How to configure Google Backup and Sync to automatically upload your selected pictures to Google Photos

Google Backup & Sync is the recent combination of Google Drive and Google Photos Desktop Uploader into one product. Since Google Photos is using Google Drive storage space, it makes complete sense to combine both into one application. It surprises me however, how much both Google and Microsoft are copying Apple when it comes to managing people’s media. The much publicized iCloud feature that synchronizes media on all your Apple devices has just showed up in Google….but a bit different and still confusing and difficult to set up. Now you can synchronize multiple devices with your Google Drive storage space. Should you do it? My answer is no…for the most part! However, you can use Google Backup & Sync in a very useful way.

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Why share only selected photos?

One of my complaints about social media platforms and people who use them is that they post tons of terrible pictures. I don’t mean badly composed pictures but rather lots of similar pictures from the same event. Instead of picking one or two great pictures they post one hundred almost similar. I am a big proponent of only sharing few selected photos that actually say something. So here is how you can automatically upload selected photos to Google Photos using Google Backup and Sync utility.

1) Select your favorite photos

Pick your favorite pictures.  Picking favorite photos varies depending on the software you use. In Picasa for example, you can star the photos and in Lightroom you can flag them or assign stars or a color to them. The point is that you want to establish a folder where only your favorite pictures go. Not all your pictures, but the best ones. I put all my favorite photos in the EXPORT/FAMILY folder.

2) Setup Google Backup and Sync on your computer

My recommendation is to only synchronize your cleaned up and organized folders from your main computer. This is where you have all your photos stored. In my case I only upload to Google Photos, selected and edited folders from my EXPORT/FAMILY folder…nothing else.

Here is how I do it.

  • Download and install Google Photos Backup and Sync on your computer.
  • Configure Google Backup and Sync so that it automatically picks up from my EXPORT/FAMILY folder.  This way, in Lightroom, when I export my favorite family photos to the EXPORT/FAMILY folder, they will automatically be uploaded to my Google Photos cloud storage space. There I can just simply create an album and share the link.
  • 1) Choose My Computer on the left and click Choose Folder. Select My Pictures/EXPORT/FAMILY. Important note: Choose your folder very carefully, because as of this writing, you can’t really change this selection once you made it.  Hopefully they will fix this.
  • 2) Click Change on the Backing up all files and select Backing up photos and videos.
  • 3) Choose High Quality so that you get unlimited storage.
  • 4) Determine what to do when you delete any items from synchronized devices.  If you don’t want any device to touch your computer’s photo collection, you can choose Don’t delete.

Google Backup & Sync configuration
Google Backup & Sync configuration

3) Export your favorite pictures into the Google Backup and Sync ingest folder.

    • I use Adobe Lightroom to select and edit my photos. Once I have edited my favorite photos, I am ready to export them to my EXPORT/FAMILY folder.
    • Export my favorite photos to your EXPORT folder. During the export process, Lightroom applies all my edits and cropping to my selected photos and creates new copies in the EXPORT/FAMILY folder.

3) Automatically upload your selected photos to Google Photos

Since my Google Backup & Sync has been configured to watch my EXPORT/FAMILY folder, it will notice these new photos. Then it will automatically start uploading them to my Google account (the same account for both Google Drive and Google Photos). Now your favorite photos will show up in your Google Drive account under Computers.

Google Drive Computers section shows all your synchronized devices
Google Drive Computers section shows all your synchronized devices

It is a really cool feature that when you look at your Computers section in Google Drive, your folder structure is preserved and you can also navigate your photos by folders.

4) Link your Google Photos with your Google Drive media content

In order for your uploaded pictures to show up in Google Photos, you need to link Google Photos and Google Drive together. Here is how to do it.

Go to your Google Photos account using a web browser (navigate to, or do it on your phone Google Photos application (Click the “gears” button on the left panel). Either one is fine.

Scroll towards the bottom of your settings and turn on the knob that says: “Show Google Drive photos and videos in your Photos library”;

Google Photos linking to media content on Google Drive
Google Photos linking to media content on Google Drive

Now, all your photos and videos from Google Drive, will be showing in your Google Photos application on all your devices.

You can now create an album in Google Photos and share the link with anyone you desire.

You can also use this technique to upload all your photos from the MAIN folder, instead of just selected photos from the EXPORT folder. This way you can have all the organized and cleaned up pictures available on your phone.

Why does this make sense?

For more than 10 years I recommend that you are the one who controls your photo collection.  This means you collect all your media on your main computer, you organize them in folders and add metadata and you back it up, locally and in the cloud.  Then you can use any of these new and changing services to share your selected and best photos with your family and friends. However, this means you turn off all the automatic backup and synchronization with all these services that push really hard to have you locked into their systems.  They make it easy to join, but very difficult in the long term to get out and retrieve your precious memories.

Essentials for organizing your digital photos

Over the years I have come to rely on only a few products for managing and backing up my large media collection. These are my essential products and services I have been using for many years to keep things organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has excellent photo editing capabilities. Yes, Lightroom has a steeper learning curve as you have to learn to keep your catalogs in sync with your hard drive. However, Adobe Lightroom makes most sense especially when you do lots of image editing.

Excellent Lightroom and Picasa alternative. If you're looking for a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac or ACDSee Pro for Windows is my preferred solution for organizing your media on your computer. It has a very fast browser, beautiful image editing capabilities and you don't work with catalogs at all.

In addition, make sure you have an inexpensive and reliable external hard drive for backing everything up. It is absolutely essential for backing up your media regularly.

If you're looking for a reliable unlimited cloud backup service, I recommend Backblaze Cloud Backup. I have used Backblaze for my online backup for more than 3 years now. All my files are safe and secure and I have never had any problems with them.

YOURS FREE! 10 crucial steps most people miss when organizing their digital photos

Most people want to just organize their digital pictures and ignore these crucial steps right at the beginning...when they are shooting and transferring their digital pictures. Then they wonder why they can't organize their digital photos! Avoid most people's mistakes and start on the right track!

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