums.  Google's algorithm decides which pictures are "highlights", these are shown on this page.

By clicking on the small arrow you can expand the view to see all photos in this album or folder.


In this tab all photos (other than those in the trash) are shown, sorted automatically by date. It's hard to find older pictures here, but google+ has strong search options that are explained below.


This is as close as it gets to the old Picasa or Picasaweb view. This view just shows the albums that you created. It doesn't show what I called "folders" above.

Bonus tip: If you would like to view your albums in Picasaweb view mode you can do so by using this url:


The trash feature is quite handy. If you believe you should delete photos (because they’re duplicated or you have a better version) they are still saved for another 30 days. This happened to me several times where I had to recover my photos. So I’m quite confident using the delete button now.

Editing your photos online with the Google+ Photos

From any view mode described above you enlarge a photo and then edit it. There are optional automatic editing features called "AutoEnhance", but this I will cover below. From the photo viewer you can click on edit to get to the edit mode:


The Basic Adjustments:

This is a picture of my colleague, Max, freezing on a cold winter day in Berlin. We have taken this picture as an example. This adjustment is quite powerful and the result of the Snapseed acquisition (more about snapseed a little later). Most of the features are pretty self explanatory, so I won't dive into everything here but here are most significant tips:

Selective Adjustments:

With this tool you can select specific parts of the photos. The selected area depends on the size that you give it. It will just cover the area of a similar color tone. In this example it covers the blue house that gets the attention in this photo. Now we can just adapt the brightness, contrast and saturation for this part (the part marked with red) of the photo.

The result is a darker, unsaturated house, that doesn't capture the viewers eyes anymore. To easily compare the 2 versions of the Video I recommend you use the "compare" function right above the photo. I additionally increased the saturation of Max's face, darkened the whole right hand side of Max and made Max lighter as his surroundings also brightened the snow a little bit.

The rest of the basic adjustments are quit self explanatory, so let's jump to the "Creative Adjustments":

The black and white options are really good and for an online editor really advanced, I highly recommend them. But they are straight forward, so let's dive into "Center Focus". This is a very handy tool. By selecting the "Center Focus" you can highlight the center, darken the outside (Vignetting effect) and even blur the outside. After the "selective adjustments" and the "center focus" adaptions I got to this photo:

Drama is quite a powerful tool. Make sure that you turn down the "strength bar" as I find this otherwise to be over exaggerated. The result of this filter:

Another filter, that is very powerful is the "Tilt-Shift" Filter, I wouldn't use this on this specific filter usually, but for the purpose of demonstration I'll do this. Please notice that on the top of that filter you have two shapes to select from, so apart from the straight form there is also a a round shape option. I used this on the photo:

The other editing options like frames and retrolux are self explanatory, feel free to play around with them.

Editing your photos on Android/iOS

The nice thing about working your photos with google+ photos: you can edit them not just on your desktop computer but also on your iPad, iPhone and Android device. The android version still has the "older" editing version:

So, it's not consistant with the web editing funcionality. But the good news is (and maybe by the time you read this), the snapseed functions that you have in the desktop version still is just available in the stand alone snapseed app. If you use this the inconvencience is, that you have to save two different versions of the photo: the orginal, unedited version and the edited version.


What level of AutoEnhance to take on Google+ Photos?

The AutoEnhance feature makes your photos looks more stunning, automatically. Google will Algorithmically calculate each photo and look into what kind of corrections should be made. Among these are: contrast, brightness, shadows, color correction, noise cancellation & vignetting. The results are quite mind-blowing. I personally recommend you use the "normal" AutoEnhanced level because I don't like my pictures to look overly enhanced. But this is up to your taste. Let's take a look at an example:

AutoEnhaned turned off:


AutoEnhancel: level "normal":


AutoEnhacel level "high":

As you can see in this example the "high" level clearly overdid it (but this really depends on the picture).

You can set the default setting in the Google+ Settings:

Your Photos, that are AutoEnhanced are presented this way. It says "ENHANCED" on the top right corner of such a photo. When you hover over it with the mouse you can change the settings for this photo individually:


AutoAwesome on Google+ Photos

The AutoAwesome functionality is one main reason why you should upload your photos to Google+. It analyses the photos and doesn't just adjust them with AutoEnhanced but creates amazingly cool effects. Auto-Awesome effects are constantly being added. The present ones are:

MOTION - short animations created from a sequence of photos

If you take photos in serial mode, with motion you can add those photos in an amazing gif-Video, like this one:

Safari Google Plus photo

Safari Google Plus photo

SMILE - group photos where everyone looks their best!

Take various pictures of a group. Someone always comes out bad. But don't panic! AutoAwesome SMILE will stitch the faces together from different photos to one final photo, where everybody looks into the camera and smiles. Pretty amazing.

PANO - panoramas created from a series of landscape photos

This is for a situation where you might have your fisheye missing. Just take several vertical shots that overlap every time by about 30% and Google+ will stitch it together for you. It's amazing. Here is an example from some years back taken with my former iPhone, that just got stitched together from Google now:


Bonus question: who can recognize this stadium?

MIX - photobooth-style pictures created from multiple portraits

These I get a lot! I often take a series of pictures of my son to make sure that I get a really good one. Google+ Photos is now and then mixing them up. Here in example of our Community Manager Paul (who is not my son) in splendid selfie mode:

HDR -- HDR photos created from a set of bracketed exposures

If you know how to set your camera to bracketing mode, then you can now play in the HDR league. Google+ calculates a better result in HDR than most automatic, on-camera options, that I know of anyway. Take a look at the the result of Google+ stichting my 5 photos taken in bracketing mode:

Pretty stunning, wouldn't you say, getting such a result out of the box?

Eraser - Having a landmark just for you

To be honest, this AutoAwesome Feature has never been executed in my photos, but I have seen amazing results. What does it do? You take several pictures of yourself (in front of the Eiffel Tower for example), then Google stitches the photos in such a way that the people around you (irritating photo-bombers) in the photo disappear.

3 New features in October 2013: Action, Eraser and Movie

Google announced three recent AutoAwesome features: Action, Eraser and Movie. Please read this article to see examples and find out more about them.

Can I use AutoAwesome features manually?

Yes you can. But just for the feature "Movie" and just from your iOS and Android device. I'm not sure why Google doesn't enable this feature on the website. But what the heck. You might as well do it right from your phone. You select videos and photos and Google then makes a movie with a soundtrack out of this. The results are great, you should try it out.

Here's an example of a movie I just made. For other AutoAwesome Features you can't manually set it yet.  

Syncing Picasa tags to Google+ Photos

This is the most annoying issue with moving your data from Picasa to Google+. This has been an issue for me before. I have tagged people several times in Picasa, the information was lost in Picasa once and I had to redo it. Now that people/circles are a core piece of Google+, Google seems to struggle with how to deal with the old local data on people in your Picasa program. When you tag people in Picasa and then sync the data to Google+, this information is lost. I'm not sure if Google will ever be able to fix this. Maybe you, dear reader, have a suggestion how to deal with this? At the moment I'm not tagging people in my pictures. There is another reason for doing this: as soon as you tag a person in a Google+ photo album the whole album is shared with the tagged person. There are lots of discussions around this and Google won't answer... This, in my opinion, doesn't really make sense. If you ask me, just the photo should be shared with that person. If you don't mind this you can go ahead and tag people on Google+ photos. But some of the photos in the album you shared the photos from may be private and therefore why would you want other people seeing them.  

Additional info about syncing data between Picasa and Google+

Syncing starred photos on picasa to Google+ Photos

The good news: starred photos within Picasa (learn more about this feature here) are synced to Google+. The information is online and below you will learn how to search for those photos. The only disadvantage: there are no stars on Google+, so you can't see which photos are starred and which aren't.

Syncing tags from Picasa to Google+

In Picasa you have the chance to tag your photos:

In Google+ this option doesn't exist. Similar to information about starred photos this information is passed on to Google+ Photos but you can't see it there. You can search your photos, however, for these tags. Information about this is further below.

Syncing people tags (facetagging info) from Picasa to Google plus

Unfortunately this information is not passed to Google+. Later I'll cover this in more detail.

Tagging people on Google+ Photos

You can tag people from an album view:

Or you can tag people from an individual photo view:

Sometimes you will see that this option doesn't exist. When does this happen?

Warning: this gets a bit tricky.

This happens when the photos are in the album "AutoBackup". So, for example, all photos that were synced automatically from your cellphone are in this album. When you copy those pictures from the album "AutoBackup" to the album that you created (instead of moving it), the picture stays in the AutoBackup Album. If you could tag a person in this album, the tagged person could see all your photos, past and future ones coming to that album. This would be a big privacy issue so Google doesn't allow you to tag photos that still belong in this album.

Sharing your photos on Google+ Photos

As we have learned, you can share an album automatically to people by simply tagging one photo of this person in the album. Usually this is not the way you want to share photos or albums. There are better ways of doing this.

You can either share photos directly to circles, specific people on Google+ or to e-mail addresses. You can also download a photo and manually send it through e-mail if you prefer. To share a complete album, simply go the the album overview and choose the sharing option to share a complete album.

How to send only a few photos within an album

If you want to share just a few photos within an album (and not the whole album), do the following. Open the album and select the photos you would like to share:

When you select the first photo a blue bar will appear on top. Select the photos you would like to share and click the share button. In this case a new folder is created and this new folder is just shared with the people specified. This way those people won't have access to other photos of the original folder.

How to search for your photos on Google+ Photos

If I'd sorted the content for my personal feature love I'd start with this paragraph. When Google+ first started, initially the search functions were horrible. This has completely changed over the years and Google has now developed very efficient search functions.

Here are my favorite searches. If you have your photos on Google+ you can simply click on the examples to perform that search on your own photos. You can conduct your search either from the normal google search starting with "my photos of" or from within Google+. For example if I search for photos of flowers:

The results are shown not because the pictures have the name "flowers" but because Google can recognize flowers within the pictures (yup, Google is crazy like that). You can perform this search with lots of possible terms:

  • beach
  • churches
  • kids
  • birds
  • animals
  • cars

The list goes on and on…

Besides from understanding the photos, Google+ also takes the photo description, location and tags into consideration. With tags I refer to tags that you added to your photos on picasa. These kind of tags are not yet available on google+ itself. Now to the list of possible searches: How to search your Google plus photos per date?

Search for "my photos -month- -year-", for example "my photos april 2013". Check it our here:

How to search for photos from your friends?

Search for "my friends photos of India" Check it our here:

How to search for starred photos in Google+ Photos?

This just applies to users, that use the starring options in picasa. The information is synced to google+ so you can search for this characteristic with "my starred photos". Check it out here:

How to find photos, that have autoawesome?

Google itself answered this here. You can search for motion, smile, pano, mix or hdr to find the corresponding photos where the effect applies. You need to add a "#" before the effect name, for example "my photos of #motion". Check this out here:

How to search for your panoramic photos: PhotoSphere photos?

For some reason here you can't search for "my #PhotoSphere photos" etc, just directly "PhotoSphere". Check this out here:

How to search for photos from a specific album?

You can simply search for the title of the photo album to show all pictures of this album, for example "2013 Namibia", you can add additional information like "pano" for panoramic photos. Check this out here:

How to search for photos, that have been auto-backedup from your phone?

Simply search for #AutoBackup to show photos, that are in this system album. Check this out here:

How to search for photos that have been uploaded from Picasa or the desktop?

You can search for #desktop to show these kind of photos. Check this out here:

Searching for people doesn't work well for me yet, as I have hardly used people tags yet, so maybe you can leave recommended searches to find specific people in the comments. How to search for Videos on Google+ Photos?

You can search for "my videos", you can also add additional criteria like "my #videos of namibia". Check this out here:

This brings me to the last bit of important info (phwoar, you made it this far?!): using Google+ for your videos.  

Working with Videos on Google+ Photos

The workflow as explained for Photos also works for Videos. Actually it's already quite convenient to use Videos on Google+ - The features:

  • well integrated with your photos, you can add it into any album, change sorting with Videos as you like.
  • Videos get "Auto Enhanced" improving colors and, most importantly, adding video stabilization.
  • Integration of Videos in the "AutoAwesome" Feature #Movie. This Feature takes highlights of your Videos and Photos and makes a short movie with music out of this, as you may know it from animoto.
What it lacks is:
  • you can't trim any videos yet
  • you can't mix videos together

These features already exist on youtube, I believe it's just a matter of time until these features have been rolled out to Google+ Photos.


I hope this article has helped. I feel the move to Google+ is a logical move and the time has arrived to go ahead with it. Google+ is getting more and more users every month (and some say soon will overtake Facebook), so at least you know, that your photos are stored at a service, that is growing and will be around for a very long time. So thanks for reading, I’m guessing by now you have converted if you hadn’t already, and I look forward to receiving and sharing some great photos via Google+. Happy snapping!