Google’s announcement of their new Photo service was met with great applause at the keynote speech at Google I/O 2015. The offer sees users able to store unlimited photos up to 16MP resolution and videos up to 1080P for free, but there’s more to it than simply uploading and forgetting.

In a session after the keynote, Anil Sabharwal Head of Google Photos has clarified a few things around the unlimited storage. The images saved to Photos as part of the ‘free’ storage, are actually compressed. Google ‘maintains the visual integrity’ of the pictures, but will compress to a variety of formats – they refused to clarify which, maintaining they use a variety of options – leaving you with no way to get your original file back if you choose that option.

If you decide to use Google’s Takeout option to retrieve your photos down the track, your photos will be retrieved as JPG or other picture files rather than the original format – i.e if you upload a RAW file, you will not get it back in that format.

There is another way for digital hoarders to retain their photo collections integrity though, by choosing to use the paid storage that’s been available as part of your 15GB of storage received when you signup for Drive or Gmail. If you use the ‘paid’ tier, you retain the file format, otherwise you’ll get the compressed format when you re-download the app. Google does offer fairly cheap cloud storage options however from as little as US$10 per month for a TB of storage.

The decision is as always yours,

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Julian Williams

Let’s be honest, if you really cared about your image quality and RAW images, you wouldn’t rely on Google for your storage

Alex Gerontzos

Stupid question but can you go from the unlimited feature back to your paid storage?


Oh, thanks for giving us the heads up that the photos will be compressed. Currently using a Galaxy S6 and it takes really great pictures, so I’ll have to see just how much is compromised when the images are compressed on Google Photos and decide whether I want to continue using it.

Jesse Kinross-Smith

The Galaxy S6 has a 16MP sensor – so you should be untouched with Google’s compression – they’ve stated that they will only compress images greater than 16MP.


No that’s not true. Any photo saved as the ‘free’ storage is automatically compressed, however the visual integrity is maintained.

So even if you take 13mp photos and store it on the free unlimited setting of Google Photos, it’ll still undergo compression on Google’s end.

If you don’t want your photos compressed at all (at any megapixel) then you have to use the Drive storage.