Tip: Integrating Lightroom with Google Photos

My teammate & fellow Photoshop veteran Aravind Krishnaswamy has shared a few notes on his setup:

Most of my photos are in Lightroom but I also take the occasional picture with a phone and I like having a unified view of everything. I also like stuff like search & explore and the creations made from both my LR photos as well as my mobile ones.  I don’t really have an interest in doing major editing on a phone and having sync back to Lightroom or anything like that, I just really like the idea of having access to all my photos on my phone as long as I have an internet connection.

For this I use Jeffrey Friedl’s Folder Publisher to auto publish to a Drive folder which then syncs to Photos.  The folder names get indexed in search and come up in auto complete.  And if for some reason I want the folder structure they are still Drive (haven’t wanted it in the few months I’ve been doing this). The only downside is that it requires storage on Drive: my 100k photos take up about 460GB. But I shoot with high megapixel bodies (36, 80) and the plugin is configured to export full size, high quality JPG. If I resized them to something more sane, that number would be smaller.

Note that that amount of storage would cost you a princely ten bucks a month & still leave you with more than half your Drive space free.

Update: A couple of readers have asked why Aravind exports from LR instead of just uploading the raw originals. You can certainly do the latter (as I do), but only Lightroom & Camera Raw can interpret the edits that LR applies & stores as XMP metadata. (Google Photos & other raw rendering engines just ignore one another’s parameters.) If you want to see the results of those edits, you need to render out JPEGs.

19 thoughts on “Tip: Integrating Lightroom with Google Photos

  1. Why not just point Google Photos Backup app to your Lightroom library? Mine is now halfway through uploading about 16.000 images to Google Photos from my Lightroom folder, and if I understand correctly the app should just upload any newly added files. I just upload them in high quality instead of of original to not use up any Google Drive space.

    1. On a Windows 7 computer, all my raw files are on a separate hard disk (~3TB of NEF from Nikon D800, mostly).
      The operating system, applications and Lightroom catalogue are on an SSD.
      How can I tell Google Drive to back up my files that cannot reside in the My Drive folder?

    2. How can you upload raw files that are not the My Drive folder? Not on Android, but on Windows.
      And if you chose for moving the picture files and the catalogue in My Drive (permitting sufficient space), wouldn’t it slow down your system dramatically, as Google Drive will sync every time a file changes? Syncing with Adobe’s mobile cloud already is a strain on performance.

    3. I pointed it toward my masters but that doesn’t have the edits. What do i need to point Google’s backup photos to? My catalog is on my macbook air and the masters are on an external.

      1. I think that the edits that you do in Lightroom are actually just a set of instruction.
        What i mean is that every picture has its edits attached to it in something like a text file and when you load a picture on Lightroom you actually load the original plus the set of edit instructions that you have done so Lightroom will show you the edited picture.
        So there are actually no Images that are edited on your hard drive, you only have the originals.
        This is why you need to export the images out as edited pictures into a folder that will sync into google photos.
        The problem with this method though is that you always have to export the new pictures from lightroom into that new folder, so its not really a true Sync !

    4. Did you do this on your phone or desktop app? Also, I wouldn’t think that it pulls in any corrections you made to the photos in Lightroom as they are non distructive

    5. I am uploading all of my photos to Google Photos purely for storage purposes and access from all of my apple devices. I want to manipulate and organize them with LightRoom from my Mac computers. How do I connect to these photos with LightRoom.

      1. I’d suggest importing them into a folder that’s synced with Google Drive. The only snag is that you won’t see the results of your LR edits in Drive or in Google Photos. For that you need to export JPEGs that bake the edits into the pixels.

  2. If you Google Photos Backup set to upload your entire Lightroom catalog, what happens with the duds?

    What I mean is, I plug in my SD card, load a ton of photos into Lightroom, and then I start ranking them. In the background, Google Photos Backup uploads all of these photos, but in Lightroom I eventually decide that 1/2 of them are rejects and I delete them.

    Will Google Photos Backup remove them from Google Photos as well, or does it only add, never remove? I don’t want Google Photos filled with a bunch of rejected photos, so then I’d have to go in and find the rejects there and delete them again?

    If that’s the case, then I’ll pass on the auto-backup.

    1. Deletion/culling you apply in LR won’t reflect in Google Photos (unless, I suppose, you import images into a folder that’s synced with Google Drive). You could use LR to import images into a folder that’s not watched by Google Photos Backup, perform your cull, then afterwards drag the images within LR to a folder that *is* watched by the uploader. This approach wouldn’t make your edits appear in Google Photos, but it would give you the peace of mind that all your good originals are being auto-preserved.

    2. You may have gotten an answer, can’t tell. Anyway, it’s easy to turn off the Google photo backup, I leave mine turned off for just the reason you say. But when I’m done looking at the latest dump of photos onto my PC, then deleting 90% of them, I turn the backup on overnight, turn it back off next time I sit down at the PC.
      Works fine.

  3. Is there a proper API coming that would let Jeffrey Friedl build a proper publish plugin?

    It seems the only way to take advantage of the free storage for 16 MP photos is via the backup app, which doesn’t delete or replace. The Google Drive approach does that, but in addition to using up our Google Drive storage space, it also uses space on our local drives.

    I realize the target audience isn’t really photo nerds with Lightroom based workflows, but it’d still be really nice if Google Photos supported that.

    1. Oh that is the app feature what i trying to find too, every upload applications use google drive, using drive space, they not upload them to Photos, where they not use drivespace.

      I also trying to find tool that moving all drive pictures to Photos in the way that not using that drive space….

  4. I’m contemplating moving my 2+TB photo library off my server to Google Drive, but don’t want to give up Lightroom access. It seems the only way to use LR with GDrive is to sync the Google files with my desktop computer. Obviously with 2TB of photos, that won’t work… Is there a way to do this? Would love to stop maintaining/upgrading/wrestling with a server…

    1. Looking for this solution too … Love LR but can actually see that I will have to look for other solution/software since I’m crossing over from local HD to Cloud, having all material Synced isn’t really a solution..

  5. Hi John, long time lurker. This is slightly off topic, but I wasn’t sure how else to bring this to attention. I know this post is nearly 2 years old, but it appears Google has taken down the Picasa API that makes Jeffrey Friedl’s Export to PicasaWeb plugin work. Jeffrey Friedl has posted as much on his site. Any chance we’ll get a Google API that allows third parties (like Lightroom) to integrate better with Photos? At this point my entire process is manual: export from LR, drag and drop to Google Photos. The process for updating a photos is even worse. Whereas any updates performed in LR are automatically recognized and queued up for upload, this method will require me to manually track changes, upload the new versions, and delete the old ones.

    Would love it if you could get your former company and your current company’s products to work together! 🙂

    Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the info, Brian, and sorry for the hassle. I’m trying to help some developers work through these issues, but right now I don’t have any good news to report. Personally I do what you do: batch-export JPEGs to a desktop folder, then drop them into Photos (or let the desktop uploader slurp them up, when it works). HTH.

    2. Good point. This is what i just wrote to Google:

      “The one Killer-Feature Google Photo is missing!

      Story first: I choosed the option in Goolge Drive, which let me see and access the Google Photos Folder. Then i choosed the option in Google Photos, which let me see all the photos and videos from Google Drive in Google Photos. Then i started to publish photos from Lightroom to the Google Photos Folder. All photos showed up perfectly in Google Photos. So far so good! But this was leading me to the one Killer-Feature (imo), which would be just awesome:
      If i make changes in Lightroom to my photos, which i already published to Google Photos, and publish them again, those changes should also take place in Google Photos! Because currently this is not the case. Google Photos shows only the image (and metadata) i published first. Any changes to the file are in the file only and not visible in Google Photos.
      I guess there is a reason for this, i think Google Photos is somehow indexing the photos, persons in the photos and so on. And of course, all edits, which were done in Google Photos, might be gone then.
      But could it not be possible somehow? Couldn’t Google Photos “check” if any changes were made to the file and then update it somehow, but keep all the edits that were made to it in Google Photos (like notes and filters and relations to albums)?
      I see that this topic is somewhat complex, and that it is easier to say “the photo/file that was uploded first is what you get no matter what”. But it would be so nice to have the possibility to make changes to the photo in Lightroom afterwards (like geotagging), publish again and voilà: all changes are also there in Google Photos.
      Actually this is exactly the way it works with flickr and Lightroom. When you publish photos to flickr again, the photo is updated in flickr and it keeps all the edit and likes and comments it has on flickr.”

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