Recently, Google has changed the Google Photos app so that everyone has free and unlimited access to store 16 megapixel files.

The camera on my phone is under 16 megapixels. When I downloaded the app, it asked me whether I wanted to keep the photos in original or high quality.

I would like to take advantage of the free storage so my question is if the photos are originally less than 16 megapixels, is high quality going to be the same as original or would Google compress it more?

Also, what happens to the existing photos on my Google Drive that are less than 16 megapixels? Are they automatically not counted toward my quota or do I need to somehow migrate them to Google Photos? Just that, the majority of the files on my Drive are photos (which are less than 16 megapixels) and since I've downloaded Photos, the space available has not changed.


9 Answers 9


I just took a picture with my phone (8MP) after configuring auto backup with both Google Photos (with "high quality" option enabled) and Dropbox.

I compared both images and I can't see a difference between them, although the file sizes differ (the image in Google Photos has 1.3 MB and the one in Dropbox has 2.2 MB). I made the same comparison with an older image (when I had the "original" option enabled in Google Photos), and the files are exactly the same.

Seems like Google is really compressing the file, although keeping the image quality.


No, High Quality won't be the same as Original as Google will compress it again using a similar method to JPEGMini. See this and this comparison tests for more information.

Your space available hasn't changed because Photos might be accessing your photos on Google Drive. You don't need to migrate them, just make them available to Photos.


Pictures uploaded using Google applications with enabled free option will be recompressed even if they are less than 16Mpix.

Pictures uploaded using 3rd-party software will be as-is regardless option and will use quota if their size is bigger than 2048px by longest dimension even if they are less than 16MP, even if options is set to free.


Google openly said in its announcement as well as in its help pages that the free unlimited High Quality option will compress photos 16 MP and under - but will still keep the same resolution and "almost" the same indistinguishable quality.


The compression does not apply only for photos, but for videos too.

When you choose the "High Quality" option even with a camera of 8MP, you won't be able to upload a video of more than 1Gb. On the other plan (i.e. "Original Size") you can.


Photos less than 16MP will actually be compressed. Just try it.


There is at least one review of that feature where the testers found that for one of their test pictures, Google Photos reproducably reduced the resolution even though the original picture didn't exceed 16MP.

Original image (3024 x 4032 = 12.19 MP; 7 MB)

Google Photos 'High quality' (2268 x 3024 = 6.86 MP; 2.68 MB)

However, they don't write how many images they tested in total, just that all others did not exhibit this behaviour.

This is enough for me to avoid Google Photos's recompression, which otherwise seems to use very sensible settings and methods.


Basically, the question can be answered by the two customer plans Google offers as of 2015.

  • Free: Allow Google to process the photos, alter Exif information and be subjected to changes and new features that may or may not affect your photo's metadata and quality

  • Paid: Upload and retain a byte-original file by using your Google Drive's storage, which is fully integrated with Google Photos as per 2015. Every user has a 15 GB storage for free, of which you will likely already have consumed some of its storage-quota if you have been using Google Drive for a while.



Google in I/O have said that the photos which are less than 16MP will not be compressed and the ones above the 16MP are the only ones which if chosen to be stored under the "unlimited storage" space will be compressed.

Also from my experience I've not seen any change in my drive storage after the new "unlimited storage" option. So it should only mean that the present ones would stay the same.

  • 5
    That was widely reported the first day, but it was a misunderstanding. What they meant was that photos less than 16 megapixels will not have their resolution reduced. They will still be compressed (file size reduced, not pixel-for-pixel original).
    – wisbucky
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 0:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .