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Google Photos to stop offering unlimited free storage

Google Photos will stop giving users unlimited free online storage for photos and videos from 1 June - meaning those who routinely use the service may need to start paying fees or saving photos elsewhere. 

At the moment, Google Photos offers two options for saving photos online:

  • You can store up to 15GB of high resolution "original quality" photos and videos for free. This limit applies to photos which are more than 16 megapixels and videos over 1,080p - anything above that counts as "original quality". Gmail messages and most files stored in Google Drive also count towards the limit. Once you go above 15GB, you have to pay.

  • You can also store an UNLIMITED number of lower resolution photos and videos free. This covers photos which are up to 16 megaxpixels or videos up to 1,080p.

However from 1 June 2021, Google Photos is changing its policy:

  • Any lower resolution photos and videos you uploaded BEFORE 1 June 2021 will remain free to store online. So the key is to upload photos up to 16 megapixels or video up to 1,080p before that cut-off date - then they WON'T be subject to any free storage limit. 

  • Any photos and videos uploaded from 1 June 2021, plus previously-uploaded high res photos and videos, will be subject to a 15GB free storage limit. Anything you upload to Google Photos from 1 June counts towards this limit, no matter what resolution. Google Docs created or edited from 1 June, plus Gmail messages and other files stored in Google Drive, all also count towards the limit.

If you're worried you'll need more storage than you can get for free with Google Photos then we've a summary of storage options below, but for full info see our Free Online Storage guide.

How to make the most of Google Photos' free storage

Here's how to ensure you get the maximum possible free storage from Google Photos:

  • Back up as many lower res photos and videos as possible BEFORE 1 June. As we say above, if you've lower resolution photos or videos which you haven't uploaded to Google Photos yet, make sure you back them up before 1 June to avoid them being counted towards your 15GB allowance. See full instructions on how to back up and sync your photos and videos

  • See if you can reduce the size of higher res photos and videos. If you have photos or videos in a higher resolution, you may also be able to reduce their size before 1 June by going to your Google Photos settings and selecting 'recover storage' – again, this will mean they won't count towards your 15GB free storage limit.

  • Check how long your free 15GB of storage is likely to last from 1 June. If you want to continue uploading photos or videos to Google Photos from 1 June onwards, you can see a personalised estimate of how long your 15GB of free storage will last, based on how often you upload photos, videos and other content. Google claimed in November 2020 when the changes were first announced that most people would be able to store around another three years' worth of content for free.

After 1 June, once your free 15GB is used up, if you want to carry on using Google Photos you'll need to pay for more storage. Prices start at £1.59/mth or £15.99/yr for 100GB. See more on the price plans - and alternative options - below.

What are the cheapest online photo storage options?

Even after the changes come into effect from 1 June, Google Photos' offering is likely to still be pretty decent - certainly compared to what's out there currently, as shown in the table below. But there are other options.

Before you pay to store photos online, look at what you're planning to store and delete any photos or videos - plus any Gmail messages or Google Drive files - you no longer want. Also remember you can store photos offline as well, for example on a computer or a standalone hard drive, though this may be riskier if you don't have any other backup.

If you still need more online storage, then if you're happy to store your photos in different places, you may be able to save by using multiple free allowances from other services, as shown in the table below. And if you're already an Amazon Prime member, you can get unlimited photo storage for free.

Here are some examples of how prices and storage allowances compare:

Online photo storage – free and paid options

  Free storage allowance Paid storage options
Google Drive / Google Photos - Unltd low res, 15GB high res
- From Jun, 15GB for new/high res uploads (1)
- £15.99/yr £24.99/yr - £79.99/yr -
Box 10GB - £96/yr - - - -
OneDrive 5GB - £23.88/yr - £59.99/yr (2) - -
Apple iCloud 5GB £9.48/yr - £29.88/yr - £83.88/yr -
Amazon Drive 5GB (unltd for Prime members) - £16.99/yr - £79.99/yr - -
Flickr 1,000 photos/videos - - - - - £55.92/yr

Prices correct as of 26 May 2021. (1) High res is photos over 16MP and videos over 1,080p. From Jun low res pics uploaded prior to Jun can also be stored without counting towards 15GB limit. (2) Incl Office 365 Personal subscription.

While the table above gives a snapshot of what's on offer, for full analysis and more options see our Free Online Storage guide. 

This article was first published on 12 November 2020 but has been updated today (28 May 2021) to reflect the upcoming Google Photos changes taking force on 1 June 2021. 

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